Besides “how do I finish my bookmarks,” another question I often hear is “how can I get involved?” Just as there are a gazillion answers to the first question, there are a gazillion answers to the second.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to give you my gazillion answers here. Instead, I’m going to introduce you to some people who have found their own answers to that question. Each of these people single-handedly set a Stitching for Literacy ball in motion in his/her community. You can do what they’ve done or something else that suits you better. Really, it takes just one person to reach out.
I hear the buzz now…”Oh, yeah, that’s right; we have a Flickr Group now. I really should post something there.”
Ahem. Yes, you should. And so should I!
Sit back and relax while I introduce you to Linda Kersting through a series of questions I recently asked her.
Linda, how did you hear about the Needle and ThREAD: Stitching for Literacy program?
I first found it when I was browsing through the Funk & Weber website. Then our local shop owner came back from market with information, and a free bookmark pattern created for this program.
What made you want to participate?
I’ve always loved to read, and I thought any project designed to help get kids interested in reading…books, newspapers, anything!…was an idea worth getting involved with.
You opted to work with your local needlework shop. How did you approach the shop and propose your idea?
After finding the program on the Funk & Weber website and all the promotional material that was available to help anyone get started, I toyed with the idea of approaching Debbie [at Heart’s Desire in Wichita, Kansas] to see if she would be interested in sponsoring it in the shop. When I saw the material she brought back from market, I asked her if she would be interested in supporting the program. I volunteered to manage the program, getting the promotional materials prepared, and setting up a display area for the bookmarks.
How did you go about arranging your program; i.e., what steps did you take to get things started?
After getting Debbie’s OK to run the program, I started by making posters to display in the shop, and making postcard-size “sack stuffers” to put in every purchase to help promote customer participation. I also created a small display to promote the project in the shop. As the bookmarks came in I pinned them to the display as an enticement to participate. It was a good day when I had to expand the display!
How did you get other stitchers involved?
Most of the promotion was simply asking customers to donate a bookmark to help promote Children’s Literacy. We had two open-stitch events at the shop where anyone interested could come to the shop to stitch on their bookmark. I also spent a couple of days stitching at the library where we were donating the bookmarks. I took some large-count fabric and floss, and if anyone came to talk to me and see what I was doing I was able to offer them the opportunity to try stitching.
Did people take you up on this? Adults or kids or both?
Both! One adult came by both days I was there. I had maybe 6 people (2 adults, 3-4 kids) sit with me while I was “sittin’ n’ stitchin,’ ” but that was plenty. I was able to graph an initial for them, load up a needle and help them stitch it.
Who provided the materials and what pattern did you use?
I had scraps of fabric (I think it was Betsy Ross) I had used on other projects so I took them, plus an assortment of DMC floss. I used graph paper to make a very simple letter using the first letter of their name. After the stitching was done, I showed them how to pull off the fabric threads on top and bottom [for fringe], trimmed the piece to an oblong shape, and they had their own bookmark. Verrry simple.
I also tried graphing a ball with a stripe through it…it worked, sort of, after they figured out what I had drawn. 🙂
A bookmark stitched by Becca and shared in our Flickr Group.
What response did you get from those who tried stitching?
They all had fun creating their own project. They would have tried more if I’d had time. I hope the kids especially get a chance to try it again.
What responses did you get from stitchers who participated? From the library or school you partnered with?
Our stitchers were fabulous! They asked lots of questions about the project and were very generous in donating bookmarks. We had a couple of stitch groups who had a challenge within their group to make and donate a bookmark.
The library we worked with was very appreciative of our donations. When we sat down to talk about the project, I asked if they would let some people sit and stitch in the library, as a way to show our craft. My contact at the library went even further: She gave me a case to set up a display with our poster and some of the finished bookmarks; she arranged to have a display of the work of some of their patrons; and the librarian who was in charge of the middle and high school summer reading group invited us to come to one of her classes and teach the group how to cross stitch. Twelve kids were there and they all participated!
