Friday, May 21, 2010

Rag Weaving

This month we received a lifetime supply of big and colorful mat board from Apple Jack Press.  I'm not kidding. This is a serious assortment of mat board in all colors, shapes, and sizes.  Thank you, Apple Jack Press, for supporting the arts in Bennington County!

I'm still in the process of going through the big unwieldy pile and trimming it down into uniform sizes that will fit on the art closet shelves, but decided to take a break from that, and make some cardboard looms.  We're going to finish up the year with some weaving!

My students love weaving.  Of course, there are a million ways of doing things, but here's what I do.  For simplicity sake, I use the paper cutter to cut the mat board (or cardboard) to a uniform size.  I chose 7" X 11", because this worked for the size of the scraps I had after trimming.  I measured and marked the spacing for the notches on the first loom.  I found I could quickly transfer the notch-marks to the other looms if I staggering the edges (so they looked like steps), and placed the marked loom on top as a guide.  With a pencil I ran down the steps.  I found I could mark 20 looms in about 4 minutes.  Of course, you could have the kids measure and mark their looms, but again, for simplicity sake....

Kids began by cutting the notches and writing their names on the back of the looms.  They warped their loom by taping the warp thread to the back of the loom then bringing the warp to the front, down, around the peg, back up and around.  They ended by taping the warp to the back of the loom.  

We made "yarn" from old T-shirts by cutting a continuous spiral around, and around, the body of a shirt.  On some shirts, we found we could give the yarn a little tug to make the yarn curl up--like the loops sold to make pot holders.  Tug, and wind up into a ball as you go.  There you have it.  The rag yarn helped to stretch our limited yarn supply.

I'm a big fan of this video and always use it to introduce the basic do's and don'ts before we begin.


Here is a link to the handouts I use for weaving patterns.

I assess students on their ability to discuss weaving using a weaving-specific vocabulary (warp, weft, shuttle, shed, tabby weave, basket weave, rya, twill, selvage).  Demonstrate three different weaving patterns (either in their own weaving or on our shared Friendly Loom).  They must also demonstrate that they can control the tension of their weaving to create even selvages.

This year we are relating our weaving to weavers in Guatemala.

I find that some students will take longer than others to finish their weaving so it's good to have a secondary activity handy.  Straw weaving and homemade knitting nancy's work well here.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


This looks like fun.  Here they build their ball around an old tennis ball (which i don't have).  I think I'll try a core of newspaper and masking tape.

Monday, May 3, 2010

2010: Year of the Tiger

Natty241 posted a lesson on her blog last month that she calls "Big Cats".  I loved what she did and thought we might give something similar a try.  As it was, we'd been talking about Chinese New Year, Spring Celebration, and the Year of the Tiger this month.  We'd done a little Chinese brush work, and some practice drawings of tigers.  Her lesson really pulled a lot of things together for our kindergarten, first, and second graders and we owe her a great big thanks.
To make our cats, I first brainstormed with the kids about what kind of animals are called "big cats".  I collected their ideas.  And we looked at some reference photos from the library. Next, I did a quick demonstration to get them started.  I showed my students how to start big by drawing two dots for the eyes.  I showed them how to add the nose, mouth, muzzle, head, and ears. I really emphasized "big", and using the whole paper.  We used 12"X18". I showed students how that they could let the cat touch the edges or flow off the paper.  I had ready an example that was finished as a tiger, so in my demonstration, I showed students how to add a mane to the basic cat face if they wanted a lion, or spots for a cheetah, or leopard.
Students were given brushes and black tempera, thinned with a little water so it really flowed off the brush.  No pencils, just paint and brush.  If students felt ready to start on their own the dug right in.  I did a step-by- step demo at the board for little ones who wanted the help. 
We finished our big cats in three different ways.  I loved the way first grade work looked as a brush and ink drawing and these were mounted on orange paper for the art show next week.  Second graders finished their cats with chalk pastels and got some experience blending analogous colors.  Kindergartners finished their cats with crayons practicing coloring "the kindergarten way", and blending oranges and yellows to get those in-between colors.
Check out the original lesson at