I was sorting through our main lesson books, and I came across our Clothing, Fiber and Shelter work from last year. These blocks were great because we could include stories, writing, drawing, hand work, projects, and field trips!
For the clothing block, I believe I used some guidelines from Marsha Johnson’s free files: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/waldorfhomeeducators/.
We began by talking about common fibers and discussing their origins. I told a few stories from this book by Emilie Poulsson:
Most of this lovely book is available for free online: In the Child’s World.
First… cotton! We are fortunate to live near a restored historical farm that grows cotton, and we have picked it many times. I made sure to take the children last fall, and we saved some bolls for drawing during this block. We used pencil shavings to make the beautifully soft colors:
Next, we talked about wool. Again, this included a field trip. We went to a sheep farm and bought some clean, raw wool. We had a great time meeting the sheep and exploring the farm. I am sorry that I didn’t take many pictures of the process, but we dyed the wool, carded it with hand carders, spun the wool, then knitted he knitted his own hat! My 5th grade daughter did this process too, even though she had done it in the past. Of all of the Waldorf crafts we have done, I feel like this is one of the most important. I believe that if a child can do something as useful and ancient as taking raw wool and creating a piece of clothing, the possibilities are endless for that child. This speaks to the child on such a deep level… this tells the child at age 9, that he can take care of himself. In addition, it gives him a sense of what goes into creating basic items that we take for granted. It is a MUCH different process simply knitting a hat with store-bought yarn. Of course we have those too!
I had prepared in advance for studying linen by planting flax in the garden in the spring. We harvested during the summer and we hung it in the garage to dry just before leaving for an extended vacation. Upon our return, I found out that my husband had thrown out most of it, since it had fallen to the floor and he thought it was the children’s “junk”. I was devastated! I had hoped to at least weave a little basket or something. Anyway, we took a dried bit of the linen and taped it into the book. It probably would have looked better had I laminated it. At least we got to grow the little blue flowers ourselves, and we visited a fair where we were able to watch the process of making linen from flax. I also told a story about linen from In the Child’s World.
I should mention that although we were able to go on many field trips, such as the cotton farm, sheep farm, craft fair, etc., most of these trips did not happen during the block. Over the years I have learned to try to keep an eye out for activities that may be prevalent to lessons in the coming months, or we may revisit lessons with activities that come our way after we have covered a subject during a main lesson.
Finally, we studied silk. I told a legend about a Chinese empress who discovered that silk cocoons could be unwound and woven into cloth. We drew a picture of her in her garden, along with a description of how silk is made.
I found the title to this book in my notes, although I never read it, but maybe it is worth a peek:
For a project, we cut (actually tore, which is an easier way to get a straight cut with silk), and hand-painted little silk squares. We wet the squares, smoothed them out on our painting boards, and painted with watercolors. We glued my son’s fish into his book:
Here are some pages from my daughter’s clothing and fibers main lesson book from a couple of years ago. We tried to do a craft with each fabric. She made a leather pouch, a wool oven mitt, and a cotton dress for her doll. This was a great opportunity to get serious about handwork, which often gets cast aside as other pressing lessons and activities seem to take priority.