Coleen Guhl
Hannah Richardson embroidering.
This flower petal batik that Michel Martinez created. This is at the last stage before the fabric is washed and then create a pillow form, to display these examples in their homes.
Jossie Bergquist with her embroidery project.
An example of visual mending using the sashiko method.
Hannah Richardson created the cactus Batik pictured here
Deko Mohamud and LaLa Felipe.
Amiah Koch
Deko Mohamed
An example of visual mending using the sashiko method.
Kaylea Goettel with her second batik.

Exotic—and homespun—crafts are teaching textiles, clothing in Pelican schools

Students in the Pelican Rapids Family and Consumer Science classes have been deep in the creative-craft process. 

Hand embroidery, just like grandma and great-grandma, is one of the projects for the Pelican high school students. Also, artisan work in exotic names like “batik” and “Sashiko.”

“I started teaching my students how to make their own batik fabric with crayons!” said FACS teacher Coleen Guhl. “…The creative process and the journey has been a huge hit with the students. 

To try this technique out you need to have lots of colorful crayons that you melt in a muffin tin using your griddle, explained Guhl. 

Batik involves painting with crayons, then the fabric is crinkled (to create the lines), and then using cold water spray dye to coat the fabric. After it has dried for at least an hour students iron off the wax with “lots of newspaper.” We continue to rotate the paper with new until there is no more wax/color on the newsprint. 

The process of creating your own batik out of white cotton fabric is simple. 

“We are using crayons because we had a lot of broken ones! With this method you must do some reverse thinking,” said Guhl. You must think in layers because the first item you put down will take most of the dye. Therefore, you need to think about the lighter colors, or maybe doing the outline first before you fill in your design.”

 After you have it all painted with your crayons, crinkle it to create the spider web design. Next, you select your spray dye and spray away. Let it dry for one hour and then you can iron off the crayon wax. 

“The students are loving the creative aspect of the Sewing and Textiles class this year,” said Guhl. What I am teaching this year is quite different due to COVID-19 restrictions.” 

Sashiko (Japanese) Embroidery is a simple running stitch that is traditionally done on indigo cotton material. The concept of sashiko takes place during the Edo period (1615-1868).  This technique was employed by farmers, and fisherman to extend the life of their garment. Remember during this period making any cloth was a time-intensive task and considered a precious commodity. Therefore, the peasants would take an old worn-out piece of clothing and by sandwiching it together with other material would create a new piece of clothing that was insulated and beautiful. 

The students had to design their own sashiko patterns. This is also called slow sewing/mending and currently the fashion houses are promoting a new concept called “visual mending.” 

“You don’t want to hide your mending; you want to show it off!” said Guhl. 

“I have two students who are also learning how to do cardboard weaving,” said Guhl. “It has been a full semester and these students are eager to learn everything that I throw at them. It has truly been an enjoyable class as the students are so eager to learn and even pass on their newfound knowledge/skills to their siblings or others.”

Hand embroidery has many health benefits. The most notable one this year has been the stress-reliever benefit. 

“Embroidery enhances creativity, as well as boosting your brain function. This is due to the repetitive motions which produces a calming feeling, and it does reduce mental stress in a person,” said Guhl “Another plus is that hand embroidery is inexpensive, and portable. You can personalize your project by selecting different floss colors, and by using a variety of embroidering techniques. My students have all said, “I can’t wait for third hour to get here each day.” “I love this class and doing the embroidery calms me and I feel my anxiety go away.” 

Student Hannah Richardson has been going through her grandmother’s items and has started working on the ones her grandmother had ironed on the transfer. “I love that this skill is being transferred from one generation to the next and Hannah is even using the floss that was her grandmother’s as well.”

Guhl has also taught International Foods classes this year as well. Due to COVID-19 , the curriculum has been adjusted quite a bit as they each must have their own separate kitchen, they can’t share the food, the food must stay in the food’s lab, etc. 

“With that being said, a lot of kids are eating their meals with me at lunch,” said Guhl. 

‘Mama Guhl’ to retire after 2021 school year 

Recovering from the pandemic, in the classroom, is a “swan song’ for FACS teacher Coleen Guhl—who is retiring after this year. 

The students have referred to her as “Mama Guhl.”

In retirement, she plans on fishing, camping, traveling, visiting friends, cooking, knitting/crocheting, sewing, crafting, gardening, canning, embroidering, reading, family genealogy, and learning how to weave using a new inkle loom. 

“I am always on the search for the newest craft to keep myself sharp and on the cutting edge. As an FYI: Several community members have asked if I would consider teaching some of these classes to adults and I think I will do some classes this summer if there is an interest. I have also been experimenting with making my own orange cleaner, creating my own flavored liquors, among other things.”