Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The impatient art teacher's new apron (a tutorial)

Confession:  I cannot teach art without an apron on. There's a reason why certain professions have a uniform. Certain professions require appropriate clothing for safety and/or for identification purposes. I don't want to wear a complete uniform every day like my students do, but putting on my apron is like my uniform. It automatically puts me in a "ready-to-work" frame of mind, it protects my nice school-appropriate clothing (why can't art teachers where jeans and a t-shirt all the time????), and most importantly it gives me a place to put my hands and the random markers, pencils, erasers, glue stick, scissors, etc that I either need for demonstration or that kids pick up off the floor and hand to me. The previous art teacher at my school bequeathed me a lovely brushed cotton canvas apron in purple that I LOVE. Somehow he left it to me in near-pristine condition. I am a much messier art teacher than he, and after 2 years the bib has become so encrusted with paint and glue that I feel like I can't walk out of my room for fear they'll think some hobo got into the building. 
Needless to say, it's time for a new one. Then this past week, Cassie Stephens known for "What the Art Teacher Wore" suggested an apron sew-along project on our facebook art teacher group, and I felt inspired to just jump and do it. Another teacher shared a pattern for a crossover pinny style apron that I've been drooling over- I must have 5 different versions of it on my "If Wishes were Horses" board on Pinterest. But I'm an impatient person sometimes. I couldn't wait for Cassie's tutorial. I couldn't wait for the internet at Fleisher to work properly enough for me to find the pattern that had been shared. And I certainly couldn't wait to make a paper pattern first... who needs a pattern? I completed this project in the studios at Fleisher Art Memorial over the course of an hour and a half while my daughter attended their teen lounge.
Here you go. This is how to make a crossover pinny pattern based on estimated measurements and rectangles.
  • Select a heavyweight cotton, linen, or denim. Those cute patterned quilt cottons are too thin for a sturdy, protective apron. Make sure you have a piece wide enough to wrap around your chest from front to meet in back. The piece should be long enough to stretch about from your shoulder to your knee.
  • Cut about a 6-8 inch strip off the top of your fabric. This will become the straps.

making straps

  •  fold strip in half along the length, then fold raw edges in toward the center (like double folded bias tape). Sew along the open edge.

topstitch strap for studiness

  •  If desired, topstitch along the edge of the center fold as well so your long strip has 2 parallel lines of stitching down either side about 1/8 of an inch from edge.

1 long one becomes 2 shorter ones

  •  Cut the long strap in half to make 2 shorter straps. You may need to cut more off later to make sure they are the correct length. It's just easier to sew it as one long one first.

hem the big rectangular

  •  Next we finish off the edges of the big rectangle which will make the apron body. Turn raw edges under about 1 inch and turn under again. I like to use my finger as a guage. From fingertip to first knuckle is about an inch

the impatient person's ruler

  •  Turn one edge and stitch down about 1/8 inch from turned edge. I did the 2 selvedge sides first, then the top and bottom hems.

more topstitching

  •  Once all 4 edges are hemmed, topstitch around outer edge of entire rectangle about 1/8 inch from edge.

wrap around  to fit straps

  •  Once edges are hemmed it's time to attach straps. Wrap rectangle around yourself so edges meet at your spine. It might help to have someone help you hold that there.

finding strap locations

  •  Find and mark the points on the front where you would like to have your straps attached. I like mine about 4-5 inches from center, but they could be farther apart if desired.


  •  It's a good idea to doublecheck your symmetry. Fold fabric in half and make sure your 2 strap points match and are equidistant from the center fold.

attach straps on front

  •  Fold one strap end up about  inch and line up end on back side of hem on top edge of fabric (important to remember if your fabric has a directional pattern!). The folded-under end should be hidden once sewn. Start at one edge and sew a square with an X inside, following previous stitching if possible,

 The stitched box makes a strong connection that is unlikely to tear if pulled. Sew across top, down side, across bottom, up side, diagonal to corner, across bottom, and diagonal to opposite corner. Whenever starting and ending seams remember to backstitch a little.
measure strap and attach to opposite back corner

  •  Check your fit. Have someone help you if possible. Wrap apron around you again, Take left strap over your shoulder and cross to right corner and pin. If it's too long cut it shorter, make sure both straps are cut to the same length. Make sure strap doesn't get twisted. Fold under end and sew to corner like before.

Other strap!

  •  Match right strap to back left corner. fold under edge and attach as before. Try it on! Your pinny might be done!! Or not...

Mine needed a dart

  •  My pinny felt too bulky under the arms so I decided to make a dart. I came in an inch and angled to fold so it would end just under the bust. I went vertically down the fold, but it could have been angled in towards the bust instead for a better fit. I marked the angle and sewed along the line on both sides of my pinny. The seam could be trimmed and ironed flat, or topstitched to one side.

missing something important

  •  Try it on and see where you'd like your pockets to go

 I think the proportions would be better on me with wider straps....

