(Devon, my daughter, and I in the early years!)
Why should we teach kids knitting or machine sewing or embroidery? It's not because it will get them into a better college, or bring them untold wealth. It's probably not because you thought "Boy I really wish my kids could crochet!".
So what is it that brings thousands of kids to us every year? I'm sure it represents something different for each of you. For me, it has always represented LOVE. When I see small kids embroidering a furry creature, I conjure up warm fuzzy thoughts...a fire, a mother crafting with her kids, small hands, big creativity. However for you, it could represent what you'd like to do for yourself if you had time. Or maybe it reminds you of your own childhood making an A-line skirt in home ec. Maybe your mother is knitter and you are looking for a way for your daughter to connect with your mother in a way that would make your mom proud. Whatever the reason, there is probably no arguing that your reason comes from someplace in your heart.
As you may know by now, our beloved Miss Eva has recently left us full time to pursue a career in public health. As I say, no one ever really leaves The Handwork Studio-so we refuse to say goodbye (luckily she remains as our part-time bookkeeper). However I thought this would be a good opportunity to ask Eva what needle arts means to her. She came to us as a child at 15 and she leaves us as an accomplished woman. I was curious how handwork played a role in her life. Please read our interview below and comment on what handwork means to you. Please feel free to drop her an email at Eva@thehandworkstudio.com. She'll appreciate what it represents!
(Miss Eva with Miss Julia & Miss Alisha at the Dickins Festival December 2012)
What does needle arts represent to you? Needle arts represents something familiar and cozy to me. I grew up, both in my home and around the Handwork Studio ladies, with fibers and textiles all around me. Especially in the context of the studio, it represents warmth, friendship, and so many laughs - and this is something I get to experience every day, both with my colleagues as well as with your children.
What have you learned about the importance of teaching kids needle arts?
Being with the studio for so long, watching kids grow and mature, I have recognized the confidence needle arts gives to children. Finishing their first row of knitting by themselves, or finally whip-stitching their stuffed animal closed that it has taken the entire session to sew - it's like finally understanding that tough math forumla in school - and feeling utterly elated when you finally get it. It's an amazing process to be a part of and has always made me feel so happy that I am able to contribute to that process.
What surprised you most about working with kids?
Working with kids has reminded me how completely capable and incredibly creative they can be. Parents often ask us, will my five-year-old really learn how to knit? Will they really be working with sharp needles and scissors? It still amazes me how kids, especially young ones, come to an understanding of how to properly work with these very grown up tools we use. They understand that this is real deal, and they seem to take on a new sense of responsibility when they realize we are trusting them with these tools.
What will you miss the most?
I will miss the people, hands down. Every individual I work with here is so special to me and I consider each one such a wonderful friend, and while I know this won't be the end of my friendships, I will miss seeing them and laughing with them every day (and believe me, we laugh every day). I will miss being able to craft with your children, sharing in their delight when they create something that is their own, and I will miss watching them grow. Being part of The Handwork Studio family has truly been a pleasure and I know I will never find a place as special as this, but I am confident it will always be a place that I can call home.
How do you teach your child to knitt? To machine sew? To embroider? It is really very simple and what we do everyday in classes, camps and workshops. Hint: It isn't about crafting at all.
(Here I am with my daughter Devon in 2007.)
- With patience - Try a new craft and you will remember how frightening it is, how much you don't want to make a mistake, how silly you feel when you don't get it right. Kids feel all that too. Make sure you let them know it is ok to make mistakes. Everyone does.
- With love - Remember it is about passing something down, not about teaching perfection. They will ALWAYS remember you were the one that taught them.
- With fun - Our philosophy is that if we make our classes fun, kids will keep coming back. If kids keep coming back they will eventually learn with time, with age and with motor skills. The goal is to keep them coming back!
We hope you will find time to craft with your kids. You'll get more out of it then they will:)
Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and pies.
Aunts & uncles, distant cousins and family friends.
Football games on TV and in the backyard.
These are the things that very often make up our thanksgiving day. But for so many in our area this year, Thanksgiving day will be different.
