Sunday, January 26, 2014

Weaving with "Real Yarn"!

This fall was the first time I had taught weaving* to students with anything other than construction paper. I had always waited because I didn't have enough looms. Since I've been trying out choice based art this year, I decided to give it a go, not expecting the project to be so popular! I offered weaving to 4th graders and it quickly became apparent that I would need to make more looms. I think out of 110ish 4th graders, there were only about 5 who chose another project. At least 2 of those students tried it out later. I had about 30 chipboard looms that I had ordered. Thankfully, I have a big supply of mat board scraps and cardboard. It was super easy and pretty quick to make looms.
*Since we were studying American Indian cultures, I told them the story of Spider Woman and how she brought weaving to the Navajo people. Read the story HERE.

I used a ruler and a box knife to cut rectangles. I didn't worry about measuring, just getting my edges straight. Next, I took a big pile and marked little dashes in half inch increments on two opposite sides. I did this while trapped at my desk pumping. Oh, the things working moms do. :) After marking the sides, I used a pair of scissors to cut little slits. Some students helped with this step, and I had to cut the slits a bit deeper later since I didn't explain that the tiny marks were just to show where to cut, not the exact size the cuts should be. Lesson learned.
Here is one of the mat board looms.
Someone pointed out that I could have just skipped the measuring step and eyeballed the cuts, putting the same number of slits in each side. That would have made it a bit faster, but having grown up with a perfectionist carpenter father, it's not in my nature! I have more mat board scraps that I will turn into looms at my other school, and I'm also going to try using foam meat trays to see how that goes. Cardboard worked ok, but the mat board looms are holding up better.
 One of the hardest parts was just getting the looms warped. It was a hard concept to loop around the notches at the top and come back down the front instead of wrapping all the way around front and back. I had a pretty big stash of yarn from my predecessor that was stored in a big cardboard box. I got most of it untangled and displayed in an over the door shoe holder. I added some leftover yarn from projects I'd done at home and my mom scored some yeins of neon colored yarn at a garage sale. The brightly colored yarns, textured yarns, and variegated yarns were the most popular. I let students totally be in charge of which and how many colors they would use. Some worked in patterns or color families, some just experimented or went with their gut, choosing yarns they were drawn to.
I had just planned to show how to weave in stripes, but some students really picked that up quickly and wanted more. Two other options I demonstrated were splitting the weaving and rejoining it, and making zigzag patterns.
 I usually just said anyone who was interested could come around a table to see how to make the different patterns. I had SO MANY kids in my room during recess to work on their weavings. They were so excited to work with "REAL YARN"! They were even telling younger siblings about it and talking about plans to make their own looms at home. They were discussing how big of a loom they would need to make a blanket, how much they would sell said blankets for ($10, what a steal!), and talking about what they would do with their projects.
The other hardest part was tying all the knots to take weavings off looms. With the risk of sounding much older than my 27 years, "kids these days" don't know how to tie simple knots! This took a lot of time and help.
I needed a way to display the weavings in the hall, and what worked best for us, was to connect the projects to a piece of black construction paper with one staple and have the students write their names in colored pencil. We used the RoseArt Metallic Colored Pencils I was given and they worked great on black paper. I'm usually a Crayola girl but really like these RoseArt pencils. I couldn't find them when ordering supplies, but I just located them on Amazon.
When the projects came down, it was easy to remove the one staple without damaging the weaving.

 Most students finished in 3-4 classes but some are not yet finished. I didn't set a size requirement or anything like that, so as the semester went on, weaving projects started shrinking! We ended up with some funny little weavings, like one below that's around 15 rows. These were sometimes made by students who just weren't that in to weaving, but more often by those that tried and tried, but struggled.
 6th graders will have the option to weave next, and since most of them wove with yarn last year (CYOA: Weaving), I'm excited to see what they do this year!


  1. Am in love with your blog, Katie. I'm an artist (painter) with 4 grandchildren (oldest 5, youngest 1.5) so I'm always looking for activities to get their creative spirits flowing. You get MINE flowing, that's for sure. Thanks for sharing and congrats on being a mommy!

  2. Okay, you've inspired me to try it! I've had a classroom set of looms for forever and tons of yarn. Seeing these pieces and reading about the excitement of your students I think this will be the year I go for it.

    1. All the other grades have been asking when it's their turn! Simple things get them so excited. :)

  3. Katie, I do this project with my 3rd graders. However, I make the students create their own loom boards. Great way to bring in measuring into the lesson. They measure and make 1/2 in hash marks on both ends of boards and cut them themselves. Most of them are quite successful with just a handful needing extra assistance. Just thought I would share!! I love you blog!!

    1. I had 5th graders make their own looms last year and we lost so much time. I only see 4th-6th graders for 40 minutes every other week and most of my weavers spent a class and a half just making their looms. I just decided to make some we could reuse. I see my 3rd graders every week so I might let them try making their own! Glad to hear it went well for your students. Measuring is always SUCH a struggle even though it's really important.

  4. Thank a million for posting the stapler photo. Hanging the weavings has been a pain - not any more! I agree with you that warping the loom is the hardest part for kids....I do have a trick for measuring the warp yarn - I station a kid at all 4 corners of a standard table. They stretch the warp yarn to three corners and the fourth kid cuts it. A whole class' worth of warp yarn cut and distributed in 10 minutes!