Fast, Fun & Easy Incredible Thread-A-Bowls Class Plan

by Wendy Hill

Suggested Class Title
Suggestion #1: Fast, Fun & Easy Incredible Thread-A-Bowls
Suggestion #2: Thread-Web Constructions in 3D

Class Description
Make three-dimensional vases, cups and bowls using fun filler materials held together with a stitched web of thread. Making a thread-web bowl is a fun and forgiving process. Students will experiment with a variety of materials, thread types, and stitch styles, including free-motion stitching. Any problems, such as thread tension or tucks, vanish with the water-soluble stabilizer. All that is left is a beautiful thread-web bowl or vase.

Warning!
Making thread-web bowls, cups and vases can be hazardous. You'll find yourself making creations for yourself or as gifts just as fast as you can make them—housework may suffer as a result! Your stash will increase with thread, yarns, ribbons, and other odd items as you shop. Fisherman in the house: hide your fly-fishing supplies immediately!

Length of Session
Option 1, 6 Hours
(Full Day): In six hours students will be able to create two bowls. Use the morning to make a shaped bowl (projects start on pages 31, 35 or 40). While it is drying, make a molded bowl (projects start on pages 22 or 26). Fill in remaining class time with short demonstrations about using a variety of filler materials (pages 6-8), forms for molding (pages 9-10), adding embellishments (page 45), how to seal the finished dried constructions (page 11, 17, and 21), and so on as you decide after reading through the book.

Option 2, Demo: This technique is perfectly adaptable to a demonstration. Make one or more bowls ahead of time, showing the mold used to make the molded sample bowls. Gather filler materials, Sulky Solvy, acrylic spray, and thread. Prepare step-by-step samples to demonstrate the process. To end the demo, actually dissolve and mold a bowl in front of the eyes of the audience.

Option 3, Series: A store might want to offer a "bowl of the month" series. Follow the project directions to make each kind of bowl or vase in the book.

Student Skill Level
Beginners are welcome in this workshop. I've worked with children as young as 10 years old with no sewing experience. In fact, this is a fun way for students new to sewing to get acquainted with sewing machines since no skill is required with the stitching.

Instructor/Student Supply Lists
Required text: Fast, Fun & Easy® Incredible Thread-A-Bowls by Wendy Hill
See page 12 for a general supply list, along with the supply lists given for each project. Use this information to develop your supply list. If students bring all of their own filler materials, encourage swapping of stuff - it doesn't take much to make a bowl, and there is usually enough to go around.

Consider a Kit!
Basic Kit: Offer a kit of filler materials so students can jump right into making their first bowl. Each kit could be a little different or they could be identical. Include a little bit of everything shown on pages 6-8, including bits of fly-fishing supplies and artificial flower petals and leaves. Students would bring their own thread and other supplies.

Expanded Kit: Include newsprint, parchment paper, water-soluble stabilizer, molds and a wooden skewer per person. Offer the use of cans of UV-resistant acrylic spray (which go home with you after class). This simplifies and lowers the cost of each student's supply list.

Note:
Acrylic Spray: This is used to seal the thread-web constructions. Without it, the dried thread-web absorbs moisture from the air and deflates (sooner in moist climates, later in dry climates).

Water Soluble Stabilizer: After trying a variety of brands, I prefer Sulky Solvy (Super and Ultra weights). It sews well, dissolves in comfortably warm water, and doesn't wash out too fast or too slowly.

Teaching Instructions

Overview
Be sure to read through the "getting started" chapter beginning on page 5. Read about the wide variety of filler materials (page 6), forms for molding (page 9), and the basic supplies needed for any project (page 12). The next chapter, "bowl basics," shows how to make a molded and a shaped bowl with detailed step-by-step photographs. This is a good place for you to get an overview about creating thread-web constructions by making actual bowls as you read along. Use your own finished bowls for classroom samples and inspiration.

