This section is from the "Hand Sewing Lessons" book, by Sarah Ewell Krolik. Also available from Amazon: Hand Sewing Lessons: A Graded Course For Schools And For The Home.
Hand Sewing Lessons is a three years' course from which selections can be made for shorter courses. Normal and high school classes complete it in one year of two lessons per week.
With less practice work the entire course can be taken by pupils in two school years.
Models and materials for small articles are supplied by the school. Cloth for garments is supplied by pupils or sold to them at cost. Only plain small garments are made. Pupils are not required to do more practice work than is necessary to acquire skill. If progress is slow, a change from one stitch to another and back again is helpful.
Large classes are taught by passing from one pupil to another in regular order or by receiving at a desk in groups of two or three, those that require assistance. To secure the best results, a class should not number more than fifteen or twenty. Children who are beginners in sewing make, during the first year, simple garments and articles that give practice on the stitches of Part First and make the models included in it, as soon as the sewing is satisfactory. Each child prepares as much of her own work as is possible. This plan is continued through the course.
Pupils sit erect while sewing, with their feet on the floor and the lower part of the spine against the chair back. They should have low chairs and, if possible, tables or desks. Never allow them to pin the work to the knee. Watch the position of the hands, also the manner of holding cloth and implements, until they are held in the right way. Practice is given on pieces of cloth with needles threaded and without knots. A few minutes' exercise in pushing the needle with the thimble is given when the class opens.
Rapidity may be acquired by putting the needle in carefully and drawing it through quickly. Practice this exercise without a knot in the thread.
Teach pupils to sew with the side of the thimble, as it presents a larger surface for wear and can be used with greater ease than the end. The top thimble is objectionable for continuous work, as it retains the perspiration of the finger.
Fine handmade garments are shown them as they progress, to stimulate a desire to improve. Sewing on small articles of use interests a child, and she does not get tired of it, and become careless, nor get in too great haste to finish her work, as is the case in garment making. The latter is taught after some skill and patience are acquired by making simpler things.
Look over the stitches before the school hour and clip threads at short intervals on all that must be ripped.
Great patience should be exercised with dull pupils. Without patience, cheerfulness, and firmness there can be no success. Enthusiasm may be aroused if the teacher understands her work and is in love with it, and loves the children placed in her care.
Mission schools, divided into small classes and taught by volunteer teachers, should be under the supervision of an experienced needlewoman, who is a competent teacher. This method gives the volunteer helper work with which she can make herself familiar and she can get good results by studying to make it interesting. She should come to her class early or provide a substitute who understands sewing. Before the class opens she should see that her pupils have work, so that no time need be lost.
These schools are sometimes organized as clubs. Dues of five cents per quarter, that is, for three months, should be paid by the pupils at the beginning of each term for club funds to be used for material or other small expenses. It gives them a sense of personal ownership in the school to pay something for what they are receiving. No charity should be dispensed, but some special privileges or useful gifts may be given on the last session of each month to those who have attended regularly during that time.
Samples for practice work can be procured for mission schools from wholesale dry goods stores, and some of these pieces are of sufficient value to distribute at the end of each month to pupils whose attendance merits them.
Volunteer teachers should take these lessons from a skilled needlewoman. If they have had experience in sewing they do not need the practice work.
Capable teachers and careful superintendence are essential.