Needles, Hooks, and Bobbins

Needles, Hooks, and Bobbins
Ida Mckinley: Education, Arts, Letters and Ideas

Skill: Elementary School
Time Required: Three Days


Each first lady had a cause for which she worked.  Ida McKinley was restricted in the amount of work she could do, but still found a cause. Though suffering from poor health, Ida McKinley crocheted hundreds of slippers for friends, relatives, and Civil War veterans.  For Union veterans she crocheted blue slippers; for Confederate soldiers she crocheted gray slippers.


This lesson will help students understand that history is recorded in various ways and that needlework is one such form.

Materials Required:

Access to the Internet Relatives who do needlework Art supplies for creating a mural.


To begin this lesson, ask students in the class if they have family members who crochet, knit, quilt, sew, or spin and invite the skilled relatives to come to class to discuss and demonstrate their skill.  

After the discussions and demonstrations with skilled relatives, explain to students that history can be found in the printed word, but also in visual images such as drawings, photos, and even needlework.  Show the students visual images as demonstration.

The Smithsonian Institute website contains an exhibit entitled “Fiber Art: Following the Thread”.   At this site students will gain an understanding of the cultural history of the United States through letters, writings, photographs, and oral history interviews.  

After exploring this website, have students discuss what they learned and have them brainstorm ideas for the creation of a mural which will depict history through needlework.

Together as a class, draw a mural depicting the history of spinning, crochet, knitting, and needlework.

Extending the Lesson:

To extend this lesson, work with the relatives of the students and/or the school art teacher to create a quilt which represents the history of the community.

Sources & Resources:

    Aiken, Jonas B. Treatise on the Art of Knitting: With a History of the Knitting Loom. Franklin: Inventor, 1861. 
   Berti, Gianna Valli.  The Complete Book of Quilting. New York: Sterling Publishing Co., Inc., 1998. 
   Breward, Christopher.  Fashion. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003. 
   Detrixhe, Sandra. Zen and the Art of Quilting: Exploring Memory and Meaning in Patchwork. Avon: F&W Publications, Inc., 2004. 
   Harte, N. B. and Ponting, K. G. (ed.) Pasold Studies in Textile History 2 – Cloth and Clothing in Medieval Europe. Portsmouth: Heinemann Educational Books, 1983. 
   Kohler, Carl, Von Sichart, Emma, and Kohler, Karl. A History of Costume. New York: Dover Publications, 1963. 
   MacDonald, Anne. No Idle Hands: The Social History of American Knitting.  New York: Random House, 1988. 
   Nichols, Elgiva.  Tatting: Technique and History. Toronto: General Publishing Company, Ltd., 1962.   
   Paludan, Lis. Crochet: History and Technique.  Loveland: Interweave, 1995. 
   Rutt, Richard.  A History of Hand Knitting.  London: BT Batsford Ltd, 1987. 
   Strasser, Susan.  Never Done: A History of American Housework.  New York: Henry Holt & Company, LLC, 1982. 
   Wacker, Jill.  Knitting: History, Fashion, and Great Knitting Yarns.  Philadelphia: Running Press Book Publishing, 2000. 
   Whiting, Gertrude.  Old-Time Tools and Toys of Needlework. New York: Columbia University Press, 1971.

History of Crochet

History of Quilting  

History of Needlework

History of Knitting

History of Sewing


This lesson was written by Debra L. Clark, Kent State University.