Getting started with fabric and fibre

Experience and imagination

Toy-making and costume-making are enjoyable ways for children to give expression to experiences, real or imagined. A character invented in play or drama activities may spark ideas for a costume. They should be encouraged to talk about the character they are playing and should have access to a wide variety of inspiring old clothes and oddments with which to make their costume. Imaginative use of old clothes and accessories, discarded household fabrics and old bits of jewellery should be encouraged to create costumes and character toys based on stories, poems, songs, their own lives or from history. Upper primary classes would be capable of experimenting with variations on a costume theme for a parade or for a theme party.

Once children are proficient with the needle, stuffed toys and simple puppets can be made for invented characters. Soft forms inspired by stones or objects from nature, such as a piece of fruit, could also be made from a variety of fabric scraps, adding detail with stitches, beads or fabric paints. Senior primary classes may be interested in designing and making fashion items. Designs should be kept simple, and the prime considerations should be the overall line created, the use of colour and texture and the suitability of the fabric to the task. The children’s own interests and experience will generate design ideas.

Fashion magazines are good sources for ideas. The children could assemble picture displays of the work of designers whose work they find visually stimulating, for example Jean Paul Gaultier, Zandra Rhodes, Kenzo, Lainey Keogh and Philip Treacy. They should also have opportunities to discover fabric and fashion as depicted in art. The work of Memling, Rembrandt, Velázquez, Holbein, Renoir, van Dongen and Harry Clarke, for example, could be included.