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Images can be created on many different surfaces and one unique material that can be used is fabric. Fabric can be drawn on, painted, embroidered, or silk-screened. In this lesson students will have the opportunity to create a nature inspired painting on fabric. Using tempera paint on fabric is not permanent, so if students wash the fabric, their imagery will be ruined. The pieces they create are for display only.


The teacher needs to have the fabric pieces pre-cut. The fabric ideally will be plain and light coloured. White or beige works best for this assignment. The teacher also needs to have images or flowers and insects available for the students to use as inspiration. Students will be told that they are going to be creating a painting that shows both flora and an insect and that they need think about what insects they see on what plants. For safety reasons, students are going to use paint rather than needles and thread to create their imagery.

Have chalk on hand as students will use it for drawing their initial imagery on the fabric.


Note:  Have the example image of Janice Wright Cheney’s embroidery piece Tephritidae (Goldenrod Gall Fly) on display for the class.

  1. The class will discuss the image and the teacher can ask what the image reminds them of. If prompting is necessary the teacher can ask questions such as: What type of plant do you think it is? What type of insect do you think it is? Do you think this insect would live on/ near this plant? Would they interact in nature? What do they think about the fact that the art piece is on a handkerchief? Why do they think the artist chose to use a handkerchief?
  2. Students will be encouraged to use the images supplied by the teacher and the art piece Tephritidae (Goldenrod Gall Fly) as inspiration and design an image including on plant/flower and an insect. They need to think about what insects they see on different plants such as bumblebees on honeysuckles.
  3. These designs will be sketched out on the paper provided. The image does not have to be extremely detailed as it is just a preliminary sketch.
  4. Students will now be given their fabric pieces. Students will draw their imagery on the fabric using chalk. This will allow for errors to be ‘erased’ with ease, and nothing will be permanent until the paint is applied at a later time.
  5. Once the base is drawn with chalk, students will be given their paint and  asked  to complete their image.
  6. Students will be given their paint tray with their spectrum of colours (which varies depending on resources) when they are ready. Be sure to not use too much black when mixing as it over powers most colours very easily.
  7. If students want to add additional decorative materials they can do this at any point during the decorating phase.
  8. The finished fabric paintings can be put aside to dry for the night as the paint will need a few hours.
  9. The next day, students will take time to have a discussion circle where the classroom is set up so that all students can sit in a circle with their image. The students will talk about the plant and insect that they chose and why they chose it.

Tips and Tricks

A bed sheet purchased from a second hand store makes great fabric for this project. They can be purchased quite cheaply and then cut into the proper size.

A cross curricular lesson can follow where students research the plant/flora and insect they painted and then present this information to the class or in the form of a written assignment.