This simple textiles art project is ideal for teaching at KS3 as it is really short but engages students by giving them lots of choice in their work. Students love the bright colours, the different shaped stitches and, of course… the sweet, sugary subject!
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I teach this art / textiles project as a ‘Mini GCSE Taster Project’ in Year 9, aiming to introduce students to a range of basic stitches and hand-stitching techniques. As it is a taster project, it’s only short so it ould easily be extended for a GCSE project. The theme of the textiles work is FOOD, and students really enjoy being able to choose sweet snacks as their subject… The donuts were particularly popular 🍩 🎨
Textiles Project – Artist Inspiration: Mary Corbett
To start their project, students were introduced to the hand-embroidery work of Mary Corbett. Her textiles website Needle N Thread is such a great resource – it has lots of examples of textile art and the videos are perfect for students – I regularly used them. Students were asked to create artist research pages and have a look at her website for inspiration; I could tell they were inspired because some of their sketchbook pages were stunning:
I was thinking of ways to engage students from their first stitch, so I had them write their name (or nickname or initials) on scrap pieces of fabric. They then used this piece to practise the different basic stitches on. It seems to work a treat, and students liked being able to take it home with them when it was done!
Teaching the basics: Running Stitch, Back Stitch, Chain Stitch, French Knot
To teach the basic stitches, I would do a demonstration on my visualiser (I love my visualiser!) then play the instruction videos on loop on my whiteboard. This meant students could follow along if they forgot what I had showed them.
I kept these initial lessons really simple as students got used to threading their needles, knotting and using the threads… I assigned a couple of ‘experts’ per class who could help others and look after equipment.
Once students were away with their first basic stitches, I introduced the design aspect of the project. They were to draw their food designs directly onto the fabric and add colour using felt tips. To speed things up, I let students trace the printed food resources straight onto the fabric (the resources are all included in the presentation). Some students chose to draw freehand which was great.
Drawing with felt tips is such a lovely technique and I showed students how to add small amounts of water with a fine brush to blend the felt tip colours smoothly. I love how vibrant their designs came out!
After students had a few lessons using the different type of basic stitches, both on their scrap fabric and on their final designs, I introduced a new textiles artist: Laura McGarrity. Her work is really beautiful and students responded well to the bright colours and animal patterns.
I wanted students to be able to see how they could start to use their stitching creatively to show tone and work with colours effectively.
Essentially, this embroidery project goes backwards and forwards as such: practise stitching and build confidence on the scrap fabric, then apply new stitching skills on the final design. I have included a full range of lesson starters / warm up activities / bell ringers / entry tasks / plenaries / reflections etc. and they are all included in the presentation.
This little textiles project takes some careful planning, but I really think it’s worth it as the student’s outcome are always so brilliant. As well as needles and different coloured threads, students will obviously be working onto fabric, so all of these resources need to be prepped carefully.
I purposefully kept the fabric squares that students worked on quite small – about 15 by 15cm so they couldn’t use too much thread – it’s expensive! We also have an amazing technician in our department who can help cut all of the pieces etc. Identifying student ‘experts’ early on helped with classroom management, particularly students struggling to thread their needles. We bought needles with large eyes to make it as easy as possible for students.
I have shared a handy list of equipment and materials needed for this project at the end of this post.
Here’s an example of the resources I was using throughout the project. I kept the instructions as simple as possible to ensure students understood what to do next in their work. This stopped a lot of ‘I’ve finished’ statements and meant students could work as independently as possible! Ideal when you are running around trying to unthread and untangle so many knots 😂 (the classroom experts came in handy for this sort of issue too).
Student hand embroidery outcomes:
As students grew in confidence with their stitching skills, they started to be more creative in their work and made some beautiful pieces… The combination of loose, watery felt tip colour is a great contrast to the fine, highly detailed stitching.
The eagle-eyed amongst you might have spotted a few types of stitches that were not included in the earlier slides. Some students were given extension tasks and challenges to add a wider variety of stitches as they were confident using the ones I had taught in class. I found some great PDF booklets online that I printed and gave out – these are included in the presentation too.
Materials and Equipment needed for this art & textiles project:
- Large eyed hand embroidery needles
- Hand embroidery threads
- Felt tip pens
- Fabric scissors
- Needle threaders – very helpful!
- Plain white fabric
If you don’t have the budget for plain white fabric, you could easily get around buying new by asking students to bring in old t-shirts or clothes and upcycle them. It’s a great way to discuss fabric waste too.
When I first thought about teaching this with Year 9, I was a bit trepidatious, but it turned out really well. What do you think of the student’s work? Let me know in the comments! If you’ve taught a similar textiles project I would love to see the outcomes.