Sunday, 3 March 2019

First Sewing Machine Garment Making Project ... all while in Hospital!

Making a scrunchie is easier than you think!  

I recently qualified as a Design and Technology Teacher but I’ve already been teaching Textiles and Art in a range of educational, health and other alternative situations for several years. 

I recently worked as a temporary teacher as part of the Becton Hospital Outreach Team; in this role, I worked as a Teacher at Sheffield Children’s Hospital. 

I worked with students with all sorts of health issues and diagnoses but that’s not what this blog is about; this is about young people’s desire to learn to sew!

While at Sheffield Children’s Hospital I taught a range of subjects including; Maths, English, Science, Art and also Textiles. 

Having access to the Hospital School Teaching Team was a way for students to keep up with school work as set by their usual school teachers. It is also a way to have access to teachers to tutor them one-to-one so they can use this time to get to grips with anything that they have found tricky at school and want to spend some extra time on. Finally, it is also an opportunity to do something completely different from their normal school work. 

C was one patient who was very interested to hear that I had access to the teaching team's sewing machine AND that I was able to use her hospital school lessons to teach her how to use it.

C very quickly picked up the basics of threading up the sewing machine and in our first lesson she also made a small stitch sample ; all this despite having to wear an oxygen mask

We found this cute fabric and matching cord in the classroom stores so I suggested a drawstring bag as a first sewing machine project. C used straight stitch and zig-zag stitch in this project. This cute little bag is a present for her little sister, F.

As soon as she had completed the small drawstring back C asked if she could make  a garment. 

Flexibility is hugely important in hospital teaching and I wasn't sure exactly how many more lessons C and I were going to have together but I was really excited by her enthusiasm and wanted to find a way to do my best to make this hospital stay have some positives in terms of C having some fun and learning new skills.

C suggested a small top for her two year old sister and once I knew that she would be in hospital for a few more days I researched possibilities.

A BIG thanks to for this downloadable pattern for a little girls' Flutter Sleeve Top

What's not to love about mini pompom braid? 

In this first garment making project C learnt:
  • How to thread the sewing machine correctly (top and bottom threads).
  • How to wind thread on the bottom bobbin.
  • How to select appropriate stitch length and width. 
  • How to use reverse button to reinforce at the beginning and end of a line of stitching.  
  • About Warp and Weft threads, Selvedge and Fraying 
  • How to ensure that pieces were pinned on the Straight Grain
  • Some key pattern terminology ('Place on Fold' and 'Cut Two')
  • How to use dressmakers pins to pin out pattern pieces and also to pin garment pieces together Right Sides Together
  • The importance of Tacking before machine sewing; I do always stress this in my lessons, firstly as it is much safer than leaving metal pins in while machine sewing and also because it invariably means that sewing is neater and more accurate and reduces the need for any unpicking.
  • About Bias Binding and how to use it to neaten curved edges such as the arm holes and also to form a Casing to thread the neck edge elastic through. 
  • About snipping Concave Curves to ensure a neater finish (the armhole edges).
  • How to use a safety pin to thread elastic through casing / channel. 
  • How to use zig-zag stitch to neaten the seam edges. 
  • How to Top Stitch (lower edge and sleeve hem edges) to give a neater and more decorative finish.

"Wow! And to think that just a few days ago I had never sewn before and hadn't even threaded a needle... And now I can use a sewing machine and have made this! "
I was delighted that C 'powered on'. She used her positive attitude, enthusiasm for learning and desire to make a fabulous present for her little sister to get her through this project. She worked to a really high standard and finished it JUST BEFORE her hospital transport came to take her home! I am pretty sure that she will have her own sewing machine before the year is out. 

The timing was perfect as this all happened a couple of weeks before series 5 of The Great British Sewing Bee started on BBC TV. 

One book that I suggested that she buy is Sewing Machine Basics by Jane Bolsover 

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Nuno Felting: Specialist Textile Technique used by Level 2 Art and Design Students

Close up of the beautiful textured surface and 'halo' edge around cut pre-felt shapes. This was one of my Y10 BTEC student's very first piece of nuno felt and when I put this photo online earlier this year one of the hashtags I gave it was 

Completed sample piece of nuno felt. Approx dimensions 40cmW 45cmH

Pic on the Left = Front side                                  Pic on the Right = Reverse side.

I often like the Reverse side best! 

 When teaching beginners the Nuno Felting technique I prefer to use fine cotton turban muslin for the base fabric. 

 Merino wool tops. The students were shown how to pull off thin slivers from lengths of Merino 64's wool tops. These slivers were then laid in grid patterns and also around the edge of the muslin to create an interesting textured edge to their Nuno-Felt sample pieces. 

 With the right equipment and appropriate temperature water and suitable soap the nuno felting process is not as lengthy as people often think. 

 This photo shows some of the edge and surface details that are achieved with this interesting Textile Technique. 

(But unfortunately my speedily taken photos don't do the work justice.)

 The halo effect on the reverse of this students work is quite fuzzy and fluffy; this is because the pre-felt that she cut her shapes from was was only softly felted. 

 This Level 2 BTEC student added some hand-sewn detail to the edge of her lotus flower wallhanging; chainstitch in metallic red yarn.

