Sewing Machines in the Digital Age
When you think of makerspaces, you may picture people experimenting with coding, circuits, and robotics. But sewing machines can also play an important role in designing and assembling makerspace projects. This is especially true now that most sewing machines are highly computerized and can accomplish tasks that few in the past could have imagined.
Until recently, sewing machines were used mostly for sewing clothes, quilts, and craft projects. Most machines could handle only light to medium-weight fabric, and had a limited variety of stitches. But in the last few decades, sewing machines have come a long way. Most modern sewing machines are highly computerized and can sew a wide variety of fancy embroidery stitches. Because of this, sewing machines are not only being used to hold pieces of fabric together, but to decorate them as well.
SEWING CIRCUITS INTO FABRIC
In today’s makerspaces, sewing machines are being used to sew electronic circuits into clothing. They are also used to create works of electronic fiber art and repurpose items that might otherwise have been tossed into the landfill. Special Page 23 | Top of Articleconductive thread can be used not only to sew wired circuits into fabric, but also to create circuits from the thread itself. This has led to many “soft-circuit” creations. Examples are cloth bracelets with LED lights and jewelry and clothing that plays music, lights up, or does other amazing things. The possibilities are endless.
While many sewing machines are strictly for use with fabric, industrial-grade sewing machines that can stitch together heavier materials are available in some makerspaces. So it’s a good idea to learn as much as you can about the sewing machine you have access to before planning your sewing-related makerspace projects.
COSTUMES FOR COSPLAY AND DRAMA CLASS
Sewing machines are especially useful for language arts projects. They are often used by students who want to create cosplay costumes in makerspaces. They can be used for creating costumes and props for drama class. Some students even use sewing machines to create puppets to act out stories in language arts class.
PROJECT 3: COSPLAY LIT
You may think of cosplay as a way to dress up as superheroes, villains, or other characters from modern comics. But cosplay can be used to gain a better understanding of characters from stories who live in any place or era. For this project, pick a story and decide which character everyone in the group would like to cosplay. Then, research the clothing that was commonly worn in that place and during that time. The internet has many websites that can be helpful for planning your costume. Once you have done that, see what materials are available that could be used to construct a cosplay outfit. When your cosplay outfits are complete, you can cosplay a scene from the story for your class.
- Characters from a story to cosplay
- Cloth or ready made pieces of clothing
- Sewing supplies
- Computer, iPad®, or paper for taking notes
- Cardboard, poster paper, or other materials, to design set
- For example, if you were going to cosplay Sherlock Holmes, you would want to look up the way people dressed in the time that his story is set. If the story you read gave information about Sherlock Holmes’s appearance and the way he behaved, make sure to write that down. If you are building a set or a background where Sherlock Holmes had his office or went to solve a case, make note of that, too.
- Once you have done that, brainstorm about what you can do to make your cosplay of Sherlock Holmes as authentic to the character as possible.
- Ask yourself: are there other characters in the Sherlock Holmes story, such as Watson, you would like to cosplay as well?
- Figure out what materials do you have to work with. Can you find clothes to modify to better fit your needs? Are there things you might want to borrow from the drama club or a local theater group?
- After you have discussed these things, plan the costumes you want to make. If they are close fitting, find articles of clothing you can trace around to make a pattern.
- Page 28 | Top of ArticleAfter you have created the costumes, try cosplaying the characters.
- Then, journal about your experience. What did you learn about Sherlock Holmes or the character you played, that you did not know before? How do you think it might have felt for you to live in that time period?
- Once you have your ideas together, write a blog or make a video about your experience to share with the class or post online.
PROJECT 4: LITERARY WALL HANGING
Many of us have seen memory quilts, or wall hangings, people make by sewing together hand-decorated fabric squares.
These special wall hangings are often made to honor birth days, anniversaries, weddings, or other life events. Sometimes, they are made as a gift for a family that is moving out of the area as a special way to remember their friends.
In the same way, you can create a literary wall hanging by decorating squares in a way that tells something about your favorite book.
A literary wall hanging can create a lasting memory of your reading experience for the year. When the school year is over, it would make a nice gift for your language arts teacher.
Fabric paint or fabric markers Thread to embroider and sew the quilt together Hand sewing needles Sewing machine (if you do not have a sewing machine available, the wall hanging can be sewn by hand, or it can be stapled or tied together) Dowel or broom handle (optional)
Cut pieces of cloth into twelve-inch squares, and give a square to everyone that wants to participate. Each person can decorate the square to represent a book they enjoy. The squares can be decorated with fabric markers, paint, embroidery, machine sewing, or whatever else you want.
Once the squares have all been created and the paint is dry, find an area where you can lay the squares out as you decide how you want to organize them. If you do not have Page 30 | Top of Articleenough decorated squares to finish some rows, blank fabric squares can be added to fill in the space.
The next step is to attach the squares together. You can accomplish that with a sewing machine, hand sewing, a stapler, or by threading a large needle with yarn or embroidery floss and using it to tie the squares together.
When the wall hanging has been assembled, you will want to display it for everyone to see. If you want, you can sew loops on the top of the piece and hang it on a dowel, broom handle, and so on. Or, you can use thumb tacks to attach it to the wall.