Needle and ThREAD

2010 Challenge Conclusion

Today is the last day to get your bookmarks to participants who are collecting for Children’s Book Week. I will report the number of bookmarks stitched and donated as results roll in.

Of course, some participants will continue to collect bookmarks for end-of-the-year school programs and library summer reading programs. I’ll continue to let you know who’s collecting for what.

Corner bookmark from Wendi at Coat Closet Designs. I’m very excited about Wendi’s finish. She’s adapting a method from the Funk & Weber Designs Bookmarks 101 class to her corner bookmark. Way to create, Wendi!

During the Challenge, I was asked how and why I started this program. I thought I’d post my answer here today.

I was an avid reader and stitcher before I became a children’s writer and needlework designer. I believe very strongly in the benefits of both reading and stitching, for kids and adults alike, and the effectiveness of both in developing literacy. I think after basic human needs are met–food, water, shelter, and healthcare–literacy is of utmost importance. It is the foundation of a thoughtful, productive, peaceful, and fun life.

The two activities are also something I frequently do together: I stitch while Mike, my husband, reads out loud or while I listen to an audio book. Reading, writing, and stitching braid together in my life.

In 2006, I wrote a column in my newsletter, The Needlework Nutshell, expressing my desire to “do good” with embroidery. We hear how knitters and crocheters make hats for preemies and scarves for the homeless, and we hear about quilters making quilts for the elderly and victims of natural disasters. What, I wondered in writing, could embroiderers do? Knitting, crocheting, and quilting all have an inherent usefulness to them, but embroidery is embellishment: it’s not especially useful. But I was sure we could make it useful if we tried.

Reader support and enthusiasm encouraged me to take the next step and come up with an idea. Embroiderers are generous people; they were keen to help. So I brainstormed, and, naturally, my personal interests forced themselves into the plan. Kids + reading + writing + embroidery = bookmarks for kids to encourage and assist them in reading. I envisioned stitchers crafting bookmarks that kids could earn by reading, and I envisioned teaching kids to stitch bookmarks because participation in the arts builds confidence and increases learning ability. And because I’m hard to stop when I get on a roll, I also wanted the program to raise money for literacy projects.

I hatched the idea for the program at the end of 2006 and ran the first Bookmark Challenge in the fall of 2007, in the month leading up to Children’s Book Week. Many libraries offer special programs during that week, encouraging kids to read, and I thought our hand-stitched bookmarks might help if used as prizes or rewards. In addition, libraries are a great place to offer learn-to-stitch outreach programs.

My local shop, Arctic Needle, and EGA chapter, Arctic Needleworkers, were immediately supportive, as was the Anchorage Public Library, and we organized a nice collection of bookmarks and held two outreach programs at two library branches that year.

I used my TNNA connections to invite independent shops to participate, collecting bookmarks for libraries in their own communities. The program has grown steadily since then, with more shops, the Embroiderers’ Guild of America, and a couple of online needlework communities spreading the word, collecting bookmarks, and offering outreach programs.

I’m thrilled to share the joy I find in reading, writing, and stitching, and I hope to help kids achieve a level of literacy that allows them to explore the world and their interests with competence and enthusiasm so they can discover their own joy.

And a reprise of our theme song…

Categories: Needle and ThREAD

1 reply »

  1. Thanks for posting my bookmark pic!! 😀 Totally made my day!!

    Glad you liked it too!! I think I did alright w/it.