Monday, December 7, 2015

Dye and stitch





The GB's teacher assigned an "art inquiry" project to coincide with our school's upcoming art-and-writing event, when the school becomes a gallery for a night, with beautiful displays of student work, a silent auction and a cookie-sale fundraiser. It's our most important school event of the year, a real, live glittering gala, held in the last days before the holiday break.

Our school focuses on "inquiry" as a main component of the curriculum - students are encouraged to ask questions about topics which interest them, and to perform any and all experiments necessary to find the answers. It can be a lot of fun, but stressful too because children ask really hard questions sometimes. They parlay their research into a visual presentation for their peers, which can take any form. We've made videos, PowerPoint slideshows, wooden models and traditional poster-board displays.

The GB's art inquiry came with very open-ended instructions, so we brainstormed for a few days. She wanted to know if she could "make art" with things that aren't necessarily meant for making art. Of course we can, Miss Bear! There is so much in the world we can use for that. We took walks around the house, the yard and the general neighborhood making lists of living and non-living things that might be used in some way. In the end, we decided to look at things we could use to make designs on fabric, and then use the fabric to sew an interesting piece of art to share. There were several days of experiments on scraps of old Bear undershirts - nails, paper clips, springs and other shop bits in bowls with water, bleach or vinegar, with or without salt added. There were flowers and leaves, nuts, fruits and berries smeared over fabrics and left to dry. It was messy and interesting. There was real inquiry, genuine mystery! What works, what doesn't, what looks good and what just looks like dirt? We repeated our favorite experiments on better fabric, a plain white cotton pillowcase from my bag of old craft-able linens.

In the end, we had three very favorite samples, and we made them into a quilted banner that can be hung on the wall. I used black cotton to frame each dyed sample, then sewed them into a vertical strip, sandwiched for quilting. I did all the machine-sewing myself (she's not quite ready for this, but she watched and directed me in my work). She did the hand-embroidery (stitching along pencil lines I drew for her), and what a beautiful job she did. She helped choose colorful threads, to add interest and detail to the squares.


This square features staining left behind when we soaked it in bleach with pieces of copper springs on the fabric. The springs left greenish-blue marks behind. We added a circle of green stitches around the center mark.


This square is dyed with smashed prickly pear cactus fruits, mixed with salt. We smeared it over the fabric and it left behind some dry flakes of a darker tone. We stitched a purple line diagonally across the whole square.


This one was dyed with long nails laid over the fabric, in a soak with bleach. It left behind an interesting splotchy design that also has some texture; the biggest rust spots are a bit raised and crusty. We added orange X's in the corners of this design. This was the most challenging block for the GB to stitch; there were four X's to make and we needed to move the hoop for each one. She's an expert at operating the hoop now.


I added some ribbon loops to the top edge for hanging. We went hunting in the backyard for a stick this morning and came up with a good, skinny one to put through the loops, then added some more ribbon for a hanger. Here's the finished product, a little quilted banner with naturally-dyed panels. Everything in this project came from around the house or outside, we didn't spend a penny. I enjoyed teaching my girl some new things and watching her learn. That moment, when they realize an experiment worked! What a joy. And her stitching is very good, she picked it up very quickly. Before now, she'd only sewn on plastic canvas with yarn. She was ready for more. She's very proud of her first quilt. She wants a whole bed-sized one dyed with prickly pear fruits. We need to get out there and start collecting, it's going to take a bushel or two.

33 comments:

  1. What a beautiful piece of art and a fabulous way to learn. So impressive! Hope you find all the prickly pears you need for your quilt. Bee Xx

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  2. What a beautiful piece of art and a fabulous way to learn. So impressive! Hope you find all the prickly pears you need for your quilt. Bee Xx

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  3. Fantastic and fun! The results and how you two put it all together look great.

