A lot of us at ATHM have an affinity towards textiles in some way, be it historical interest, wonderment at the science and mechanics of it all, or as practitioners of the arts. From an educational viewpoint, our department is constantly exploring how best to present the textile arts to “newbies” in a way that is not too overwhelming, and that will actually engage, entice, and encourage people to jump in.
For example, the Boy and Girl Scout programs we do were selected for their textile arts requirements, which we are very pleased to introduce to young people. The Boy Scout Textile Merit Badge requires the scouts to make wet-felted hacky sacks. At the very least, they all leave with extremely clean hands, but most get a great kick out it. The Girl Scout badges are riddled with textile arts, like the one I recently presented that included weaving and macramé projects, and an embroidery project requiring six different stitches. We then identified these stitches in the embroidered bedcover from the early 19th century in Textile Revolution. It is so nice when we can make a real connection with doing and seeing.
This summer, we are trying a series of “summer samplers” to whet the appetite for learning a new (or practicing an old) textile arts skill. These one-day workshops will introduce weaving, quilting, knitting, and wet and dry felting with easy-to-do projects while presenting hands-on experiences using the basic techniques of each discipline. Some have lower age limits, but none have upper limits. Adults are welcome to participate in any session. Some age limits are dictated by fine motor skill capacity, such as in my needle felting workshop where the real determining factor is whether you feel comfortable using a sharp needle. I have found that 11-year-olds can do as well as anyone.
We are also offering “Weave Days” and one “Spinning Day” this summer where people can pre-register and come in to try it out. Consultation with the teacher beforehand ensures a tailor-made experience and allows people of any skill level to learn what they want. It’s like designing your own class. We hope people like it and make use of it. So, in addition to that good book you are taking with you on vacation or to the beach, we hope to make it easy to learn that new textile technique at whatever your skill level is, so you can take that with you, too – and oh, the places you will go!
Director of Education