Thursday, May 30, 2019

Hand Skills - Doctors of Sewing Needed

I found this article on the front page of the New York Times today and it is funny as I had been planning on writing this myself whenever I got a chance to blog again.

Because I teach kids robotics, I get to see the dexterity of kids and how long it takes to develop.  While our robot kids were doing LEGO for several years, they were pretty good already but the transition to screws, nuts, plyers and screwdrivers was the hardest thing they had to tackle all year.  One guy kept snapping the heads off screws, permanently ruining parts we couldn't now get the screw body out from.

So what is happening to our kids?  Well, this article goes over how we have removed shop, hobbies and other activities that develop good hand eye coordination, dexterity and three-dimensional thinking from our kids daily life.  Parents would rather give babies an iPad that work with them and the frustration of LEGOs or heaven forbid, have them help them with tools.

So it highlights that if we want our kids to become doctors - have them become great needleworkers. Yes - it said that.  I am challenging you all to find yourself some aspiring doctor, vet, surgeon, etc and teach them needlework.  Show them this article.  We can save the needlework industry...

I have laughed in a knowing way to my husband that I could make some real money in my town if I opened up needlework classes for kids who want to go to medical school.  It would be a really attractive thing on their resumes.  I live in a town where every person wants their kid to be an engineer or doctor, a top school district in the USA that is half asian or southeast asian.  I am a PhD, MIT grad, world-champion robotics coach, and internationally known needlework expert and I have the right last name.  I could charge a mint to train aspiring doctors.  I have been mildly considering it as the next career after caskets are done.  It helps both keep the craft alive and performs a great function as well.

Funny but needlework got me into MIT and it got my resume selected out every time for grad school and job hunts.  Why???  Well I asked and the answer always revolved around "it says you have great hand skills (think lab work) and creativity (problem solving)".  Wow.

Now that my robot kids have gone to college I see the result of the hand skills they developed in my basement.  My oldest son was hired immediately as a freshman in a well known professor's lab whose policy it is to not hire undergrads.  The grad students have forgotten he isn't a grad student.  He has been given his own project and now some of theirs as well as he can make anything.  He completed the four hour labs for the design class in 20 minutes and would leave early.  No one has three-dimensional thinking skills, hand skills and dexterity right now - and this is engineering school which attracts the people who have been getting some!  As I said to my husband - if the world imploded, he would be able to get a job always and really won't have a problem at all going forward anyways as he is useful the day he walks on a job.

I was talking to my favorite electrician the other day.  He and everyone I talk to in contracting can't hire.  Not that there aren't people to hire or want the jobs, but they are so far down the hand skill learning curve that they can't afford the number of years it will take to get them to apprenticeship level.

So when we go on outreach for the robot team these days, we take basic hand skill items - screws and screwdrivers.  We don't teach robotics as the kids don't have the skills to get there yet.  We work on basics.  It is so sad to see that their minds might be ready but their hands aren't.

Time for adults to get out there and do it themselves - schools have been pressured to remove all this in favor of tests.  It takes patience to show a kid how to make something - but you are giving them real commercially viable job skills while you are doing it.  Don't take the easy way out and do it for them to get it done in your harried life.

Teach a kid how to sew - they may be your doctor someday.


  1. Great post! Sad but true. You could be on to something there with your possible new career. I had a good chuckle at your closing comment.

  2. I love this! I actually had some surgery recently and as the Dr. was explaining to the assistant in training the stitches he was using, I mentioned I used some of those same stitches in my needlework. He said, he also used them at home, mostly in the repairing of dog toys, his puppy tried to destroy! He did a very good job and I have healed very well with his specialty stitches

  3. When I was in elementary school (private girls school) we had woodworking class. Learned to use tools, made a birdhouse,a simple boat - my piece de resistance was a box lined with velvet. When my children were in junior high they all had to take woodworking, sewing and basic household skills (both boys and girls).My mother embroidered and crocheted. She couldn't teach me how to crochet (I'm left handed) but I did simple embroidery from an early age. My older daughter has a business making jewelry (She's a geologist and likes playing with rocks)My younger daughter makes model cars, latch hook rugs and is the person I go to when I need a furniture kit (embroidery stand) put together. I don't know, but I don't think that the skills my children learned in junior high are part of the curriculum now. Sad.

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  5. They don't even have to like it! I taught my kids to make samplers one summer-they filled a really long hallway top to bottom, from one end to the other, with samplers, and they all have very good hand/eye co-ordination. Of course, they also had a minimum of 12 years of music training, and two of them actually hate doing cross stitch, but it was GOOD for them! They also appreciate embroidery done by others when they see it.

  6. My son is a med student and at one of his interviews he had to demonstrate manual dexterity, so he took his guitar along with him. And yes, he can sew. he has embroidered a piece for me (when he was very little) and he can sew buttons on and regularly customises his own clothes - with a bit of help from his mother.