In the great saga that resulted from the realization, in May of this year, that there was no way I could use up 50 kilograms of raw wool on my own for my own little projects, we are now beginning the hero’s (ahem, the foolish creative person’s) journey.
To catch you up, once Musa, the animal caretaker at Le Parc du Petit Prince finished shearing the sheep in May, and once I picked it up and saw what exactly 50 kilos of wool represented, I immediately contacted the principal at my children’s school with a zany idea:
Let’s teach kids about wool! Why? Because Wool is so cool!
The principal and the teachers caught the excitement pretty quickly, because I can be pretty convincing about this kind of thing.
I set up a plan to teach the kids over 5 sessions about where clothes come from, how they are made, about the technical aspects of textiles, from carding to spinning to knitting to weaving to felting, to create a final craft project that should be pretty spectacular, and to use recycled materials throughout the project to encourage creativity, resourcefulness and frugality.
Seven classes, from pre-school to fifth grade. That’s 180 kids I got to meet over two weeks’ time, starting the week of Thanksgiving.
It was pretty exhilarating to get started.
With the elementary kids, we started in English. I was incredibly impressed, especially with the fourth and fifth grade classes, at just how well they spoke and understood English. They were enthusiastic and adorable and it was everything I could have hoped for!
When it came time to be with my eldest’s class (the second graders) I was afraid I would be given a series of rules like I had been last year when I visited his classroom (1. Do not talk to me 2. Do not look at me.) But this year, he was perfectly fine with having his Mama in his class.
The elementary lesson begins with a discussion of our passions: what are the things we love the most. Answers range from “soccer” to “chess” to “dolphins” to “drawing”. (I’ll let you guess whose answer was “skyscrapers”.) I then inform them that my passion is clothes, which drew some skepticism across all age ranges!
Then I explain that from very young, my mother made my clothes, and matching clothes for my dolls, and that I always liked helping her and as soon as I could figure it out, I tried to, too. I happened to have with me or be wearing clothes I had made…which gave me a little street cred.
So we talked about clothes. Where do they come from? What are they made of? Natural or synthetic materials? How are they made? Sewn? Knit?
And then I handed out magnifying glasses and a cache of materials for them to study and answer questions about: what material? Natural or synthetic? Knit or woven?
That’s how you end up with this little studious grouping:
With the littlest kids, ages three to six, it was a discovery of wool, and the process of going from the animal to a piece of clothing.
We had several work stations, one with magnifying glasses and things to study, one with wool in its various iterations for them to put in order from start to finish, one with raw washed wool and carders for them to practice carding and the last station with carded wool and a half dozen drop spindles my father made for the occasion.
Spinning wool with a drop spindle is hard, but as I told the kids, “back in the day, this was the children’s job”. And I’ll be darned if some of those kids didn’t get it right away!
Next up: In January we will be taking a deep dive into weaving: making our own cardboard looms from recycled boxes, using strips of fabric torn from worn-out clothes and household linens, as well as learning about the tools used to work with wool, from crochet hooks to spinning wheels!