Year 4 Visual Arts

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Pictures from Stitches - Stitching Icarus

icarus by kate farrer

A lot of art tells stories from ancient Greek myths. Do you remember the myth we read in Year 3 about Daedalus and Icarus? Icarus's father – Daedalus – made wings out of wax and feathers to help them escape from King Minos's labyrinth. What happens next?

Artists work in different ways to share their work and their ideas about a story. This picture combines several techniques from embroidery to show us an important moment in the story of Icarus. The artist, Kate Farrer, combines threads of different colours – a bit like a painter combines paints – to add shading and detail. How many different shades of brown, tan and white do you think she used to make Icarus's wings?

icarus closeup by kate farrer

There are lots of things in this embroidery that make us look, along with Icarus, towards the hottest part of the sun. The sun's rays all point back towards the centre of the sun. Circles in ever hotter colours lead inwards like a target. Two diagonal lines – one along Icarus's back and one from his feet to his head – point like everything else to the middle of the sun. Are you feeling hot yet? Can you tell what is going to happen next?

Kate Farrer has studied and taught at the Royal School of Needlework at Hampton Court. She chose this story for her picture because her father read it to her as a child.

Perhaps you want to cross-stitch your own picture? A cross-stitch is two diagonal stitches that make an X. You can buy a children's cross-stitch kit at a craft shop, some toy shops or online. If you are feeling adventurous, you could buy a plain piece of cross-stitch fabric and some coloured threads. Thread a large needle and make two stitches to make an X across a group of four holes. With a kit, follow the colouring provided to fill in the picture with these crosses or, if you are using plain fabric, build up your own picture using crosses of one or more colours.

This activity is adapted from pages 187 of What Your Year 4 Child Needs to Know, which can be purchased here.

This activity has cross-curricular connections: click below to see related activities.

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