Friday, 12 June 2009

In the beginning …there was a little girl who liked to sew.

I came across this photo of me at Forrest Mill Primary school in Clackmannanshire. (I'm on the back row, second from the right.)This was quite an unusual school; firstly it was a country school so a lot of children, like me, lived on surrounding farms and travelled to school by “taxi” every day. While I was there we had just 16 pupils in total ranging in age from 5 to 10 year olds. There was one teacher, Miss Cowan, and two classrooms (although we usually just used the one classroom). So imagine I was in a class of two; me and Kathleen Jackson. But all the children sat in the one room so we were quite close together and could see and be involved in each other’s work. I was good a helping, but I do feel that when I moved up to my next school I had some huge holes in my education.
BUT the positives! We did a lot of creative stuff; including baking scones and shortbread at the teacher’s house (it was actually adjoining) and we also did a lot of sewing and other handicrafts. Here we are in the classroom, sewing our first collages: mine is the orange one. I was eight when this picture was taken. We had a lot of freedom; we could choose our own colours, make our own design and were encouraged to try out stitches… no matter how complicated. When we needed help Miss Cowan was there or if she was too busy the dinner lady Mrs Downie (who lived across the road) was good at sewing too.
On the subject of dinner; one of the first projects for any new children at our school was to design and sew their own cross stitch table mat.
Yes I still have mine!

I have noticed that items which have been made by children on my workshops are usually treasured. In a day and age when there is less time available in the school curriculum craft and sewing projects are mostly made at holiday and after-school clubs. There are fewer opportunities to experiment with materials and to make. I have met children just a few years after a workshop, and they have proudly told me how they still have that special felted snake in their bedroom or how it lives on the mantle piece at their granny’s house. These little things that we have made while growing up are so important: they are the foundations of our creative lives.


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