In the wake of hurricane Sandy families are trying to regain a sense of normalcy, whether it is trying to rebuild their homes or staying with extended family because they have lost everything…it seems that we are reminded of what truly matters most. The ones that we love. Those of us that live in the area might have experienced power outages or downed trees & wires, or maybe even a little water in the basement. But our neighbors, family and friends in New York and New Jersey will be rebuilding for a while, and while they do they will need our love and support. So this thanksgiving, when we are surrounded by the faces that love us, take a moment to enjoy and appreciate what you have and are able to share. It is in knowing that we can encircle ourselves with hearts and hands filled with warmth that we are able to find such joy and thanks in our holiday celebrations.
Now, please pass the pumpkin pie. Happy Thanksgiving!
I left Narberth this past Friday to head to Ashford, CT. This tiny little town is located in the Northeast region of the state and is home to Hole in the Wall Gang Camp.
I was introduced to Hole in the Wall Gang Camp by Laura Kelly, the owner of The Handwork Studio after she watched a segment on CBS Sunday Morning Show documenting the camps 25th Anniversary. Hole in the Wall Gang camp was founded by actor/philanthropist Paul Newman and has been thriving for the past 25 years. During the first camp season in 1988 it took in 288 kids it now runs year round and sees 1,000's of children in their camp programs.
After Laura viewed this segment she announced that we are going to bring needle arts to Hole in the Wall Camp! She showed us the powerful video that brought tears to our eyes. Not because it was sad but because it was happy. This was a place for kids, who deal with the realities of serious illnesses such as, cancer, hemophilia, sickle cell anemia and other medical conditions, to just be kids while still being in a safe environment.
Since summer is now months away you would think going to camp would have to wait, but at Hole in the Wall Gang, camp does not end because the weather gets cold. They run weekend camp getaways in the fall and spring for families, siblings, and campers to have reunions. I participated in a camper weekend.
I packed The Handwork Mobile full of crafty goodness; fluff, and floss, fabric, and thread, sewing machines, needles, buttons, and much, much, more. Campers were going to make teddy bears with The Handwork Studio this weekend. I was excited and nervous. I was not really sure what to expect.
When I arrived I was warmly greeted by the counselors who help out year round at Hole in the Wall. I sat around the indoor fireplace "campfire" with 50 campers coming from all over the Northeast region. They told stories and we ate s'mores. To the unknowing eye this place seemed like any other camp. They have enormous totem poles, cabins for campers to sleep in during the summer months, a pool, a lake for fishing and boating, a cool treehouse, and a spacious dining hall where you eat family style. When you take a closer look you can see that the pool is zero entry so wheelchairs have access and the temperature is always a warm 98 degrees so kids with Sickle Cell can swim too. Cabins are equipped with air conditioning so campers can remain comfortable in the hot summer months, and my favorite part of camp was the treehouse, the largest wheelchair accessible treehouse in North America, where kids can hang out and play games, and look out over the lake. It is beautiful. Truly a place you can appreciate whether you are ill, healthy, young, or old.
Saturday morning, camp was up bright and early. We all gathered for breakfast in the dining hall; eggs, bacon, pancakes, and even VEGGIE SAUSAGE!! I was thrilled! I filled up quickly and then walked over to the Arts and Crafts Center that transports me to the old west in reference to Paul Newman's movie "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid". The Arts and Crafts Center is a place for kids to learn how to throw on the wheel, sand and saw in the woodshop, paint murals, and this weekend, SEW!
Many of the campers and counselors have never sewn and were excited to make their own teddy bears from scratch. They traced, snapped in eyes and noses, sewed on the machine, stuffed and decorated their bears. By the time lunch rolled around the Arts and Crafts Center was buzzing with boys and girls sewing, stuffing and stitching some of the most creative teddy bears I have ever seen.
We headed to lunch and had another great meal but during this meal it was an interactive experience. In true tradition of camp they sang songs, danced, and bantered back and forth between rival tables. After being taught by some of the campers and counselors I was even able to bust a few dance moves and sing some songs.
As the day was quickly moving along by late afternoon we went back to our activities and continued our bear creating. The kids came in and out until dinner time and left with their bears. We had gangsta bear, pretty pink princess bear, Buttons the Bear, and the businessman bear to name just a few.
Our crafting time was over for the day but the evening was marked by a camp wide game the included costumes, Disney trivia and human size Hungry Hungry Hippos! By 10pm it was lights out for campers and I fell into bed too.
