Teaching sewing multiculturally

I recently got a volunteer position to teach refugee women sewing skills.  This is exciting!!  It’s like getting a promotion.

Last Friday I met a handful of the women.  Their English is limited, and teaching them will be very interesting and very special to me too.  It’s going to be a privilege to work with them.  I admire their strength and bravery to be far away from home and to perhaps even know that they may never be able to go back.

I’ve been pondering on the lessons and the methods, all the while trying to keep cultural sensitivity in the back of my mind.  For example, teaching them to sew curvy lines may be easier and less costly to practice on paper.  But I heard that they’ve been uneasy about sewing on paper.  This sounded familiar.  See, I sew on paper, but to my Eastern European family this is sometime odd.  You see, sewing has a purpose, that is, to make garments.  It’s a productive skill.  While sewing on paper, produces….well, nothing functional.  It produces ‘art’.

I may approach it this way:  I may have them sew crescent moon cut outs.  I have some old reject black & white photographs to use for the cutouts, and they make nice crescent moons.  Curvy crescent moons.  This way they can practice curves, while making greeting cards, and maybe even practice some English vocabulary: goodnight moon, once in a blue moon….

moon card 1 moon card 2 moon card 3I also made some pin cushions for them.   So they can wear around their wrist when they sew.

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