I run, I craft, I write, and I make your favorite clothes.

I have written books about sewing for children and adults and I'm the indie designer’s patternmaking secret weapon. I've taught video and in-person classes to anyone who would listen since 2008. I believe that sewing clothes is a radical act of self-love that increases your sense of self-worth. I'm basically your sewing fairy godmother.

teaching kids is teaching me

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I have to laugh when I think about how nervous I was to start serving as the “art teacher” for my daughter’s school.  What will I do with all those Tweens and little ones?  How will I keep things interesting? How can I help the children love to “make stuff” a smidgen as much as I love to make stuff?

Why, by teaching them with my enthusiasm of course!  I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me that the kids would simply like to make things they wanted to make (the older kids are doing their own Hallowe’en Costumes) and the younger kids like to make things they can show off.  *I* like to make things that are worth keeping for a while, if not forever.

It’s only been a couple weeks, but already I have heard from a kindergartener’s mother that her son was never interested in art or making of any kind.  While his classmates were making art projects, he was reading or counting instead in his school last year.  She said that they have an entire house full of craft supplies, because his older sister and mother are both avid crafters, but he was never interested in participating with them.  Until recently.  I can barely type this without tears welling up in my eyes. After he made a mason jar lantern with me in class, he awoke early the next morning and asked his mom if he could MAKE SOMETHING.  She said she was blown away.  He asked for some supplies and made a “surprise” bottlecap magnet for the refrigerator.

There wasn’t much teaching involved in making a mason jar lantern.  The kids sat around the lunch table where I had placed sponge brushes, white glue in bowls, empty jars, and torn pieces of tissue paper (the messy, blendy, arty kind!).  They were so curious; “What are we making?” “What’s this white stuff, is it milk?” “Can I rip paper, too?”

I had the kids each paint their mason jars with a thin coating of glue, wearing the mason jar as a glove on their non-dominant hand.  They were so amused.  It was heartwarming to hear their chatter, and to see them concentrating when it came time to cover the glue-y spots with the tissue paper.  The variety of styles the children chose to decorate their jars amazed me.  I took the jars home until the following week, so I could share the result of their creativity at my “big reveal” in class the following week.

While at home, I coated the jars with a thin layer of matte mod podge, and filled the jars with tea lights.


When I returned to school, I lit the candles in each lantern and turned out the lights in the snack room (where we hold our art classes) and invited them in to see the beauty they created with their own two hands.  I get goose bumps still hearing the tiny gasps of excitement and remembering the little fingers pointing to ask “Is that one mine?” and then hearing them tell me where they were going to place their artwork in their homes.


In keeping with our Autumn theme, we made the “Hallowe’en Trees” I was fortunate enough to stumble across on Pinterest.  The original source is here: http://pikadillycharm.blogspot.com/2011/11/paper-bag-fall-tree.html

In preparation for the ingenious art+fine-motor-skills practice, I laid out the bags on the table with a pair of scissors in each one.  The kids were so excited!  I showed them how to cut the strips and then twist them into “Tree” shapes.  Every time one of the 9 kids twisted a new branch, they shoved their tree in my face and said “LOOK! LOOK! MISS KAREN, IT LOOKS LIKE A TREE!!!”

(all the attention lavished on me threw Ella a bit off, and so her Kindergarten teacher, Miss Molly came in to rescue us by sharing the craft with Ella in another room.  She calmed down and re-joined us without upsetting the other kids.)

They all were very proud of their beautiful trees.  Here’s mine, since theirs were all gone by the time I had the opportunity to take a photo:


Miss Molly brought in a flashlight, and the kids took turns putting their trees on the floor and shining a shadow tree onto the wall.  They were all very spooky-looking indeed!

I learned that it’s tough to share your mommy.

I learned that when kids enjoy what they are doing, they feel accomplished.

I learned not to share an example of the finished project beforehand, so we could all take joy in the process rather than focusing on the outcome.

Tomorrow, we’re making bags for library books…..wish me luck!

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  • Jennifer Gabrish September 26, 2012, 9:13 am

    Well of course you are the perfect art teacher! You are giving them such a gift…their natural creativity plus your enthusiasm and talent is the perfect recipe!

  • Laura Culverwell Bednash September 26, 2012, 9:18 am

    Karen – what a beautiful and rewarding experience. Thank you for sharing it.

  • Tara September 26, 2012, 12:10 pm

    Now I have tears in my eyes, too. Thank you, Miss Karen!

  • Alyssa September 26, 2012, 1:50 pm

    Thank you for the library bag project! I cannot wait to see their creations! You are awesome!

  • Melissa Bufford September 27, 2012, 8:37 pm

    <3 Loved reading this!! I had no idea that you were the "art teacher"!! I feel a bit out of the loop with the school…I am just having a newbie learning curve… but I just have to say, I am so smitten with all of you, your children and just the spirits of everyone involved in the school. I have a hard time putting it into words to properly explain it to my family and friends… but I bet you guys get it! :)


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