Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Children's Fiber Art Projects

As promised!

I have finally decided to at least show you photos of my samples for the children's Fiber Art Classes that I have taught so far to give you some idea of what we are doing.
The first one is a sample of the design for Felt Bead Jewelry. We in fact made the bracelet since our class time is limited and it is important to me that children do not have time to get bored or bogged down in details beyond their attention span.
Both classes, the 5 & 6 yo and 7 & 8 yo children created the bracelets by first felting the beads. They then braided two worsted weight strands of dyed cotton string together with a finer matching heavy weight thread for stringing the beads onto. I clamped the end of the braid to the tables using medium sized plastic clip clamps and when they had braided enough to add a bead at an appropriate spot, they strung it on and then continued with the braid until they added additional beads. One end has a loop knot and the other a tripple knot so that it is fat enough not to come out of the loop. This forms the fastener which I helped them with.
Both groups found success and went home with their finished piece after one class. The younger children is a class of four and spend one hour with me. The 7 & 8 yo class is also four students and stays with me for one and a half hours so they were able to complete three beads instead of two for their bracelets.
They were all very pleased with themselves. I especially enjoyed hearing parents comments.... "did you make that? YOU made that?" They were very pleasantly surprised at the quality and completion of a wearable peice of Fiber Art that their child had made.

This next project was a flat felted treasure pouch. Students were guided through the flat felting process; layering their fibers, felting and fulling. This project took two classes. What I found is that it takes them a while to figure out that once they get past the initial need to be gentle that they can add pressure and more agitation. Additionally, I had to be careful not to make the water too hot for their tender young hands and some of my students are still little and don't have the strength and dexterity to exert the kind of pressure necessary to make quick work of felting. Never the less, they got their soft felt completed with surface designs embedded into their piece during the first class. They were spent, but when they returned the following week, they were all eager to continue with their projects, fulling them to completion and adding the pull strings to form the pouch.
Though their patterns were round, most ended up with more rectangular shapes but each was thrilled with their completed pieces and couldn't wait to show their moms after class!
This week I have begun the bare basics of how wool is spun. I am again using my plastic clamps to hold a piece of pencil roving to the table which allows them to twist the fiber into a yarn. When they have done their short length of roving, I have them hold the two ends together and I help by holding tension on the center of the strand. Once I let go, if there is enough twist in it, it will automatically ply to itself. It is magical to them!
My one mistake was that once they prooved that they understood the concept (this did not take long) and were successful at making a very good yarn, I gave them too long a piece of roving to work with. This was the younger group and they seemed unable to go beyond a certain length of time without dropping their work. The result of course, was that it came untwisted and they had to do it over. I will use this learned lesson with my 7& 8 yo group tomorrow! I believe that when they are unsuccessful, that it is I who have failed to either present the concept in a way that they can understand or, that I have over estimated their ability in some way and that I must re-adjust to suit them better.
The plan is that the yarns they have created will be used in the following class to experiment with Kool-Aid dyes preparing the yarns they spun for use in a future weaving project.
Great Fun is had by all!

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