Sunday morning we had one last crafting session before parents came to pick up their kids. Campers and counselors stopped in to add finishing touches to their bears or to make one for their siblings at home and to give me a quick hug.
In our short amount of time I felt I became apart of the family and was sad to see the weekend coming to an end. Lunch time was our final chance to say our goodbyes. I sat with campers and the conversation consisted mostly of making plans on how they can stay forever. I would too. The past 36 hours have been nonstop fun. We all enjoyed dancing, playing, creating, and making new friends. I feel fortunate to be apart of that experience and I am in awe of the love and compassion everyone shows for one another. I hope in some way I can incorporate a little Hole in the Wall Gang into my life and The Handwork Studio.
Meet Lizzy: This Amazing Kid (or rather, young woman) started at The Handwork Studio in elementary school and by 15 she had 4 years of our Fashion Boot Camp under her fabulous belt. Now Lizzy not only sews, but has her own fashion business; in her spare time she works for us here at the Studio!
How have you taken crafting or sewing to the next level?
After a year of machine sewing and four years of Fashion Boot Camp I have made dozens of dresses, jackets and other forms of apparel for many people, local consignment shops and have started my own clothing label Tres Lizzy. I also have made a pleather jacket for the lead singer of 30 Seconds to Mars, Jared Leto, and a silk kimono for a singer called Grimes. I now
help out as an assistant at the Handwork Studio and have a work study at Moore College of Art & Design and an internship at the Villanova Theater costume shop.
What is your first memory of The Handwork Studio?
Knitting my white cat for my first knitting project and Miss Laura would read us a storybook.
What do you like about the studio?
It is a safe haven for creativity in all ways. The instructors are easy-going and understanding and the sky's the limit to the skills and projects you gain from the various classes.
What has been most influential to who you are today?
Fashion Boot Camp and being in Crissy Phillips fashion show for the first time.
What are you working on now?
I am making a fuchsia corset ball gown, a kimono/dress for myself, and my friends' Halloween costumes for the month of October. I continue to sew and have also gone beyond that and now make jewelry for my creations.
Meet Hana: This week's Amazing Kid started camp at The Handwork Studio in 4th grade. She quickly excelled in handwork and machine sewing, incorporating unique creativity into all her work. We're proud to have had Hana as a counselor at the Studio for three summers, inspiring campers to get creative!
How have you taken crafting or sewing to the next level?
About a year ago, I participated in a national competition for youth entrepreneurs. I entered my sewing business Hanacorn and was one of eleven finalists. I now have an Etsy store, and it's doing really well, especially in the Halloween season. Another way I've taken sewing to the next level is that in my high school theater program, Players, I'm the head costume designer for our musical Godspell.
What is your first memory of The Handwork Studio?
I remember going to summer camp in Narberth. I was going into fourth grade. I was nervous that I wasn't going to be good enough. But I had a really awesome time there and started taking more and more classes.
What is it you like about the studio?
I like that they have amazing teachers who really know what they're doing and are incredibly friendly. They can always help me out. I feel like it's a community, not just a place to take classes.
What was most influential to who you are today?
My three biggest influences that led me to begin to sew and have a love of design and costumes are Doe Deere who is a blogger, Lauren who is my costumes mentor, and all the amazing teachers at The Handwork Studio. All of these people have helped me learn and take my work to the next level.
What are you working on now?
I'm the costume designer for Godspellat Lower Merion High School. So we're making the costumes and getting ready for our show in November. I'm making a lot of unicorn hoodies for Halloween which I sell on Etsy. And of course, I'm working on my Halloween costume!
Original designs from Hana and her Assistant Designer, Rosa,
for Lower Merion's Godspell, showing Nov. 15th-17th
As summer quickly moves along so does The Handwork Studio Road Tour. Though Alisha and I have seperated I still have wonderful people that are helping to make Handwork happen in many of our new locations.
Last week I was joined in Pittsburgh, PA by Miss Rachel and Allison at Shady Side Academy. This week I am working with Miss Liz, Miss Sam, and Miss Shelly at Key School in Annapolis, MD. We have been having a great time teaching kids our menagerie of crafting skills and of course touring around.
Check out my interview with Miss Liz and Miss Sam to learn a little about these ladies and what their favorite craft techniques are and why they work at The Handwork Studio!