Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Art Project: "Painting" with Wool & Burlap

Giving children a chance to create with natural materials is of utmost importance to me. It is vital to their physical and spiritual well-being to connect with the natural world. As a result, I am constantly looking for ways to do art projects using the gifts of nature.

When planning the Easter Club this year, I decided to try an idea from Birgit, the Waldorf educator in my children's former kindergarten. (She was also the inspiration behind the autumn leaf crown and nature nativity projects. ) We "painted" with wool roving and burlap.

Burlap (I learned from Featherglen that it is called "hessian" in British English!) is a 100% natural material and therefore extremely eco-friendly. Wool roving will stick to it without any type of glue, and children can make beautiful pictures with these two materials. This is, of course, a simplified version of what we call "dry felting", but without a felting needle. 

The picture below is an example that I made (of Jesus being baptized in the Jordan by John the Baptist) to show the children.

Before the children began to work with the wool, I gave them this advice:  rather than tearing off a huge piece of wool (which is a natural tendency), it is better to tear off a small piece and then layer the small pieces onto one another. This way the wool adheres to the burlap more easily. 

Then, I demonstrated these techniques:
- rolling a small piece in the palm of the hand like play-dough
- stretching the wool very thin to make for a wispier look and for layering larger areas like landscapes
- rolling the wool into a long, thin "snake" to make strips

Children will become easily frustrated in this activity without these basic guidelines. (There may be others, so feel free to share from your experience in the comments!) Though the feel of the wool is pleasing, they will tear off a piece way too large and not be able to make it stick to the burlap. They also might not know how to shape it. 

My students, 1-4 graders, were quick learners and produced some beautiful work:

An "impressionistic" bunch of flowers . . . 

a little black mole frolicking above ground . . . 

a sunny landscape . . . 

a baby chick . . . 

and a menorah . . . 

With some of the looser pictures, I lightly went over them with a felting needle to make them stick a little more. And to transport the artwork home (always a concern for art teachers!), we carefully rolled up the burlap. As long as the child carefully unrolls it at home, the picture will remain intact.

 . . . . . . 

Ich versuche Kindern immer Kunstprojekten anzubieten, die mit Naturmaterial zu tun haben. Bei der OsterAG dieses Jahr habe ich mit für Wollebilder auf Jutestoff entschieden. Diese Art von "Malen" ist eine taktile Vergnügung und die Ergebnisse wunderschön.

Allerdings brauchen die Kinder zum Anfang ein paar Hinweise, sonst werden sie schnell frustriert:
- mit kleinen Stücken Wolle zu arbeiten, damit die Wolle zum Jutestoff klebt
- eine Demonstration, was man mit der Wolle machen kann, z.B. zum Ball formen wie man mit Knete macht

Die Kinder haben gut zugehört und haben danach ganz kreative Bilder gemacht!

linked to Waldorf Wednesday at Seasons of Joy

and Friday's Nature Table at The Magic Onions

and Montessori Monday at Living Montessori Now

and Eco Kids' Tuesday at Organic Aspirations and Like Mama - Like Daughter


  1. What beautiful art work! I wish my roving basket was as tidy as yours!

    1. Hi Rachel, Thanks! You should have seen the basket after the kids got a hold of it.: ) That picture was taken before the Easter Club!

  2. OH, I'm excited to try this. We bought some roving this summer and haven't had any success with what we've done. I know we can do this! Thanks!!

  3. So beautiful. What a great idea, I was expecting you to wet felt, but I love the loose wool like that, so pretty.

    1. Thanks, Angie! We may try the wet felting in the future, but I wasn't sure with 14 kids and limited space how that would work.: )