Now that I have had some more experience and realize the skill level they are at, I figured I would give it another try. After multiple knot tying lessons, 4th/5th grade helpers, videos, cardboard lacers, and lots of practice, all of my first and second graders can tie a knot and make a running stitch!!
First grade created rainbow embroideries out of yarn by using the running stitch on burlap. After stitching all of the colors, they trimmed up the burlap and glued it to construction paper. They told a story by drawing pictures in the corners and along the borders. They were so proud of these when they were finished! What an accomplishment first grade!
Second grade also create embroideries. They read the story The Mitten and were asked to design their own mitten that wouldn't get lost against the snow. They painted their mitten design with acrylic paint on burlap. While they were drying, second graders began practicing with yarn. First the used cardboard lacers to understand the concept of the running stitch, then they "upgraded" to practice burlap and needles. They also did lots of knot tying.
With 4th/5th grade helpers in the room, the students used the running stitch, satin stitch, and cross stitch to embroider around and inside their mitten designs. They were glued onto construction paper and students had to tell a story in the four corners. They looked closely at the illustrations in The Mitten and we talked about how the artist helps the reader to predict the next event through the pictures on the borders of each page.
Finally, students decorated their "frame" with a wood grain design on other design of their choice to finish them off. These were also a big hit and look beautiful in the hallway!