Text and images by Gabrielle.

Something interesting about our French school (and from what I understand, all French schools), is that needlework is part of the curriculum.

Embroidery and France

I realized this during our first year here, when (then 9-year-old) Olive’s school class completed two separate cross-stitch projects — both the boys and the girls. I asked around, and apparently, this wasn’t unusual at all.

Embroidery and France

Then, just a few months ago, Maude was introduced to embroidery for children in France, when her friend and peer gave her a beautifully embroidered wallet. The whole thing, including the binding on the edges, had been hand-stitched by her friend years earlier. Isn’t it lovely?

The embroidery introduction continued when Maude’s French tutor, an 80-year old French woman named Marie, who is very refined, started to teach Maude different embroidery stitches as part of their tutoring sessions.

I should note, when I mention French tutoring, what I mean is, the oldest 3 kids meet with Marie weekly, one-on-one at the public library. And they just chat. About all sorts of topics — zombie movies, images of our town during WWII, scenes from plays, or even embroidery. The hour-long chats introduce new vocabulary and strengthen our children’s French skills, but don’t involve formally practicing conjugations or rote memorization. It’s a way to practice French, and learn about French culture, without feeling like they’re doing more homework.

Embroidery and FranceEmbroidery and France

Anyway, Marie introduced embroidery to Maude as a topic of conversation for their tutoring sessions, and Mimi, who is so good with her hands, has been loving it.

Marie brought a needle, a thimble, and a small piece of fabric. Maude already had a stockpile of embroidery thread (she uses it for friendship bracelets). And now Maude is practicing the different stitches.

Embroidery and France

And pictured here, Olive’s charming, cross-stitched, recipe notebook mentioned above. It sits happily in our kitchen and records the French recipes we try.

Being able to correctly use a needle and thread seems to be considered a basic life skill here. The understanding is that everyone needs to know how to sew on a button, or make basic repairs to clothing.

No doubt it relates to the clothing culture here, which, from what I’ve observed, is not as “disposable” as it is in the U.S. — especially for adults. People tend to own less clothing overall, but invest more on individual items, then care for them properly, and wear them for a long time.

Embroidery and France

I’d love your thoughts on all of this. What would you think if needlework was introduced as part of the curriculum in your school? Waste of time? Kids should be taking keyboarding instead? Or, referencing Amy’s excellent post from yesterday, would you group needlework with The Arts? And just out of curiosity, how are your own needle skills? Did you ever learn how to properly sew on a button or patch your clothes? I’d love to hear!