Last Thursday I travelled down to an amazing school in Abingdon near Oxford to deliver a CPD textile training sessions for a group of early years and primary school teachers from The Manor Preparatory School and one of their local primary schools.

Sue Side, The Head of Art at The Manor, had contacted TICE earlier this year in spring to ask if we would consider travelling down to deliver the training session (to art teachers from both The Manor and Wootton CofE Primary School) as she had struggled to find anything similar in her locality.

I was happy to take on the challenge and set to work on planning a very hands-on and practical session that would teach textile techniques suitable for children aged 3-7 to have a go at in the classroom.

The session kicked off with a PowerPoint presentation showing the inspiration for projects and themes that would link well with textiles and we discussed different ways that teachers could get their pupils enthused and excited about starting a new art and textile project. I suggested some alternative drawing and mark making methods as well as innovative ways to collect both primary and secondary research and how this could be used as inspiration and a starting point for textile artwork.

The session then became very hands-on and the group of teachers were given the opportunity to have a go at some mark making techniques using natural materials such as beetroot and turmeric inks and dyes to create quick line drawings (using sticks and straws as tools) and then they added colour by using tissue paper in a very different way. The results of this were brilliant, we had some very interesting illustrative drawings and a real buzz had started to build in the classroom.

Whilst we had the natural dyes out on the tables the teachers turned their hands to a bit of fabric dying and experimented with the effects of vegetable dyes on plain white cotton fabrics. I showed them examples of Shibori dye methods and they wrapped and folded their fabrics to create a resist and plunged them into the dye baths to see what colours and patterns they could create!

Our next method was poly block printing and again the results were fantastic. I demonstrated a very quick and easy printing technique using a polystyrene block and the teachers used the fishy inspiration that I’d given them to create their very own block. They enjoyed playing with the different coloured inks and printed some lovely crisp designs onto cotton fabric. We discussed ways of expanding this technique for older children and I showed examples of how this could be done.

So that leads me to felting, well this really was a big hit! The group really loved it! I think it might have been something to do with the stabbing motion and using a very sharp needle that they enjoyed! I talked the teachers through the various different felting methods and how they might suit different classes and showed some examples of what could be done with the technique. The group then had a go at needle felting their own little design and it was evident that they really got into it! It was great to see how focused and involved the teachers were and lovely to hear them saying things like ‘ this is so therapeutic’ and ‘we could certainly use this in our classroom’. A varied selection of samples was produced from more abstract designs to quite illustrative motifs.

The final technique that we explored was applique. We saw examples of applique and discussed ways in which it could be embellished or worked into with some more traditional hand or machine sewing and embroidery or by adding beads and sequins. For the final 20 minutes, the teachers were given the chance to rummage through my fabric bag and select a range of materials that fitted in with their inspiration. I demonstrated how to use the fusible webbing to create a collage-like fabric applique and they all had a go. This certainly seemed to go down well with the Year 3 teachers who had already implemented some simple hand sewing into their lessons and felt it would be great to enhance and develop what they were already working on.

All in all, it was a fantastic session with a very lovely and enthusiastic group of teachers. They said at the beginning that what they knew about textiles was quite limited however by the end of the session they were full of ideas of how to plan it into the scheme of work. We had some lovely feedback with one of the teachers saying ‘ it has expanded my knowledge of textile techniques, great to have a hands experience!’. When asked if the session had helped them with their understanding of textiles in art, one teacher said ‘A lot! It was very inspiring and all the activities were perfectly suited for our age group!’

“Charlotte was truly exceptional. 14 teachers went away inspired, excited and full of creative ideas. It was a real pleasure to have her here. Thank you for organising for her to come. It really was one of the best workshops we have had here for a while. I’m glad Charlotte enjoyed her visit to our school and it’s been wonderful finding out a little about what you do through her.

It does seem crazy that I could find nothing which fitted the bill any closer to home but she proved your enterprise is a real gem. I’m extremely glad I came across you and am sure the surrounding area appreciate having you. I’m very jealous!” 
Sue Side, Head of Art at The Manor.