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Teaching children to grow their own clothes - advice?

 
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Howdy - lost my farm and 112 acres of gorgeous land  (beef/bees)that I had started implementing permaculture principles on, 2 years ago in an extremely conflict oriented divorce. Helped birthed two kiddos at home, birthed the last one in the hospital because the law prevented us from birthing at home in such a rural setting.

Anyway, to continue fathering my kiddos, I am now in a pretty green, hippie city called Victoria. Not where I want to be.

I've got a wormfarm in a really large glass jar for the kids, grow about ten different kinds of plants, do organic cabbage/ tomatoes in the summer, carve and do pyrography with the kids, make potplants out of treelimbs and such (arbutus_ cedar), and try to keep the kids close the land.

Its working to an extent because the kids are non squeamish and take delight in growing things.


SO - how to grow clothes? Dad is a total naturehead and if I could, i'd be back on the land living more naturally than I ever did, and forgoing most of the comforts considered modern. Growing clothes is such a cool idea, and one that my kids would get excited about.

They are 3,4,5 - any ideas on how to go about it Raven (or anyone else). They are all girls, and I dont think I could think of a cooler project than this right now to do. Imagine growing a skirt? It would blow their minds.


I'm all ears.  Tx, George

 
pollinator
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Least effort would be to hollow out a pumpkin, cut out two leg holes and maybe use some vines as suspenders.  Something like this:



(I really didn't expect to find a pic of this, but there are some weird people out there...)

I know what I'm wearing for Halloween.

 
pollinator
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Grass skirts...
 
steward
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An easy clothing to grow would be leather. Choose the right size animal, and it's already got built in sleeves.

A recent re-creation of a viking tunic from (spun and woven) wool took 700 hours to complete. By people well experienced with spinning and weaving. At $20 per hour, that's a $14,000 shirt! Oh my, are we ever spoiled!!!

One of my friends is experimenting with mycelium fabric. I was impressed!

 
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Back before assembly lines and machinery, clothes were very expensive, and most only had 2 or 3 outfits: a nice one for church, and work ones. Aprons were essential for making nicer cloth last longer. Cloth takes a lot of time and resources to make!

Perhaps start with something small? Maybe mittens? Maybe you can find someone who has sheep and help feed the sheep a few times and buy some wool, and then wash and card and spin and dye and knit it into mittens or a hat.

In another thread, Raven talks about growing cotton inside as a houseplant. Maybe make a cotton hat? Flax can also grow in pots, and it's a unique fibre that most kids (and adults!) know very little about.
 
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My suggestion would be to keep it simple at first. The easiest projects I can think of are wool felted slippers and mittens. You could buy or visit your library for books about sheep, visit a petting zoo, farm, or fiberest in your area. All  you need to make them are wool, warm water, soap and the hand or foot itself is the mold. If you don't know much about felting there is a ton of information on internet and in books. Have you thought of getting them to make their own clay beads for necklaces and bracelets? Before trying clothes I would suggest weaving wall hangings, bags, or baskets.

This is not what you ask for, but a fun felting project that I like to do with kids is to get some of those plastic Easter eggs and some colored wool. Have them wrap the egg a thin layer of wool. Now you add soap and let them felt the wool around the egg in warm water. Keep adding layers to the egg and felting.  Leave set to dry.  Give them a small pipe cleaner and let them felt wool spiraled around it, but keep it long and thin.  Dry. Glue  or sew two eyes to the pipe cleaner. Make a straight cut across the felted egg and pop the plastic egg out. Now curl the pipe cleaner up and put the snake in the egg shell. They have just made their own toy and have been introduce to felting wool fiber.

Hats off to you for making changes to be in your girls lives!!!
 
Lito George
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Dear Everybody Who Replied to this thread -

Thank you! What a wonderful bunch of suggestions. In Nova Scotia, we saw the record setting pumpkins they had there - and I know they make boats out of them for fun that they race in a harbour so the clothing thing is a cinch

Terrific suggestions from a bunch of folk and I love the ideas. I'm going to explore them and the girls do love their jewelry (already!) so making them out of clay sounds really smart. I also like the felting project - thank you. Acorns to oak trees right?

I'm from Africa originally, so grass skirts seem like a smart, easy project back home, but feel completely lost as to what Canada would have to offer in that regard.

I am wondering if silkworms and making silk would be a good way to introduce the thought of growing clothing, but of course, access to a Mulberry tree is the challenge where I am now (Vancouver Island, BC)

Lastly, I'm a bit gobsmacked by the different stats and info that people offered about what it takes to make clothes.


Good people on Permies - thank you.
 
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Maybe a good start would be to help them plant some plants that make fibers and then explain to them what the fibers can be made into. The plants could also be pretty flowers and then explain to them about pollinators.
 