 Laying out merino wool fibres to make pre-felt. By using two colours of wool fibres you can make reversible pre-felt. It is also another way of getting even more interesting 'halo' edges

 The Level2 BTEC module was titled 'Out of Asia'. These Y10 students' research included Primary Research at local Art Gallery and Museums and also images they sourced online.

 The above image shows antique Kimono fabric and the paper template shapes that were inspired by it. 

 This student then used the templates to cut appropriate shapes from her pre-felt. 
The above picture is of her final 'Out Of Asia' themed Wall-Hanging. 

Approximate finished dimensions 60cmW X 80cmH

 This student planned to add a central panel of handmade batik to his nuno felted wallhanging. He ensured that he used appropriate wool fibres (burgundy, sky blue and petrol blue) to compliment his Batik dye colours. 

 Interesting edging detail which combined wool Tops, metallic threads and cut shapes of pre-felt (which also incorporated metallic 'Twinkle' fabrics).

 He also added thin whispy layers of wool fibres to both the reverse and also the right side of the muslin. 
This student thoroughly enjoyed experimenting with the nuno felting technique!

 Photo taken when the nuno-felt was still wet. 
The bottom centre square is where the batik panel was later added. 

By laying a thin layer of wool fibres over an area of the muslin a very attractive wrinkled surface texture is achieved. 

This is because the wool fibres migrate through the spaces between the Warp and Weft threads of the woven muslin fabric.

Then as the felting process continues the wool fibres shrink; the cotton doesn't shrink but is dragged along (ruched up) by the wool fibres.  

I am proud of the Y10 students work and really hope that they do realise how much they have achieved. 

(Just to reiterate: these photos do not do the work justice!)

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

King Arthur Themed Wallhanging made by Students in a Special School

Finished wallhanging measured 95cm wide by 210cm deep 
As I’m planning ahead to another exciting felting day in a Special School next week I’ve been reminded that I never did write about any of the felted wall-hangings that were made by my students while I was the Textiles Teacher at Brantwood Specialist School in Sheffield. 

So better late than never …

The above Excalibur wallhanging was made in just half a day by four talented 6th form (SEN) students. 

Another thing that made this February morning so special was that OFSTED inspectors 'popped in' to observe while we were making it! 

Their report said...
"Progress in practical subjects including textiles, felt-making, and art based activities is at times exceptional. This is due to the high-quality teaching, the high expectations adults have of the pupils and the wide range of resources available so pupils can freely explore their ideas and interests."

The students had recently moved into a new building and were working on a King Arthur themed project so their class teacher suggested that the wall-hanging also had a King Arthur theme. The Medieval story of the young Arthur pulling Excalibur from the stone was what we settled on. 

The students selected these two images to use as their initial inspiration.

Starting to build up the second layer. R is laying out the outline of the rock.
Here you can see that the design is coming together

J cutting the shape for Excalibur; we made some grey pre-felt first. The cut edges will stay nice and crisp rather than be fuzzy. 

J made an illuminated letter for the word Excalibur. R decorated the hilt of the sword with a gem ... but he whipped it off again before it was felted on! 
Leaves cut from pre-felt. 

We managed to make this wall hanging in just half a day because we had a great team. Here you can see students and staff working together. 

The wool fibres were throughly wetted and soaped with Olivia olive oil soap. But we had to work speedily.

J and J working together to roll the wallhanging.
A lovely close up of the leaves on this large wet-felted wall hanging.

 Quite an achievement; all made in just half a school day.

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Completed BTEC Level 2 Textile Masks (Carnival module)

My exemplar mask to give students an idea of how they might combine some techniques 
Here I am finally catching up and uploading my final selection of photos of student BTEC Level 2 Module Carnival Project work. This is a follow-on from the previous post which showed some of the students’ inspiration images and also how their first pieces of wet-felted base fabric turned out. 

These year 11 students had already experimented with some other textiles techniques:

  • Couching
  • Appliqué 
  • Reverse appliqué (Mola) 
  • Stitch and slash 
  • Machine embroidery 
  • Melted Angelina fibres 
  • Machine patchwork 

It was now time for them to review these techniques and consider how they might be incorporated along with the hand-made felt into their final mask designs. 

Making a start: leaf/ petal shapes cut from melted Angelina fibres and stitched in place. Plus some carnival sparkle added by hand-stitching silver sequins in place.
Angelina fabric was ruffled to add texture to this mask plus this student added her multi-coloured felted beads.
Good to see how this design developed as the student learnt more textile techniques.

A mask with added feathers, machine appliquéd ribbon, hand made felt and wet felted multi-coloured beads.

Excellent use of the heart shapes that this student had originally added as decoration to his base felted fabric. Plenty of surface interest and movement in this mask.
This student used fabric crayons to decorate a piece of calico with a design that he had previously sketched in his workbook. He then machine appliquéd the decorated calico onto his hand-made felted base.
Here the base for the mask was made from a fabric made using the Reverse Appliqué (Mola) technique. Next strips of handmade felt were machine appliquéd in position.
A glue gun is the perfect tool for attaching the wet-felted beads (once completely dry) to the mask base.

See more School Felting projects