The Congress of Women: Needlework as Taught in Stockholm

Updated February 28, 2017 | Infoplease Staff

Needlework as Taught in Stockholm

Mlle. Hulda Lundin is a native of Christianstad (Skí¥ne), Sweden. She was born in 1847. She was educated at various Swedish schools in her native town and at Stockholm. She has traveled in England, Scotland, Italy, Germany, France, Belgium, Denmark, Norway, Ireland and America. As one of the leading educators of today she has an established position. Her principal literary works are "Dressmaking" (for schools), "Female Sloyd," and "French Schools." She is at present superintendent of needlework in the public schools of Stockholm, and there has introduced many new and excellent methods of training. In religious faith she is a Lutheran. Belongs to Idun (Woman's Club), Woman's Suffrage League, and various educational societies. Her permanent postoffice address is Brunkevrgs Hotel, Stockholm, Sweden.

Educational methods of the present day demand that instruction in general shall be given according to a carefully considered plan, which shall be at the same time simple, logical and progressive. It is not sufficient to give out lessons to be committed to memory; these must also be thoroughly explained and illustrated by the teacher. Suitable mediums of instruction must be sought and class-teaching maintained in order to insure thoroughness and inspire interest. It is a matter of great satisfaction that these principles have been adopted in all instruction from books; but if one examines the methods heretofore employed in manual teaching of needlework training whose educational value can hardly be overrated, the strange fact is discovered, that as a rule not one trace of the intelligent principles governing instruction in other subjects is to be found here. Therefore, while instruction in all other branches has developed, that in manual training has remained in its old, elementary condition. Manual training has been regarded as an outside branch, not subject to the same laws as other educational branches, whereas it ought to stand side by side with them, because it has the same educational aim to fulfill. The aim of the instruction in Girls' Sloyd (this term embraces in Sweden all kinds of handiwork) is: First, to exercise hand and eye; second, to quicken the power of thought; third, to strengthen love of order; fourth, to develop independence; fifth, to inspire respect for carefully and intelligently executed work, and at the same time to prepare girls for the execution of their domestic duties.

The instruction has two objects in view: (a ) It shall be an educational medium; (b ) It shall fit the girls for practical life. But if the desired aim is to be reached, the fundamental principles of pedagogics must be applied to manual training.

Formerly, satisfaction was felt with purely mechanical skill in manual training, when the only thought was to procure even, beautiful stitches in sewing; while the practical skill required in measure-taking, cutting-out and planning a piece of work, was wholly neglected The introduction of the sewing machine has developed entirely new conditions. We must now tell our pupils something the machine cannot perform, namely: To take measures, to draft patterns, to cut out, to put together and to arrange garments; also to train them to skill in darning, mending and marking at the same time that we teach them to take correct stitches. This desired result is not easily attained, but experience has proved that it is best reached by, first, practical demonstration on the subject; second, progressive order with regard to the exercises; third, class instruction.

First: Practical demonstration in sewing is accomplished by means of a sewing frame, and in knitting by means of large wooden needles and colored balls of yarn; at the same time blackboard drawings are constantly being made. "With a piece of chalk and a blackboard a teacher can work wonders," I once heard a clever teacher say. Even if this were somewhat overstated, as I readily admit, it is nevertheless true that a teacher who understands the value of these media can, by their help, reach remarkably good results. French schools furnish fine proof of this. As no one is born a master, and as we cannot afford to cast away material at hand, it is necessary, until skill is obtained, to make use of preparatory exercises, but much judgment must be exercised in their use. I consider it to be a great mistake to keep pupils engaged term after term with preparatory exercises which they may not put into practice till long after and by the time they are needed have perhaps forgotten. As soon as an exercise is well learned it should be applied to something useful, either in the school or at home. In this way the pupil's interest is awakened and strengthened. The child will, in such a case, see a result of its work such as it can understand. And, moreover, the parents' sympathy with the instruction is won.

