With the wealth of information and ideas to keep us busy floating around the internet at the moment, I have felt like there has been no need for me to add to what could easily be an overwhelming abundance. But then I noticed that despite so many of us knowing how important immersion in the arts is at this time - there really don't seem to be that many resources for practical activities available.
But we must still find ways to help our children engage in handwork.
It is as simple as that.
As teachers and parents, we are responsible for our children's wellbeing all of the time, and now, more than any time in any of our lives, this needs to be our highest priority. I could (and often do) wax lyrical for hours about why handwork is so important for both adults and children (pop over here if you are in any doubt) but the fact that you are here implies that you already know this so I'll leave it there for now!
I have tried to find activities that can be presented to children without very much expert input and with materials they might already have around the home. Weaving on a cardboard loom meets these criteria perfectly and has the added bonus that once children get into it, they will continue to weave for days - at once finding new and exciting variations of their own, and losing themselves in the creative process.
This lesson is straight from my book The Work of Wool - A Montessori Handwork Album.
Regular text = what I do
Italic text = what I say
Making and Using a Cardboard Loom
Materials: Balls of yarn, pieces of sturdy cardboard, scissors, pencils, rulers, yarn needles (you can improvise these from pipe-cleaners or tape the yarn to the end of a skewer).
Gather the children and ask them bring any yarn they have spun to the lesson if they would like to use it to weave with.
Invite children to share anything they found out about weaving since the last lesson.
Last time we talked about weaving and looked at some of the different kinds of weaving looms that people have invented. They used the materials they had around them to make looms to suit the fibres they had to weave as well as fit in with their lifestyles.
Today I thought we would have a go at making our own weaving looms out of materials we have easily available. I’m going to make a loom out of cardboard I found in the recycling bin.
I have chosen a clean, sturdy piece of cardboard and cut it into a neat rectangle. I want my finished weaving to be a 15cm (6in) square so I need my cardboard to be a 17cm (6.5in) square.
I am going to start by making some notches in the top and bottom of my cardboard. These are going to hold the yarn for me to weave in and out of - remember we called the threads that started on the loom the warp? So we are making the notches for our warp threads. I want the threads to be evenly spaced so I am going to measure and mark where I want to notches to go.
Using a pencil and ruler measure and mark 1cm (1/4in) spaces along the top and bottom of the cardboard.
I also want my warp threads to all be the same length so I am going to measure and mark a line to show me how deep to cut my notches.
Measure and mark a line 1cm (1/4 in) from the top and bottom of the cardboard.
Now I am ready to cut my notches, I am going to cut along each of the lines I have marked, taking care to go up to, but not past my horizontal line.
Cut notches at measured intervals along cardboard.
My loom is made and ready to be warped. I want to weave with this yarn that I have spun but as homespun isn’t always as strong as commercially made yarn, I think I will use this commercial yarn for my warp threads and save my homespun for my weft.
Watch how I wrap my yarn over my loom, keeping it nice and tight. Can you see how I have left quite a long tail at the back? I’m going to need that in a minute.
Leave a tail that is more than half the length of your loom and, working from one side to the other, wrap yarn up and over the top of the loom so it catches a notch and comes back down the other side.
The threads on the front of the loom will be perpendicular and the threads on the back will be slightly oblique.
Now I have threads in every notch in my loom I want to make sure they don’t come out so I am going to tie my ends together.
Turn loom over and tie the ends together. Cut off excess yarn.
Note: If children have trouble with the threads slipping as they weave, you can put masking tape across the back to hold them in place.
Now our loom is warped and ready to go! Who can think what the next step of weaving might be? Right - we need to weave our weft threads over and under our warp threads.
I’m going to use this yarn needle to help me.
Thread some yarn into a yarn needle and, starting from one side, begin to weave it over and under the warp threads.
Hmm, this isn’t as easy as I thought it would be. The threads are lying very close to the cardboard of the loom so they are hard to pick up each time I go under. I wonder if there is a way I can keep them lifted up to make it easier?
Take suggestions – a pencil, another piece of cardboard?
Slide something that will slightly lift the threads under them all towards the top of the loom. Try weaving again.
Aha, this is much easier!
Now I can go back the other way to make my next row. When I go back, I have to make sure I go over the threads that I went under, and under the threads that I went over.
Weave a few more rows for the children to see.
It still seems to take a while to pull all the yarn through, and I’m worried it might get tangled. Do you remember what the weavers in our story used to help them push the yarn through with? They used a shuttle.
Maybe I could make a shuttle to help me.
Cut a thin rectangle of cardboard about the width of your loom. Round off the corners and cut a thick notch into each end.
This should help me to push the warp through the weft. I’ll wind some yarn only it and try it out.
Wind a length of yarn onto your shuttle and, leaving enough yarn trailing to make the first row, weave it through your weft.
It works! Now I can use a very long length of yarn to weave with and it won’t get tangled.
Now that I have woven a few rows I need to push them down to the bottom of my loom so I can weave some more. I want my rows to be quite close together so that the fabric is strong.
Use your fingers to push the thread to the bottom of the loom.
Note: You might like to try using a fork for this.
When I pull my shuttle through, I want to be careful not to pull it too tight otherwise the warp threads will bunch up like this and I’ll end up with a very thin piece of weaving.
Pull the weft thread tight to show bunched up warp threads. Then tease them out again.
To help keep the warp threads from bunching up, I can keep hold of the thread at the edge where it turned around to go back through the weaving. I’ll also remember to keep checking as I weave and make sure my threads look even.
Weave a few more rows for the children to watch, emphasising the under/over pattern, keeping the threads even and pushing each row firmly down.
Invite children to make their own looms and assist as necessary.
I'd love to know how your children get on with their own cardboard looms. Please let me know in the comments section below, on the Montessori Handwork Facebook page or in the Montessori Handwork Threads Facebook group.
Stay safe friends!