Fabric and fibre for Fifth Class and Sixth Class
During this stage children are encouraged to use and mix the wide variety of techniques introduced in the earlier levels. The role of the teacher is to provide them with opportunities to make choices concerning the content, materials, tools, and techniques to be used in their work. They require the opportunity to make decisions regarding the variations in colour relationships, texture, the use of plain or patterned fabrics, contrasting light and dark fibres and so on. Through experimenting, selecting and planning, well-structured creative work of a high quality can be achieved. The planning phase can be explored using paper and drawing materials. All such preliminary sketches can be stored in the child’s portfolio. One planned on paper the child is encouraged to ask themselves the following type questions;
what qualities am I trying to achieve?
what materials can best achieve this quality?
have I used this type of fabric before? Can I get it easily?
what techniques of changing the surface of a fabric will best give the texture of a stone wall, or the effect of the bark of a tree, or the grid in a metal railing?
will I use batik, or will I paint the fabric using a variety of fabric paints and dyes?
what techniques of inventive stitchery or knotting will I add to the piece?
what other fabric and fibre materials do I need besides fabric and threads? …buttons, feathers, shells?
Changing the surfaces of fabrics and fibres
Children are encouraged to use their previous experience in knotting and pleating the fabric to achieve a more thought out tie-dye piece - fabric can be tie-dyed in one or a combination of the ways as follows:
by knotting the fabric extremely tightly
by pegging or stitching the fabric in carefully selected areas
by rolling the fabric and tying it at carefully selected intervals
by fan-folding the fabric, first in one direction, then re-tying in another direction and dying in a second colour
As before, the fabric is immersed in dye, rinsed and hung to dry before removing the ties - these can be used for further creative work in fabric and fibre e.g. as backgrounds for work in embroidery.
Children might be asked to keep drawn / written records of how particular designs / patterns are achieved.
Batik is that process of changing the surface of a fabric, whereby melted wax is applied to fabric, where it dries, and forms a barrier, or resist. Once the waxed fabric is immersed into cold-water dye, the section with the wax on it, does not take the dye. The fabric is dried and the wax is removed by ironing between two pieces of brown paper. The sections that had the wax are un-dyed. A good way to introduce the batik method, is simply to use a candle to draw directly onto the fabric. A thin layer of wax will form a resist and when dyed as described above, the pattern will emerge as drawn. Alternatively, mix flour and water into a batter that is the roughly the consistency of pancake batter. Using a funnel, the children draw directly onto the fabric using the mixture. Allow it to dry. Paint onto the fabric, up to the ‘flour line’ using fabric paints or dyes. Allow this also, to dry. Ask the children to remove the flour resist from the surface of the fabric. The children will have great fun ‘picking’ off the flour from the decorated piece. Iron to give a finished look.
Appliqué simply means sewing one fabric to another fabric, in other words a stitched collage. A piece of fabric can be padded as it is being stitched into place. Pleating crumpling or rolling fabrics prior to attaching can also give a three-dimensional effect. Decorative objectives, beads, acorns, can be added. The design for such creative pieces can be discussed before the work commences, and during its construction.
Creating New Fabrics
The fabric making techniques of weaving, plaiting, knitting and crochet, introduced in the earlier phases, can be further extended. The aim is to encourage the children to gain greater control over the techniques previously learned, while including a few more techniques.
The purl stitch is introduced, which when combined with the plain stitch, allows children to make rib, double rib, basket and moss stitches, to name but a few. Invite parents and grandparents into the classroom to help out. Small inventive pieces such as hot-water-bottle covers, scarves, handbags, and so on can be knit. The emphasis is on fun and creativity.
Simple crochet stitches, can be further explored to extend the skills of the group. Simple objects, as mentioned for knitting, can be created.
Constructing with Fabric and Fibre
The extended techniques of working with fabric and fibre (stitching, knotting, weaving et cetera) can be used to create simple three-dimensional forms. Fabric pieces can be pleated, rolled, padded, gathered, and folded to create a three-dimensional stand-alone form. These can then be joined to make objects of any description, including people and animals. Buttons, beads and fibres can be used to add features or details to the constructions. Parts of constructions can be joined together by wrapping, stitching, pinning, or taping sections together. Older children will be more inventive given their greater exposure to exploration and experimentation with fabrics and fibres.
Stockings, socks or tubes of fabric can be stuffed (with crumpled newspaper, cotton wool, old nylon stockings) and modelled into shape as desired. Details can be added as described previously. These structured can be created by knitting on circular needles.
Examine fabric, fibre and textiles in history and in the modern world
Make a display of pictures showing examples of the ancient needle-and-thread crafts such as embroidery, lace making (Carickmacross, Limerick lace-making Tradition), appliqué, and tapestry and loom weaving, especially mentioning samples from the western sea-board of Ireland - work might be integrated with the geography curriculum
The significance of the Bayeux Tapestry can be explored with senior classes in conjunction with the history curriculum
Children can through discussion come to appreciate the universality of these basic techniques - they answer a basic human need for warmth and protection from the elements – integrate this with work from the science and SPHE curricula
Encourage the children to bring in present day examples of fabric and fibres - samples of textiles from India, Egypt, South America, et cetera, can all to be found in most large centres of population - discuss the methods, materials, and tools used in their construction or creation
Discuss how people have used these techniques to decorate clothes, and household objects such as patchwork quilts - such decorative techniques provide a wonderful means of exploring and investigating examples of cultures worldwide
Discuss modern fashions – look at fashion magazines
Examine and discuss fabric and pieces such as flags, banners, hangings, tapestries and any textile used for special occasions
Look at garments such as christening robes, Holy Communion dresses, Confirmation outfits and church vestments from different religions - children’s discussion can be focus on the function, composition and design qualities of such items.
Invite crafts people from the locality to visit the school and talk to the children about their work- a local batik artist might be asked to give demonstration of how he/she approaches making a batik piece - crafts, such as basketry, macramé, and tufted rug making have a place here. Children are encouraged to see the connection between their art making in the classroom and the role of the craftsperson or artist in the local community. The tradition of planting willow, hence the ‘sally garden’ can be introduced. Willow grows readily in the moist Irish climate. The class might like to plant one in springtime, as the sap rises.
Older members in the community, can be invited to add their experiences of knitting, sewing, weaving, lace making and embroidery, to enrich the children’s experiences – a display of Irish Dancing costumes would be a rich source for initiating a discussion on embroidery.
A display might be mounted of pieces decorated using tie-dye or batik techniques - such a collection might include items such as scarves, skirts, evening bags, wall hangings, and murals from around the world - children may like to research the traditional Indonesian craft of batik - research could include an exploration of the traditional materials and tools used and the traditional designs created - the children, using a variety of drawing or painting materials, could reproduce these traditional patterns - the possibility of creating dyes from natural substances such as tea, mosses, onionskins and berries can be explored.
Items to display might include
drawings, painted designs and prints on fabrics
drawings / pieces of writing on the topics listed above
appliqué banners, wall hangings, cushion covers, dolls clothes, costumes and toys
stitched and appliqué imaginative objects
costumes made for plays or dramas – photos of these
designs created on such garments as denim trousers, jeans or shirts - add pieces of cloth, beads, braid, and sequins, to personalize a design
items of clothing that have designs silk-screen printed onto them
woven, knotted, and stitched articles such as wall hangings, banners, and class murals – possibly made of individual pieces stitched together.
pieces showing either tie-dye or batik techniques - make bags, scarves, puppets, or dolls’ clothes from dyed fabrics
knitted or crochet belts, scarves, bags, dolls, puppets, etc.