I recommend making a shaped bowl first, so the students can fiddle with their bowl as it dries. Read about "fiddling" on page 21 in the "bowl basics" chapter. By making a molded bowl second, the student can easily transport the wet bowl home. Provide instructions for how to unmold the bowl and seal it at home.

Ideally the first bowl will be dry before the end of class, but the bowls might still be damp if there is a lot of moisture in the air or if the bowls are fairly dense. Try to speed up the drying process depending on your situation: set a lamp over the drying bowls; set the bowls near an open window; set the bowls in sunlight; and so on.

Project Summaries
The following summaries follow the projects as they appear in the book. You decide which projects to use in your workshop.

Square Bowl
This is an easy molded project with a square or round dish. The directions show how to use seasonal products in the filler materials and as embellishments.

Cylinder Vase with Eyelash Yarn
This is a more involved project because the mold (vase) is generally larger than a dish. The directions show how to use eyelash yarn in a planned (rather than random) way.

Round Bowl with Wavy Sides
This is an easy shaped bowl showing the use of artificial flowers and yarn snippets. Fiddling with the wet thread-web while it dries creates the wavy sides.

Bowl with Motifs
This project uses found motifs - in this case, cut out designs from fabric. The directions show how to avoid the wavy sides, so the bowl dries with straight sides.

Color Bowls
This is a shaped and molded bowl, using clean plastic dome-shaped coffee. The directions show how to mix and blend your own colors using fabric bits and thread.

Classroom Set-Up

  1. Students need space to spread out their filler materials and create their water-soluble stabilizer sandwiches.
  2. Preferably you'll have access to a sink with running water. You can use a tub of water, but since the water will become saturated with the melted stabilizer, the water will need to be replaced often.
  3. You'll need a place to set the bowls to dry. Have the students write their names on a piece of paper to place with their creations- it's amazing how different the bowls will look once dry!

Tips

  1. Using the water-soluble stabilizer: page 8 "fast!"
  2. Bobbin stitching: page 11 "fun!"
  3. Using parchment paper to keep the wet-thread web from sticking: page 17 "easy!"
  4. Trapping small bits of filler between layers of thread: page 23 "easy!"
  5. Playing with variations in density, stitch styles, rims and embellishments: pages 44-45.
  6. Creating more than just bowls and vases with unlimited possibilities: pages 46-47.

Trouble Shooting

  1. Before and After: Students will often lament a choice of thread color, stitch style or filler material because it looks so prominent against the water-soluble stabilizer. Encourage students to persevere since any problems, such as thread tension, hideous thread color, pleats, tucks, and so on, vanish when the stabilizer is washed out. This is all part of the fun and magic of making thread-web constructions.
  2. Ooops: If you don't like the shape of your dried thread-web bowl, you can reshape it if it hasn't been sealed yet. Just get it wet, squeeze it out, and reshape.
  3. Gaps and holes: If the finished thread-web has big gaps and holes, it means the stitching lines did not crisscross thoroughly enough. Just like a spider weaves a web with an underlying structure, you'll need to stitch an underlying grid, and then stitch across this grid in all directions. Remember, it is the way the stitching lines cross each other that makes a thread-web stable: a thread-web can be quite delicate as long as the stitching lines crisscross each other at all angles. For example, the square bowl on page 22 and the cylinder vase on page 30 are both very delicate- but the thread webs cross each other enough to hold together.

Shop owners should stock:

  • Filler Materials: As mentioned above, the instructor or the store may want to offer or require a kit. See information under "Supply Lists".
  • Sulky Super and Ultra Solvy (water soluble stabilizer)

Shop Marketing Opportunities for Fast, Fun & Easy Incredible Thread-A-Bowls

  • Consider promoting a contest:
    These projects would be great for a "thread-web challenge". Use the challenge as inspiration (for the fun of it) or as a contest (offer a viewer's choice award). I suggest opening the challenge up for anything from the book and beyond, as long as it's three-dimensional.
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