IAER 2014 Presentation - Sew Independent


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Second Sense's Polly Abbott explains how to teach sewing to students with vision loss. She gave this presentation at IAER 2014.

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IAER 2014 Presentation - Sew Independent

  1. 1. Your Presenter: Polly Abbott, CVRT Director of Rehabilitation Services Second Sense 65 E. Wacker Place, #1010 Chicago, IL 60601 312-236-8569 www.second-sense.org Contact Polly: polly.abbott@second-sense.org
  2. 2. Sew Independent!
  3. 3. Why teach sewing beyond replacing buttons and fixing dropped hems? • Sewing develops tactile sensitivity and builds organizational skills. • Success with sewing builds confidence and self-esteem. • Learning to sew on the machine or make actual sewn items has an enormous impact on a student’s view of their capabilities.
  4. 4. Sew Much to Talk About! 1) General tips 2) Tips for teaching threading, measuring, cutting and machine sewing 3) SAFETY: Instruction caveats discussed as we go through the tools and techniques 4) Incorporating volunteers into the sewing room 5) The World is Flat, Rectangular and Made of Fabric: Beginner project ideas
  5. 5. General Tips: Some things I’ve learned while teaching sewing: • Get the student sewing or cutting as soon as possible to create a sense of accomplishment. It is very motivating! • Stay positive and upbeat no matter what happens. Many little things can go wrong and slow down the task at hand. Keep your voice warm and calm. Reassure the student that it is normal and all a part of learning to sew. (Even experienced sewers jam up their sewing machines!) • Stress SAFETY through good habits and techniques as well as organization. Everything will seem pointy and sharp to a new sewer.
  6. 6. Tips for Teaching Threading a Hand-sewing Needle: • Consider not teaching “how to thread” first. Will your student have a better first experience sewing if you simply have them show a short seam with big basting stitches? • Is your student spending a lot of time searching for the thread? Is your student finding the end only to drop it again—over and over? • Teach threading as a series of steps where each hand has a role to play. This will reduce student frustration and the time it takes to thread the needle.
  7. 7. How Do You Decide Which Method? Which Type of Needle? • Do you, as a teacher, favor one type of method or needle over another? Decrease your bias by practicing until you have mastery over all the threading options. • Reflect on how each method might suit one particular client and not another. • How do you decide which threading method to introduce to a student?
  8. 8. Tips for Threading: Specific Steps for Hands and Fingers Steps: 1.After threading, pull the short cut end to the desired sewing length (left hand). Do not let go! 2.Match thread from spool to end in left hand. Hold both threads between fingers (left hand) but leave about 2 inches of cut end dangling. 3.Pick up scissors with right hand and cut 2 inches from pinched left hand. Don’t let go of threads! 4.Grab cut ends with right hand and tie knot. (Wrap around index finger and twist and roll off fingertip.)
  9. 9. Threading a Sewing Machine • Left hand pulls and directs the thread while right hand verifies that the thread is going in the slot or hook the way it should. • Students have a tendency to keep pulling and pulling the thread. Teach them to have only about 4-5 inches in left hand. Work with the minimum amount of thread necessary to avoid tangles. • Right hand (index finger usually) can be used to hold thread against the machine (creating thread tension) while left hand directs thread around hooks.
  10. 10. Self-Threading Sewing Machine Needles • Pressure foot should be down. • Needle should be up. (Verify by touching horizontal knob to the right at the top of the needle. Adjust position of needle manually using wheel on side of machine.) Steps: 1. Stretch the thread horizontally holding the tail end in left hand and the rest in the right. 2. Pass it under the point of the needle. 3. Trail it up behind the shaft of the needle.
  11. 11. Self-Threading Sewing Machine Needles Steps: 4. Swing right hand in front of the needle (at 6 o’clock). Use middle or ring finger to hold thread against the right side of the needle shaft. 5. Drag the thread (both hands together) down the needle shaft until it clicks into the hole on the right side of the needle eye. 6. Maintaining tension with both hands, pull the thread through the needle with the left hand. Do not let go with the right hand until thread is resting along the shaft of the needle.
  12. 12. Inserting Bobbins • Depending on the student, you may wish to teach how to fill the bobbin after threading the machine has been mastered. • According to machine directions, bobbins have to be inserted with the thread coming off the bobbin a certain way. • The student can check by placing the filled bobbin on a flat surface and pulling the thread with the left hand. The right hand gently holds the bobbin and feels if it spins clockwise or counterclockwise.
  13. 13. Inserting Bobbins • “Front-loaders” require a dexterous left hand. • “Top-loaders” have easier access. • Either way, the left hand pulls the thread into the notch of the bobbin casing as the right hand verifies that thread is going in the correct place.
  14. 14. Starting Machine Sewing: Fabric Placement • Painter’s tape is quick and easy for marking seam allowance as well as marking how far under the pressure foot the fabric should go. • Some machines, conveniently, already have grooves or screws that can be used as landmarks for fabric placement.
