As a result of funding provided by the Ontario Trillium Foundation and Mozilla Hive Toronto, the Textile Museum of Canada has developed five workshop modules for youth that are adaptable and flexible for educational institutions or social and cultural organizations. This summer Fashion Futures workshops were facilitated at three Toronto Public Library branches, as part of a ten week sewing program offered by SKETCH, and as a part of the AGO’s FREE After Three program, and, with the start of a new school year, are now a new offering within the Textile Museum of Canada’s school visits program.

The Fashion Futures curriculum recognizes that fashion is not impervious to global issues, such as climate change, resource scarcity, vulnerable economic conditions, and changing consumer behaviour. Like any creative practice, fashion also is a tool for responding to those issues, evident in developments from slow fashion and upcycling to smart textiles and wearable tech. These themes shape each of the five modules:

1. Smart is Beautiful    Focus: wearable tech/soft electronics

Using conductive thread and LED lights, youth will create a wristband or armband to reflect their current mood. Inspired by mood rings, participants will choose an appropriate colour of LED lights and consider symbols that can be stitched onto their armband as another mode of communication. Basic sewing skills will be taught as well as the basics of electronic circuitry, and participants will consider the innovative ways that traditional sewing materials like safety pins and hooks and eyes can be used to create electrical switches in these very contemporary pieces.

2. Fantasy to Fabrication    Focus:3D design and printing

Utilizing a set of tablets or desktop computers, participants will experiment with designing jewellery and accessories with 3D design apps, using basic shapes to create fully original, printable 3D models. Workshop participants will be challenged to think practically to design a 3D construct that is functional both in digital and real space. Using conventional materials, workshop participants will be challenged replicate their design using a single sheet of cardstock paper. This activity will allow them to reflect on the efficient and no-waste quality of a 3D printer. While working on their design challenge, youth may have the opportunity to see a 3D printer in action as some of their designs are printed.

3. Refuge Wear  Focus: fashion as source of protection

Through subtractive (material is removed) or additive (material is added) techniques, participants will transform the ubiquitous T-shirt into a garment that can be adapted to multiple situations. Working from simple garment patterns, participants will create removable hoods and sleeves to attach to their T-shirt, and through simple cutting and sewing, create pockets and pouches to hide away precious objects and basic necessities. By donning this new garment, the wearer because a self-contained living pod.

4. Slow is Beautiful           Focus: slow fashion as sustainable practice

This workshop will teach the basics of knitting and weaving, but with a twist! Participants will construct their own looms and knitting needles using everyday materials; yarn will be replaced with unexpected materials. Innovation is encouraged through an emphasis on process over final product.

5. Express Yourself      Focus: self-defining by creating independent designs

Identifying patterns and symbols that define the most distinguishing features of their own identity, youth will design a logo to represent their own personal brand.  Participants will then carve their design from a soft block, and create multiple prints of their design that can be then sewn onto clothing or create a design digitally that can be printed and then applied through heat transfer.  Badges can also be exchanged with friends or used to tag public spaces. Besides encouraging creative expression, this workshop will allow youth to explore the possibility of developing their own product or brand based on interests and principles of personal value, cultivating entrepreneurial skills.

Contact the Education Programs Coordinator at schoolvisits@textilemuseum.ca to book one of these workshops or to receive a copy of the curriculum to facilitate your own Fashion Futures workshops!


Using conductive thread and LED lights, youth will create a wristband or armband to reflect their current mood. Inspired by mood rings, participants will choose an appropriate colour of LED lights and consider symbols that can be stitched onto their armband as another mode of communication. Basic sewing skills will be taught as well as the basics of electronic circuitry, and participants will consider the innovative ways that traditional sewing materials like safety pins and hooks and eyes can be used to create electrical switches in these very contemporary pieces.


Electronic Components:
— Battery holder for CR2032 3 Volt battery
— CR2032 3 Volt battery
— 3 LED lights 1.8V 5 mA
— Conductive Thread

Choose LED lights to reflect your mood. Red = excited, adventurous; orange = daring, stimulating; yellow = imaginative, mixed emotions; green = normal, average; blue = calm, loveable.

