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. Right, Maureen?
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.
Meet Heather Gooch. Heather learned about the Stitching for Literacy program when she created the press release for TNNA announcing the creation of the program by one of their members. (Yeah, that would be me. I love TNNA!)
Like so many of us, Heather immediately liked the idea. “It just seemed like a great combination: reading and stitching. I volunteer at my two daughters’ elementary school library on a weekly basis, and I enjoy it immensely. I love my chosen profession of journalism, but I think I may have missed my calling as a librarian!”
When the Medina Needlework Guild sought to increase junior participation in an annual NeedleArts show, Heather knew how to get it. With her second-grade daughter being a first-year Brownie and her fifth-grade daughter being a first-year Juliette (a “freelance Girl Scout”), she figured she could get nineteen second- and third-graders to participate by teaching them to stitch bookmarks as part of the Stitching for Literacy program earlier this month.
“I don’t think any of them had stitched before. I put my own kids on ‘assistant duty,’ so they were running around helping thread needles and untangling yarn instead of doing the project. We had to curtail some frustration, but for the most part all of the girls were enthusiastic and positive about it. I made sure everyone finished the pink heart during the meeting, and would just do the background on their own.”
Heather supplied materials for the girls from her own stash. ” I cut about nine 10-count plastic canvas Darice coasters into thirds. I plotted a simple heart pattern on some graph paper my husband had, and copied it and cut into strips. I made up kits and put them into sandwich bags. My only cost was for the needles.”
The pattern and kit Heather made.
Heather is not an embroidery teacher, per se, but she is an experienced stitcher, and she made use of all available resources. “The two Brownie co-leaders jumped in to help, and then as some moms arrived early to pick up their daughters, they stuck around to help. A couple learned themselves, as they were not stitchers.
“I showed them how to thread their needle without wetting their yarn, which impressed them (and a few moms). Once I made sure all the girls had their needles threaded, I just used one kit to demonstrate and then basically went around the table to help each girl individually.
“They liked the idea of the ‘Froggy Stitch,’ where we did ‘rip-it, rip-it’ when we made a mistake. I stressed to them that it was OK to make mistakes, that even the ladies who did the bookmarks (from the guild) that I had on display during the meeting were very familiar with Froggy. They also thought it was cool to end their yarn by ‘going under the bridge’ and snipping the end with a pair of scissors. I saw a sense of accomplishment on each girl’s face when she came to that point.”
During the two-hour meeting, one girl finished her bookmark. Several others were well on their way, and no one left without at least having the heart stitched. “A few of them mentioned they couldn’t wait to show their grandmas or their moms,” says Heather. “I believe the girls all tried their best and were pleased to see what they could do with some yarn and a needle.
“The troop leader’s daughter came home that evening still pumped about the project, and although her mother had to go to work, her dad rummaged around their craft cupboard, came up with a spare piece of plastic canvas and, her mom tells me, ‘Maggie went to town on it!'”
Heather hopes the girls will bring completed bookmarks to the April meeting so that they can be displayed in the NeedleArts show organized by the Medina Needlework Guild. The show is held at the local public library, April 23-25.
Yay, Heather, for hosting such a fun and inspiring outreach program with your local Brownies!
Remember, it takes just one person to reach out.
Great job, Heather! And congratulations to all the girls, too.