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The right image is so cool

Roxanne Escobales visits an out-of-school centre where pupils make their mark in creativity

Ten-year-old Hannah knows all about the pleasure of making something out of nothing. In her case, it's customising a T-shirt. "I love this," says the Year 6 pupil, "It's just the fun of thinking you're going to make your own T-shirts out of boring old things, and you get to look at things like flowers close up. It's really cool."

During half-term last month, she found herself in a textile workshop at the 99A Project in Lambeth, south London. The two-day session at 99A Coin Street, near Waterloo, was organised and sponsored by Jenny Ridgwell Press, a company that offers teaching resources for textiles and food technology.

Having developed course packs for secondary schools, founder and author Jenny Ridgwell wanted to work with primary children and found fertile ground in the relaxed setting at Coin Street. On the first day, the children made a wall hanging with pictures of flowers and sweets on it and on the second they brought in T-shirts to customise.

Using the QX3 microscope, which comes with its own image-handling software, children magnified objects up to 200 times. Anything that fitted on the microscope could be used: flowers, fingers, paper. Once the image was captured, they were displayed on a computer screen. The Ridgwell Press team were surprised at how, on their first day, the pupils were clicking away and saving images in JPEG format with the ease and familiarity of a design studio technician.

After the image was saved, it was dropped into a Word document as a picture object and then printed onto transfer paper which costs 60p to pound;1 a sheet. To maximise the use of each sheet, images can be sized to fit four on a page.

Once on the transfer paper, the image was ironed on to fabric. Voila! The students had just created a customised T-shirt.

Using a digital microscope to capture images is very straightforward and in an hour children can be creating wall-hangings, neckties, cushion covers or whatever else they wish.

Jenny Ridgwell, a former textiles teacher, says: "When we go into schools we're constrained by the curriculum, but by playing a bit they can release the creativity and science and design then link together and create fabulous things."

* Coin Street was set up by residents in 1984 as a development trust. The newly formed 99A scheme runs breakfast and after-school clubs as well as holiday play clubs. lThe QX3 computer-linked microscope is available from Jenny Ridgwell Press for pound;65 (plus VAT). Transfer paper costs from pound;21 for 30 sheets. Glow-in-the-dark transfer paper is also available.

Ridgwell also publishes IT Ideas for Textiles, pound;10Tel: 01536 399

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