Stitch In Time is a collaborative project between WMG and local primary schools for Coventry UK City of Culture 2021. Taking inspiration from Coventry’s textiles history, children in years 5 and 6 learn to create embroidery designs by writing computer programs. The project is support by HVM Catapult.
• Children learn about the role of textiles in Coventry’s history and design patterns inspired by the city.
• Children learn about the role of software and control in industry, business and the arts.
• Children apply programming skills and mathematics in a new context.
• Teachers learn the above skills and knowledge, and are able to teach them to current and future pupils.
The learners’ project begins with an exploration of textiles in Coventry. For example, we look at the names of guild chapels in the Cathedral ruins (cappers, drapers, girdlers and mercers), which suggest to us the success and influence of the textiles trades in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. They learn about Coventry’s tradition of ribbon manufacturing which continues today. Then we look at photos of artefacts held in the Herbert Museum, including samplers and embroidered clothing from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The children learn about the different purposes of embroidery and how it can be used as a historical source.
Then the project transitions to automated pattern making. The children learn that the programming skills they are learning in school have applications in industry, leisure and the arts. They learn that computer programs can control physical machinery, such as assembly lines, rollercoasters, art installations and digital embroidery machines. Watching an embroidery machine in action, they consider how their hand-printed design could be stitched onto fabric.
In order to write a program which instructs a digital embroidery machine to stitch their design, the children learn to use Turtlestitch, a free programming platform created by Andrea Mayr-Stalder and Michael Aschauer. This learning is explicitly linked to the year 5 and 6 maths and computing programmes of study in the national curriculum for England. Through a series of exercises, the children learn to write computer programs to draw out shapes, applying their knowledge of geometry and measurement. Then they create a pattern based on their own design inspired by Coventry, adapting it to take advantage of the greater intricacy which can be achieved by the embroidery machine.
Finally, the children’s programs are used to create digital images, videos and embroidered fabric pieces for display. As well as showing works from participating schools in an online gallery, we will showcase the final pieces in a City of Culture exhibition on campus in April 2022 (TBC).
Teachers can run the project, which can be taught in one day or spread out over five to six weeks, at any time between May 2021 and February 2022, culminating in the children's work being exhibited in April 2022. Teachers will be given training in delivery of the project, alongside a set of tutorial videos for improving their technical knowledge, and teaching and learning resources to use with their class.