I really enjoy teaching children how to weave. It is so personal and useful. Weaving is everywhere and it is one of the first artforms that we created, simply out of necessity. Not only are weavings beautiful, they are functional, and I’m all about that. At the beginning of the unit, I usually bring in baskets, some straw hats, and post pictures on the Promethean board for students to see. We also discuss rugs students may have at home. Most people here have a carpet, or four, because rug salesmen frequent our camp during camp events, and no matter how hard you try you end up carting a new rug home by days end. Or maybe that’s just me.
I love teaching weaving also because of the amount of math. It involves a lot of spatial awareness and measuring. I start every weaving project with the same base. One piece of large construction paper folded in half and measured out. This is the warp. The students are given very specific instructions on how to use the ruler and I have students write “Do Not Cut” at the top of the line, which is created on the open end of the paper (not the folded end).
Every first project involves strips of paper woven in. But after students understand how weaving works, they can get creative in how they cut the paper (the warp), how they decorate the warp, or how they decorate the strips.
For this last weaving project, we did something super fun. We painted our warp paper first, then proceeded to weave as we had been taught to do in the two rounds before. I instructed students that we weren’t going to paint a picture or words because things were going to be covered, we simply wanted to add some design elements to the warp paper.
After we painted, students could decide if they wanted to make straight cuts, or wavy cuts into their paper. Then they could weave away. I love how they came out.
These students know how to weave.
Now comes my favorite part: sewing. Yes, first graders rock at sewing. They first learned how to thread the yarn through the needle. Then they learned how to tie a knot at the end. Then came the lesson about the lake.
The first part involved teaching students how to write their names on the burlap. They could not use curved lines, all the letters have to be made with straight lines, so we practiced on small whiteboards I have in the room until we got our written correctly.
Then came the pretending part of our lesson. I want students to imagine that the burlap is a lake. From up high, you could see the name of the lake. That way students understand that the name has to face up. The burlap is the surface of the lake, underneath the burlap is the water, and up high is the sky. Then I wanted students to imagine that they are a fish. The fish jumps out of the water as high as it can go until the knot keeps it tied to the lake, then they jump back into the water really close to where they jumped. They go back and forth, stitching their name, going into and out of the lake.
One of the concepts that is hard to understand is that you cannot go around the “lake”. Some students kept going around the burlap. They understood it more when I told them it was like the pool they swim in all the time. They can’t go out of the pool and then come back through the Earth and concrete.
After they finished their first letter, they needed to know how to jump to the next. I explained that jumping happens only in the water, which now I started calling the “ugly side.” They all know what the ugly side means from other projects, it’s the side no one sees. I tried to encourage small jumps to save on yarn. Some kids got so good that their pretty side and the ugly side look pretty similar. When you run out of yarn, you cut, tie off, reload, and start where you left off. If you make a mistake, you back up.
The amount of learning in this is incredible. THEY LOVE IT!!!
Once the name is mastered, we worked on different kinds of stitches and some designs. Some of the stitches include zig zag, Xs, castle line, and braid.
Next year I want to create a weaving and sewing station. All of my students proved to be very responsible with the needles. Students love sewing and didn’t want to stop so the possibilities are really endless in where we go from here.