This textiles activity gives you a chance to explore fabric and sewing with the girls in a manner that provides a larger view of the process (as compared to just doing the crafts themselves). Even though this was put in the “Careers” section, it will be a fascinating exploration for anyone who is interested in weaving, knitting, crocheting, felt handicrafts, embroidery, etc. This activity makes the crafting more educational and equally as fun!
Don’t be overwhelmed by the length – you can customize this series however you want!
Category: Developing Talents
Duration: From 1 to 5 meetings or more, depending on how many textiles projects you want to do. You do NOT have to do all these weeks – just pick what you like! My personal favorite is the wet felting, so don’t miss it!
- For Week 1 (Introduction):
- Samples of textiles: You need samples of woven, knitted, and felted fabrics. Ideally you should get a variety of fabrics from animal (wool, silk), plant (cotton, burlap), and synthetic (polyester, nylon) fibers. (Ask someone from your local fabric store for help. You can usually purchase samples as small as one inch wide!)
- Examples of different items made with these types of textiles.
- Supplies for making the drop spindles (look at the website for sizes): one wooden wheel, dowel, and small hook per girl.
- Wool roving, a few natural cotton balls (pull them apart so they look like natural cotton), and small amount of synthetic stuffing (pull it out of an old teddy bear or get synthetic cotton balls).
- (Optional) A USPS Express Mail envelope or CD sleeve made of Tyvek
- (Optional) Magnifying glasses to look for closely at how the fabric was made
- For Week 2 (Weaving Project):
- Three or four straws per girl
- Yarn scraps in different colors
- (Optional) Pictures of different weaving looms
- or Week 3 (Knitting Project)
- Toilet paper tube for each girl
- Four popsicle sticks for each girl
- For Week 4 (Felting Project):
- Foam ball for each girl (pieces of pool noodles would probably also work, just make a different shape of bowl!)
- Wool roving
- Rubber bands
- Dish soap (Dawn works well)
- Bowl of water
- For Week 5 (Sewing Project): (feel free to pick something more structured if you want!)
- Fabric scraps of non-stretchy fabric (like cotton)
- Sewing thread
- Sewing needles
- Pinking Shears
- Writing utensils
- (Optional) sewing machine
- (Optional) small pieces of rope or thick string, to show how they are made up of several pieces of “yarn.”
- For Week 1 (Introduction):
- Ask members of your Relief Society to bring in heirloom quilts and other handicrafts, as well as their own textile-related creations. They can talk about genealogy and their ancestors, as well as their own passion for these hobbies. A great way to get the older women of the ward involved in Activity Days!
- Make one of the drop spindles and practice using it. There are lots of Youtube videos to help you figure it out.
- Drill a small hole on one end of the rest of the dowels.
- For Week 2 (Weaving Project):
- None that I can think of!
- For Week 3 (Knitting Project):
- You will need to make the looms ahead of time so the glue is dry. While the tutorial suggests glue dots or glue sticks, I suggest a more rugged glue so that the popsicle sticks are sure to stay in place! You could have the girls help you make the looms at the end of the previous activity.
- For Week 4 (Felting Project):
- No advance prep except for making sure it will be warm enough to be outside, and there is an outside area to do the felting.
- For Week 5 (Sewing Project):
- No advance prep except maybe to make a small pillow from fabric scraps for show.
Week 1: Introduction
1. Ask the girls if they know what textiles are. Explain that textiles are any type of fabric made of fibers. Show them the fibers (roving, cotton, poly stuffing). Fibers can be made from animals (hair, fur, silk), plants (cotton, grass, coconut fiber [twine], hemp, flax, etc.), rocks (asbestos, glass, all kinds of metal [think window screens]), and plastic (polyester, spandex, nylon [give the example of elastic waistbands]).
2. Show the girls some examples of fabrics made of different types of fiber, and perhaps talk about their uses. Have each girl look at the back tag on another girl’s shirt (without taking it off of course!) to see what fibers it is made of. (Most common answers will probably be cotton and polyester.)
3. Talk about all the different uses for textiles besides just clothing.
4. Show the girls the samples of fibers and ask them how they get from fibers to fabric. After listening to their guesses, explain that there are three main methods: weaving, knitting, and felting. Tell them that you will talk more about felting at a later activity, but for weaving and knitting, the fibers need to be spun into yarn. Nowadays this is done in a factory, but before that for thousands of years a spindle was used.
5. Show the girls how to make their spindle, and then how to use it. Reassure them that it can be tricky, but it’s fun to try! If you’re lucky, some of your Relief Society sisters have some experience with this too and can help out.
6. Practice with the drop spindle for a while but make sure to leave enough time for however many Relief Society sisters you have invited to share their projects and heirlooms.
7. After listening to the Relief Society sisters and seeing their textiles, explain to them that working with textiles is a great hobby, but there are lots of careers that work with textiles too, such as fashion designers, interior designers, textile factory workers, seamstresses, or even a scientist who invents new textiles (like Tyvek).
Week 2: Weaving
1. Review everything the girls learned at the last meeting about textiles.
2. Explain that they are going to learn the three methods of creating textiles: weaving this week, knitting next week, and felting the third week.
