Wednesday 1 April 2020

Kandinsky Inspired Cushions - Colourful KS3 Textiles Project

‘Yellow-Red-Blue’ painting by Wassily Kandinsky 1925 

Like many people who are currently unable to go into their places of work because of Covid-19 I have done my fair share of tidying and sorting stuff at home. 

One of this week's activities has been sorting through photographs on my computer and I decided that I really wanted to share these photos of some Y8 Design and Technology students' work.

Despite having worked as a self-employed Artist and Creative Educator ( since 2006, it wasn't until 2017 that I went back to university to study for my professional teaching qualification. Post Graduate Certificate of Education PGCE. 

Even at that time, Sept 2017, I knew that my passion was to work with students with additional needs (SEND) however my PGCE is in Design and Technology (Mainstream Secondary schools) with a specialism in Textiles. 

My first teaching placement was at Hope Valley College (one perk of this was that my daily commute took me through the most fabulous Peak District countryside.) 

This Y8 project had already been designed so, as a trainee teacher I continued this project with two rotations of students while I was on placement there. 

The Design Task was to design and manufacture a cushion inspired by the 20th Century artist Wassily Kandinsky's abstract art. The cushions were to be suitable for sale in the art gallery's gift shop.

I was really happy to be able to show the students that  artist inspired products were already available in Art Gallery shops. 

During the research phase of the project the students researched Kandinsky and learned about Synesthesia, and how music directly influenced his paintings. 

I am passionate about bringing creative projects to life by including as many senses as 
possible so it was great that I was able to include, sound, colour, shape and also surface texture in this project. 

When making their unique cushions the students were encouraged to use a wide range of materials:     

  • Fabric paints      
  • Fabric Crayons
  • Fabric Transfer Crayons
  • Puff Paints

and to add additional detail using a range of hand stitches:     

  • Back stitch
  • Stem Stitch
  • Chain stitch
  • Blanket stitch 
  • and
  • French Knots

Some students also added components:  

  • Buttons,
  • mini Pompoms
  • Tassels
  • Beads
  • and 
  • Bells 

Annotated design and Work in Progress in pic above and Completed cushion in pic below. 

And of course after making their cushion fronts the students then had to; machine sew these to self-coloured poly cotton back; turn inside out; stuff with wadding and hand-sew shut using slip stitch / ladder stitch.

Even two and a half years later I am sure that these cushions are somewhere in these students' bedrooms; a positive reminder of skills learnt and the creation of a completely unique item.   

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!)