It’s time to shed the sweaters, coats and gloves, and create a bit of fun with a festive shirt that welcomes the warm, carefree summer days ahead! My fourth-graders designed these great paper shirts.
As the first session began, students worked on designing random patterns. To prevent the designs from becoming too contrived, I decided to be a bit sneaky and not tell them these designs would eventually be used for a shirt. This caused them to focus their attention exclusively on the creation of the designs and the patterns.
Students brainstormed possible designs. We drew as many examples as possible on the board to create a visual bank of design ideas. We discussed the use of small, medium and large designs, which would create variety in the patterns.
Then, each student received three sheets of copy paper, and was instructed to create a sheet of large designs, a sheet of medium designs and a sheet of small designs. They had the option of using the design bank on the board or inventing their own designs.
Students were then given three more sheets of copy paper for creating patterns. Using the earlier design sheets for tracing, students created three different random—but repeating—patterns that filled each page. Each random pattern required three different designs in three different sizes.
Students used broad-tipped permanent black markers to trace the small, medium and large designs onto the pattern pages. The large nib keeps the designs simple and bold, and the tracing keeps the design size uniform.
Once the three different pattern pages were complete, each student chose his or her best pattern page to leave with me while they took the other two pattern pages home. Before our second class session, I made six copies of each student’s pattern. (You could use five copies and the original as the sixth, but I wanted them to have the original as a record of the starting point of the process.)
At the beginning of the second session, excitement grew as students received the copies of their patterns. Students watched as I demonstrated how to assemble the shirt.
First, four pattern sheets are glued together vertically to make the body of the shirt. The collar is formed by leaving a slit at the top and folding the corners back.
For the sleeves, we tried cutting a copy page in half, but this makes them too skinny and out of proportion to the rest of the shirt. Instead, a sleeve template was made. And just like sewing, students used two pattern pages with their right sides turned together. Next, the sleeve template was placed on the paper “fabric,” and cut out to form the sleeves.
The shirts were glued with white glue. Students were encouraged to use the glue sparingly. (One student asked if he could iron his shirt if it got a wrinkle!)
Once glued together, students used watercolor paint to add some color to the shirt patterns. I prefer to set out watered-down, custom-mixed tempera paint in muffin tins. It’s beneficial for students to see color possibilities outside of the traditional primary colors that art-supply companies offer in student-grade paint.
During the final session, students added buttons to complete the shirt. (I bought a huge can of buttons at a flea market for pennies. Buttons are also available through art-supply catalogs.) The kids had a blast searching for the right color and style of button that would complement their shirt. They used a cool-melt glue gun and attached the buttons to the shirt.
With the remaining time in class, we discussed the feeling the shirts had. Which one would you wear? Why? Which one would sell the most? How come? Does one look more masculine or feminine? What makes you think so? We also discussed how fashion designers make a living creating art.
These unique and colorful shirts made quite the display in the halls. Parents and teachers alike marveled while “shopping” through these specially designed shirts. I probably should have pinned the paper shirt to the designer and taken a picture. There’s an idea for next year!
Elementary students will …
• identify student-created patterns.
• investigate the connection between patterns and rhythm.
• create variety using different-sized designs.
• discuss personal artwork and the artwork of others.
• White copy paper
• Black broad-tipped markers
• Cool-melt glue guns and glue
• White glue
• Copy machine
Temple Skelton Moore is an art teacher at Prairie Grove (Ark.) Primary School.
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