Art teachers were STEAM-ing before STEAM was cool!

Friday, January 29, 2016

Medicine Pouches With Animal Totems

I am always looking for neat and different projects for my students beyond cutting and pasting. I also believe that children are capable of creating in really wonderful and different ways, if given the chance. That's why, when I saw the totem pouches and stones lesson at Sinking Springs Art, it got me thinking...could I do this sewing project with my after school kids? I thought, YES!

I did some research and decided to call these pouches "Medicine Pouches." The purpose of these pouches are to carry trinkets and special items that will talk about the individual student and encourage him/her in their lives. I found some sites that had lists of animals and their qualities. Some people think that we are drawn to certain animals in our lives and that we can "adopt" the qualities of these animals if we study the animal or keep momentos of that animal near us (like a bear claw or eagle feather). Mrs. Cutshall at Sinking Springs Art described them as "Animal Totems" and had her students create "stones" to go in their pouches. I also described these animals as their "Animal Mentors." Everyone needs a mentor, and we can learn a lot from animals and the qualities they naturally seem to have.

The children had a great time choosing their Animal Mentors (some have always been drawn to a certain animal and knew exactly what animal they were going to choose) and they all did a great job sewing their pouches. I was working with a small group of children, so it didn't get too crazy. All of the children (grades 2-4) did a great job with their sewing. The children even had time to make a matching necklace with their animal mentor on it.

Medicine Pouch With Animal Totem Stone

Supplies Needed:

For pouch:

  • 1 4" x 9" Piece of felt, any color
  • 36" strand of contrasting embroidery floss
  • Needle
  • Scissors
  • 3 Pony Beads

For totem stones:

  • 1 small brick of polymer clay, we used brown, I think I'd go lighter next time--maybe tan?
  • Knife
  • Straw or toothpick
  • Small Paintbrush
  • Acrylic craft paints in natural colors: black, white, brown, ochre, touquoise
  • Palette, water bucket, paper towel

For necklace:

  • Length of ribbon or cord for necklace
  • Additional pony beads (about 11)

Directions For Pouch:

1. Fold the bottom third of the felt up to create the pocket of the pouch. Hold it in place as you sew up the side seams using the blanket stitch and the embroidery floss.

2. To make the part that fastens to pouch closed, take a length of embroidery floss on the needle, bring it up through the center front of the pouch, leaving a tail on the inside of the pouch. Thread three pony beads onto the needle and then pass your needle back through the felt (about 1/4" away from where you came up through the felt a moment ago. Pull the thread taught and knot the ends of the embroidery floss together on the inside of the pouch. Cut a slit in the cover flap of the pouch (about 1/2" long). When you want to fasten the pouch closed, slip the hole in the cover flap over the three pony beads (as you would a button/buttonhole).

Directions For Totem Stones:

1. Knead the polymer clay until it is pliable. Roll into a log shape, about 1" in diameter. Use the knife to cut the log into disks. I was able to get 11 disks from one brick of polymer clay. Flatten all of the disks slightly and place on a baking sheet. In half of the disks, use the straw to create a small hole near the top. These will be the totem stones for the necklaces. The other half of the disks remain intact. Each student will get one of each disk. Bake according to manufacturers directions. Let cool.

2. Use the tiny brush and the acrylic paints to paint an image of your Animal Mentor onto the two totem stones. Let dry.

3. Place the totem stone without the hole in it in your totem pouch. That part is done.

Directions For The Necklace:

1. To make the necklace with the other totem stone, thread the ribbon through the hole in your totem stone. Thread a pony bead through both strands of the ribbon--this makes the totem stone lie flat on the wearer's chest. Thread 5 pony beads (or so) on each side of the totem stone. Knot the ends of the ribbon together and enjoy!

1 comment:

  1. I am pinning this when I get to my computer!!! This gives me a few things to add to my parfleche lesson and animal totem studies we've been doing! Back to the rose parade for now and happy new year!


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