Studio: Fibers – CDs and Paper Plates Make Perfect (and Cheap) Looms with Cassie Stephens
Today we’re going to chat about two unconventional looms that you can use in your art room, which would be weaving on CDs and weaving on paper plates. Let’s talk about CDs first. The thing that these two kinds of weavings have in common is they are both circle loom weavings. I do circle loom weavings with my second grades tudents on up. If you’re short on time, because weaving is time consuming, CD loom weaving is a lot faster. You’re going to use this CD as your loom, and I’m going to share with you how to work your loom and weave on it so you can create with your students weavings like this one. Let’s chat about how to get the loom of the CD warped.
Your students will have a CD and usually I just have the reflective side be the front, writing their name and teacher code on the back side of the loom. I then give them a pre-cut strand of yarn. I usually measure these strands of yarn out, and as you can see, this one wrapped around my arm one and a half times. That gives you an idea about the amount of yarn that you’ll need to have ready for your students to work their looms. To start warping their looms, the first things your students are going to do is feed that yarn inside the center of the CD, and they’re going to tie, with a double knot, that short tail that they just fed through the CD to the longer tail, making sure to get that knot nice and snug. They could use a buddy to help them out if they need an extra finger to hold that knot in place. Once that double knot is tied, they’ll need to go ahead and move this knot so it’s closer to the center of the CD, just like that.
Now, what I’m going to do is just wrap that string around and around the loom. When you’re doing circle loom weavings, whether it be on a CD, a hula hoop, a plate, always remember that the amount of warp strings, which I’m about to put on the loom, has to be an odd number. I’m going to go ahead and start wrapping this long string around the CD. I’m just going to move this little tail out of the way so as not to confuse you. I’m going pinch that right there. I’m going to feed the end of the yarn right into the center of the CD to warp the loom. The reason I always hesitated doing CD loom weaving with my students was because I thought that these warp strings would move around as my students were trying to weave. It does move, but it does not wiggle too badly when they’re weaving. The good thing about it moving is that you can adjust it when you’re warping that loom. Here I am, just wrapping these strings around the loom to get it warped and when I’m finished, I’ll need to count and make sure I have an odd number.
Now, I’m nearing the end of warping the loom. I’m just going to double check and see if I have an odd number. I have nine. If I wanted to make a weaving that had a tighter weave to it, then I could simply have my students add more warp strings by scooting these strings a little bit closer together and warping it some more, but I’m pretty comfortable with the amount of strings that I have, which is nine. I’m going to go ahead and tie this string off and I’m tying it to my other tail of the first string, using a double knot. I’m going to go ahead and trim these off, and now I’m ready to start weaving.
Like I said, if some of the strings got a little too close together, go ahead and have your students move them around and make sure they’re all evenly spaced. When you’re weaving on a CD loom the warping part, you’ll want to use a nice thing yarn for warping, but when it comes to weaving, that’s when I give my students a lot of options when it comes to yarn. When you’re weaving, if you’ve introduced weaving to your students before, then they know that the process if a pattern of over and under. It’s an AB pattern. It does not matter where they start, and I am going to go ahead and start by going under, over, under, and over. That’s all there is to it, around and around that loom, and I like to have them pull, leaving a little tail. Some of my students aren’t comfortable with this tail hanging there, so they will often times just tie it to one of the strands or loop it around like I just did, which is fine. Move that a little bit out of the way. The last thing I just did was under, so I know that my next step is over.
Now, when your students have finished their one string, to add an extra string on, all you have to do is have your old string be right side by side next to your new string, make a circle with your finger, take the tails, put them in the hole, and pull tightly. These little tails right here, those can be trimmed off or … When the students are weaving, you can go ahead and leave these and when the weaving is finished, those knots can easily just be tucked underneath the weaving and hidden.
When your students are finished weaving, they can stop when they’ve gotten all the way to the rim of the CD. You’re going to have some students who enjoy weaving so much that they’ll want to continue on and you’ll have others that are comfortable with stopping, which is fine. They still have this beautiful background of the CD to hide the fact that they have made a smaller weaving. To finish off, this little tail that they have, all you need to do is have them slip that underneath the yarn, and go ahead and tie a knot. A single knot is fine, a double knot will make sure that it’s not going to fall off. Again, those extra strings that were sticking out from your knots, those can simply be tucked underneath the weaving to hide them. If your students are going to be hanging their weaving, then just have them, on the back of their CD, tie an extra strand of yarn with a double knot and that will act as the hanger for your CD.
