Following another successful upcycled hat making project at Queen’s Park Community School, Year 10 student Grace McKinlay offers an insight into the project:

In Miss Fitzwilliam’s textiles class, everyone is very busy. Sewing machines are humming; students are expertly weaving tassels and pom-poms, and everybody’s hats are beginning to look as professional as the sort of accessories you’d expect to see in a shop window! It is just minutes before Malorees’ Year Six students arrive to collect their hats; and Year Nine have been working around the clock since September to get them ready. The exciting QPCS Hat Project is almost over- and this year I was lucky enough to take part in the grand finale!

table shot

What is the Hat Project? For the busy Year Nine students, this is an opportunity to develop new skills and take their textiles education to the next level. They’re not only making something for themselves, but for the benefit of Primary school children who have donated their own shirts and sweaters to be made into something new- who knows; this hectic project could give Year Nine the little push they need to pick Textiles for GCSE next year! Some of the students this year have made up to three hats, as well as many panels, decorations and patterns; and this year, the hats were all Disney themed in the lead-up to the annual Winter Concert. Making a hat is nowhere near as simple as it sounds, as I found out (the hard way) last year when involved in the project. You have to be use your weekly lessons wisely and put as much time and effort into your product as you can – because the Year Six students aren’t afraid to say when they’re unsatisfied!

Girls hat feedback

However, this project isn’t just about making the hats. It is carried out in partnership with the Charity TRAID, which is committed to protecting the environment and reducing world poverty by textile recycling! Every year, Miss Fitzwilliam works alongside Sarah from the charity, who teaches the students about the importance of sustainability through an inspiring speech and short film. TRAID is a growing charity working to stop clothes being thrown away. They turn clothes-waste into funds and resources to reduce the environmental and social impacts of our clothes; tackling the problems with waste disposal, production and consumption.

pink jacket feedback

In my experience, this fun project gets better every year- for both the hat designers and the Year Six students. For the first time since it has begun, the hats have been made even more personal to the children by using their own chosen clothes as the fabric!

So, the Year Nine Hat Project helps students develop important skills, learn about protecting the environment… and what else? One of the most important things that students from both schools gain is the relationship that blossom within their pairings. In September, the Year Six students came to QPCS to meet their buddies, who would be spending the next term making them a personalised hat. This interview between the Primary and Secondary school students helps them to get to know one another, maybe to make a new friend, and definitely to ease the difficult transition from one school to another. Every QPCS student knows how hard it is for the new Year Sevens to settle into such a huge new place, and I’m sure that every one of them would have welcomed a fun, rewarding project to be carried out with their primary schools to make them feel more comfortable when they moved up to QPCS!

Here are some opinions of the hard-working students from Queens Park: “The project gives us new skills and helps us to interact with the kids”- Georgia, Year Nine. “It was fun, fantastic, and we put in a lot of effort”- Ayub, Year Nine. The Malorees students also benefitted a lot from the experience. Vanessa in Year Six says: “It was really fun. I liked getting the hat,” whilst Andrea from the same class simply and aptly uses the words “double thumbs up” to describe the exciting project!

hats with maker and malorees pupil

Watching the students from different schools and year groups chat and laugh together; their difficult task completed and the younger pupils happy with their new hand-made hats, I am reminded of how satisfying it is when your hard work pays off. The enthusiasm of both schools is evident as the new buddies get their photos taken together, and Malorees’ students leave the textiles room with wide smiles beneath the brims of their new Disney hats.

malorees hat group

Miss Fitzwilliam does a fantastic job every year; making sure all thirty hats are the best they can possibly be and that all the students- in both schools- are satisfied with the outcome. The last lesson is always very stressful, but the QPCS Textiles Department pull off their mission every time! At the end of the project, which has again been a huge success, Miss Fitzwilliam adds her word: “It has been a positive challenge for the Year Nine students to make hats for their primary school partners. It gives them the responsibility of creating something special and they all make connections with our future students.”

2 boys hats

This, in my opinion, sums up the Hat Project completely. It’s been amazing- my only wish is to watch it all happen again!

text as featured in Shout Magazine