The Essence of Teaching Embroidery

By Kathleen F. Mackie

This article first appeared in NANthology, the NAN newsletter, in fall 1995.

Some years ago, the Director of a recreational program where I was applying for a job asked me about the essence of my approach to teaching embroidery skills to adults. I did not want to question him about the term “essence”, so I told him I would like to put such thoughts on paper and get back to him the following day. That seemed to suit him.

The first thing I did when I arrived home was to go to the dictionary. There are several ways to define the word “essence”, but the one I felt most suited a statement about the term was, “The inward nature of anything, underlying its manifestations.” With that definition in mind, the following thoughts emerged:

  • A teacher shares his or her knowledges of tools and basic skills, and how to use them.
  • Every student needs to feel that the teacher thinks they have some “special talent”.
  • Students should be encouraged to be open to new ideas in the search for excitement in texture, color, and design.
  • Take the time to assess the attainment level of each student in the group as quickly as possible. Then develop strategies that are tailor-made for each student. (This is not so easy in a two-day seminar with twenty stitchers in a class.)
  • Give constant appraisal and encouragement.
  • Try to teach students to “see,” rather than just look at a design or a problem.
  • Be sure that whatever course is being taught is structured throughout and that the techniques are fully explained and demonstrated.
  • By “thought, word and deed” a teacher passes along his or her own enthusiasm and enjoyment for stitcher and art.

These thoughts express the “inner nature” of my personal philosophy of teaching adults and the same would apply to teaching children. After teaching embroidery for thirty-five years (seventeen years with certification) the “essence” has remained the same.

Incidentally, I got the job!