I almost forgot! The librarian also called her local newspaper and they wrote an article on our joint project. It ended up in print and on their website, with a picture of a bookmark.
What kinds of bookmarks did you receive from stitchers? Were any especially memorable?
Every kind you can imagine! I recognized lots of patterns, but there were many I hadn’t seen before. I especially liked anything that was bright: balloons, fish, ladybugs, sunflowers (for KS!). One was a whale that was very detailed and beautiful. The day I worked with the high school group was the day they got to pick a bookmark, and the first one picked was a pink rose for his mom. Gotta love those kids!
Do you know how the bookmarks were used, and were you involved in their distribution?
The library I worked with had a summer reading program for elementary kids, middle and high school kids, and adults. Anyone who participated and completed all the reading assignments was given a bookmark as a prize. I was with the middle/high school group when they got to pick their bookmarks. Since they had just tried their hand at cross stitching, I think they had a better understanding of the time and effort that went into the bookmarks.
What was the experience like for you, organizing the Challenge in your community?
Overall I enjoyed the project. My first roadblock was trying to work with a local library. I got only one response to my phone calls and that was lukewarm at best. I was so jazzed about the program that I thought they would be, too, so the librarian’s response was very surprising to me. (More like…”Bummer!”) I later found out their grant funding has requirements that they have to follow, and they had their summer program already planned out.
I just happened to be in our local shop when the librarian from a neighboring community came in and saw our display. She mentioned she was the children’s librarian in her city, and I asked her if she would be willing to work with us on this project. She was thrilled and so was I! Once we connected the whole project felt complete.
The lesson learned: One of the first steps in project planning should be finding libraries/schools/kids programs to partner with to donate your bookmarks.
The customers like to know what programs you are working with, and I think they are more willing to join in when they know where their donation is going rather than the generic “donating to a local library.”
Excellent advice. I will be sure to relay this to future participants.
You’re doing it again this year. Are you doing anything differently, and do you have any goals for future Challenges?
The first goal: Get started earlier! 🙂 (BTW…I’m already behind on that goal!)
We are in a large city with lots of smaller communities close by. Since we have customers in these areas, one of my goals is to partner with local library’s in a different community each year, in their summer reading or after-school programs.
Increasing the number of donated bookmarks will be a goal each year. For fun, I think we’ll try to create a bookmark design of our own for next year. Maybe we’ll have a customer challenge for a bookmark design for each year.
Another thought for Program Planning: When you look for a group to partner with, one of your questions for them should be how many bookmarks would they need to have a successful program? If they need 20-30 will you have enough customers willing to help you meet that goal? What if the group needs one hundred? Can you meet that goal this year?
If the group you want to work with doesn’t have a specific program maybe you can help them create a new after-school or summer reading program.
What advice would you offer others who would like to help their LNS get involved?
Approach your LNS with a plan. They need to know what you are expecting of them before they will commit to a program. Include information such as:
- What are your goals for the program?
- Are you offering to manage the program or do you expect the shop owner or staff to take care of it?
- What are your expectations of the LNS?
- Do you want them to do the promotion or are you/your committee going to handle this?
- Do you want space in the shop for a display?
- Where do you plan to distribute the bookmarks?
- Are you going to work with a library, or with a youth group?
- If you work with a group you should find out if there is a minimum number of bookmarks they would need. This may make a difference in how you build and promote your program this year.
Is Linda an amazing woman, or what? Kudos to Linda! Her pioneering efforts can help us all as we reach out in our own communities, build the Stitching for Literacy program, and promote both reading and stitching.
And to think It Takes Just One person.
If you’re doing something in your community or if you’d like help organizing a program to collect and donate bookmarks and/or to teach others to make them, please contact me at
jen [AT] funkandweber [DOT] com
I’d love to hear what you’re doing and help if I can.
Categories: Needle and ThREAD