In the stick weaving video, I shared with you how to make pom poms. Those pom poms can also be added to the bottom of this kind of weaving. This string is simply tied through the middle of that pom pom and attached to the back of the CD. That is CD weaving. CD weaving is a perfect alternative to circle loom weaving because, as you can see, it goes by very quickly.
Now, let’s talk about a similar style of weaving, but the loom is created on a different service. That is plate weaving. I have done paper plate weaving like this one with my second grade students and up, and as you can see, it’s a circle loom right in the center. The great thing about plates is that they come in a variety of sizes. I prefer to use Chinette plates because they are a lot thicker and they’re not going to warp and bend in as the kids are warping their looms and painting them. I just discovered that Chinette now makes plates that are a lot smaller. This is great if you’re short on time and you want to have the students weave on a surface that’s a little bit smaller.
Another alternative to plate weaving is to do tree weavings. This is a style of weaving that I’ve done with my third grade students and up. These are some examples of tree weavings, but the cool thing about this kind of weaving is that if you can imagine this shape being several different things. If you imagine, this could be a bird, perhaps a peacock, that the students could weave. Or, if you flip this loom upside down, you could end up creating a different kind of tree weaving entirely. Let’s talk about how to create a circle loom weaving like this one, and then we’ll address the tree weaving.
When I’m introducing circle loom weaving to my students, second grade and up, on the first day of art class, we talk about Kandinsky and we talk about concentric circles. My students use that first art class to paint a series of concentric circles on their Chinette plate. Their name and teacher code is written on the back. On the second art class, we talk a lot about patterns and we look at Henry Matisse and his love for patterns, and that’s when my students use a fine tipped brush and start to add patterns to their plate. Once their plates are complete and painted, then they are ready to be warped for weaving.
To do that, I give my students a template. Here’s my weaving and here’s my template. I have several of these on the tables. This has multiple cuts on it, and what I do is I have my students place this on their plate, just like that, holding this very still, using a pencil to draw the lines inside of those cuts that I’ve made. Now, it’s important that, because this is a round weaving, you have an odd number of notches on your plate. I have 19 notches cut on this plate. You could, if you wanted to, have even fewer notches, which would mean it would be a simpler weaving for your students. It would also be less time-consuming for them. That’s up to you and how much time you want to devote to weaving in your room. What I tell my students is to then remove this plate and then I really stress that they need to count those pencil lines before they cut. Count before you cut, because you’ll have some friends who will end up about 3,000 different lines about the edge of their plate, but if they count before they cut, then they will end up with 19, which is the magic number.
Once my students have counted and cut all of the lines on their loom, I have them go to what I call my store, which is my supply gathering area, and pick up a small skein of yarn. I prefer to have them use the thinner yarn, not the funky monkey yarn, as we call it. This is great for weaving. It’s not great for warping the loom. These strands of yarn, I usually have pre-cut to a determined length, depending on what size loom they’re using. For example, I went ahead before my students came, warped my loom, took the yarn off, and then I measured that yarn to know how long of a strand of yarn each one of my students needed. For these smaller looms, it looks like I’m wrapping it around my arm twice. I just gently slide it off and have it ready for them in a small bundle at what I call the store. When they meet me on the floor, they are to have their plate, their strand of pre-cut yarn, and one piece of tape, stuck somewhere on them so they can grab it shortly.
The first step to warping your loom is to have all of your students with you on the floor and really have them focused, because warping is not difficult, but since there’s multiple steps, it can be a little bit tricky. We have this little routine in my room, whenever my hands are working, their hands are resting in their lap. When my hands are in my lap taking a nap, it’s their turn. Their special signal to me, to show me that they’re ready for the next step, is to put their hands back in their lap, taking a nap. The first step to warping the loom is to pick any notch, it does not matter which, take the end of the yarn, and just put it inside one of those notches. Like I said, it doesn’t matter which one. The tail on the back of the loom should be nice and short, and this is where they use that piece of tape to tape the tail down, to secure it so it does not come out.
Now, this next step is very important. Because there’s an odd number of notches on their loom, they’re going to need to divide their loom in half, the closest that they can. If they imagine that this is a clock, and this is 12, have them gently pull this down and slide it into what they know should be where 6 is. Then, they need to count. They should have 8 notches on one side, and 9 on the other. I tell them to make sure that they have 9 notches on the right hand side, and 8 on the left. I’m just going to go ahead and count. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9. Now, I’m ready to begin. What I do is I have my students just set that on the floor in front of them so I can just quickly glance and see, do they have more space on one side and less on the other?
