Thursday, May 19, 2011

5th Grade Clotheslines

Last year my 5th grade students voted for this project as their favorite of the year!  I decided it was definitely a keeper.  This was a 2-class period project.

Short description: 5th grade students made mixed media pictures of clothes on a clothesline. First, the students learned how to paint a monochromatic (one color) sky and glued on a yarn clothesline about 1/3 of the way down from the top. In the next class, the students learned that clothing designers have careers in art. Then the students cut miniature pieces of clothing from real fabric and glued them to the background. Buttons and yarn were available for embellishment.

On the first day, we talked about careers in Art and how clothing designers think about line, shape, color, and the other elements of art when designing clothes.  We also talked about how your clothes can show your personality, style, interests, and even your career.  I pointed out that our principal usually wears a nice shirt and tie and I usually wear a paint-covered apron.  Police officers, doctors, athletes, servicemen and women and lots of other people where clothes that work for their jobs.  After the discussion, I explained the project: make a clothesline with clothes on it that show your personality and maybe what you want to be when you grow up.  

I showed the students how to paint a simple sky using tempera paints and how to glue yarn down for the clothesline.  We used a really dense cardboard/fiberboard kind of material for the background last year.  This year we used some thin cardboard pieces, about 8x10 inches, that somebody donated.  I gave each table blue and white tempera and showed the students how to mix a little bit of white in the sky and dab white paint to make clouds without over blending.  I used to have a mental block on clouds because I tried to make them look "perfect".  Now that I am more relaxed not only do I enjoy painting clouds more, they look better.  I suggested gluing the yarn for the clotheslines about 1/3 of the way down from the top.  (Yeah for fractions!)  If you were super organized, you could have every student glue the yarn the same distance from the top so it would form one giant clothesline in the hallway.  I had precut yarn in several colors that was a few inches longer than the boards were wide.  (We taped the extra on the back in the second class so that it wouldn't fray and didn't have to be cut the exact right size.)

The boys were obsessed with adding socks and boxers!
 In the second class, the students cut miniature clothes from fabric and glued them to their backgrounds.  The students could choose whether to glue the clothes flat or raised off the surface.

At the end of class, they cut thin strips of brown paper to look like clothespins.  The students tend to cut out really tiny clothes so I had to give several reminders about scale and how it affects the composition.

Some teachers and my wonderful mom donated fabric scraps and I had saved old shirts and jeans to use the fabric.  If you really want to impress your students, make a small cut in the fabric and rip it with your hands.  They said I was like the Hulk!  The boys especially liked when I cut and ripped my husbands old jeans.  I also had some ribbon and buttons that the students could add for embellishment.


  1. These are so lovely! Thank you for sharing.
    Funny about the ripping fabric- I get the same reaction:)

  2. Very cute. I might try this one day. You could use those miniature wooden craft pegs!

  3. Love these! I like the clothes glued a little to one side to look like they're blowing in the breeze. I am definitely going to try this. Thanks!

  4. can't wait to do this next year with my kids! they'll love it:)

  5. Fun, fun! More parallel planning - I'm going to be creating "tie-dye" with coffee filters in a week or two. Then we're going to make them into little T-shirts to hang on clothesline.

  6. Love this idea! i ordered small fabric scraps at the start of the year and have wanted to do this all year but could quite figure out what i wanted to do for a background or how to make the clothing look real! LOVE how you did this and is for sure on the top of my to do list next year!

  7. With my 4th grade art class I just finished a cloud study teaching them about john constable. The clouds look wonderful but adding closelines will really give the project a little something more. Thank you for the idea!

  8. I'll have to check out that artist!