Other materials and tools:
— Sewing needle
— Sewing thread
— Scissors
— Fabric

1. Let’s take a close look at our materials, and how each component will contribute to the creation of a textile that lights up. For this project, we are creating a simple electric circuit: a circuit is a series of electronic components arranged in a closed loop, allowing electrons to flow through the various components. In our circuit, the battery provides a source of power. The conductive thread acts as a conductor, a material that allows for the easy flow of electrons. Because the electrons flow in a particular direction, we have to ensure that we arrange each component of our circuit to create this closed loop.

2. Let’s start with our LED lights. Pick up one of your LED lights and look at it closely. You will notice that one of the metal “legs” extending from the coloured bulb is longer than the other. When you look into bulb, you should see two chunks of metal inside the bulb: the larger chunk of metal will be attached to the shorter leg, and the smaller chunk of metal will be attached to the longer leg. You may also notice that there is a flat side at the base of the bulb, and this side of the bulb is where the shorter leg is attached. These are three clues to help us identify the positive and negative ends of the LED.

Positive = long leg; small piece of metal inside bulb; round side of bulb
Negative = short leg; large piece of metal inside bulb; flat side of bulb

When we assemble our circuit, we need to ensure that the positive ends of the LEDs are lined up, as are the negative ends of the LED.

3. Right now, we don’t have an easy way to attach our LEDs to our fabric. We need to create loops out of the metal legs so that we can sew the LED lights to our fabric. Let’s start making loops from the negative ends of the LED lights: lift up the shorter leg so that it is parallel to the base of the bulb.

Twist this leg around a pen or pencil to create a loop.

Once we make both legs into loops, it will be more difficult to identify the positive and negative ends of the LED, so one convention to make it easier to remember which end is which is to make the loops as far away from the bulb as you can. Once you’ve made each negative leg into a loop, repeat the process for the positive end; make the loops closer to the bulb so you can identify them as the positive end. (Remember: if you get confused as to which end is positive and which end is negative, there are two other clues to help identify the positive and negative ends.)

4. We’re ready to start sewing. Decide on the placement of your LED lights, laying them out on your fabric, making sure that all the negative loops are facing in the same direction. Sew the LED lights in place through the loops you created in step 3, using regular sewing thread. (It isn’t actually necessary to sew the LED lights in place before you start sewing with the conductive thread. However, if you’re doing this project with first time sewers, this step allows makers to become comfortable stitching with needle and thread before they start working with the conductive thread.)

5. Now you’re going to sew the battery holder in place. You’ll need to line up the positive and negative ends of the battery holder with the positive and negative ends of your LED lights. If you’re using a Lilypad battery holder, you’ll notice that the positive and negative ends are marked for you. 

If you’re using a generic battery holder, the metal tab inside the holder is the negative end, and the metal piece at the top of the holder is the positive end.

The two images above illustrate how to orient both types of battery holders in relation to these LED lights.

6. Now we’re ready to connect the components of our circuit with conductive thread. Thread a needle with conductive thread that is long enough to sew a path through the fabric from the negative end of the battery holder to each of the negative ends of the LED lights. (Especially for participants new to sewing, it can be easier to work with the conductive thread if you’re working with a single thread.) If you’re using a Lilypad battery holder, start by sewing around one of the tabs marked (-). If you’re using a generic battery holder, wrap the end of the thread around the negative tab to start.

Continue stitching through the fabric in a straight path to the negative loop of the closest LED light. Make sure the conductive thread and metal loop make contact with each other; you may want to stitch around the metal loop a few times before you continue stitching, again in a straight path, to the negative loop of the next LED light. 

Repeat until you’ve stitch a path through all the negative loops. Fasten off your thread. (This is an important step, as you want to avoid creating a short circuit.)

7. Now we’re going to complete our circuit by sewing back to the battery holder. Starting from the LED light furthest from the battery holder and using conductive thread, stitch around the metal loop at the positive end. Continue stitching with a running stitch to the next light, and repeat the process as you did with the negative side of your circuit.

When you reach the battery holder, stitch around the (+) tab (if you’re using the Lilypad battery holder) or (if you’re using the generic battery holder) stitch up into the top of the battery holder and pass your thread over the metal tab at the top of the battery holder and fasten off. Your circuit is complete! We just need to add a power source by popping a battery into the battery holder.

