Fibers and Dye

One of the projects we started at the beginning of the year was on cotton.  One of our students brought a piece of a cotton plant to school which sparked an investigation.  The following link can take you to the initial post of our project……….


Since then, we have studied cotton and begun to understand what can be made from cotton, the life cycle of cotton, and how it is turned into yarn and fabric.

Aside from learning about cotton, we are beginning to understand how to dye cotton, and where dyes come from.  In order to bring this project to life, we have used beets and turmeric to dye cotton.  Once the children started to understand how dyes were initially created and used, we began dyeing with store bought dye.

On this day, each child brought in fabric to dye for our costumes.  The children are in the process of making their own costumes for the Fall Festival.  We provided the children with a variety of dyes and fibers and began a discussion.  In our philosophy, it is important for the children to have a rich learning experience.  As we began discussing, the fibers and other materials were in the center of our discussion, at the children’s access, so that they could promote curiosity and encourage the investigation.  The children were free to touch the materials and engage in conversation in order to deepen the experience of this lesson.

Teacher: “What types of things do we have here?”

Children : “Wool and cotton, and dye”

Teacher:  “Can anyone tell me about dye and how we can dye our fabric?”

Bishop: “You have to put it on fabric first.  You wet the fabric first and then when it is wet you can put dye on it.”

This was the beginning of a long conversation between the children and the teachers.  We allowed them time to appreciate the textures, appearance and smells of the materials.  The children talked about how it is best to wash the material first in order to have the dye work better, we talked about how dyes come from plants, foods, and spices, and we talked about how wool comes from a sheep and cotton comes from a plant.

One of the materials in the center of our circle were some packets of seeds.  We have begun a Fall Gardening project, and aside from planting herbs and vegetables, we will be planting Amaranthe, Woad, and Safflower.  If we are successful in growing these plants, we will be able to use them in dyeing fibers red, blue and yellow!  Wish us luck ;0)

Our philosophy allows for the children to question, think and be hands on in everything that they learn.  Allowing the children to see these plants grow, and be able to take the part of the plant to dye fabric, will reinforce the knowledge that we are obtaining in class.

The next item that sparked our interest was the bag of wool. We began to discuss where it came from.  The children all knew it came from sheep, and when we opened the bag, we were surprised at how it looked and smelled!!

The children took a piece out and saw that it looked like the farmer had just cut it from the sheep!  It was in separate locks and curly.

They took turns talking and passing it around…..

But it wasn’t long before we started to smell something ;0)   One child smelled the bag and  yelled “Ewww!  It smells like an animal!”  The wool smelled exactly like the real animal, and the children passed the bag around smelling it and making funny comments about the smell.

You can see from the pictures that this was a class period that they will remember for a long time! ;0)  Although the bag wasn’t filled with a pleasant smell, the conversation and laughter that filled the room was something we will never forget.

After we were done with the wool, we moved on to our new box of cotton.  In it was a boll of cotton, and several different types of cotton.  The children pulled them out and analyzed the color and texture.

We then moved on to preparing the pots of dye.  We prepared purple, pink and black dye.  The children dissolved the dye in the water, added the salt and began dyeing their fabric.

The children cut the pieces of fabric they needed to dye different colors.


And as they were ready, they went outside to dye………

This child sectioned off her fabric, so that it would alternate colors – pink and purple.

and off to work she went……

She put one section of the fabric in pink, and then moved on to the purple pot.  Being very careful to squeeze the excess of and put just enough to color the section she needed.

she was very proud of her work…….

Below are some samples of our finished work.  The colors came out beautiful, and the children enjoyed the process of changing the colors of their fabric.  We will continue to dye fabric in other colors, as well as familiarize ourselves with other types of fibers.

We might even be daring enough to spin our own yarn! Wish us luck ;0)

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