This section is from the book "Progressive Lessons In The Art and Practice of Needlework", by Catherine F. Johnson. Also available from Amazon: Progressive Lessons In The Art And Practice Of Needlework.
In the first year must come the drill in position, as also a drill in using the fingers and all implements of sewing. Thoroughness in this and in all details of the work is important.
Class Drill. Practice in position :1. Instruct the pupils in the proper position, and the reasons for taking and keeping it.
2. Practice in distinguishing the right and left hands, also the different fingers.
3. Train a child to call that part of a thimble that rests on the back of the finger - the back of the thimble.
Practice in preparing the right hand for the use of the thimble : Raise the right hand, hold the thumb and first finger in a horizontal position, while the second or thimble finger is held vertically; then lay the first finger over the third and fourth, holding the three down to the palm with the thumb. This is a difficult exercise for untrained muscles, and the child should rest after four or five trials.
Practice with thimble : 1. Give each child a thimble which fits snugly. Let her place it on her desk directly in front of her.
2. As in the exercise "preparing for use of thimble," raise the right hand in position; then, taking the thimble between the thumb and finger of the left hand, place it on the erect second finger of the right hand. Put thimble back on desk, rest, and repeat.
Thimble exercise :1. Again raise the right hand, and place the thimble as has been directed. Turn the arm till the palm is opposite to the chest; then bend the thimble-finger at the second joint until the thimble rests upon the top of the thumb. Raise the finger, and repeat the movement five times.
2. Raise the thimble just to clear the top of the thumb; and keeping all the joints limber, move the thimble-finger horizontally back and forth five times over the top of the thumb.
3. With the right hand raised and all the fingers free, bring the thimble-finger into the sewing position, having the front and back of the thimble parallel with the palm of the hand. Now make movements with the thimble-finger, as if the eye of a needle were resting against the back of the thimble. The thimble-finger is thus bent, and the needle pushed by the back of the thimble in order to exercise more force. If this habit is once acquired, a stitch is taken with less effort than when the top of the thimble is used.*
* When a child has formed the habit of using the top. or side of her thimble, it is not always best to change, as a slow and poor result is produced, which is discouraging to her; however, in simultaneous teaching, all the pupils must follow the teacher's directions.
Fig. 2, A.
Fig. 2, B.
Holding the needle: 1. Give each child one of the finest chenille needles, and have her place it on her desk, with its length parallel with the front edge of her desk, the eye of the needle to the right hand.
2. Let the child grasp the needle near the point between the thumb and forefinger of the left hand, and, lifting it, place it between the thumb and forefinger of the right hand, with the eye against the back of the thimble 1/8 in. from the top. See Fig; 2, A and B.
Moving the needle as for sewing:Let the child move the thimble-finger as in the thimble exercise; and pushing the needle forward its full length, through a small piece of cloth or paper, slip the thumb and forefinger of the right hand forward and grasp the needle 1/4 in. from the point, drawing it through the cloth. Repeat this movement.
Threading the needle: 1. Give each child one of the finest chenille needles and a needleful of fine darning cotton.
2. Direct the child to hold the needle between the thumb and first finger of the left hand, with- the eye uppermost and squarely in front of her so that she can see through it.
3. Let the child take the thread between the thumb and first finger of the right hand 1/4 in. from the end, and pass this end through the eye of the needle, while, at the same time, she pushes the needle between the thumb and forefinger of the right hand, where it must be grasped, drawing the thread through with the left thumb and forefinger about 4 in.
Making the knot: Holding the threaded needle in the right hand, take the other end of the thread between the thumb and first finger of the left hand, and, keeping the thread tightly stretched, wind it around the top of the first finger and cross it over the end held between the finger and thumb; then roll the finger down the thumb, carrying the thread with it about
1/2 in., and with the nail of the second finger push the knot thus formed to the end of the thread.
Practice with scissors:Each child should be given a pair of scissors (5 to 5 1/2 in. long), of the best steel and light weight. When using an ordinary school desk, have the scissors placed on top and in front of the child, the bows to the right hand.
1. Let the child lift the scissors by placing the thumb of the right hand through the bow of the broader blade, and the third finger of the right hand through the other bow, the scissors resting on the first and second fingers of the right hand for guidance and support. Let the child now push them from her towards the back of the desk, being careful to slip the blunt end, without raising it, along the top of the desk, and at the same time opening and shutting the scissors with the cutting motion as in use.
2. Let the child practise the cutting movement from right to left along her desk in the same manner.
3. Give each child a piece of ruled paper, and let her cut by the lines on the paper. Then practise cutting half-way between the lines and also across the lines.
4. Direct the child to cut two straight strips of stiff paper 4 in. x
2 in., and measure distances by holding the edges a certain space apart, according to direction.