8. Now for the moment of truth: insert your battery into your battery pack. Is your textile glowing? No? Make sure there are no pieces of conductive thread or stitches that touch or overlap. Make sure the conductive thread is stitched tightly around each contact point of each component of the circuit. And make sure that all components have been arranged in such a way that the positive ends line up with each other and the negative ends line up with each other.

9. Embellish your armband with embroidery thread or other materials to personalize it. What do you want to communicate when you’re wearing your armband?


How will fashion respond to global issues such as climate change and vulnerable economic conditions in the future? How can you transform an everyday garment, like the ubiquitous t-shirt, to be more responsive to a wide range of situations through innovative design?

These were questions posed to a group of young women at SKETCH during our most recent Fashion Futures workshop. Inspired by Lucy Orta’s Refuge Wear, participants transformed t-shirts to be more adaptable to changes in weather. Sleeves and hoods were added; button bands allowed for the t-shirt to be worn open or closed; tabs were added to hold rolled up sleeves in place; pockets were added to store precious and necessary items.

This post illustrates one of these transformations: adding hidden side pockets. Follow these instructions to hack your own t-shirt!

1. Decide how big you want the opening of your pocket to be. A good reference is the width of your hand to ensure you can reach into your pocket. Add an extra inch to this measurement (A).

2. Draft your own pocket pattern on scrap paper and referring to the image below. The number you calculated above (A) will be the length of the straight line that marks the opening of the pocket; the image below gives you a general idea of the shape of the pocket. Cut out the pocket pattern.

3. Choose the fabric you want to use for your pocket. Fold the fabric in half, pin your pattern to the fabric, trace and cut out. You should have two identical pocket pieces.

4. Lay pocket piece along the right seam of the t-shirt to decide on its placement. Using contrasting thread, handstitch across the seam to mark the placement of the top of the pocket and the bottom of the pocket. Repeat on the other side.

5. Turn t-shirt inside out. You should be able to see the contrasting thread on this reverse side. Unpick stitches connecting the front and back of the t-shirt together between the two pieces of contrasting thread. You may want to stitch along the seam away from the contrasting thread markers to reinforce the existing seam.

6. Turn the t-shirt right side out. Pin first pocket piece to back of the t-shirt, along the edge that you just created by unpicking the stitches. Line up the top and bottom of the pocket with your contrasting thread markers and sew together. (You may find it easier to handstitch this seam than use a machine!) Fold pocket into t-shirt and press seam. Repeat with second pocket, attaching second pocket piece to the front of the t-shirt in the same manner.

7. Turn t-shirt inside out. Pin both pocket pieces together along the edges, and sew together. Turn T-shirt right side out. One pocket is now complete! Repeat on the other side of t-shirt if so desired.

Share your own t-shirt hacking experiments in the comments!


Although Wide Open Wednesdays will be on hiatus during July and August, the TMC will continue to explore traditional and digital “maker” processes through a new initiative supported with funding provided by the Ontario Trillium Foundation and Mozilla Hive Toronto. We’ll be working with youth from SKETCH, the AGO’s FREE After Three program, and the Toronto Public Library’s Word Out summer reading program for teens to develop and test a series of shareable open source learning modules that encourage creative/critical explorations of the future of what we wear and our interactions with our environment through an interdisciplinary, hands-on approach to investigative design and knowledge-building.

On Wednesday, May 28, we invited our partners to the TMC for a learning session and workshop to launch the project. This was an opportunity to receive feedback from project partners and their youth regarding the five workshop themes and activities that have been developed so far, as well as connect to and learn from local innovators exploring one of these themes in their practice.

Our engagement with local innovators in the field of wearable electronics began with a presentation by Erin Lewis, an emerging Canadian artist working in the field of New Media and Wearable Technology. She works in OCAD’s Social Body Lab, alongside Kate Hartmann and co-organizes a wearable computing meetup in Toronto. Erin’s presentation provided an overview of what wearable technology is, and some of the shortcomings facing this technology, as well as its potential for future design. Besides work on conceptual projects, such as the Earthquake Skirt (2011) which explores what it means to wear trauma every day, Erin’s research explores ways to embed new materials such as fibre optics, resistance wire and memory alloy within a fabric during the weaving and machine knitting process.