  15. 15. Before you hit the gas pedal… Before the student takes the first stitch, make sure to check 3 things: 1. The fabric is aligned on the right and is under the pressure foot (clamp it down). 2. Left hand is holding the needle thread and the bobbin thread. This prevents the needle from unthreading and the bobbing from jamming. 3. The needle is down. Manually lower the needle for the first stitch. Check with right hand to verify position.
  16. 16. Cutting Tools: Scissors • Use scissors meant for fabric, and don’t use them for anything else to keep them sharp. • 7-inch length is good for beginners. Scissors are left-handed or righthanded. • For weaker hands, springaction scissors exist. • SAFETY: Teach students to always close scissors before putting down. • SAFETY: When cutting threads in hand, only open scissors after locating thread to cut.
  17. 17. Cutting Tools: Rotary Cutters • They are very sharp as long as blades are changed regularly. • (top) Push slider button forward to expose blade. SAFETY: Students frequently forget to retract blade. • (bottom) SAFETY: Best for class is the “squeezehandle” model. Comes with a button to freeze position of blade. • (left) However, students sometimes freeze the position with the blade exposed!
  18. 18. Preparing to Cut Fabric: Fabric Alignment • Fabric must be cut on the grain. How do you lay it straight when you can’t see the lines on the cutting board? • Use Dymo tape! Braille a single line of dots about 4 inches long and place 1 inch in from the edge of the cutting board or mat. • Make a second section of dots and place about 10 inches away from the first set. Make a third set if you are working with large pieces of fabric. • Always use more than one set of dots to align selvage edge of fabric.
  19. 19. Preparing to Cut Fabric: Fabric Alignment • Use fingertips at each end of the strip of dots to make sure the edge of fabric touches the dots perfectly. • Painter’s tape can also work, but students need very good tactile skills. • Dymo tape dots are raised enough for thicker fabric. • Fabric alignment should be checked periodically. Fabric can shift. • This can take time and try the patience of new sewers. Consider assisting more in the beginning. It takes time to develop a feel for handling fabric.
  20. 20. Preparing to Cut: Rotary Cutter and Ruler • Use a wide quilting ruler with rotary cutters. • SAFETY: Ruler must be wide enough to place your hand away from path of rotary blade. • SAFETY: Place tactile “warning strip” along right side of ruler (where the cutting happens). • Use straight edge of the cutting board to match up with the straight edge of the ruler. • The long edge of the ruler is now aligned and ready for the rotary cutter. No vision required to cut straight across the fabric!
  21. 21. Preparing to Cut: Rotary Cutter and Ruler • Check edges to make sure the fabric is smooth with no wrinkles. • Make sure way is clear to cut by touching the length of the ruler. • Students need to have a set location to put tools to keep the cutting board as clutter-free as possible. (Easier said than done. As a teacher you will be reinforcing organization constantly!) • Keep pressure on the ruler with left hand to prevent any shifting of fabric or ruler alignment.
  22. 22. Cutting (Like a Hot Knife Through Butter!) • SAFETY: Fingers of left hand should not be on the warning strip of tape. Teach students that this is the first self-check step they need to do before cutting. • SAFETY: Bring the rotary cutter into position without exposing the blade. This is step two. • Teaching Step: Go through the motions of cutting without exposing the blade. This gives the teacher time to check technique and the student some extra practice. • Teaching Step: Cut a lot of scrap fabric before using the student’s fabric.
  23. 23. Rotary Cutter Technique 1. Hold the handle almost upright. Let the cutter rest against the ruler edge. 2. Cutter should be on cutting board, not on fabric to start, or the first threads won’t be cut. 3. Left hand presses firmly down on ruler to hold in place. 4. Release safety catch on cutter and expose blade. 5. Cut in a smooth stroke, pausing to move left hand as needed to stay abreast of cutting action. 6. Correct cutting has a distinct sound and feel.
  24. 24. Incorrect! What is wrong with this picture? (Two things) Last points about technique: • NEVER EVER cut towards self! • Teach student NEVER to cut without a ruler to follow and protect.
  25. 25. Use a Template to Cut Squares or Rectangles • Templates allow a student to measure without measuring. • Templates can be purchased in quilting stores or teacher-made. • Template must be the same thickness or more than the ruler. • Students must have good tactual skills to detect fabric edges around template.
  26. 26. Using a Template to Cut Squares or Rectangles • Use the template to cut fabric into strips of a uniform width then cut the strips into squares or rectangles. • Templates must be light and easy to move with one hand. • Poster board seems to work the best. Art stores can cut it to a perfect square or rectangle for you. It is light, cheap and comes in contrasting colors. • Shown is a Plexiglas template. It works, but it is heavier, clear and invisible, slippery to manipulate, and the edges seem a little sharp.
  27. 27. How Do You Align Small Strips of Fabric? • Align the ruler lengthwise along the side of the cutting mat. • Teach students to use a gentle, light touch when aligning anything to prevent shifting of ruler and fabric.
  28. 28. How Do You Align Small Strips of Fabric? “Check twice; measure twice; cut once!”
