Fifth Graders, as part of their study of early American history, began planting a fiber arts garden. They learned how colonial Americans had to create their own cloth from fibers they grew, such as cotton, flax, and wool, and then spin, dye, and knit or weave the fibers into cloth. Cloth was then used for clothing and other household goods, then reused and repurposed when it wore out as clothing. Old clothing might become a quilt, curtains, a woven rag rug, or some other article of clothing for another family member.
Fifth graders viewed some samples of cloth that was soaking in the juice of red sorrel, which grows in our school garden, as well as turmeric, a common yellow spice. Prepared silk, which had been soaked in mordants of cream of tartar and alum, was soaked in the ground up plants, and an hour or so later, had turned a bright pink and deep yellow color. Beets were also introduced as a dye plant, but surprisingly as a tan dye, not a red dye.
Students then went into the garden to plant flax for fibers, purple cabbage, and yellow onions. Later in the year, they will experiment with making more dyes and dying more cloth, just as colonial Americans did.