  • You'll need some extra fabric for pockets, either the same or contrasting fabric. Once I ripped back pockets off my dad's worn-out jeans to make pockets for an apron. You could make 2 separate square pockets. I went for one long rectangle pouch. 
  • Turn edges under about 1/2 inch and stitch down, just like when you hemmed the big rectangle apron piece. But don't topstitch the edges this time. The topstitching will be how the pocket is attached to the apron.

Pins needed this time!!!!!

  •  Doublecheck pocket placement and pin corners and centers of sides. Start at a top corner and stitch down side, across bottom and up side. At the corners it's good to do some extra backstitching. To turn the wide pouch into 2 pockets just sew a line up the center of the pouch. 

Ahh. Now I have a place to put my hands and all the random stuff that accumulates. These pockets are super deep. they're a little invisible, though because I lined up the print. It's so easy to slip on and off, and I don't have to worry about my strings always coming untied. This is a very forgiving pattern for size. I imagine it would be great for any art teachers going through maternity ( not me!! don't worry!). I like how far it wraps around me, and will protect my backside from those random flings of paint or kids who love to walk up to me with sopping wet paintings..

I've still got about 2 yards of this fabric left for further exploration. I don't like the bulk under the arm because of the very straight rectangular edge across the top. This style might hang better on a less curvy person than me. I also think wider straps would look better. I'm going to see what Cassie comes up with and maybe make a second one, or try the more curved patterns I've seen elsewhere. A pattern that dips down in an arm scye might work better for me. Also, having separate front and back pieces might be better, as a side seam would allow for some A-line shaping for a more gracefully-hanging apron.

At least I've got a new apron. Maybe now I'll feel in the mood for working on next year's curriculum mapping....

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Reflecting on new National Art Standards

The NAEA has rolled out the new National Art Standards to align with common core, and so far I'm very intrigued with the ways it can help me get a big picture of my curriculum and what I want my students to learn in each grade. I haven't explored them totally in-depth yet. I'm following along with the series of webinars the NAEA is hosting over the summer as my personal professional development. Tonight I downloaded the "at-a-glance" standards charts. It's a lot of information to absorb at once. So, being an artist and visual learner I thought I would play with some imagery to help myself understand all the concepts.
 First of all, there are 4 main activities students should be doing in art class: responding,creating,connecting, and presenting. These 4 activities are interdependent and cyclical, which is why I arranged them in the frame above. I selected the images on purpose For "CREATE", my Kinder Thankful hands image has a picture of the artist inside her hand on an abstract background- a project that involved painting, coloring, cutting, and collage, plus the HAND is essential for creating in my perspective. For "CONNECT" I used one of my 5th grader's self-portrait monoprints because the artist's eyes connect with the viewer and in that project students were connecting the history of self-portraiture with contemporary social media practice of taking selfies. For "PRESENT" I used an image of the first collaborative project I did with my students- a self-portrait mural in rainbow colors that took something small and individual and became huge and inclusive once they were all put together for display. For "RESPOND" I used a collage and embellishment image my 5th graders did last year which involved using someone else's artwork as a resource and which involved a successful group critique to determine best approaches for creating unity and emphasis.  So, these images have personal meaning for the context of the 4 aspects of art class.
 I went through the entire at-a-glance standards chart, which shows anchor standards for each of the 4 concepts. Each anchor has an "Enduring understanding", a big idea. I'm trying to see the big picture of my curriculum- what should my students understand and be able to do? What's the point of all these projects we do? How is it relevant? Why does your average individual in today's society need art education? What does it do for our society? Ok.. a little overboard there. But the enduring understandings are helpful. and not overwhelming. I took the enduring understandings under the category of "CREATE" and made some more collages. I like the 2 ideas in the one above- which basically come down to 1-people make stuff and that's an awesome part of being human and 2- you CAN and should learn how to be creative.
Then there were 4 more understandings under CREATE that seemed more concrete. When we make art we 1- play with materials, ideas, and the elements & principles of art, 2- we refer to and are part of flexible artistic traditions, 3-it's not just fun, and 4-you have to practice to get better.

I think I'll make more of these, maybe make them a little more aesthetically pleasing and turn them into a bulletin board for my room. It will help me internalize these ideas if I see them in my environment every day.
Sometimes the things I put on the walls in my classroom are for my kids, but a lot of times they are for me as a reminder to reflect on whether I'm following procedures and achieving the goals I set out to meet.

