You see, this may not seem like a big deal to you, but if you've been reading here for any length of time, or if you know me personally, you know that textiles are my thing. I love needlework. I knit, I crochet, I embroider, I quilt, I sew etc, etc. If it is made of fabric (or sometimes even if it is not) I like to stitch on it. I cannot look around me and not see opportunities for stitching, or things that really should be quilts (I have a whole pinterest board dedicated to thing that could become quilt patterns). And here's one of the fun things about parenting; getting to share the things you love with your children. For years before I had kids I'd been stock piling vintage craft books, fantastic cuts of fabric, yards or rick rack and boxes full of vintage buttons. I had such big plans for the things I'd make with my daughter. We'd sew funny little monster dolls, clothes for her kitty cat, aprons, hair bows, book bags and dresses. I'd teach her to embroider. We'd make a quilt together for her to sleep under. I'd imagine the pride she got dressed in an outfit she'd made herself. I couldn't wait to teach her everything I knew.
And then I had a boy. And another one. Hm.
Now I am a card carrying feminist. I've done my women's studies courses and read my Naomi Wolf and Judith Butler. I stood ready to empower my daughter to do and be anything she wanted. We'd sew banners for protests. We'd make clothes that did not have to scream pink and pretty just because she was a girl. We'd celebrate and use the skills that women have perfected over the centuries. We'd honour the quilters of the past while re-imagining the future in fabric.
Did I mention I had two boys.
So obviously I don't believe that the textile arts are only for girls. There are many talented male quilters and sewers out there. But no matter how you slice it (and you can slice it for aaaages, trust me) there are still more women involved in needlework than men. My quilt guild is entirely made up of women. And its not because men aren't allowed. So of course I planned to show my boys how to sew and knit and stitch. These are valuable skills for all people to have, not just women.
But I still worried. What if he did not like to stitch? Or worse yet, what if he did not even want to try? I've done my best to create an envoirment where there are not "boy" activities and "girl" activites. Hubs and I both cook and do our best to care for them equally. We do not avoid pink. And the boys seem interested in the sewing machine, and the pins and the scissors, but they don't seem that interested in actually making something with them.
The other day I was at the craft store though, and I saw these little plastic canvas stars. Yeah, plastic canvas. This is soooo far from where I am aesthetically right now (plastic! ew.) but it occurred to me that this might be the perfect place to start. They are rigid, which helps as you first learn to negotiate needle and thread. They are small, so easily finished. And they are kind of cool, in a angles and segments kind of way. And when I actually thought about it for a minute, I realized that the first thing I ever stitched was a little plastic canvas coaster set (yellow with butterflies on them, and my big sister taught me how). So I bought them and brought them home and waited for the right moment.
The Little Dude came home from school yesterday and said, "Lets make a craft." Which usually means "lets draw". But I saw my window. "How about we make a Christmas ornament?" I said. "Yeah!" he shouted. Ok, so far so good. He was on board.
So I pulled out these cool little stars. And my big box of craft yarn and a blunt needle. I made a knot in one end, and then showed him how to go in and out. I didn't stress about a stitch or a patttern plan or anything. I just gave him the yarn and showed him how to go in and out with the needle. He just did a running stitch and followed the edges of the star. It took him a few moments to get a hang of it, but then he was off and running. there he was perched on top of the coffee table, hardly my first choice of a good seating arrangement, but I did not want to break the spell, so I didn't even suggest he move. Occasionally he needed my help "Which side do I go in on now? Is it over or under this time?" And at one point, after tangling his yarn he sighed and said, "I'm tired of this." And then put it down and walked away. But I just said "ok, you can finish it later if you want." And in a matter of minutes he was back over to where I was sitting asking for a new colour or yarn. "Yellow this time, because its a star." So I got him hooked up with some more yarn and he was at it again. And this time he stuck with it.
I did my best not to hover or pressure him about it. If he's going to do it, I want him to do it because he wants to, not because I want him to. I don't want to be the hockey dad of embroidery, if you know what I mean. But I must admit that watching him do this made me ridiculously happy. Watching his concentration, seeing him almost make a mistake and then realize it and right himself. Watching him using his fine motor skills and his brain and his hands all at once. The happy absorbed struggle of acquiring a skill.
Oh, and you may wonder what Mr. Baby was doing this whole time. Yep, his favourite thing in the world lately. Cuttin'. No wait, his favourite thing is probably "Choppin'" with his sword. But cuttin' with scissors is probably a close second.
Snip, snip, snippet. The living room carpet is now covered with a fine sprinkling of one-inch-long yarn bits. In a variety of colours. I gave him a chance to embroider too, but after pulling the needle through the star once or twice, he was pretty much done. After all, that yarn was not going to cut itself! And at a basic level its still fibres, so I feel like he was at the same yarn-y party that his brother and I were.
And the Little Dude tells me that we will be making more of these. "And Mom, you should go back to the store tonight and see if they have other shapes too. Because we need circles. Circles make good ornaments. And then I can do more of that cross-stitch with them." Sigh. My heart is full.