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  4. And she should be proud, that is an awesome quilt. I loved hearing about this school project,what a fantastic learning experience.
    That is also some very impressive needle work GB has going there and I am looking forward to seeing more of her creations.

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  5. Such a wonderful project. It is truly amazing what and how children learn. An impressive quilt, which I am sure will be treasured for many years to come.

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  6. What a fabulous project, very creative x

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  7. How sweet! I like hunting for sticks for such purposes.

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  8. What fantastic arty experiments, and a lovely piece of art made. I'm so very impressed with your GB's stitching, it's beautifully neat and even. She has inherited the arts-and-crafts gene I think. Nice job Bears. CJ xx

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  9. And proud she should be, it is beautiful. Wonderful job GB.

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  10. That is so beautiful and what a fantastic way to learn. I love the photos of GB sewing too - such concentration. Get picking -I can't wait to see a whole quilt! xx

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  11. It's absolutely gorgeous! Well done, Miss GB! :o)

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  12. How amazing, so good for the children and so much fun. GB definitely has a crafty flair and I can see why she'd like a whole quilt in the prickly pear colour xx

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  13. What a beautiful and meaningful project to share and learn together. I love the finished result!

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  14. I think you both deserve a blue ribbon for this fabulous wall hanging! I'm with your daughter as I liked the pinkie lavender of the prickly pear dye! It would make a lovely quilt. I can see she'll have a good start on being a quilter with your guidance. ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

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  15. Your inquiry informed me as well! Thanks for posting, Jennifer. GB's stitches are impressive to me, too, and it is funny, I read Teresa's comment before starting to type, and she typed what I was thinking about the prickly pear dye. I like it and am so interested to know that prickly pear produces pretty pink dye :) xx

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  16. Very good stitching indeed! Congratulations to GB and to her artistic and encouraging mom. :) I too like the lovely prickly-pear pink.

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  17. What a wonderful post, Jennifer, and I also feel the excitement of teaching your daughter to sew, dye, and make a quilt. She has a great mother for a teacher, and will be an expert crafter - immediately! It reminded me of my mother teaching me to sew when I was just barely school age. Lovely!

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  18. What a brilliant creative project - the finished article is fabulous. Well done! Lovely photos of your GB absorbed in her stitching.

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  19. This is super cool Jennifer, much preferable to the tedious additional tasks my kids get for their homework. GB did a great job. x

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  20. Oh GB, that is just amazing, I loved hearing about the experiments and how you made those gorgeous marks. Your sewing is fantastic too, I think you need a little slot on your Mum's blog ;-) x

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  21. I'm so impressed what a beautiful quilt and getting there sounds like so much fun. :) xx

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  22. What a fabulous piece of art and I'm sure the GB will have learnt lots along the way.

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  23. I LOVE LOVE love Kids real creative stuff, the stuff they do themselves without adults taking over. This is perfect and right up my street. Well done Little bear

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  24. I love this, from the concept to the finished artwork. Well done GB.

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  25. Hey Jennifer,
    All we get to do is reading and spelling. No projects at all. No creative pursuits. I love this. I love how your children are encouraged to be so creative.
    Leanne x

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  26. what a beautiful result from all the 'inquiring' it is very inspiring!
    GB should be very proud! can't wait to see her next quilt :))

    thanx for sharing

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  27. I hope the GB is very proud of herself; it's a lovely piece of wall art :)

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  28. What a great theme for a project. I love the result, it's beautiful.

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  29. This is wonderful. I'm really impressed with her sewing- the stitches are so neat. Well done!

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  30. Modern art! I agree with Leanne, it's wonderful how your children are encouraged to be creative and that art isn't just an afterthought - something to be squeezed in around English and maths.

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  31. Well that is just wonderful! The black edging reminds me of a panel from a stained glass window. Well done the GB, excellent stitching and artistry. X

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  32. She is a true budding artist! How fabulous the school encourages such curiostiy and research. It is a great project.
    Hugs,
    Meredith

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