Saturday, January 31, 2009

Teaching Children to Spin Wool at Kaleidoscope Arts Foundation in Bermuda!

Success with Spinning!

Here are my 7 & 8 yr old Fiber students showing off some of their hand spun yarns.
I had a great time teaching this class. Not only did they learn the priciples involved with spinning fiber into yarn but I learned a thing or two about teaching it!

My goal with this class was for children to understand exactly what it means to spin yarn. I wanted them to realize how the twisting motion gives the fibers strength while bonding them together. The challenge was, how could I do this without them having to worry about keeping a spindle going and remembering everything that you have to, to learn to drop spindle. This class was more basic that that....
I had used clip clamps to teach them how to braid and decided this might be a good option for spinning as well. This allowed them to focus on the actual spinning concept without any other mental or dexterity challenges.
I had them begin with 4-6" pieces of coarse pencil roving which I taught them to draw out a bit before begining to spin/twist the fibers. After they had spun the full length, I showed them how to fold it in half and let it twist on itself to ply it. EVERY student found success!
After they had practiced a bit with the short coarse fibers I gave them each a longer piece to work and then moved them on to white merino which I intend for them to dye with Kool-Aid in our next class. I found that this clip method though great for teaching the concept and for shorter pieces, is difficult for them to do a long piece with since there is no method of winding the spun yarn. If they let their yarn go for any reason (loss of focus for example) their work untwisted and this was understandably frustrating for them since they had to do it over again. I was able to find a happy medium but learned that I will only use coarse wool and shorter lengths for this level since if you are a seasoned spinner you know that the coarser wool is stickier and stays spun more readily without too much effort.

Never the less, EVERY student completed three lengths of white merino which they will dye next week and then use in an upcoming weaving project.
Here is a look at their good work! They did a fine job and were very proud of their accomplishment!
One of the greatest joys and compliments that I have received from teaching this class has been that every week as the children leave my class, I hear at least one parent exclaim something like this. "Did you make that?" and when the children say yes, I hear them ask again "YOU made that?" with total surprise.
Pure honey to my ears :-)
I don't think it's that the parents don't think highly of their children's abilities necessarily. Instead I think this is because they perceive that this would be difficult for them to do, let alone their small children. This has made me realize how we as adults, put OUR OWN limitations on what a child can accomplish.
I hope that this is a lesson that I will remember!
Until next time!

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