  29. 29. Cutting Small Squares • Once strip of fabric is aligned, the template and ruler can be used to cut the strip into sections. • Teach student to check for accuracy of previous cuts by feeling for exposed fabric around top and bottom edges of template. • SAFETY: Encourage student to always set the rotary cutter with the blade down (facing the cutting board) and pointing to the right.
  30. 30. Fiskars 45 mm Fabric Rotary Strip Cutter IT SEEMS LIKE A GOOD IDEA • Works like a paper cutter. • Much safer for fingers. • Edges make fabric alignment easy. • Bar clamps down and hold fabric securely in place while cutting. BUT • Much more difficult to measure how much to cut as there is no room for the template. • Cannot cut 45-inch wide fabric folded in half, only narrower widths.
  31. 31. Cutting Patterns with Scissors • Accuracy takes patience and precision. Former sewers tend to adjust better to cutting by touch. • Student must be able to pin pattern without lifting edge of fabric. • As with teaching slicing in the kitchen, students should check position of the scissor blades and then move fingers out of the way when cutting. • Have more than one copy of thicker paper patterns for beginners, as they will tend to slice through them. I use braille paper. (Need sturdy pins.)
  32. 32. Cutting Patterns with Scissors • Teaching finger position while cutting with scissors can be a challenge. So much depends on the student’s past experience and their general ability to get information through their fingertips. • When instructing, stress what the goals are: The pattern must cut exactly along side the pattern without cutting the pattern itself. The student needs to know where the edge of the pattern is in relation to where the blades are going to cut. Students tend to experiment until they find what works. • Teachers need to monitor fingers and correct bad habits that place fingers in harm’s way.
  33. 33. Instructing Machine Sewing • Start getting new sewer used to controlling the machine by having them sew through paper with an old needle. It creates tactile lines; they can tell how straight the “seam” is. • Fingers must be able to verify that a uniform seam allowance is maintained as the fabric is supported. Generally, the right hand checks for accuracy as the left hand supports and smoothes the fabric. • SAFETY: “All hands on deck!” Fingers are safe from the needle as long as finger tips are resting on the fabric.
  34. 34. Instructing Machine Sewing • Encourage students to try different hand positions. Students need to practice switching the position of their left hand from supporting the fabric near them to the fabric further away as the weight of the fabric requires. • For best accuracy, the right hand should check fabric placement beside the pressure foot to keep seams straight. • The horizontal knob that holds the needle in place may hit knuckles of the right hand if the fingers are curled too much.
  35. 35. Independent Measuring • No ideal solution yet. • Most success has been with sewingspecific, teacheradapted tools. • Dymo tape can create numeric markings or simple bumps. Numeric is faster for braille readers; everyone else has to count the bumps, which is very slow.
  36. 36. Independent Measuring • Count bumps once and then use tape or a safety pin as a marker if measuring the same distance more than once. • Some students prefer to incorporate their magnification devices with sewing for greater accuracy and ease.
  37. 37. Independent Measuring • Some sewing tools, such as this ruler for marking hems, are already blind and lowvision-friendly—and they have just enough room to mark off the inches with Dymo tape. • It goes without saying that serious students should have their own personally accessible measuring device to measure hems, distances between buttons, etc.
  38. 38. Transferring Pattern Markings to Fabric • Tailor’s tacks work best. Use thicker button thread or even fine yarn in the beginning to make the tacks easier to feel. • Mark class patterns with tactile markings as well as large print. • This is an essential skill for advanced sewing. Teach it early on as part of small, simple projects.
  39. 39. Transferring Pattern Markings to Fabric • This is a sample of a small pouch purse with the darts on the left marked with ivory soap lines and the dart on the left marked with tailor’s tacks. • Students with low vision who can see the soap marks should also learn to make tailor’s tacks. They will not always be sewing on fabric that allows enough color contrast for soap lines to show.
  40. 40. Volunteers in the Sewing Room • Volunteers can help with monitoring for safety if you work with more than one student at a time. • Each class, give your volunteer specific tasks to do or explicitly describe what you want them to monitor and when to get you instead of helping the student themselves (boundaries). • Plan to instruct the volunteers on how and what you are teaching so that they understand how sewing is accomplished with vision loss. This will dampen any “do for” tendencies and promote student independence.
  41. 41. Projects to Suggest to Students Straight edges are easiest to cut and sew, so there are a variety of projects that are made with rectangles and squares: • Pillow cases • Fabric eco-friendly lunch bag • Tote bag (handles are skinny rectangles) • Purse with long or short strap • Drawstring bags: slate and stylus bag, cane cozy, shoe bag, lunch bag, laundry bag, etc. • Apron • Simple Quilt
  42. 42. Final Thoughts • Teach troubleshooting and fixing mistakes. • Help student develop a method for telling the right side of the fabric. • Give students time to sew alone and experience the independence, but be near. • Don’t be afraid to book longer lesson times for sewing. It is a craft that takes time. Two hours can fly by! • Teach the student the skills and adaptations they can use in community sewing classes.