Thursday, July 8, 2010

Summer Weaving Project for Children

Now that the school term is over and I've had a vacation with family to decompress, I'm trying to get into a new groove! Summer always brings a variety of new routines for everyone, especially those with children.

Rag Weaving is  a fun project that children can do on rainy days during their summer vacation that doesn't require much in the way of special pricey materials.

What they will need:
A loom: This can be a simple wooden frame of most any manageable size. Even an old sturdy picture frame will do. A piece of sturdy cardboard cut about 3" larger than you want the finished piece to be on each side with slits cut into two ends about 1/4" apart so that the warp threads will stay in place will also work. Old pizza boxes work well. Or maybe you already have a basic store bought frame loom.

Weaving material: Old sheeting can be torn or cut into strips or old T-shirts, spiral cut into one continuos strip about 1" wide as the weft or weaving source.

Warp thread: A cotton crochet yarn like "sugar & cream" that can be found in most discount stores works well and is available in lots of colors. 

Beater: This is used to compress the rows of weaving to make it sturdier and more durable. I use a hair pick comb but a fork will work just as well.

Other supplies: Fabric scissors, a large eyed weaving needle. A popsicle stick with a hole drilled into one end works well too. If you are making a cardboard loom you will also need a razor knife to cut the slits and a ruler and pencil to mark them.
To warp the loom, tie or tape one end of the warp thread to the loom and wrap it leaving a 1/4" space between wraps. Keep wrapping until the threads are as wide as you wnat the project to be. Once your loom is warped and the fabric cut, begin weaving three or four rows using the warp thread remembering to always use an over and under pattern on each row as well as when moving on to the next row in one continuos
pattern. Beginning and ending with the warp thread will create a finished edge for the work. Once that has been done begin weaving with the fabric.
Whenever you change from one end of thread or cloth to another overlap them as shown in the photo. This will ensure a good joint and prevent your woven cloth from having any weak spots.

After every two or three rows of weaving, beat the work to compress it as much as you want to make a firmer piece of cloth. The more you compact it, the less of the warp thread you will see and the harder the cloth will become. Weaving that is not beaten or compressed will not hold up well to heavy use or laundering. Have the children
experiment with beating so that they can see what they like and what works best for their end project. A piece that they create to act as a doily for a bureau may not have to be as sturdy as a piece that they will make to use as a coaster or a place mat.
Part of the learning curve in weaving is to not pull the fabric too tightly when weaving it across the warp to the other end which will create a "waist" in the work. Having the edges even is part of the challenge without making it so tight that the waist is created. A little bit of ease on the edges is OK; eveness at the edges is more important.

Keep weaving until your piece is about a half inch shorter than you want it to be and weave a few final rows using the warp thread as you did at the beginning. The weaving part is now complete. Turn your weaving so that the back side is up and cut the warp threads in the center as shown in the photo. Be mindful to keep the threads in order to make it easier for tieing them off.

Finish off the piece by tieing double knots in the cut ends as closely to the work as possible without making it curl up from too much tension and cut the ends evenly to whatever length you prefer for fringe. (The cut threads can be saved to use in thread painting projects later.) Children can experiment here with knotting patterns. One option is to tie a knot near the work using two threads on each side and then tieng a second row further down by taking one thread from each knot end to create a macrame look.
See how many different end products the children can come up with using this easy weaving method. By using cardboard as a loom various shapes can be woven that can be stitched into small purses and amulets to make necklaces, or a gift set of coasters.
Children gain a mountain of self esteem when they can create something on their own. It is especially important for them to be sure that whatever the outcome of their project is, that their efforts are recognized. In praising their efforts you are fostering their creativity and helping them to develop into independent and confident adults. For children, the end reuslt is not as important as the process :-) 

Until next time............