Wednesday, 10 July 2013

tutorial :: weaving on sticks and walks in nature

Teeny twiglet loom weaving using hand dyed silk thread.

For me, creating with my children is a natural extension of my own making and we do lots of crafting, but even I can be known to think of crafting with them as too annoying. Often we put crafting with children into the too hard basket because we think we don’t have enough time, it’s too messy, a perceived lack of skill, or it will be expensive.

I have some news to share with you – crafting with children can be as simple and beautiful as tying some yarn around a stick and hanging it in their bedroom window, or outside in a tree. Sitting beside you with your full attention is just as important as the project itself.

This is a simple weaving project which uses found and low cost or recycled materials. Children as young as three or four will enjoy being able to master the technique while older children and adults can make their designs more complex or personal. It's a great way to explore colour combinations and textural differences - it's fun to mix and match different wools, cottons, fabrics and found objects.

To start this project you’ll need some twigs or sticks. While paddle pop sticks will work, it’s much more fun, environmental and prettier if you use twigs collected from the backyard or a walk around your neighbourhood. Choose sticks that are not too thick but are strong enough they won’t break easily (eucalypts work well). If they have a wiggly shape or interesting details this will add to your finished piece. To make the most of spending time with your kids, think of the twig gathering as an activity in itself and enjoy the walk in the Winter sunshine, exploring and taking time to stop to look at things instead of the usual school-day attitude of hurrying curious children on. Take a gathering basket with you!

For our weaving we found some sticks with a natural fork in them, and used that as the edges of the loom. If you can’t find a forked stick you can create one by tying three sticks into a triangle. Your twigs can be as long as you like; experiment with different sizes, and shapes; try four sticks to make a square weaving loom.

For the weaving I use whatever yarn I can get my hands on, though I do prefer natural fibres. Children appreciate using beautiful crafting supplies – you will all enjoy the look and feel of interesting colours and textures. At markets and op-shops keep a look out for bags of wool, cottons or yarns. You can also make your own yarn using old sheets, fabric or t-shirts. I've also found, this Winter season, some very reasonably priced home-spun yarns at my local environment centre shop and craft shop.

Tie the warp thread tightly onto your twig, then wrap around and around to create your loom.

Once your warp thread is fully wrapped and tied tightly at the other end, start your weft thread (the yellow thread above) and weave under and over. Depending on the thickness of your stick, you may find this easier or harder to get a smooth finish.

What to do: Tie one end of the yarn to the bottom of one of the forks of your branch. Stretch the yarn across to the other fork and wrap it around once so you have bridged the thinnest part of your triangle. Take your yarn back to the first side and wrap around about 1-2cm above the first wrap (the thickness of your yarn will determine how far you make these strings/wraps). Continue wrapping the yarn between the two sides, until you get to the top of the fork. In weaving terminology you have now created the warp.

Then, taking a new length of yarn (called the weft) weave across the warp threads. Start by knotting your weft onto the bottom warp yarn and threading the yarn over one warp thread then under the next one, then over and so on. When you get to the end, reverse direction and take your weft back down going under the warp that you previously wove over and over the ones you went under.

You can change your weft colour to create patterns or a random effect. Tie each new weft colour yarn onto the previous colour or onto the warp so the whole lot won’t unravel. You might also weave in leaves, feathers, grasses or flowers you found on your walk; or ribbons, lace or other found string-like items. There are no rules. 

I used a needle as the shuttle for these tiny twiglets that I worked on. It was so much easier than pushing the weft through the warp. You can also use some flat cardboard with the end of your weft yarn taped to it; this helps kids have something to work over and under the warp threads, and then pull it all through. 

The more you practice, the more even your tension will be – which means that the weaving will be tight and firm, not too floppy and not pulled out of shape. My children and I are slowly filling the bare Winter branches of a special tree in our garden with hanging weavings and yarn wrapped twigs. It makes me smile each time I look at it, and I'm wondering what the kookaburras think of it all! I think one of the most important things about being creative is not if it’s perfect or neat, but if you feel joy in the making of and looking at it. And if you can share your making time with someone special you just might multiply this joy. It's important for children to learn that mistakes in creativity aren't a bad thing, and to be able to enjoy their artworks in all their wonky amazingness!
This one, made of op-shopped wools and fabric yarn, lives outside under our tree.

*This article was written for and published in my local newspaper, The Tweed Valley Weekly. I have made a few changes here, but barely any. Thanks also to my sister who edited this for me (for the paper - I don't generally have a blog editor.. though.. hmmmm). 

I can't wait to see your tree filled with yarn wrapped wonderful-ness. Please do share! Please contact me if you need any more pictures or extra info. {the children took over my creative space so the photo session was cut short......}..
I love the shadow play that was happening on the sunny day I was a-making. This makes me think of a weedy seadragon; one of my favourite of all animals is a sea horse.

4 comments:

  1. we did something like this last september
    http://bitsofsunshine.typepad.com/bits_of_sunshine/2012/09/sticks-and-string.html

    and we had such fun!
    now they are hanging out in our garden.
    http://bitsofsunshine.typepad.com/bits_of_sunshine/2013/06/around-here.html

    yours are so pretty, too!

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    Replies
    1. Yours are sweet. I love seeing the way kids go with something and it's so different - wonderfully different - from what you had in mind. They look pretty in your garden behind your flowers.
      Have a sweet week xxx

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  2. What an amazing idea. I have my creative 11 yr old niece staying tonight, we might do some of this I think!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope you had some fun making these. I'm so enjoying seeing them out in my garden, but I bet your niece would love them in her bedroom.
      Have a lovely week x

      Delete

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