Textile Design Crash Course


Lea and I, both Teaching Artists, ran Textile Design Crash Courses for two different groups of visiting Winchester Thurston high school students on special day-long field trips, one on May 20th and another on May 21st. Asked to come up with a 4.5 hour workshop of our choosing, we jumped at the chance to work with older kids in a truly cross-disciplinary way. There are four different aspects to the course:



The first step is creating the image. We’re using a free vector-drawing program, Inkscape, to design a line for the laser cutter to follow.

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For this project it’s very important to think about positive and negative space, because the designs are going to be used as stencils. This is Natalie’s pattern in outline form (on the left) and how it will look when it’s used for printing. On the right side, we made all of the enclosed spaces black. Any enclosed space — any part which is completely surrounded by an outline — will be completely cut out of the paper, leaving a hole that the ink can pass through. In this case, the detailed interior shape of the star will be held to the rest of the paper by a single tiny “bridge” on the left side.


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Once the design is complete, it’s time to use our newest MAKESHOP tool to translate it into something physical! The laser cutter uses a high-powered beam of invisible light to burn into a material (we’re using several pieces of paper on top of each other in a stack) wherever the computer tells it to move.

In this photo, a red dot is visible. The machine also has a visible red laser that helps us line everything up correctly before we begin cutting. Because the material is being burned, there is a small puff of air aimed at the cutting point, to put out any fires, as well as a filter to help clear out the resulting “campfire” smell. You can see where some of the small strips of paper have been blown around.




Once cut, the stack of identical stencils can be used for silk screening the patterns. We are using textile ink, which is flexible enough to be printed onto the fabric and won’t crack when folded or bent. Each student has a 1′ x 5′ piece of canvas to print on in whatever way they choose.




Once the fabric is printed and the ink is dry enough to work with, we set to work on the sewing machines to create… whatever! A bag, a wallet, a piece of headgear, anything that can be created with canvas and a little creativity.


Thanks to all the students who came, on both days, to make this a really fun event to plan and run! Hopefully this will pave the way for more exciting workshop opportunities in the future, using all of the amazing resources, machines and materials we have available at MAKESHOP and the museum!


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