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sewing for my teaching exam

Well, hello there! Big news – I am now a certified teacher! For the last year I’ve been doing a practical-pedagogical course at the Bergen Academy of Art and Design, called PPU (praktisk pedagogisk utdanning). This, alongside the bachelor degrees I already have, allows me to teach art in public schools grades 5-13. I can probably teach in private schools too, but private schools only make up for 5% of the student body here in Norway, so it’s not too pressing of a matter if it turns out I can’t.

Ok, anyways! Being a practical-pedagogical program, it was only fitting that we had a practical portion to our exam as well as an actual practicum (I did 7 weeks with a 11th grade art class). First we submitted a written theoretical paper, along with a devised classroom plan based on our thesis from the paper. I wrote about how the national achievement goals outlined for the art subjects for the class I had my practicum in favored learning hand-fast skills more than it did an aesthetic type of learning (oh, I will do it injustice trying to explain that briefly, but I mean the type of “intuitive”, bodily learning that usually involves some type of creating or expressing. Like – a group of kids putting on a play about trolls can encompass and express learning about social rules and what happens if you don’t follow them. For example).

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The classroom project I outlined in my paper was pretty much the one I did during my practicum, which was to have the students work through a design process by being inspired by a painting, do some research and brainstorming around the artwork, sketch designs for a sweater, and finally make the sweater. I had a really good time doing this with the kids (well, teenagers), and they produced some nice and fun and cool interpretations of their artworks in sweater-form.

So the next part of the exam, which you see here, was to create something within our own field of expertise, that could be used in the classroom to visually aid the instruction. All the students in my class ended up using only three pretty basic sewing techniques, which were an elastic straight stitch (I insisted they only used jersey fabric), a twin needle hem, and finishing necklines, sleeves or the body with a folded band. So I made up three matching samples, which in real life in a classroom setting I would sew during a demo for the students, and then the samples would be there for them to look at afterwards as a reference.

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And then the really fun part! For my exam presentation I then made three garments using only those three basic techniques (also limiting myself to only using knit fabrics, since that’s all my students were allowed to use), which works to illustrate how many different things you can do with having the basics down. The imagination is the limit! I tried to make three distinctly different garments stylistically, but also tried to use those basic techniques in different ways. I realized the day before the final presentation that the only way I had used the twin needle hemming, was to… hem. On each of them. No necklines, no sleeves finished with a twin needle! Oops. The goal was to spark imagination by showing really different ways to use the techniques. I did manage that for the folded band though!

First up the Sherlock Holmes meets Lisbeth Salander cape-thingy:

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 Draped right on my roommate, scuba-jersey for the neckline band, which is so wide that it turns into a collar. I had fun making this one! I think draping lends itself really well to letting the fabric dictate what happens, and less conventional solutions to basic shapes. This has a couple of deep pleats around the neckline to allow for the shoulders, and the separating zipper opens fully.

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This might actually look familiar to some! It’s a jersey version of my Ireland dress, which I made a few years ago. It was nice to work with a familiar pattern, and to remember the construction decisions from last time. The armholes are finished with a technique I familiar with from the Sewaholic blog. It’s a bias binding technique, but works pretty well with jersey as well! And, of course… look how lovely the neckline falls – the beauty of jersey! The high-low hem is totally a product of minimal yardage since this was a piece of fabric from the stash, and I had to cut out the back bodice from somewhere! I think it looks perfectly nice and a smidge more casual, combined with the jersey fabric.

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 And finally, what I think might be my favorite of the three – this tropical-floral-neoprene-like kimono. I had a different plan for a more structured garment, thinking that the neoprene would really hold its shape. My fabric store totally sells garment-weight neoprene, which is a lot more drapey than the real stuff. I didn’t have a lot of yardage, but enough to squeeze out this basic kimono shape. I took everything I learned making my own kimono-style robe, and just simplified it a little. The black edge bands are from a wonderfully squishy merino-wool, and I think the rest of the metre I got is destined to be a casual raglan sweatshirt or something similarly slouchy. I bet it will be so warm – the wool fabric feels very lofty, almost a sponge-like quality to it! Which also is working well with the spongy neoprene. I really love the contrast between the neon-colored floral print and the rich black. I have a wonderfully colorful and cheerful friend, and I thought of her all while making this – first chance I get I will hand it to her, and I think it will suit her really well!

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As I post-script I guess I should add that I did really well on this exam. I am relieved, happy and immensely proud of having completed this last year of study – it has been challenging and demanding and educational (hah, yes) beyond all I had imagined when I started. The first week I so often thought “Oh, my god – I can’t do this! What have I gotten myself into?!”. I totally did this, and I am now beyond a doubt totally a teacher – in heart, mind and spirit!

  • Sarah

    Congratulations! Your garments are beautiful and I think they really emphasise your central thesis.

    • Thank you Sarah, I appreciate it!

  • Claire cooper

    Welcome to the world of the art teacher. I’ve been teaching art for 18 years and still (mostly) love it.

    • Ahh, I feel most welcome! I hope to also be still (mostly) loving it in 18 years!

  • These look so great, especially the cape-thingy and the kimono. I wish we had had sewing in art class when I was at school. I didn’t start my now favourite hobby until after graduation.

    • Thank you! I don’t think we had much sewing in art classes either… I like! In 5th grade I totally remember sewing an apron and a tote bag! My mom was my teacher then. Maybe that’s why we were sewing? She is a very good seamstress and my sewing neatness idol.

  • Wow, what a fun project and I love your presentation garments! Also congratulations on becoming an art teacher! :)

    • Thank you, thank you, thank you! 😀

  • This is SO COOL! I love what you made, and I love your thought process behind the sewing techniques and assignment! Congratulations on joining the exciting world of teaching! Do you start searching for a job now? Good luck!

    • Thank you Gillian! I thought you would like the teacher-part – I know (well, I don’t, but I think I can tell!) how passionate you are about teachinghood! I’ve had a part time maternity-leave temp gig since Easter, which wraps up now in a couple of weeks. I’ve applied to the same position until Christmas, interviews will probably be scheduled next week. Fingers crossed! But yeah – I set up automatic job-listing emails months ago, and have been applying to some of them. Thank you for the well wishes!