We then moved into our interactive gallery to learn how to assemble soft circuits with Eric Boyd, president of HackLab.TO, a community space with a diverse membership, including artists, computer programmers, web designers, and hardware hackers. Eric shared some of his own experiments with soft circuitry. The group then experimented with LED lights, conductive thread and Lily Twinkle, a microprocessor that’s pre-programmed to cause lights to twinkle in a predetermined manner.

This workshop allowed TMC staff to anticipate factors that might prevent a soft circuit from lighting up, and these strategies proved useful when we facilitated our first workshop as part of the AGO’s FREE After Three program on June 12. Participants made headbands and armbands, using LED lights to reflect their current mood. Arts for Children and Youth were also in attendance, contributing materials and ideas for embellishing participant’s projects.

TMC staff will be travelling around Toronto to facilitate further Fashion Futures workshops throughout the summer. Join us for one of the following workshops:

Fantasy to Fabrication
Watch our 3D printer in action while you design your own original, printable 3D model that is functional both in digital and real space.
Thursday, June 19 from 3:30-5:30 in the Weston Family Learning Centre at the Art Gallery of Ontario
Saturday, August 2 from 2:00-4:00 at Fairview Public Library (35 Fairview Mall Drive, Toronto, ON)

 Smart is Beautiful
Show the world how you’re feeling by creating an armband or headband to reflect your mood. Learn how to create a soft circuit using conductive thread and LED lights.
Monday, August 18 from 1:00-4:00 at Malvern Public Library (30 Sewells Road, Toronto, ON)

Express Your Self
Create a logo to represent your own personal brand by identifying patterns and symbols that define the most distinguishing features of your identity. Print your design, and add it to clothing, exchange it with friends, or use it to tag public spaces.
Wednesday, August 20 from 4:00-6:00 at Eatonville Public Library (430 Burnhamthorpe Road, Toronto, ON)

Photo Set

Métis beading workshop May 21, 2014


Last night Sahra MacLean and Jessica MacLean, Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) Infinite Reach Student Solidarity Network facilitators, shared their traditional knowledge of beading. In a recent article she wrote for Voyageur, Jessica describes the ways in which Métis identity is explored though making beaded art:

"For the contemporary Métis person beading is a pastime, something we do to unwind after work or on the weekend. It is an art, an expression of our vast creativity and our artistic tribute to nature. For most it is a social activity, something we bring to the coffee shop to work on while we spend time with friends. Beading is a way we connect with our children, something we learned from our mother or grandmother. It is also a way we show our love for one another, as there is nothing sweeter than the gift of beading from a loved one. No matter what it means to you, the practice is rooted in our heritage and is a defining feature of Métis culture.

 Material culture is integral to the Métis way of life. We define ourselves in many ways; by our music, our stories, but particularly by the way we adorn ourselves. This is especially apparent when we look at distinctly Métis objects such as the iconic sash, that which was essential for survival; or beaded clothing, traditionally a physical manifestation of a woman’s love for her family. These are symbols of our culture that can only be preserved by making those traditional practices a part of our everyday life.”


It’s been a pleasure to host Collage Collective on a monthly basis since August. Last night was their last Open Studio at the Textile Museum, but they will be resuming their meetups in the near future at The Shop, located at 1139 College Street West (www.theshoptoronto.ca).

You can also join them at the Monkey’s Paw Collage Party at the 2nd annual “Dundas West Fest" on Sat. June 7. 

A big thank you to Ruth Silver for coordinating Collage Collective and allowing the TMC to be home base this past year!

Photo Set

Our March Wide Open Wednesday was an opportunity to connect with the cosplay community of Toronto. We were pleased to have members of the cosplay club from Sir Winston Churchill Collegiate in attendance in their kimono inspired costumes. Cosplayers learned traditional Japanese stitching techniques like sashiko to use as inspiration for future costumes. The anime viewing room was popular (in particular the bean bag chairs!) as was the parapara animation wall.


As part of our Cosplay Meetup on March 19, participants had the opportunity to contribute to our parapara animation wall. “Parapara” means flicking paper in Japanese. Using an application developed by Mozilla Japan, participants had the opportunity to draw simple frame-based animation on a tablet which was then added to a much bigger animation projected on the walls.

Check out the full animation we created here:

Or create your own here:

A big thank you to Karen Smith for facilitating this workshop!