A Round Up of Our Cloth Arc Exploration and a Preview into Expression Projects

During a trip to the Asian Art Mue traveled through the ages of Korean clothing from traditional to contemporary. Using the framework of See, Think, Wonder, we took a deeper look at the garments and discovered connections between the past and the present.

Many noticed how simple the garments appeared until they dug deeper and discovered their complexity in construction or the undergarments worn with them.

The second gallery of the exhibit featured couture clothing from high-end designers influenced by the clothing of the past. We wondered if this dress was influenced by the large number of layers in the women’s traditional undergarments.

The final gallery took us off the runway to the present. While these garments were both designed by Koren designers and influenced by traditional clothing, they were strong representations of today. They  incorporated trends in contemporary Western attire and pursued a “zero-waste design.”

Moving from curated couture to fast fashion, we recorded data on clothing at stores such as H&M and Gap. We looked at materials, construction, price and origin of production. Observations such as the quality of the clothing and price, in comparison to the customer service, were made with Nordstrom coming out far ahead of H&M and the Gap.

We also just had to take time to try on the softest stuff in each store.

Internationally known and accomplished weaver Travis Meinolf came to share his stories of weaving around the world and literally on the streets of cities spanning the globe, as well as to teach the Green, Teal, Violet and Amber bands how to backstrap weave.

We discovered how backstrap weaving can be created through working together with partners, weaving from opposite ends of the cloth towards one another. It was incredible to watch partners overcome hurdles and problem solve as a team.

For some it was an incredibly relaxing activity, for others it became a task of intense focus.

As well an act of dedication. A number of students gave up their park time to stay in and finish weaving a scarf they wore with pride the rest of the day.

It was pretty incredible to watch all these focused weavers working together. Travis’s visit has led to a couple Expression projects in both the Green and Violet bands.

In preparation for our field trip to a sheep and cotton farm, Rich shared with the Teal, Violet and Amber bands a presentation on protein and cellulose fibers. We looked at the science behind them and why we use them the way we do for cloth production.

We took a trip to Sally Fox’s sheep and cotton farm, Viriditas. We learned about how she’s been able to produce both cotton and wool and the relationship the two have with one another’s production. It was really cool to hear her story of acquiring her first flock of sheep and the work they did to repair her land.

Sheepies! The farm raises both Merino and Shetland sheep. Do you know how to tell the difference?

With the negative environmental and financial impacts that dyes create, Sally has spent her years studying and developing naturally-colored cotton and successfully invented the first commercially viable method for mass-producing colored cotton.

Here are the three colors of her cotton. We were surprised to learn that the cotton on the left could go from that incredibly pale shade of “green” to a rich dark green through a boiling process.

Sierra and Christian walked us through the once yearly process of sheering all the sheep. She described it as unzipping and removing a coat in the way that they begin down the belly and move outwards.

The next step in the process for the wool was learning to skirt it or simply cleaning anything stuck in it. Once skirted, we learned about the ways that you can distinguish a higher quality fleece from a lower quality. We looked at, felt, and even listened to the wool fibers of a few fleece. In the end, the students made arguments for why they would select one fleece over another.

Our exploration of wool didn’t end on the farm. We selected the fleece we believed to be the highest quality and purchased it. Back at school, we combined our soap we made with our wool, exploring how much lanolin is in the wool, by weighing it, washing it, then weighing it again.

We also take some pretty incredible visual notes.

Who knew all that wool could come off one sheep and all intact.

Diving deeper into natural dyes after learning about Sally Fox’s naturally dyed cotton, the Teal and Violet bands prepared a Lunch to Dye For for Community Lunch. We made salads full of natural dyes such as purple cabbage and yellow onions.

While enjoying lunch, everyone’s swatches of silk sat in the dye baths, soaking in their incredible natural colors.

After weeks of exploring cloth, it was time to start looking towards our Expression Phase. We brainstormed ideas and organized them into similar project focuses. Anyone interested in creating cloth out of human hair? Thankfully this wasn’t one of the selected projects, though it would be interesting.

After being able to answer all the questions Gever had about his project, Viggo was so excited to get his first declaration signed.

We’ve launched right into project time. Nora is spending her days sewing, knitting and crocheting hats and scarves. She’s also inventing phone holding headbands to help with the recording of her work for her how to video she’s making.

Looking to create a “net floor” for the top level of his bunk bed at home, Justin is working through numerous iterations of knots. He’s even taken inspiration from the nets at the batting cages. Yay baseball!

Aurora is working out the details in her three dresses she’s designing and sewing. She’s been learning about the tools needed to create and sew a garment, as well as all the proper steps to successfully design and create one.

Viggo is definitely proud of the work he’s put into drawing out the tessellation that will become the pattern for his wooden blanket. His next steps are trying out multiple smaller scale iterations, testing out different backing materials and adhesives.

Jonah and Roman work from plans to create a materials and cut list for their Book Charkha transportable spinning wheel.

Natalie has already been to the Haas-Lilienthal House and ACT’s costume shop to take photos and record videos for her documentary on 19th century clothing and cloth.


We look forward to sharing more of our Cloth Arc Expression process.