By Lois Kershner, Director of Teachers’ Certification
This article first appeared in NANthology, the NAN newsletter, in summer 2016.
In early 2015 The Greater Pacific Region (GPR) of The Embroiderers’ Guild of America (EGA) announced the availability of an educational project made possible by a bequeath from the estate of Gay Montague Phillips to EGA. GPR decided to film a class and make it available at no cost to members in several ways: a DVD sent to every chapter, a YouTube video and a comprehensive PDF instruction booklet posted in the members only section of the region’s website. I was honored to be the selected teacher and worked with a committee of three region representatives to develop the project.
In addition to filming a class, the region challenged me to offer one that would meet as many interests as possible, be enjoyable at various proficiency levels, and that could be stitched on linen or canvas. As with all my pieces I first focused on teaching goals— what stitching techniques and stitches to teach—and then proposed Spring Garden, a small colorful garden scene incorporating these goals. The piece also offered an opportunity to discuss how to achieve perspective through stitching. Since no kit would be provided, students could use the threads of the stitched models, or select their own.
The scene was inspired by one of the formal gardens at Filoli, a local estate near my home. From my photographs of the gardens I created a small color rendering which became the basis of the line design to be traced to canvas or linen.
TESTING THE DESIGN
To be sure that my choice of stitches and threads were appropriate as well as determine how much thread would be needed, I stitched the piece three times—on 18 count canvas, Congress Cloth and 25 count linen—logging the number of strands needed, the amount of thread used, and stitching notes for each of the ground materials.
Along with stitch charts, the instructions provided information for all levels of stitchers such as how to transfer the line design to canvas or linen and how to mount them to get the greatest tension, special stitching tools and equipment, and considerations for selecting threads by value, color, and texture. The committee members piloted the instructions on a fabric of their choice.
Except for meeting the criteria of three different ground materials the project to this point was very much like designing a piece to teach in a classroom. For the filming we initially assumed the camera would film me giving instructions with the committee member ‘students’ doing the stitching. That was a bad assumption. It became clear that we needed a structure for every step to determine what should be shown as a chart or demonstrated, what props were needed, and ultimately exactly what should be said. The solution was a story board which the videographer asked be developed into a series of Powerpoint slides. Thank goodness I was comfortable using Powerpoint software, for this meant rewriting the comprehensive instructions in an entirely different format. Altogether there were 98 slides.
PREPARING STITCH DEMONSTRATIONS
Since the committee ‘students’ had chosen to stitch their pieces on Congress Cloth or linen and a larger count was needed for filming, it was decided that I would do all the stitch demonstrations on 18 count. Where a stitch had several steps, the first had to already be stitched in order to show the next steps. For example, in the Padded Brick stitch illustration I demonstrated the upper row, with the lower second row partially stitched so I could quickly demonstrate and describe a few tips for doing it.
In some cases the filmed shot was of someone talking directly to the camera or showing a technique, such as how to straighten threads. Other shots were of a chart; others of a stitch demonstration. Some shots such as segment headers could be pulled directly from the Powerpoint slides. The videographer asked that we film all shots in the sequence of the story board as it would be easier for editing. This helped me keep everything in order also.
My stitch demonstration canvas was anchored by floor stands on both sides so it would not wobble as I stitched. My needles were all threaded and ready, and my enlarged cue card with the stitch chart and exactly what I intended to say was attached at the top of the canvas. I wore a microphone and talked as I stitched. My stitching and verbal instructions needed to be complete and accurate which required a lot of practice beforehand and meant that I really had to concentrate during the filming.
The committee carefully tracked against the story board and instruction booklet during the filming. If I omitted something or got confused we could immediately redo a shot. Fortunately we could retake anything during final editing before distribution.
I am sure the region will want to know over time how well the project is received. Did members like the project? Did they find the information of value even if they didn’t stitch the project? Was the DVD useful for the chapter programs? Did access to the YouTube video and PDF instructions work for individuals?
As a teacher I am interested to know whether this type of filming format works for a class project. All of the information was shown, verbally described and provided in writing to address the different ways people learn, but how can I know that the information has been understood and the technique truly learned? I do hope folks will contact me with their questions so we can chat online, Skype face-to-face or do live video demos as needed. Clearly the online environment is the direction of the future and as a teacher I want to embrace it and learn to use it effectively.