To warp the loom, I tell the kids a little bit of a story, just so that they understand the pattern of weaving and they understand how to go about warping it. Here’s a string, and he’s going to go to the next door neighbor’s house on the side of the road where there’s more houses, which would be on the side where there’s 9. He’s going to go inside that house, without knocking, which is never a good idea, and then he is kicked out of the house by the mom. She says, “Get out of my house,” so he runs all the way across the street, making the world’s skinniest X. Then, he’s going to go inside this house. That’s usually where I pause and I have my student’s do the same. They set this down on the floor in front of them and I can double check and make sure they have the exact same thing so we’re all on track.
I have them then rotate their loom and they do the exact same thing again. Here’s my little string. He goes inside the neighbor’s house. The mom says, “Get out of my house,” so he runs all the way across the street making an X. That’s not an X, that’s too big of an X, there we go. Once you have that, again, rotate. This just continues, me going over this step by step with my students until they have warped their loom. You’re going to have some friends who get a little confused along the way, and when they do, that’s when you use your peer tutoring. Those students who have their plates on the floor in front of them and their hands in their lap, giving you their signal that they are finished, ask those students to help a friend, and make sure that all students have their looms warped correctly.
Now, here’s what a correct warped loom looks like. When you have one strand of yarn and he has one little house to go into, and that is it, nowhere else to go. All of the houses are full. This, now, is no longer your warp strand, your strand that you were using to warp your loom. It now becomes your weft strand, and weft strings are used for weaving. When I start weaving on a circle loom weaving, I can either start by going over or under. That choice is mine, and I can also start by either going counter-clockwise or clockwise. That’s up to the artist. However, if I decide to go counter-clockwise, which I always naturally do, I cannot change my mind and reverse it, because that will undo my weaving. I’m going to go ahead and start. Again, just like CD weaving and all weaving, it’s the process of under and over. I like to do a little bit at a time, and then pull. This is sometimes where my students get a little stumped, because now that the yarn is so close to center where a lot of strings are gathered, it’s hard for them to see. I just tell them to gently pull the string, and then you’re pulling on the one that you just did. I just went under this one, so that tells me I will go over the next one.
If you notice that some of your students are having trouble in the beginning, it could be because the warp strings are the same color as what they’re weaving with. Help them out by just having them add a new strand of yarn to this and they’ll be able to see this new color of weft string better up against those colors of the warp string. I’m going to go ahead and do that. I’m going to go ahead and tie a new strand of string onto here, and to do that, I’m just going to put both strings together, side by side, going around my finger. Put the tail in the hole and pull. These extra strings can always be snipped off or just left and tucked under, like we did with the CD loom weaving.
Now, when your students are approaching the end of their weaving, some of your students are going to weave and get really close to the edge because they’re going to enjoy doing it so much. Other students are going to weave a small amount and they’re going to be happy and content with that amount of weaving. The great thing about doing it on a paper plate like this is they’ve already created this beautiful background, so if they do a smaller weaving, it’s not going to take away from the finished product. When they do finish their weaving, it’s a good idea to have them take that last strand of yarn and go ahead and tie it to one of the warp strings. A double knot is great; a single knot should be fine. Once that’s finished, I usually have them turn their plates over to the back and take a strand of yarn that’s about half the length of what they have been using, and we’re going to turn this into the hanger for the plate weaving. I’m just sliding this string underneath and I’m using a double knot to secure it, leaving one little dashed line empty, hopping to the next one, and doing the same thing. This creates a hanger for them so they can hang their weavings up for display. That would be circle loom weaving.
Let’s now talk about how to do tree weaving. Tree weaving is a great follow up project because it is similar to circle loom weaving, but instead of going all the way around the plate, you’re simply weaving back and forth. I have done this project with my third grade students, and the reason I love this project is because it can tie in painting landscapes. You can chat with your students about how to create different values of color to show space and depth in their landscapes. It’s a complete landscape painting lesson, and then you’re adding another element of weaving. I’ve also done this to tie in different cultures. For example, when we learning about Scotland, we painted a Scottish kind of landscape. We even added sheep. Then we were able to tie in the element of weaving, and Scotland has a very strong weaving culture in their society. Let’s talk about how to do different types of tree weavings in your art room.
