Several years ago, a team of archaeologists unearthed evidence of the oldest fibers known to man. These fibers, found at a dig site in the Republic of Georgia, date back roughly 34,000 years old. Made of flax, the same material we use today to weave linen fibers, this fiber would have been used to make cloth and thread, which enabled these ancient peoples to create clothing, shoes, baskets, even ropes, which allowed them to tie things together – a necessity for mobility.
Surprisingly, there is evidence pointing to the painting and decorating of these fibers that is almost as old as the fiber find itself. Using plant dye, these artsy ancestors used the same techniques they used to decorate their bodies to adorn their newly found fabrics, either applying an image directly to the fabric or painting or printing a pattern onto the fabric and then coloring it in.
A multitude of painted fabrics have been found all over the globe, including in Asia, where historians located printing blocks dating back to 3000 B.C. Painted fabrics rapidly became a common trade commodity, passed back and forth throughout Asia, Egypt, and Greece and eventually making their way to Europe and Africa. Printed, resist, and stenciled fabrics became popular in China and Japan— and are the roots of modern day batik and tie-dye.
Fabric painting continues to be a popular process today, with modern-day artists painting everything from upholstered furniture and canvas rugs to one-of-a-kind clothing. Using our Fabric Design lesson plan, your students can try their hands at painted fabric, too.
Students will begin by determining the size and shape of the decorative throw pillow they’ll be designing. Then, they’ll draw or design an original piece on an unprimed canvas. After some practice, they’ll use Liquitex spray paints to outline their designs, finishing them with paint markers with precision nibs and a coat of acrylic gloss or matte medium. Final canvases will be attached to decorated backings, sewn, and stuffed, making the perfect gift.
Click for a complete Fabric Design lesson plan, including step-by-step directions, a material list, and an image of the finished piece.
For Grades 7-12.