Here’s to seasonal fun with your child as you create a tactile Valentine-heart card! Note the varying levels of difficulty—choose what works for your family.
- Tray with raised edges and small containers for an organized work station
- Cardstock or a blank card
- Double-sided tape
- Embroidery thread (contrasting color to the felt may be helpful)
- Needles (1. a plastic needle for practicing and 2. a self-threading needle for the project, or a needle and needle threader as an alternative, if your child is ready to learn to thread a needle)
- Stuffing (can be purchased or removed from a once-loved stuffed animal)
- *Glue (as an alternative to sewing)
- *stylus, awl, pen, or hole punch (for adult to punch holes in cardstock so your child can practice lacing, a precursor to sewing the basic running stitch)
Prepare and organize the work station with your child. I recommend using a tray to keep the items in a confined space, and organizing materials in short containers (as to not be easily knocked over) such as the lids of containers or jars. Consider the use of task lighting and color contrast for those with low vision.
If your child is not ready to learn to sew, precut multiple felt hearts and have your child glue the decorative hearts to the card. Simple and sweet!
If your child is ready for their first sewing experience, help them learn in stages. First, use a stylus, awl, pen, or hole punch to punch holes in cardstock, creating the broken outline of a heart shape (approximately 4” wide and 4” long). Have your child use a plastic needle to lace embroidery thread or yarn up the first hole, down the second, up the third hole, down the fourth, etc. Start at the “12:00” position of the heart (which is conveniently tactile) and work clockwise. They can use their sense of touch to find the next hole.
When your child is ready to practice sewing on felt, here’s the game plan:
- Cut two identical felt hearts (approximately 4” wide and 4” long) that will be sewn together. If the hearts are too much smaller the sewing will be more difficult. It isn’t necessary for your child to cut the hearts, but if they would like to, consider taping (with double-sided tape) a cardstock heart to the felt to be used as a guide for cutting. For the experienced: fold the felt in half and cut both hearts simultaneously.
- Adhere the felt hearts together using double-sided tape to keep them from sliding about when sewing. Pins can be used for the experienced sewer.
- To gauge the amount of thread to use, your child can measure the thread using an extended arm, shoulder to finger-tip. Cut the thread.
- Thread the needle, and proceed to knot the ends of the thread together. If your child is threading the needle, consider using a self-threading needle; stabilize the needle by sticking the needle into Styrofoam or cork. Alternatively, the needle can be threaded using a needle threader.
- Time to sew! Inexperienced sewers should stick with a simple running stitch beginning at “12:00” and working clockwise; if your child is experienced with the running stitch, consider teaching the backstitch, whipstitch, or blanket stitch. Start stitching from the backside of the heart, pull the thread through the fabric until the knot is pulled against the backside of the heart, and reinsert the needle coming from the frontside of the felt. If your child practiced stitching using existing holes in cardstock, they may have a good concept of the distance between stitches. If not, they can use their fingertip as a spacing guide (assuming they have good spatial awareness and will not stick themselves). Other options for spacing guides include the teeth of a comb, a pencil, or pipe cleaner; keep in mind, however, that additional tools will complicate sewing.
- When approximately 80% of the perimeter of the heart is stitched, pause sewing and have the child place the threaded needle in a specific location (such as a magnetic pin cushion). Moderately stuff the heart.
- Complete the stitches and tie off the thread. Here’s how to tie off your needle and thread by touch when blind or visually impaired.
- Sew the heart on the front of a piece of folded cardstock or a blank card using ten or so wide stitches.
Now your child has a personalized Valentine card ready to be brailled or written in and delivered!
[If your child enjoyed sewing, learn more about sewing as a person who is blind or visually impaired by reading APH VisionAware’s Sewing and Embroidery Tips.]