Second. Progressive order with regard to the exercises: The exercises are planned and carried out in the most strictly progressive order, so as to enable the pupils to execute well the work required of them. Nothing is more discouraging to see than a badly executed piece of work. "One cannot expect more of a child" is given as a kind of excuse. This may sometimes be true, but one can expect that a teacher will not give a child exercises beyond its capabilities and before which it must fail. To fail continually has an injurious effect on a child's character. No; let us take simple exercises; let us execute them well, have our aim well in view and not be discouraged even if the result looks plain and simple. In other words, in manual training, as in other subjects, there should be a systematic plan, which is simple, logical and progressive.

Third. Class instruction: When instruction became obligatory in our schools, and it was necessary to have from thirty to forty pupils, and sometimes more, in one class, class instruction became an absolute necessity, and it was soon found that development of the individual was better secured through its means than when each pupil received instruction by herself. Strangely enough, one subject-manual training-remained unreformed, to the great injury of the subject; for, by appealing to the whole class at once, a teacher can secure the attention of her pupils and awaken a lively interest in the work. Her teaching can then be deep and interesting. The teacher finds time to talk about form, size, and reasons for doing this or that. Yes, the pupils even find time to think out why things shall be so and not so, and discover the best way to carry out an exercise. In this way the instruction becomes both developing and educating, and the pupils lay a firm foundation on which to build further in the future. But class teaching is only an effect, and should not be an aim. One must not have the mistaken idea that the teacher is to guide every step. Far from it. It is only the new in every exercise which should be explained to the whole class. After the pupils have learned through explanation and illustration what they must do, and how they shall do it, they should work independently of each other. Meanwhile, the teacher should go around the class, and notice whether all the pupils are performing correctly the required exercises. She should at the same time observe the position of hand and body, also whether the pupils hold their work at a proper distance from their eyes, so that they may not gain skill at the expense of their eyesight. The teacher of manual work should not only instruct, but also educate the pupils as well. Therefore the choosing of teachers is not an insignificant matter. Besides manual dexterity, teachers ought to be possessed of pedagogical skill. Therefore, for the training of teachers in manual training either special normal schools should be established, or-what without doubt is better-existing normal schools should place man- ual training in their curriculum on an equal footing with other branches of education. That is now done in Sweden and in several other countries in Europe. Not only girls, but the younger boys, should be instructed in girls' sloyd. The boys should be taught this because it introduces variety and interest, trains the hand and eye, and renders them able, in case of necessity, to darn their stockings and mend their garments. From the foregoing we deduce the following:

First-Practical demonstration in sewing is accomplished by means of a sewing frame, and in knitting by means of large wooden needles and colored balls of yarn. At the same time blackboard drawings are constantly being made.

Second.-The exercises are planned and carried out in the most strictly progressive order, so as to enable the pupils to execute well the work required of them.

Third.-The instruction in sloyd should-like that in other branches-be given to the whole class at the same time, otherwise the time which the teacher could devote to each pupil separately would be insufficient to secure the desired results.

In order to illustrate the progress from the simple to the more complex in the teaching of sloyd, we give the following class divisions of the subjects which are in use at the present time in the public schools of Stockholm:

School age, seven to fourteen for both girls and boys.

CLASS I.-Plain knitting with two needles-a pair of garters. Plain knitting-a pair of warm wristers.

CLASS II.-Plain knitting-a towel. Practice in the different kind of stitches: running, stitching, hemming and overcasting-a lamp mat. The application of the already named stitches-one small and one large needle workbag.

CLASS III.--A needlework case. Simple darning on canvas-a mat for a candlestick. An apron.

CLASS IV.-Girls. Plain and purl knitting-slate eraser and a pair of mittens. A plain chemise.

CLASS V.-Knitting-a pair of stockings. Drawing the pattern, cutting out and making a chemise.

CLASS VI.-Patching on colored material. Plain stocking darning; buttonholes. Buttons made of thread. Sewing on tapes, hooks and eyes. Drawing the pattern, cutting out and making a shirt or a pair of drawers.

CLASS VII.-Fine darning and marking. Drawing the pattern for a dress. Cutting out articles such as are required in Standards II-IV. Drawing the pattern, cutting out and making a dress.

The time given to needlework: Class I, two hours a week; Classes II, III and IV, four hours a week; Classes V and VI, five hours a week; Class VII, six hours a week.

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