Liza Stallsmith
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Lito George,

I didn't want to discourage your dream of clothes making. lol I always dream Big.  But I just want to encourage you that when you work with children sometimes they need to see the end project or a goal met so if you do take on a big project with them be sure to celebrate the end of each step. I raised four children. We did not finish every project we started, but I was able to hand down to them the love and wonder of learning new things, the enjoyment, pleasure, and satisfaction of working with their own hands, and the ability to see and think outside of what I call the box mentality. Though the projects you choose are important  I think what a child takes away inside their soul from the project is more important. Things like. I actually did this! I failed, but I now know what to do differently. Yup, I finished it at last and learned that is not my thing and it is ok to be me. And the list goes on....Be sure not to miss the deep teachable moments that happen when working along side them on a project because of your focus on the project itself. Actually as time passes by and they out grow or wear out the crafts they have made these moments become forever fixed in their hearts and become something precious that is hard for others to strip them of.

If you are interested, you might want to check out my link that I posted under dying wool. It is a project that brings out the child in myself, and I have done it with my children often. I have even let them choose and mix their own colors. It is simple, requires a few inexpensive things and you can do it even if you haven't spun your own wool. Just buy some 100% wool yarn somewhere.

Also I would encourage you to look for spinning and weaving guilds in your area. The guilds here open their arms to my children, love them, taught them, and generally where their personal cheering section. They were also gracious enough to let me learn along with my children. They do all kinds of classes throughout the year.

Your question brought a lot of smiles as memories of our families projects crossed my mind. My children are in the taking flight and only short visit home stage. Each one has chose to walk to their own drum beat. I am proud of them, yet feel that the many hours we spent together crafting blesses us on so many different levels even yet. Not all of them have chosen to walk similar paths as me, but I have watch them all reach inside and pull out things we learned together while making some project.
 
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What wonderful and creative ideas.  Pumpkin pants!  ha!  Who didn't want pants like that as a kid (I know I did)?

Children.  I admit it, I don't know much about kids.  But they look like small sized humans with exceptional manual dexterity that only seems to get better as they increase in size.  

I borrow my friends' kids as often as I can for work around the farm.  My friends all live in the city so they like the idea of kids having somewhere to run around and expel energy.  What little do they know that when I say "child labour" I mean that the kid will be doing actual farming.  I worry their expectations of what farmers do is a lot of lazing about admiring clouds.  I don't really know what kids expect, I just do the everyday tasks that I would do with adults, only adjust the time and amount to match the individual's attention span and skill (so basically like working with adults).  

Growing clothing plants is a lot like growing vegetables.  I try to start them at this from about one year old or when they can walk unsupported.

Cotton is a lot of fun.  Plant seed, watch the plant grow.  They love harvesting the bolls and drawing pictures of the flowers (journaling is an important aspect of farming so I get them to draw stuff for me).  Separating out the seeds from the fluff is an end in itself.  At this stage, they just want the seeds so they can grow more plants.  Then they find out later they can make yarn from the fluffy stuff!

Linen is a bit more tricky with kids because of the spikes.  But they like growing it.

Working with wool can be done from an early age.  Lots of different ways like felting, weaving, spinning.  

The kids I've borrowed can start spinning at about three years old (I treadle the wheel and they do the drafting on my lap, then they get board and they treadle the wheel while I draft the yarn) and use a drop spindle from about four years old.  I usually start them on a Rigid Heddle Loom at about 4 years old.  But if they have an older sibling to guide them, I start them weaving younger.  It's a great thing to have a loom set up for when we are cooking.  

What I did in the past is to use the yarn they made earlier as part of the weft of their weaving.  Then when the kids have gone home, I sew the cloth into a small bag for them to keep things in.  That way they can see the finished product they 'made' from planting those cotton seeds and helping to feed the sheep.

Children seem to be remarkably good at understanding cause and effect over time.  Much better than most adults I know (including myself).  But at the start, each step is a goal in itself (planting the seeds, learning that we water the soil - not the plants, journaling/drawing, paintbrush pollinating cotton, harvest, fibre/seed extraction, spinning, weaving).  Only at the end when they see the final project, they can look back and see the cause and effect which makes more excitement for the next time.

 
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Are you in Victoria, BC? If so, check out Knotty By Nature for wool and spinning/knitting/felting supplies. Incredible shop, incredible owners. I fall in love again with fiber every time I step into there.
 
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the idea about planting cotton and watching it grow is a great one. at age 3, 4, 5 I`m not sure most kids have the manual dexterity to actually work cotton or flax fibers and make anything (R Ranson I salute you!!!)-- i would think once they hit 7, 8, 9 would be better.
If it were me I would go about growing cotton and maybe even flax plants for them to see how the fiber grows and is extracted, and then I would go hunting for repurposed fibers (used clothing store for a cotton sweater, flax might be harder to find but not impossible, to unravelor cut apart and use the fiber for some craft, either knitting sewing, etc.). My point is you don't have to do the entire process for them to understand it (I also work with fiber, and that $14,000 sweater thing is real), the amount of labor and time involved in these projects from start to finish is insane and way too much to expect from kids.
Plus teaching them to repurpose things is a great lesson.

