Fiber Is Your Friend
Many makerspaces feature fiber materials that can be used as art projects. Fabrics, threads, yarn, leather, string, and felt can all be used to create art. Techniques such as weaving, dyeing, knitting, and crocheting are just some of the ways fiber can be manipulated to create art or even clothing.
The Steel City Fiber Collective (SCFC), located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is an example of a makerspace dedicated to the fiber arts. Many new creative ideas are coming from artists who use fabrics. Trashion—the use of trash to make fashion—involves clothing made from recycled items such as coffee filters, tissue paper, grain sacks, and window screens. Even waste materials found in the ocean, such as fishing nets, are being used to make exotic one-of-a-kind dresses.
PROJECT 5: BLEACH ART
Bleach is generally used to disinfect, clean, and to get stains out of white fabrics. For this project, the bleach Page 28 | Top of ArticlePage 29 | Top of Articlewill be used as a dye to decorate fabrics such as shirts, jackets, hats, or cloth to be hung on the wall like a picture. Bleach can be a dangerous and corrosive cleaner, so take care to keep it off of your skin and clothing. Wearing old clothing or an art smock is a good idea. Also, cover your work area so the next makerspace users will not be affected. Good ventilation is also necessary when working with bleach.
For this project, you will need bleach, a bleach pen (such as Clorox® Bleach Pen Gel), water, rubber gloves, safety goggles, a spray bottle, and brushes. Collect a few pencils with rubber erasers on the back, an old toothbrush, a sponge, an old hairbrush or cleaning brush, or cardboard, too. Find colored cloth or material of almost any kind, such as an old T-shirt, or other old clothing such as dresses, pants, or shirts. Acrylic paint is a necessity. Items to stencil onto clothing or fabric can also be used. These include leaves, plant clippings, feathers, coins, tangled string, or anything else you might think of with a unique shape. You must also have access to a sink and running water for this project.
Before getting started, take the time to put on protective eyewear, old clothing, plastic gloves, and a smock. Warn others around you that you will be working with bleach. Place old newspaper or an old tablecloth over the table or workspace. Fill a few plastic bowls halfway with water and add varying Page 30 | Top of Articleamounts of bleach to them. One bowl can be used for a small amount of pure bleach.
Next, find the piece of fabric, T-shirt, dress, or article of clothing you wish to alter. Lay it out flat on the workspace. If Page 31 | Top of Articleyou are working with clothing, you might want to put some cardboard inside the clothing. This will keep your work from bleeding through to the other side. It will also allow you to decorate the backside of the cloth differently from the front.
Bleach will lighten or alter the color of a fabric or garment. Decide what you want to paint on the item beforehand. A sketch or some reference material can be very helpful to have with you before you get started. Use the different concentrations of bleach with a brush on a scrap piece of fabric beforehand to see different results. If you want dramatic results, use pure bleach. For subtle results, use a mixture of a capful of bleach in a bowl half-filled with water.
If you have collected items to stencil, such as feathers, leaves, or flowers, lay them carefully over the fabric. Add bleach and water to a spray bottle and lightly spray the fabric or clothing. The items you place over the clothing will create a barrier, and the bleach will create an outline around the items. Plant parts and even a vine placed over an old dress or T-shirt could make a very interesting design once the bleach spray does its work.
Another more precise way to bleach images onto fabric is with a brush, pencil eraser, or parts of an old sponge. Dots, lines, and even splatter from a toothbrush can help get bleach onto the material. Experiment with the different concentrations on a piece of scrap fabric beforehand. Once you have lightened the fabric to your taste, thoroughly rinse and wash the bleach from the material to stop it from working further. It’s a good idea to run any clothing to be worn through the washing machine to make sure all the bleach is removed before wearing it.
If you want to create a detailed image on fabric, you will need to use a stencil. You can make a stencil by cutting out shapes or letters from thick paper. If, for example, you want to make an image of a bumblebee on a T-shirt, draw the image on paper. Then, cut out the shape, and place it on the fabric to block Page 33 | Top of Articlethe bleach from hitting it when painted or sprayed. A bleach pen that is meant for spot cleaning white garments can also be used to paint details. If you want to experiment further, use acrylic paint to add color to your art.
PROJECT 6: PLUSH DECORATION
This fabric project will help you create a three-dimensional plush sculpture, doll, or decorative pillow that can be displayed or hung as a mobile. This can be accomplished with the use of some fabric, cotton, and a few other tools that are easily accessible. This project will use various types of paper patterns that can be put onto fabric and then cut and sewn to make plush art.
For this project, you will need needles, thread, scissors, a thimble, a pincushion, safety pins, cotton, and various fabrics of different size and color. An electric sewing machine can be used, too, with supervision but is not necessary.
As with many artistic projects, a detailed sketch is a great place to start. Find a photo online of one of your favorite characters and practice drawing it onto paper. When you are happy with it, draw it onto the sheets of fabric.
With most plush creations, different pieces of fabric are sewn together on the inside. This hides the rough edges and Page 34 | Top of Articlestitching inside with the cotton stuffing. To allow for this, you will need to cut your fabric shapes slightly larger so that the seam can be turned inside and hidden.
If you are crafting a plush sun and moon, for example, or a plush mobile to be hung in your room from the ceiling, you will need to cut out those shapes from the fabric you are using. Draw the shape of the moon on the side of the fabric that will Page 35 | Top of Articlebe hidden inside the pillow or plush. You can make the moon a crescent shape or entirely round. It’s up to you. Be sure to leave at least an extra inch of space all around your moon. Repeat this step with another piece of fabric. These are the two halves of the shape that will be sewn together. Align them carefully with the two outside halves of fabric so they are facing each other.
Repeat these last steps for the fabric shape of the sun. You can choose to make your sun entirely round or pointed. Again, carefully align the two outside halves of fabric so they are facing one another.
At this point, you should have your rough-cut sun fabric halves and moon fabric halves each ready to be sewn together. The outline where you will stitch the two halves together should be clearly visible on the front and back of the shapes.
Thread a needle with some thread. Leave a few feet of thread on either side so the needle is in the middle. Do this in the same way that you would leave equal halves of a shoelace when lacing shoes. Hold the two ends of thread together and let the needle fall to the center of the thread. Tie the ends of the thread together so there is a small knot at the end. You might have to make a second knot at the same spot if the first knot slips through the fabric.
Begin stitching the two halves of the sun shape together carefully. Stitching fabric by hand simply requires poking the needle through the front side of the fabric to the back, then pushing the needle through the back to the front again. Leave about a quarter inch between holes. It may take some practice to get the hang of it, so practice on a scrap piece of fabric until Page 36 | Top of Articleyou are comfortable. If you are having trouble, try getting some help from an experienced adult.
When you are three-quarters of the way finished, start to push the two halves inside out. This will actually become the outside of the pillow or plush doll. Then add cotton to stuff into the empty space. You will need to carefully continue to stitch the halves together until it is complete. Be sure to use enough stuffing until it is puffy enough to your liking. Once you are done, make several close stitches on top of one another. Then, cut the string from the needle and tie it a few times to make a knot. Cut any excess string away with a scissor. You should now have your completed plush sun shape. Repeat these steps for the moon.
After you complete these steps a few times try some variations. For example, you can create small and large shapes and even sew pieces of fabric onto the outside to add details. For more complex creations like an animal, several different shapes will need to be drawn and then sewn together at the end. With the help of an adult, you can learn to operate an electric sewing machine. These machines make stitching much more precise than doing it by hand. They can cut the sewing time considerably. Digital sewing machines also exist. They sew with the aid of a computer.