Teaching Embroidery at the Boy's and Girl's Club of Central Virginia / by Brielle DuFlon

A little while ago I was asked by Second Street Gallery to participate in a week-long art program they were organizing at the Boy's and Girl's Club of Central Virginia while the elementary and middle schools in the area where on spring break. Second Street is my favorite gallery in town (alongside McGuffey of course, gotta represent), and I've been curious about teaching little ones the way of the stitch for a while, so the obvious answer was to sign up to lead two workshops, of course! I picked two on the same day - Tuesday April 5th. The first was from 9-11am and the second was from 1-3pm. 

I ended up leading 43 kids or so in embroidery activities throughout the course of the day with huge help from Erica Barnes of Second Street Gallery. It was a trip! I enjoyed getting called Miss Brie by all these adorable little ones, but there were a few things I didn't see coming in the least before the day started. Namely, how many needles I was going to thread over the course of the day, or how many knots I was going to tie. I didn't imagine, for some reason, that kids were going to stitch over the lines of the pattern that I'd put on the fabric in the little hoops I'd prepared, I'd thought (probably because this is the way that I embroider) that they'd be inclined to fill in the spaces instead of tracing the lines. Only one child of the 43 filled things in the way I do. 

There were some interesting/challenging moments throughout the day: an embroidery hoop was broken and tossed across the room, some of the patterns were cut out of the middle of the hoop and abandoned, one child balled up a whole bunch of the thread I'd pre-cut and organized, put it in an ice-cream scoop, doused it in water and stuck it down her shirt (kids), and there was a serial thread cutter who went around chopping these long strands of pre-cut thread of different colors into tiny chunks which no one could use. It was an adventure alright and Erica was so crucial to keeping order in the class and helping all those who needed help. 

I spent my lunch break eating my super weird pizza (a first grader's words) with cauliflower and brussels sprouts on it (it was leftover from Sunday's dinner and it was amazing) at a table of girls between the ages of 7 and 10 - one little one told me through a mouthful of cheeze-it's that "Lying is bad" and another one told me that someone had told her she was ugly and also had called her a "butt" - which I tried really hard not to laugh at haha!! All I could say was "well you certainly aren't ugly in the least and it's just science that you're not a butt, even if you have one. I have one too, we all do."

I was so proud of what the kids made! We even had two boys participate and make amazing things. There was a lot of free-style embroidery in the second session - I'd traced the pattern on to the fabric with a tracing paper that washed off with water and a lot of the kids asked me to wash it off, in the end. It was kind of hilarious because it had taken me FOREVER to trace it 40 times on fabric and I'd underestimated their independence. It was really impressive.  

Thank you Second Street Gallery (and thank you Erica so much for your help!) for giving me the opportunity to participate in such a wonderful day-long activity - it was a really unusual day for me and an amazing learning experience. It was exhausting too! Have never been asked by so many little voices at the same time for help - that's a feeling I'll never forget! All my respect and praise goes out to the people who have the patience and energy to work with large groups of rambunctious little ones for a living: teachers, librarians, counselors and staff at the boy's and girl's clubs across the country, you have my respect! 

Here are some photos of the organized calm before the storm: 


Some photos from the day. So many beautiful little faces diligently working away: 

Lastly, I'd like to share some photos of finished work by the kids!