While I`d wait on producing clothes right now, I think all three of the kids have the abilities needed to do the same sort of thing with food production (growing beans, maybe even oats).
(When I was in college I had a job designing hand-on educational programs for an art museum. We did a unit on flax but it was based on making canvas and other materials for oil painting. A major challenge with these programs is matching the complexity of the activities with the skills that each age group of kids has.)
 
r ranson
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I've read that in communities where people grow their own clothing, children are taught to spin yarn at a very early age.  Usually about 3 or 4 years old.

At that age, my friends' kids have a pretty decent attention span, given the right task and encouragement.  Spinning and weaving can last for hours.  I'm bord long before the kids are.  
 
Nicole Alderman
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I think one thing that people often forget/don't know is just how able small children are. Part of it is kids and parents often get in the habit of thinking that a child can't do something, because they didn't used to be able to (or the child wants the parent to do it for various physchological reasons). When I taught preschool, parents were often amazed what their three year olds could do, because in their mind, they still think of their child's abilities as what they were when they were 2. When the child is in another situation, with a teacher/another parent, they often step up to tasks that they wouldn't with their own parents.

And, since I worked with the same age group, I knew what three year olds could do. It allowed me to stretch the children to that level where they and their parents wouldn't know they could.

Having said that, I've totally failed in teaching my son fine-motor stuff. He refuses to do it (won't do crafts at church or library group or at home) and I'm often protective of my materials (another reason parents often don't teach their kids stuff...). Seeing that Raven's got three year olds spinning shows me that my son probably CAN do it. And, he actually is really interested in my drop spindle. I think I'll get it out again today and let him take a whirl...
 
Liza Stallsmith
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I totally agree that young kids can do spinning and weaving. Though I will admit it doesn't interest all children. My children all learned it at an early age, but not all of them do it now. I still have a teenage son that every once in awhile will walk up and grab my drop spindle as it is close to spinning out and spin it for me as he grins at me.

I believe children feed off our vibes of what we think they can do. You get the right teacher or person near them and they are willing to try anything. They are social individuals who often feed off circumstances and small nonverbal signs that as verbal adults we forget to watch for.

I often use my drop spindle in public. I cannot remember or count all the times I have had total stranger's young children sitting at my feet willingly spinning my drop spindle for me because they have shown an interest. Sometimes I even get them drafting the roving also. I always try to tell them were the local spinners meet and encourage them to bring their child there if interested. If I stay in one place long enough I will have someone more often then not a young child 6 and down helping me spin. The magic of the drop spindle and my belief that they can do it makes them willing to try. I am hooked on the joy it brings to them so I am willing to let them try and break or cut the yarn that is to different from mine off later at home, but often I give it to them as we have to part. I have memories of taking my mother to the doctor and sitting in the waiting room with other patient's children helping me spin. She would come out and say. "I am sorry you can't play with my daughter anymore I need her to take me home." lol

I use to teach crafts to over 100 kids for a week out of every summer. It took some of them awhile to adjust to me and my crazy hard crafts, but after doing it for several years they came in excited to see what we were making and just glowed in my helpers and my belief that they could do it and praise of their finished project.

It works best if the teacher has mastered the skill that they are trying to teach the child.
 
Lito George
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Lots of great replies and of course ideas here - thank you very much. (thumbs up)

Yes, I am in Victoria, so I'll check out that shop Knotty by Nature which sounds good.

I'll be happy to grow those plants and see what we can come up. The girls were exposed to bees on the farm; my Mennonite neighbour had a very successful organic honey business and he placed 25 hives on my land (and I ran his cows too).

On that note, I was thinking silkworms - for making silk. Anyone know where to gain access to a large Mulberry tree in Victoria BC?

The kids have fun watching the worms eat, poop, then spin cocoons. I am wondering what they could do with them afterwards? I know that have silkies was a veritable right of passage in South Africa as a kid, so I'm curious how it works over here.
 
Emma Cross
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Lito George wrote:

On that note, I was thinking silkworms - for making silk. Anyone know where to gain access to a large Mulberry tree in Victoria BC?

.



Try Verna and Bob Duncan's farm in Sidney.

https://www.fruittreesandmore.com/

EDIT:

There is also a mulberry tree at The People's Apothecary behind the Victoria School of Art!

https://goo.gl/maps/JugWEJbJ7VQ2
 
r ranson
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There used to be a huge mulberry tree at the Legislative building.  I don't know if it's still there but many people have harvested silk food from it over the years (with permission).

if you find a source of silk 'seed' in Victoria, please let me know.  
 
Lito George
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This is pure awesome. I'm going to check out those websites to see if I can grab some silkworms, because they are truly fun to watch as they do their entire life cycle.

Thanks too for the Mulberry Tree locations. Nothing beats local knowledge!

RRanson, do  you want to collab a bit on the silkworm bit? You are the guru with making clothes, and I showed my girls a bit of your video yesterday where you were spinning

Edit: got RRanson's name correctly spelled.
 
r ranson
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Collaborating would be a lot of fun.  
 
Lito George
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Sounds good. I took a gander at your website - but have a feeling that the collab details are better served through a message? What medium do you prefer?
 
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