Just like with your plate weaving, you’re going to need to have a template. I have a tree weaving template, and that template has 10 notches at the top and 2 at the bottom. Once your students have finished painting their landscape, you’re going to have them place this template on top. Now, it’s important that they place it on top how they would imagine a tree would be standing. Putting it like that would not be a good idea, unless they’re going to be painting a tornado in the background of their landscape. Go ahead and have them place that on top. This is the same concept. For my students, I just remind them of what they did last year when they did their circle loom weaving, so they kind of understand this process also. Once that’s finished, again, have them count before they cut. There should be 2 notches at the bottom and 10 at the top. When I have them cut, these Chinette plates have several little rims on them. I tell them to stop cutting at that first rim. If they cut too far down what will happen is that their weaving will drop down. The reason you use a plate is because it’s suspending those woven strings a little bit, which helps their fingers get over and under.
Warping of this loom is actually a lot simpler than warping of the plate loom, because all you’re going to do is basically go back and forth. Again, this is a strand of pre-cut yarn that I’ve measured. These would also be found at the store by my students. When they’re finished cutting their plate, they grab that yarn and once again have a piece of tape handy. To start warping, they’re just going to start at the bottom, again, leaving that short little tail, taping it in the back. Then I’m just coming up to the top, going in, going out, coming back down. For the bottom, I always tell them that the one on the left is where they’ll go in. The one on the right is where they’ll come out. In, and out, down at the bottom. As you can see, this one does not require as much time or as much explanation for the students. Warping of this one is quite a bit easier. The possibilities for what you could turn this kind of weaving into are kind of endless. If you would imagine all the different things that are kind of shaped like this, or if you even flip it around like that to have your students weave, I’m sure you’ll come up with some great ideas in your art room.
With this extra strand of yarn, in the other weavings, we used this to start weaving with. We are actually going to use this extra strand of yarn to build up the trunk of your tree. Using this strand of yarn, you’re going to wrap it around the back of all the strands of yarn. Then, the students can decide, do they want a tree where the trunk is very narrow? If so, they can pull that string a little bit more tightly, just like that. I’m just wrapping it around. I have had students who wanted to add more string to this yarn, so that they can have a taller trunk, and that’s fine. They could just simply double knot tie the two strands of yarn together. Once they feel like they’ve gotten a trunk that’s tall enough, then they go ahead and tie this string to one of the warped strings. A double knot is great. Then they’re ready to start weaving.
When you start with your tree weaving, you could do this a couple of different ways. You could have your students start at the bottom and weave up, but what I prefer to do is to start at the top and weave down. The reason being is, those warp strings are very close and tight together, and I have found that it’s difficult for students to figure out which one to go over and under. I’m going to rotate my plate so my tree is upside down, and I’m going to start on one end. Just so it doesn’t slip out, I’m going to go ahead and double knot tie it to one of the warp strands. Again, with weaving, it’s that same pattern of over and under.
Now, unlike circle loom weaving, where you were going around and around the plate, this time, when your students get to the end of the tree, they’re going to need to go back the opposite direction, and when they go back the opposite direction, they also need to be weaving the opposite way. The last thing I just did here was under, so now I have to go over. You might have noticed something about when I pulled that string, that that line went almost perfectly horizontal and that’s not going to look very good on my tree. Let’s talk about how to fix that. I’m going to pull this gently, and then you’re going to have to have your students push that strand of yarn up to the top. It’s naturally going to want to keep coming down, so they’ll have to remember not to pull this warped strand tightly, otherwise it will drop the leaves of their tree down. Using one hand as the comb works great to keep those strands of yarn up close to the top of the tree.
Now, when your students have finished and they are closer toward the bottom of their tree, depending on how much leaves they want in their tree, the cool thing is if they don’t fill the tree, it’s okay because then you’re left with these really cool branches for your tree, they can finish their weaving by simply tying off that last string to one of the tree branches. Trim this tail. Again, just like with circle loom weaving, you might want to have them add a string of yarn to the back, to create some sort of hanger for their weaving. Here is another finished weaving where you can see I went down a little bit further. When it comes to creating a different kind of tree, if you would imagine that this one, I started at the top, but just kept forcing those strands down to the bottom, and didn’t create a trunk at the bottom. Instead, when I was finished, I just gathered those strings right here at the top to create the trunk of that tree. There’s a lot of different alternative ideas that you can do with this kind of project. Tree weaving is great fun to do with your third grade students and up, especially if they have experience with other kinds of weavings on different conventional looms.
Let’s chat now about some other, more advanced weavings that you can do with your students based on a circle loom.