Future Reflections March/April/May 1984, Vol. 3 No. 2

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by Doris Willoughby

Parents and teachers! Here is a fun idea that is extremely flexible. It is very easy for the young beginner, the multiply handicapped person, or the older boy or girl who has not had previous experience with sewing. At the same time, it is very popular with experienced hobbyists.

Craft shops sell a product called "plastic canvas." This is simply a heavy plastic sheet which is actually a gridwork full of holes. The holes (about 6 per inch) are just right for a heavy needle to pass through. Using yarn, the experienced individual can make detailed designs and pictures which can become wall hangings, decorative boxes, tissue dispensers, etc. This type of craft is very popular for crafts and gifts, and is suitable for blind persons in every way. Designs or pictures can be worked out by keeping track of the colors, noting position, and counting stitches -- using a prepared pattern or not, according to experience and preference.

The beauty of this for children is that it is so easy and has so many possibilities, while producing an impressive result. Somehow the prepunched holes seem to make everything go more smoothly. "Tapestry needles," which are not sharp, are commonly used. Yarn is heavy and easily felt; the plastic is not flimsy; so all materials are easy to handle. Learning to use a needle threader is easy with such materials; however of course if the youngster has not yet learned that skill, someone can simply thread the needle for him/her at first. A knotted double strand is recommended for beginners. It is not essential that every hole be used.

Recently I observed a young woman who had several handicaps and is very much restricted, delightedly making a present for her mother by this method. Another student, who had never had the opportunity to use a needle and was very hesitant, had a most successful art experience with this material. She will now have improved readiness for home economics next semester. These young people made no attempt at any organized pattern this time, being occupied simply with the mechanics of using a needle; yet the results produced a design worthy of being used as a decoration.

This idea is not suggested as a substitute for conventional sewing on cloth. But "plastic canvas" is a most valuable and flexible craft --for very young children just beginning to do handwork; for the multiply handicapped; for the inexperienced; and for the expert hobbyist who is looking for variety.

Doris Willoughby is a teacher of blind and visually impaired children in the Des Moines, Iowa area. She is also well-known as the author of several books and articles for parents and educators of blind children.

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