Fabric Collections in Early Childhood Settings:

This article is all about the fabric collections we put together for the children in an early childhood centre.

Fabric has so many great uses – for children as well as adults. It can take on different shapes, it moves in the breeze, it comes in different colours, patterns, textures, shapes, sizes, it’s readily available, and very often it is either free, or else very reasonably priced. Sadly, it is also one of the major contributors to waste and land fill around the world. There are tonnes and tonnes of dumped fabric, so much of which could have been put to good use.

In group settings for children’s play, pieces of fabric (including dolls clothes) often end up in a pile somewhere – useful to a point, but difficult to manage and to keep tidy. It can be very difficult to find something specific that you are looking for.

We ended up sorting our fabric into seperate collections (in an area for children aged up to around two). Most of the collections were stored in fabric bags, but there are so many great storage options – pinterest is full of awesome ideas.

These are the collections we put together –

1. Small Dolls Sheets and Blankets:

Storage Bags for small sheets + blankets

We had rectangular canvas storage bags for a lot of our resource collections, including all our small dolls sheets and blankets. The children remembered which cubby hole the dolls sheet bag was kept in (despite all the matching bags!) If they needed extra sheets, they would ask for, or point to the bag so that we could get it down for them.

Usually we would keep a pile of sheets and blankets on one of the shelves. These were often used in combination with our small dolls and dolls beds. Sometimes the children would layer all the sheets they could find, one of top of the other. They would also practise folding the sheets in half, arranging them on the floor, collecting them into bags etc. etc.

Small dolls sheets and blankets are a great use for fabric and wool scraps.

2. Larger Pieces of Fabric:

We kept a wide range of textured pieces of fabric in a large round floor storage bag – these were all sorts of different shapes, sizes, textures and colours – velvet, chiffon, lace, silk ……… I hemmed most of them to stop the fabric unravelling. Quite a few were scarves that we found in opportunity shops, these were great as they didn’t need hemming.

The children used this collection for so many different things – layering fabric on the floor, on each other, on top of dolls and resources, on top of boxes etc. They would sometimes sit on top of the round canvas bag full of fabric, like it was a big cushion, or tip out all the fabric and sit in the bag. They would pull the bag full of fabric around the room, or lift it up and carry it. Sometimes they would lie on it, or jump into it. They would pile the fabric on their heads, cover their faces and laugh at each other, get us to tie the fabric around them like dress up clothes, drape it around their shoulders, wrap things up, lie it over the decking boards and watch the wind blow it across the deck ……. so many different things.

The older children also spent time with us now and then – they had a favourite piece of flowing green floral fabric that they used as an Elsa costume, and an orange piece that was often used for Anna (when the movie ‘Frozen’ was at the height of it’s popularity!) They used the fabric to build huts, for camping, for decoration, for pretending to sleep under, for hiding underneath, for wrapping up presents ……. endless ideas, that were always so fascinating to observe.  =)

3. Fabric for Huts:

We had a collection of large pieces of fabric that were often used for huts. Beautiful saris, large pieces of velvet, see through lace curtains, sheets, blankets etc. etc. Every piece was used regularly. We kept these rolled up in a square shaped box made of fabric.

The older children loved having pegs to use in combination with the fabric. Often they would add numerous pegs down the sides of the fabric pieces! Sometimes they would also peg the small sheets onto the walls of the huts (there are two hanging on the fabric wall in the LH photo below).

Fabric Huts

4. Larger Dolls Sheets and Blankets:

In the older children’s area, there was a collection of larger dolls sheets and blankets. Similar to our collection of the small dolls sheets – although this was a more eclectic mix. For covering dolls, there is just so much scope. Fabric is everywhere, and hemmed pieces make fantastic sheets and blankets. There are also a lot of pre made items that are around the right size for dolls linen – place mats, dressing table mats, lace doilies ….. Once in a while fantastic knitted or crocheted dolls blankets turn up in opportunity shops and at fairs etc.

With a large collection, you can have some of the range stored, and the rest available for the children (matching the quantity and the pieces that they are interested in at the time). There are lots of lovely ways to store and display linen – vintage suitcases, cane baskets, shelving …..

It is also great to have small bags, baskets, suitcases etc. that children can use to transport the linen around the place. A beautifully eclectic range of bed linen is such a pleasure to make use of.

5. Vintage Lace and Linen:

Cloth dolls with sheets and vintage linen

Vintage lace and linen found it’s way into lots of our collections, and we also kept a separate storage bag for it. Opportunity shops, fairs and markets can be such a treasure trove for linen. Some has tiny holes or marks and can cost just a few cents. The range is endless, you never know what you are going to find.  =)

We stored our linen in an envelope shaped fabric bag on one of our shelves. The children found so many ways to incorporate the different pieces into their play. Vintage linen is beautiful to make use of.

6. Fabric Scraps:

One of the later additions to our fabric collections, was a drawstring bag full of fabric scraps. A remnant of un hemmed blue silk fabric turned up in our floor storage bag, and the children were interested in the threads around the edges, the uneven shapes, the fluffiness ….. We then put together a small drawstring bag full of fabric remnants for them to investigate.

The older children often made use of the fabric scraps too – sometimes to make up decorative beds for the cloth dolls.

This is a very easy and inexpensive way to add new variations of colour, shape and texture for children to experiment with.

Dolls beds made up from an eclectic mix of linen, including a scrap of blue silk.

In the older children’s area, there were larger collections of fabric scraps, usually stored in cane baskets. Often one for bigger fabric remnants, and one for tiny bits and pieces.

From left to right – the beginnings of a fabric house/construction (draped over wooden branch tripods), the completed project – hundreds of pieces of fabric, all added individually), draping larger pieces of fabric over a tower of tree stump blocks.

7. Dress up clothes:

For the younger children, we mainly had dress up skirts. We kept these in a small canvas floor storage bag. We always knew where to return them to, and the children knew just where to find them. Like the larger bag for fabric pieces, this one was very portable, and could also be used as a cushion or a seat!

8. Dolls clothes:

We didn’t really have dolls clothes for the younger children, but these are a resource which definitely deserve a beautiful storage container. I have seen so many fabulous dolls clothes in early childhood settings.

As with the dolls blankets, it is great to have a main storage container (vintage suitcase, cane basket, floor storage bag …..) and also some smaller bags or baskets nearby, which are available for children to transport a few clothes around in. It is so much easier for children to plan holidays, picnics, trips etc. if they have good transportation options ready to make use of.

 

One of the most important things I learnt from our fabric collections, is that if things are stored carefully (and beautifully) they become valued and precious. Children remember where their favourite things are, and can find them easily. They remember who loves which pieces of fabric best, and what they like to use them for.

Having each collection of fabric stored separately, also makes it so much easier and so much more satisfying to keep everything looking inviting and beautiful. Putting fabric pieces, dolls sheets etc. back into their seperate storage containers becomes quick and easy – just as it is when any other resources are arranged in their seperate containers. I loved having a special place for everything – with each collection looking beautiful and waiting to be put to use again – a fabric lovers dream! =)

I now work full time on plainlycanvas – it is over a year since I finished working in an early childhood centre, but I can remember the children’s use of fabric so clearly. It always makes me smile when I think of the brilliant uses they found for our eclectic, quirky and very loved collections of fabric pieces.  =)

Please let me know if you would like more information about anything, or if you have stories to share about children’s use of fabric, I would love to hear from you.

With thanks,

Ali.

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