At Pottstown Middle School, you’ll find kids in grades five through eight sewing, weaving, felting, and dyeing plants through an afterschool fiber arts program taught by Anne Aycock, owner of Mountain Laurel Yarn in Spring City. .
Her course is part of the school’s after-school enrichment program that is available to students, where they can learn things like clay, robotics, taekwondo, languages and more.
“ArtFusion is hiring me at the school to teach the grant-funded after-school enrichment program,” she said, referring to ArtFusion 19464, a nonprofit community art center in Pottstown that has been serving the community since 2005.
Although a hand-sewn mushroom, woven bracelet or felted bar of soap can be one of the goals of Aycock’s Fiber Arts class, children reap additional rewards from the process that are beneficial. for their well-being.
“One of my young students who was sitting very quietly sewing said ‘that’s so cool,'” Aycock said. “Slowly they become peaceful and enjoy it.”
Decompress and relieve anxiety
Doing handicrafts gives children, boys and girls, a chance to decompress and relieve anxiety after a very stimulating day.
“They’re slowly starting to settle in and they focus very easily and are engaged and focused,” she said. “You engage the head, the heart and the hands, so they get it all.”
The opportunity to calm the mind in Aycock’s Fiber Arts class is the opposite of the environment most children encounter at school.
“Like any typical school, the day is long, they move from class to class and the hallways are noisy,” she said. “Here they have the opportunity to slow down and contemplate – it’s very meditative work.”
After Aycock gives the kids instructions, they quietly work to create their own idea for the ongoing project using supplies she provides that are usually soft to the touch, like hand-spun yarn or cotton fabric. .
“These kids are truly amazing,” she said. “They are wise, polite and generous.”
She also finds that they easily complement each other’s work.
“They’re going to look at each other’s work and admire it,” she said. “They always do things for friends, parents and grandparents.”
Aycock discovered that even children with learning differences do well in the classroom.
“They find their way at their own pace,” she said.
Aycock, who also teaches fiber arts to adults at ArtFusion, said people of all ages can benefit from the soothing effects of manual labor. In a post-pandemic world, creative outlets like these can serve as self-care tools to help keep one’s sanity intact.
“I focus on the process and I like when they’re happy with the outcome,” she said of her students of all ages.
Aycock developed a love of working with natural fibers some 20 years ago when handwork was part of his children’s curriculum at Kimberton Waldorf School in Kimberton, Chester County, a coeducational independent private school for early childhood through 12th grade.
“I learned it so I could help my daughter with the class,” she said.
Soon after, she found herself with a pet sheep to enable her to produce her own fibers, which led to her owning several other sheep. Since then, she has reduced her staff to two and sources additional fleeces from local farms.
“I have it processed at one of the local mills and then I dye it with vegetable dyes,” she said.
Knitting is her passion and Aycock sells her creations at the Kimberton Craft Market, an open-air market held the first Saturday of every month except July and August. Located opposite Kimberton Whole Foods in Kimberton, Chester County, you can buy handmade hats, booties, adult hats, shawls and baby hoods from her. She also sells her plant-dyed yarn.
Aycock, who aims to introduce knitting to her students as part of the enrichment program at some point this year, finds working with them very rewarding.
“It’s very rewarding work and the highlight of my career,” she says. “At the end of the year, the girls beg me, ask me if they can take the course again.”
The Kimberton Craft Market is hosted by Camphill Village Kimberton Hills on the first Saturdays (except July and August). Next market: Saturday, October 1, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Visit www.kimbertonwholefoods.com/events/