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

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Wet-Felting as a Textile Technique for Y11 BTEC Level 2 Art and Design Carnival Mask Design

I'm excited to be teaching wet-felting to a new group of students. 

I joined their BTEC Carnival project after they had already experimented with a few other textile techniques; so far they have experimented with, reverse appliqué (mola), stitch and slash and trapping sequins and threads in heat-bonded angelina fibres. 

An inspiration image - Venetian Harlequin Mask 
This was the students' first ever experience of wet felting and wow! they have already made some pieces that can either be used as a base for their mask or even cut up and added to to other fabric bases. 

Here the Y11 student used mohair yarn to lay-out a harlequin grid and then added diamonds cut from pre-felt. 

Inspiration image: Harlequin mask with feathers 

Student work: Experimenting with the possibilities of adding multicoloured felted beads 

I am currently at home on a school snow day but am itching to start making my own mask.

A very simple demonstration piece to show the students that they can cut their hand felted fabric to shape. 

Inspiration image: Venetian mask with raised scroll surface detail

Inspiration image: Couching

I can see the potential of the the textile technique - Couching -to add some more interesting surface texture and pattern. 

Y11 Student work with glittery twinkle fabric trapped in during the wet-felting process. 

Y11Student work.- Their first ever piece of hand-made felt! 
Let's see how the BTEC FirstAward Carnival Mask project progresses....... 

See more School Felting projects

Monday, 28 August 2017

Fabulous hand-felted Fedora

Left: inspiration- a computer generated image of a Fedora found on the internet. Right: the hand-felted reality (made by L, a 12 year old student)
I love working with kids; I love their ambition and enthusiasm; and there’s no where quite like a Special School to find young people (with Autism) who are determined to complete their vision.

While working as textiles teacher at Brantwood Specialist School, Sheffield (Mar 2015-Nov 2016) I had the privilege of working with a broad range of students with various special needs including Autism and PDA (Pathological Demand Avoidance) and guiding them through various, completely unique, textiles projects.

The Felted Fedora made by L, a fairly new student to the school, was completed in my last few weeks at Brantwood. L (aged 12) had spotted the felted top-hat which had been made by one of the senior students at the school and he decided that he too would like to make his own felted hat. The major difference was that the older student was a fairly experienced felter and L had no previous experience of felting at all. But it is pretty impossible to say no to a student who is determined on a project and so, even though I knew that I only had a few weeks left at the school, I let him go ahead with his project.

We used two colours of Norwegian wool fibres, sky blue and lavender, to make L’s Fedora. Norwegian Wool is really suitable for; felted hats, slippers and handbags because it results in a firmer felt and is less prone to pilling than Merino wool fibres.

The first step in making a made-to-measure felted hat is to measure the circumference of the wearer’s head. Other measurements of importance are; the depth/ height of the crown and the width of the brim. You also need to know how much shrinkage to expect during the felting process. I phoned Maggy at to check my shrinkage and then got my pencil and calculator out to work out these measurements (see photo below).

L wasn’t very involved at this stage partly because of his special needs and also partly because I knew we had a very limited amount of time left until my leaving date.
However he was involved with every other stage in the process and was very focussed on his project. 

I then drew out the bell shaped template on a piece of paper and cut out a resist from stiff builders' plastic. 
L also watched several videos on YouTube which explained the need for a Hat Block. I let him research suppliers and costs of hat blocks and then explained how we could economise by making out own hat block. Give a student a saw and a block of polystyrene and they are obviously going to enjoy the (messy) practicality of this wet-felted hat project! 

The first layer of the 'laying-out' process
Building up the layers until there were five layers of wool fibres on each side of the plastic resist
Flipping the wool/ plastic 'sandwich' over and rubbing to felt the wool fibres together.

After rubbing, rolling in a bamboo at is another method of tangling the wool fibres together.
L cutting through the felted layers to remove the plastic resist.

Tossing the wet and soapy and fedora. This tumbling action is yet another method of continuing the shrinking process.
Still some work to do! 
Over the next few textiles sessions L progressed through his wet felted Fedora project. He seemed to enjoy all the stages but especially the process of shrinking the the fedora onto his own bespoke hat block and the finer detail of the shaping of the top of the crown and the curve of the hat brim.

Marking and cutting the brim to size.  

Rinsing the soap out.  

L worked to get the achieve the traditional Fedora shape.

L made design decisions as his project progressed. He decided to finish the edge with bias binding made from fabric that he had found in the textiles store cupboard at the start of the project. 
Adding a red gem to the front of the crown was the finishing touch. 

L was incredibly proud of his hat (and quite rightly so!) He went on to wear it at school and at home every day for almost a year. This was also an excellent experience for me as his teacher- it was so good to see a young student's confidence blossom. I was lucky that my head teacher gave me the freedom to run projects which were bespoke to each student as this enabled me to achieve so much more success with students in this Special School.