Thursday, May 19, 2011

Attack of the Giant Squid

When I was making this shirt I kept thinking back to an early assignment I had during my first year of teaching when I was completing my education classes at night.

The science lab teacher at my school was also taking this Integrative Curriculum class with me and we teamed up together for the final assignment. It was a weekly 8 o'clock class. It was across the street from my workplace which was close to an hour away from where I lived. This forced me to stay at work until 8 after teaching all day, attend class until 10, and get home close to 11. Then wake up the next morning at 5:15 for work. Needless to say it WAS NOT FUN!!! Looking back I don't even know how I managed to do it (I had to do the same thing with other classes, and committees as well over the years and I always hated it). The thought of having to do something like that now makes me feel kind of nauseous. Let me repeat: IT WAS SO NOT FUN.

Anyway, despite this hellishness, I loved working on our final assignment. We decided to integrate three subjects into a lesson plan the Science Lab teacher already used about squid dissection. Since I taught English, it was my job to plan how to incorporate it. I knew immediately that the students would become instantly engaged with a multi media introduction to the Giant Squid. We planned to show historical illustrations, and sailor accounts of these enormous sea creatures attacking boats, etc. on the SMART board. Then the students would read the squid description from Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. I think the third member of our group was a math teacher, which is probably why I do not remember her contribution at all. You know I tend to block out anything math-related.

Since the students would have already studied about the squid in Science class, they would then have to discuss and write down what was correct or incorrect about the physical descriptions. What was myth/ fact...etc, etc. There was a lot more to the lesson but this was the general thread. By then the students would be really fired up about getting their hands on a real squid and dissecting it. It was always a big shock to them to see how tiny the squid was that they were working with (they were usually about 6 inches long). I'm sure they were expecting the Science Lab teacher to roll in some giant sea monster on a trolley from the hallway.

Trust me, they forgot any minor disappointment they may have initially had as soon as they were able dissect the ink sack; they were to use the ink to write their names on paper and hang it up outside the classroom. Looking back I find it gross and barbaric--and exactly what kids would find fun.

Unfortunately, I never got to use this lesson plan with the Science Lab teacher. I had observed her regular squid lesson that year but she left for a different job the next year and we never got to collaborate. I still think that it would be a great lesson all these years later. And I guess the child-like excitement/ wonder of "sea monsters" hasn't left me because I've been wanting to make Little C. this octopus shirt for almost two years.

I'm not the Science teacher so I can't go into detail about the differences among squid, cuttlefish, or octopi. Although, I'm quite certain that an octopus has 8 tentacles, not 4. I'm calling it artistic license.

This long-in-the-making shirt started with an octopus sketch on a discarded piece of Little C's drawing paper. I made a variety of designs to start with.  I initially was going for a mod-vector art-ish look, but my husband liked this illustration better. I really trust his eye on color/ design. I can get way too caught up in those things and complicate matters for the worse, so I almost always go with his opinion on those things.

Then I appliqued the shirt. I have only done this once before, and I definitely need practice. This was also the first time I changed the foot on my sewing machine/ used satin stitch.

 I did practice a lot before hand, but I still had some difficulty with the fabric puckering, etc. I should have put some kind of stabilizing fabric on the other side of the shirt, but I was too impatient. Live and learn.

I knew I wanted to use buttons for the suction cup tentacles. When I saw these in the store I knew they were perfect; what a great find!

I'm glad I finally made this idea concrete, and probably just in the nick of time too, while Little C. is still little and into wearing a mom-made shirt with pink buttons on it.


  1. LOVE THAT!! I need to learn how to change the foot on my machine! you rock, S!

  2. Glad you like the shirt!
    Changing the foot was easy to do on my machine (there was a little spring clamp on it). I just can't tell the different feet (foots?) apart. I need lessons...


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