#ThinkDoMAKE: Wood, Plastic, Paper, Metal & Textiles

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Experimenting with materials in textiles
These activities were originally part of the 2016-2017 Textiles Teacher Roadshow

Practical activities and ideas are provided as a starting point only. Students should use these as inspiration as part of an iterative design process developing the idea further themselves. Credit should be given to the original source where appropriate.

The materials

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Download a presentation to find more out about each material. You can also click on the links above to see where to buy the non textiles materials.

Experimental activities

  • Some activities work better with some materials than others & finding out what works is part of the learning so keep all of your ‘mistakes’
  • Keep samples small to save time & materials
  • Don’t start to machine too close to the edge of a material as some might get stuck
  • If layers of materials are thick start the machine by hand to check the needle won’t break
  • If you have problems machining plastics & wood a teflon presser foot will help
  • Needle holes in some materials will be permanent so think before you sew!
  • Some materials will blunt your needle quite quickly
  • When doing hand sewing if the needles won’t puncture the fabric use an awl or punch to create stitch holes
  • The materials can be cut with scissors including the wood, metal and plastics. All materials are suitable for use in a sewing machine. Teachers are advised to experiment with materials themselves before using them with students in order to understand the behaviour and limitations of the materials.

Roadshow materials handout

Download a handout with ideas on what experiments might be carried out

Decorate materials with hand or machine embroidery

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Decorate materials with hand or machine applique

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Layer materials on top of each other 

Weave materials together

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Joining different materials together in different ways

What did you find out?

  • How are the materials constructed?
  • What are their properties?
  • What are their limitations?
  • What techniques work well?
  • What tips would you give for using the materials?
  • What other ideas & techniques would you like to try?

Project ideas

  • How might the ideas be used in a product? E.g. cuffs/bracelets, wrist straps for phone, watch strap, jewellery, cat/dog collar, bag strap, luggage strap, pockets, collars, embellishments, bags, home furnishings, garments
watch necklace keyring

Project idea developed by Louise Burnett at Thomas Estley Community College, Leicestershire

Louise Burnett at Thomas Estley Community College in Leicestershire developed the  material experiments from the Roadshow she attended into a year 10 starter activity to introduce the D&T GCSE. Students were given a range of materials, including flexible wood veneer, duct tape (polyethylene), metal eyelets, leather, denim, ribbon, and buttons. Students experimented with the materials and created gift tag designs. 


As well as the practical activity students also researched all the materials they used and their properties. Students enjoyed the project and Louise felt that the project showed that students were open to using mixed materials to design and make with.


Project idea developed by Suzie McNulty and Paddy Conner from Godolphin School, Salisbury

Suzie is an RM specialist with very little textiles experience who attended the Textiles Teacher Roadshow with an interest in broadening her skills with the D&T GCSE in mind. She was particularly interested in the non textiles materials delegates experimented with on the sewing machine and these activities, along with an article I posted on my Facebook page on wooden wallets, inspired her and her TA Paddy Conner to experiment further with stitching with wood. These samples show their experiments with laser cut plywood to create a flexible material which has been backed with neoprene and stitched to make a wallet similar to the Arbor Wallets

Wood wallet

#ThinkDo Resources to support the learning linked to the experimental work

  • Click on the images to see a larger version & to download the handout
maple veneer copy

Creative paper knitting yarn copy

Neoprene copy

Non woven basket copy

polartec fleece copy

polypropylene products copy

Twill weave denim copy

Other Links

  • This article by Marie O’Mahony who has written a number of books about how textiles is changing. The article kicks off with the statement  ‘As the demands made on textiles have increased, the nature of what is defined as “textile” has greatly expanded, often including non-textiles or treating them in a textile manner.’ Later in the article it also talks about ‘treating materials such as ceramic, wood and stone in a textile manner’ describing how this ‘can imbue them with characteristics not possible in conventional processes’. The article goes on to say that architects and the building industry are big early adopters of this technology, followed by applications in medicine, industrial design and product design. Sommers Plastics, one of the companies mentioned in the article, is worth a look – search for stone textiles and wood textiles which can be cut and stitched in the same way as a traditional textiles material with lots of industrial and fashion applications.
  • Look at the work of Jessica Grady, an embroidery artist who uses a range of recycled materials and components in her work.
  • Central St. Martin’s graduate Alexandra Sipa’s 2020 collection called Romanian Camouflage was inspired by traditional Romanian lace making but instead of traditional yarns uses discarded electrical wires based on her experienced in Romania where waste is valued and used.

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