Have you ever thought about how much work it took to make clothes back in Bible times? Experimenting with some of the techniques they used is a lot of fun with kids. It can also teach them some important Bible stories and principles God wants them to use in their own lives.
So let’s get started!
Materials: Bible, unbleached muslin or other cotton or wool fabric in beiges or whites, red/purple cabbage, large cooking pot, small loom like those sold in craft stores, yarn or pot holder loops
Procedure: Choose one of the following Bible stories and application principles to share with your children.
- Joseph and the Coat of Many Colors: Genesis 37. Jacob had children by four different women. As if that didn’t cause enough problems, he played favorites. Joseph was his favorite child of his favorite wife. He even made it very clear to Joseph’s siblings, by giving Joseph a very special coat that almost shouted “Dad loves me best!”. Needless to say, when paired with the dreams Joseph was having about his future, his brothers were less than thrilled with Joseph. In fact, they hatched a plan to kill him. Thankfully, they changed their minds and sold him into slavery instead. Today, God gives different gifts to different people. It may appear to us that God loves them more than He does us. Yet, the Bible clearly states God loves us all greatly. If Joseph’s brothers had focused more on the gifts and opportunities Jacob gave them instead of being jealous of Joseph, they might have been a lot happier. Although God used what they did to eventually save them from starvation, those jealous brothers spent many years regretting what they had done to Joseph.
- Tabitha (Dorcas). Acts 9:36-41. A woman named Tabitha spent time making clothes, which she gave to the poor. The people she helped grew to love her so much that when she died they were distraught. Peter saw their pain and heard what loving things Tabitha had done and brought her back to life. What is often glossed over in the telling of this story is the incredible amount of work it took to make clothing in Tabitha’s time. There was no electricity. Everything had to be sewn by hand. Can you imagine how long it would take to make even the simplest garment sewing it by hand? To save money, Tabitha may have also made her own thread which she used to weave fabric. She may have even dyed the fabric herself to create interesting colors for her garments. God wants us to serve others. Sometimes the ways He wants us to serve will be hard work. Sometimes it will take a lot of time to complete the service. Sometimes we will serve the same group of people in the same way for many years. God wants us to have the attitude and service work ethic of Tabitha.
- Lydia. Acts 16:11-40. Lydia is an interesting person in the Bible. The story is mainly about how she asked Paul to teach her and a group of people who believed in God about Jesus. When he did, they were baptized and became Christians. How do clothes play a part in this story? The Bible tells us Lydia was a seller of purple. Which means she sold the expensive purple fabric used by wealthy people to make their clothes. Unlike we are usually told, history reveals women were beginning to have their own businesses and make money in this time of the Roman Empire. While still uncommon, Lydia seems to perhaps own this business as a single woman. Since she sold expensive fabric to wealthy people, she may have been wealthy herself. Regardless of her situation, the story tells us two important things about Lydia. She wanted to obey God, no matter what He asked her to do and she was hospitable – inviting them to her home after her baptism. Lydia didn’t use her occupation or her wealth (or lack of wealth) as an excuse to do whatever she wanted to do or not serving others by being hospitable. God doesn’t want us to use school, activities or jobs as an excuse to stop worshipping Him, obeying Him or serving others.
Tell your children the Bible story you have chosen. Discuss the application principles. Using all safety precautions, put a large pot of water with cabbage (chopped in several large pieces) on the stove to boil. Turn off the heat and let it rest a bit. While still warm, place pieces of fabric in the water and let them stay for awhile. You can try adding some vinegar to the water to make the dye “set” better in the fabric.
You can experiment with other fabric dying materials like tea bags, onion skins – anything you find on the natural Easter egg dying lists. Talk about the process it must have been to just dye the fabric or thread needed for a garment.
If you have a small loom (like those for pot holders), you may want to let your kids weave for awhile. If you don’t have a loom, you can weave just using paper strips. Time how long it takes them to weave a certain area. Then show them sewing thread or a thin yarn. Ask them how long they think it would take weaving that by hand into enough fabric to make clothing.
After you have had fun experimenting, go back and review the application principles. Do they think differently about some area now that they actually realize what having clothing meant in Bible times? What do they need to do in their own lives to live out the application principles in the story you chose?