3. Show them the woven fabrics again and describe how they are made. Whenweaving, you are crossing two different sets of yarn (one set is up-and-down [the warp]and the other set goes side-to-side [the weft]). The materials you use to help with weaving are called a loom. In this project, the loom is made of straws.
4. Do a weaving project this week. Point out the weft and the warp of their weaving project.
Week 3: Knitting
1. Review everything the girls learned at the first meeting about textiles.
2. Review the process of weaving that they learned last week. Have them describe how it was done. Ask them if they know how knitting is different. Remind them that with weaving, you are crossing two different sets of yarn (the warp is up-and-down and the weft goes side-to-side). But with knitting, there is only ONE yarn. The single piece of yarn is looped together in a pattern to make the fabric. (Yes, this means that in the textile world, crochet is a type of knitting.)
3. Show them the knitted fabrics again and describe how they are made. They can be made with knitting needles, on looms, or by machine.
Week 4: Felting
1. Review everything the girls have learned in previous weeks.
2. Talk about how the last two projects used yarn, but the last textile type, called felting, skips the yarn step and goes right from fibers to fabric. Animal fibers get tangled together the most easily of any fiber, and when wool roving gets wet they get tangled even more with each other, locking together kind of like velcro gets locked together. Soap helps them to mix and lock even better, and agitation pushes them together even further. So, we are going to use water, soap, and agitation together to make our felted textiles.
3. Do the felting project outside and enjoy running around with the felting balls, but I should mention that kicking the ball around doesn’t do much agitation (stick with the finger massaging and foot rolling, maybe some stomping at the end).
4. While felting, you may want to give the little girls a quiz to see what they remember:
Textile: a type of fabric made of fibers.
Examples of Textiles: clothing, curtains, rugs, window screen, tarp, etc.
Types of Fiber: animal, plant, rock, synthetic
Three Ways to Make Textiles: weaving, knitting, felting
Warp: the up-and-down yarn in a weaving project
Weft: the back-and-forth yarn in a weaving project
Loom: the materials used to help with the weaving
Difference Between Weaving and Knitting: the first uses different yarn for warp and weft, the second only needs one yarn.
Week 5: Sewing
1. Review what has been learned about yarn. Have the girls feel some thread and explain that thread is just several pieces of yarn twisted together. This doesn’t seem to make sense because the most common “yarn” we use is much bigger than the most common “thread” we use. Fray the edge of some thread to show them how the tiny yarns are twisted together. Explain that it makes the thread much stronger than with just one piece of yarn. Show some pieces of frayed rope or string and point out the yarn, too.
2. If you like, you can relate this to a family or church community: alone we are not as strong, but when we combine our many talents and personalities, our weaknesses are strengthened by others!
3. Show them the fabric scraps you have and explain that some fabrics are easier to sew than others. The easiest fabrics are woven because knitted fabrics are stretchy, and felted fabrics are not as sturdy and can be deformed easily if the fibers unlock. Some woven fabrics are still stretchy because a stretchy synthetic fiber is used, so beginning sewers should avoid those, too.
4. Explain to the girls that they will be making a small sewing project today: making a small pillow. (If they are hand sewing I recommend 6″ or less!) They can do a heart, square, circle, or some other simple shape (reject any ideas with too many corners, like the letter W or a star shape). They can pick two different fabrics for each side if they like.
5. Show them how to make a “pattern” on a piece of paper by drawing their shape, and then drawing the same shape 1/2″ bigger around it. Have them cut out their pattern around the bigger line and show them how to pin it onto their choice of fabric. You can choose how to have them do this – I like to first have them put the two pieces with the right sides facing each other, then pin both pieces to the pattern at once.
6. Help them cut out their pattern with the pinking shears and explain how the jagged edge of the scissors helps prevent the edge of the weave from unraveling or “fraying.” You can then remove the paper if you like, but many girls find the sturdiness of the paper helps them with their sewing.
7. At this point, when all girls have their fabric cut out, either teach them the basic running stitch (explaining that smaller stitches are much sturdier and won’t let the stuffing fall out), or put them on a sewing machine to sew it. Make sure to tell them to leave an opening of a few inches to turn their pillow right side out.
8. Turn the pillows right side out, stuff, and show them how to close with a whip stitch. You can send girls home with needle, thread, and stuffing to finish if they don’t get it done during your time together.
- If you have internet access where you meet, you could save yourself some of the talking and have them learn about textiles with this kid-friendly game.
- There are TONS of weaving, knitting, wet felting, and sewing projects out there for kids. I chose easy ones without too much advance prep, but if the ones in this plan are not to your liking, there are many more to choose from.
- Try this interesting experiment of making “toilet paper yarn” with a drill!
- Ask the scout leaders who their Leatherworking Merit Badge Counselor is. He will have the equipment and know-how to do a simple leatherworking project with you! Be sure to discuss how leather is different from textiles, because it is not made of woven fibers, but animal skin.
- Cost cutting options:
- Chances are you can get the fabric and fiber samples from ladies in your Relief Society. They may even have some roving they are willing to donate!
- If you have some old CDs lying around you could make this drop spindle instead.
- Look on Youtube to learn how to spin yarn with just a pencil instead of a drop spindle
- You can teach hand knitting instead of making the popsicle stick knitters – I chose the looms because then they can put down the project to finish later. And they don’t cost much.
- Look up “ziploc bag wet felting” to eliminate the cost of foam balls