Kiwi Made: Delivery
Weeks 1–5: Basic skills and knowledge
The class began with a theme of "Buy Kiwi Made" and was asked to consider the statement "The New Zealand clothing industry is being flooded with cheap mass-produced clothing. Creating our own unique cloth and turning this into garments with simple construction may provide us with an opportunity to compete."
Wendy had introduced dyeing to her Year 9 class the previous year, when she had organised teacher Merrilyn George to run a workshop on dyeing for them. A corner of the workroom has three deep sinks and overhead dyeing racks, so it was easy to set up a dyeing area away from fabrics, etc. Wendy found this a valuable way for a large class of students to learn how to dye safely, and based on this experience decided to incorporate dyeing into the Kiwi Made unit.
The students classified fibres and identified fabrics containing cellulose or protein fibres, and looked at the different types of dyes available and their suitability for dyeing particular fabrics. They then donned gloves, aprons, masks and safety goggles to mix up their dyes. They also experimented with microwave dyeing using acid-based dyes, and as well as fabrics dyed bleached possum fur, both loose and on the skin.
Once they had learnt the basic skills of dyeing, the girls went on to try different techniques. They were shown Japanese shibori (resist) dyeing and were expected to be able to identify and use various shibori styles.
Wendy had made contact with Columbine Industries and, based on her visit and photographs, was able to discuss the characteristics of industrial dyeing so that the class could see how large-scale production differed from the small amounts they were making up.
Weeks 6–10: Production
The class then started looking at producing their own material. They brainstormed various possibilities, and discussed an article they had read on the way forward for New Zealand textiles. Wendy had a conference with each student to ensure the issue would allow them access to excellence. They then had to do initial research and revise use of the research model – this meant sourcing and developing research questions, identifying sources for information including texts and relevant internet sites plus any expert help they might access.
Sue Boot, of Basically Bush, came to the school to speak to the girls about the possum fur industry and the company's work. They learnt about some of the current uses of possum fur and skin and the companies associated with this.
Wendy took the class to observe the buying process at Basically Bush where Sue discussed the company's requirements for purchasing fur and skins – she told them about the properties of possum fur and the limitations this places on its use.
The girls found it interesting to see natural fur being used for products rather than dyed, and the sophisticated effects resulting from the natural colours, something they hadn't realised before.
Members of the local spinners and weavers group taught the class felting techniques and students were required to produce a sample of flat felting. This was an opportunity to experiment with mixing materials during felting, and some students producing material incorporating polwarth wool, possum fur and silk.
After practicing the basic technique the girls learnt to insert pockets, frills, knitted pieces and prefelts into their felted product. Members of the spinners and weavers group taught the class how to produce finer materials through nuno felting.
Wendy had wanted to give the class the opportunity to learn a wide range of skills but knew there wouldn't be time to do everything. At this stage she decided to introduce peer teaching. The class was divided into five pairs, given a craft to learn and provided with materials, containers and publications. They had to read about the craft and research how to do the various techniques. Under her guidance they had to learn how to make their product and then teach it to the rest of the class.
The pair doing fabric fusion had to be able to identify a range of materials which could be fused. They then worked on using free motion machine embroidery (this technique being an art form where the fabric is moved around while stitching, using the needle to 'draw' the diagram).
Once familiar with this embroidery the students moved on to dissolvable fabric. Here they were able to use their free motion embroidery skills and insert other pieces of fabric to fuse into their new material.
Another group worked on teaching the class weaving. They learnt to set up the Ashford knitters loom and were able to weave fabric, using a variety of wools and possum fur.
The button workshop involved the 'experts' showing how a variety of buttons could be created using fimo clay, and with a selection of button moulds and cutters was available for shaping. When completed the buttons were placed on a tile and baked in the oven.
One pair had been given the task of finding out who provided carded wool. The girls had to contact various wool suppliers and find out what was available, what breeds of sheep were being used and the cost. This resulted, says Wendy, in some wonderful feedback from Shona Schofield Carding of Ashburton, which on request carded possum fur into a variety of mixes, including merino, polwarth and silk for the class.
Three-dimensional felting was taught by the student experts as well. This is a technique where the material can be moulded during the felt-making process into three-dimensional forms. This can be used to create a range of things such as hats, bags or toys.
The culmination of the peer teaching was for each student to produce an individual item of material, which had to include some of the techniques they had worked on or learnt about.
Weeks 11–15: Further research and final brief
The Science Learning Hub was used as a resource to show other aspects of the possum industry, such as biological control of possums. The class discussed information on the site, such as the use of genetically modified parasites to control possum fertility, and had to consider different stakeholder (Basically Bush, Department of Conservation, District Council, Woolly Yarns, hunters, animal rights groups and Royal Forest and Bird Society) views on this method of controlling the possum population.
Colour is a major consideration in the various textiles skills that the class works on and Wendy spent some time looking at the attributes of colour. The girls were expected to know the vocabulary of colour (hue, value, complimentary, analogous, etc.) and to be able to analyse colour schemes. Colour Schemer software was a useful device to help students who might be struggling to identify colours, while those with a natural affinity for colour were able to work on other aspects, such as using colours from nature. All the class was then expected to apply their colour knowledge to their textile design.
During this period the students had to work on their brief development and plan their individual project – they would produce their own material and make it into a garment. Each student had to look at the key factors involved in production of their garment – fabric, fit, skill level, time and simplicity.
At this stage anyone interested in using a technique they had seen during the peer teaching had the opportunity of picking this up and going back to the experts who had taught it.