It was day two in the flower school yesterday where I learned that teaching six year olds really is like dealing with creatures from another planet who have - literally - never had this experience before. I thought I had it sussed. I had 30 squares of pelmet vilene pre cut with 30 little easy thread needles tucked into the corners. I took the children in groups of eight and asked them to take the needle out of the fabric.
That square you're holding. They smell it. It stinks! (It does. Have you ever noticed that about pelmet vilene?)
So take your needle out. Their little fingers don't quite have enough strength and when I turn my back for a second they are trying to take the needles out with their teeth. I take the needles out for them.
Look closely at your needle. You'll see one end is jaggy and what's at the other end?
Yes holes, and two things that look like bunny rabbits ears. (These are easy thread needles remember.)
Stick the jaggy end of your needle into a piece of this white stuff (polystyrene).
That's polystyrene, some smartie informs me. I knew that!
Now hold the end of the thread in your hand and unroll it up to your armpit. I'm trying to get them to cut a piece of thread as long as their arm. Eight different permutations of this happen, mostly wrong. Several small pieces of thread are cut. Okay, open out your two arms and cut a piece of thread that long. Better. Hold a small section of the thread tightly in two hands and pull it down between the bunny rabbits ears of your needle until your hear a click. Some managed, where conventional needle threading would have been beyond them all. A small triumph.
Now everyone look at me, look at me, LOOK AT ME! Feel I should be saying this in an Antipodean accent. Very reminiscent of Kath & Kim. Lick your pointing finger and rub it up your thumb. This is how we are going to tie a knot. Now find the two ends of your thread and wrap them round your pointing finger, rub it up your thumb and a knot appears. Yeah, right. I do eight personal one to one demonstrations of knot tying.
Now we practice sticking our needle in one side of the fabric and out the other. I would say two of the thirty children could do it well. Their grannies had taught them. Three cheers for grannies everywhere. Lots of the children sewed over the edge of the fabric, of course. Easy thread needles are great from the unclick and unpick point of view.
It's like going through a door I tell them. In one side and out the other. More go over the edge. Okay, so now you're teacher. Tell me, is this right or wrong? (I go over the edge) Wrong! Is this right or wrong? ( I go back and forth.) Right! Ah well, at least they have the theory. It's just the practice that's proving a little difficult.
Okay, so whose ready to make a flower? Round my neck I have the remnants of an old Country Casuals blouse that I've been cutting up for fabric collage. I begin to chop tiny bits off this and ask them to catch it with there needles before they go back through the fabric, thus making flower heads appear. This works well and some are now becoming quite impressed with their needlework skills.
But why are you cutting up your scarf, they ask?
I take the blouse off my neck only to have some child put it on and swan about claiming to be me. I know where I'd like to stick my needle.
Last week I told them that success comes in cans. In other words, have a positive mental attitude and always say 'I can do this' rather than their ubiquitous 'I can't.' One little boy was very defeatist and even after proving to himself that he could sew he refused to say the words. Please, I ask , just say for me once that you CAN sew and I'll go home happy. No way. It's a fearsome thought that a child aged six should be depressed but that's the way he looked.
I'm back on Thursday when they'll be painting their background fabric with sponges. There's no way they can do that wrong.....says me!