Friday, July 11, 2014

This year in 5th grade

Well, I know what I have to work on for next year. 5th grade.....
Whereas most of my grades completed 8 or more projects over the year, it looks like 5th only got through 6, and I only have pictures here of 4 of them...
Almost all of the projects focused on some part of identity. My major problems with 5th stem from them being soooooooooooooooooo talkative and not working enough, and me planning projects that were too long and drawn out for them to sustain focus on. Add into that my interns usually want to experiment with this group because they are the only class that I see twice in one day, giving an opportunity for practice with one group before being observed with the second group.
So here's a look at some things we did in 5th grade this year:

We learned how to use rulers and compasses to make non-objective art. We also learned about analogous color harmonies:
 We learned how to make a tessellation and ho to shade values in colored pencil:
 We learned one point perspective and how to creat a sense of space through color, size, and placement in a still-life:
 We learned how to make a monoprint and use color for expressive purposes in a "selfie":
We also learned how to sew and applique a quilt square, but sadly I have no pictures of this.

Up for next year:
-more routines
-shorter/smaller projects!!!

Monday, July 7, 2014

This year in fourth grade

I had a huge range of characters in my fourth grade classes this year- some amazing artists, some chatterboxes, and some kids who just didn't like art. I tried to persuade them that art was awesome and even if you don't think you can make art, you can! We go into more in-depth projects in 4th grade, and it seems like some of them drag on forever. So my 4th graders didn't complete as many projects as my lower grades. We did elements and principles of art, a huge unit on Medieval art, American art and landscapes, and finally figurative art. There's a lot I want to change for next year, but here's what we learned about this year:

We learned about the elements of art (line, shape, color, value, pattern/texture, and space):
 We learned about op art and geometric forms, but alas I have NO pictures of our awesome paper sculptures...
We learned about Medieval art and craft, the guild system, and the patronage of the church and did projects including manuscripts and armor:
 and stained glass:
 We learned about American artist Jasper Johns and focused on stte symbols and emphasis:
 We learned about the Impressionist art movement and pointilism to create landscapes:
 We learned about proportion in figures and how to create movement in an artwork:
We also made figure sculptures which I also failed to photograph....
I'm considering switching up how I do things in my upper grades to involve more choice to hopefully engage the range of interests. Maybe using choice boards- like do 2 out of these 3 options to show you know the material. I also want to build in more feedback and reflection into my assessment of the upper grades. It may involve using sketchbooks with 4th grade as well as 5th. Or building in more routines... I have to think some more.....

Sunday, July 6, 2014

This year in 3rd grade

I had a great time with my 3rd graders this year. They have art first thing in the morning, and it's such a great time of day for focused creativity. They are also a good group of kids who haven't lost their sense of curiosity. I'm also generally pleased with the scope of projects we did together and how successful the kids were in each media.
So here's what we did in 3rd grade art this year:
We learned about symmetry. We practiced cutting and collage skills, and created a mask-like monster using the letters of our names to create unique shapes.
 We learned about different types of lines and about negative and positive space. However our cutting skills were not as advanced as our line-drawing skills, and many of the kids struggled with this project. Although the results look interesting, there was not enough content to the imagery in this project to engage the kids well. This needs to be adapted for next year.
 We learned how to create a sense of movement in a picture by using lines. This was a great one day project.
 We learned about self-portraits and how artists express emotions through expression and emotional color. Although I love this project, and it as an improvement over last year's "conversation" portrait project, I feel like I'm missing something. The kids take so long to paint it! But I think painting a smaller picture would be difficult too. Invariably they struggle with noses too...
We learned about how to create a sense of space in a picture through warm and cool color, scale, overlap, and placement on the picture plane. This year we made our own scratchart and then drew an outer space landscape. But I miss the variety of the pop-up landscapes I did last year. I might switch the scratchart project to an abstract project instead. It would also work on positive and negative space.

 We learned about complementary colors, tints, and shades and ho to blend oil pastels. We also learned about the still-life genre and drew healthy and unhealthy things.Finally we used mosaic squares to make a patterned border. I love how these turned out, but I think I would go smaller next year. One kid who missed several classes did just as good a job on a smaller piece of paper and was able to complete the border in half the time. The border really took way too long, and since the kids generally draw small anyway, their still-life objects were lost in a sea of negative space.
 We learned about Gyotaku fish printing from Japan. We learned how to make a relief print from an object, but also by drawing into styrofoam. These were beautiful and the kids really enjoyed printing.
 The last quarter was dedicated to craft. We learned about traditional American embroidery samplers by school-age children in the 18th century. We learned how to stitch running and whip stitches and how to sew on a button. This was many students' favorite project of the year.
 We learned how to create a coiled vessel in clay. We saw both traditional and contemporary craftspeople have used this form in their work. We also made a painting in response to the completed bowls to "camouflage" it.
I'm excited to work with 3rd grade again next year. One of the teachers asked me to integrate with their science curriculum and create a project that uses "simple machines". I love to integrate with other core curriculum and collaborate with my colleagues!