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You are at your best when you are teaching where your passion lies, and for Cassie, fiber arts is one of those passions. In particular, she wants to share her excitement about all things weaving! In this episode, she talks about why weaving is a great introduction to fibers, her favorite books to help teach weaving, and how to begin teaching vocabulary and techniques with each grade level. Full episode transcript below.
Cassie: I think each and every one of us has that one favorite thing that we absolutely love to teach. I know some of you guys probably have a like a really strong ceramics background. So of course when you’re busting out the clay with your students you get all juiced. Although how could you not? I mean I don’t have a ceramics background and I love sharing clay with my students. Or maybe you really enjoy teaching perspective. Like who are you? Are you from another planet ’cause that’s just weird but my favorite thing, not that you asked but I’m gonna tell you anyway is teaching fiber arts. I love sharing my love of fiber arts with my students and I think that when I was going through my little burnout. It’s about several years ago I can’t even place it. I blocked it out thanks to therapy and lots of liquid.
I had to really dig deep and think about what is it that really struck a chord with me as a kid? And how can I bring that to my students? And that’s really one of the things that help get me out of a funk. So if you ever find yourself in a funk like that or you’re teaching something that you’re kind of passionate about but not quite sure or you’re looking to teach something that you are passionate about. I always find that reaching back to my childhood memories. Things that got me juiced about learning art or about creating. It always then gets me excited to share that with my students. And like I said for me, fiber arts.
It all started way back at vacation Bible school and I know I’ve shared with you before that I did not have art in school until I was in eighth grade. So I loved art I just never had the opportunity to do it in a school setting. So whenever I could find a place to do it outside of school. Vacation bible school then I was always there. Like literally every summer I would bounce from one church to the next. If they had barrel drink, 80s kids you know what I’m talking about. Barrel drinks and crafts I was there and I remember the first time I learned how to do drinking straw weaving and I was hooked. We had one color to use and I remember it was like a military green. It wasn’t cute but I loved every minute of it and I remember one time digging in to my moms old cookie tin that was filled with her sewing supplies and sewing up a little pouch for my aunt Donna for Christmas out of some old jeans that I chopped up and in fifth grade I had a pretty artsy teacher and she taught us how to do string art which is one of my favorite projects to share with my third and fourth graders.
So let’s talk about fiber arts because obviously I love it but you know it’s not for everybody and it might actually be something new to you to teach your students. I’m Cassie Stevens and this is Everyday Art Room.
Okay so fiber arts. What exactly falls into that category? When I think of fiber arts I think of two thing. I think of the textile arts class I took in college and got a C in. Yeah. I remember we had to warp a loom and it was strongly encouraged that we really be careful when we’re warping the loom not to skip and strings because it would ruin our weaving. Whatever. So I skipped a couple of strings and what do you know? Low and behold it was something I couldn’t fudge with those giant runners that were all the way through the scarfs that I wove thusly bringing my GPA down because I got a C. But I remember in textile arts we did weaving and fiber application. To me there’s more to fiber arts than that.
When I think of fiber arts and sharing that with my students I think of these categories. Weaving. sewing which sewing is as you know connecting two pieces of fabric or more together. Embroidery which is different than sewing because embroidery is when you’re using needle and thread to create a picture or a design on fabric. Not connecting fabrics. Fiber applications and when I say that I mean things like stamping on fabric. Boutique. Tie dye. Shibori and then of course string craft and you know I feel like the word craft gets a bad connotation but it’s so super duper so I think that’s ridiculous so I’m sticking with string craft when I’m talking about things like knitting, chord weaving or even crochet.
So those are my five categories when I’m talking about fiber arts. Am I gonna be able to cover all of those things in one podcast? Heck to the no. So today I’m gonna focus strictly on weaving and the reason I’m starting with weaving is because I feel it is something that number one, I know it’s probably in everybody’s curriculum so it’s something that we should be teaching and I also find that weaving is the gateway quote drug unquote to loving all things fiber arts. Once my students are introduced to weaving I’ve got them hooked. Next thing you know they’re wanting to learn embroidery and sewing and it just spirals out of control from there. All right so let’s talk weaving in this podcast today.
Let’s first chat about my favorite books when it comes to weaving. My number one book when it comes to weaving especially if you yourself are not familiar with weaving is a book called, wait for it. You Can Weave! Exclamation point. You have to actually say it just like that. You Can Weave! It’s written by Kathleen Monaghan and I love it because what Kathleen did was she spent, it looks to me like a year teaching her students. She’s an art teacher or was at the time of writing this book. She spent a year introducing her students to weaving. All things weaving. These kids started with paper weaving and then just went from there. They did, I don’t know if they did circle loom weaving but they definitely created their own looms. They did a lot of pouch weaving. Tapestry weaving. That book is in one of my top five books for art teacher and I cannot stress how amazing it is enough and how you gotta have it in your art teaching library.
Now it is a resource for you or maybe if you are choice based and you introduce the basics of weaving to your students it could definitely be a book that you could add to your library for kids to use. Tons of color pictures and I’m not even getting any kickbacks for promoting this book. I just love it that much. Now some books that you could read to your students and there are plenty. You might even just wanna Google weaving with children books or weaving books for kids because you will find that there are a lot. No matter what culture you decide to teach your kids about or artists, contemporary artists as well. You will find a book that will touch on weaving and will be perfect for you and your students. My hands-down favorite book to read to my students when we are being introduced to weaving. In fact I read it every year to my first and second graders is the Goat in the Rug. The Goat in the Rug is narrated by a goat who is being woven or his wool is being woven into a rug and it’s just a precious tale of a Navajo weaver and it’s fabulous.
Another great book is Weave a Rainbow. There is wool burr. The cloud spinner and Abuela’s weave is also great but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are a ton of great books that you could stock your weaving library with. Now let’s talk about resources that you might wanna use to help teach weaving. Many years ago when I was teaching weaving to my students I created a very large paper of loom. I’m telling you this thing is probably 15 years old now. I took a huge piece of, I guess it was a poster board but even twice the size of poster board and I laminated it and I cut it into a giant paper loom and I also laminated large strips of paper. After reading the goat and the rug to my first graders and like I said my second graders. We talk about weaving. We learned eh words warp. We learn loom and we learn weft and weave. And with my giant paper loom we learn how to weave over and under. Having a really large piece of paper like that, a really large way of demonstrating the technique of over and under and then doing the opposite with the next strip of paper is so beneficial for your students when they’re first learning how to weave. Especially those first grader which is where I start. But I will share with you what each grade level does in just a moment.
Now my second graders. They learn how to do circle loom weaving and sometimes like this year I do that project with my third graders. The reason I love having large demonstrating tools is even when I’m demonstrating weaving on my document cam nothing beats a really oversized piece of, I don’t know equipment to demonstrate with like that large paper loom and for circle loom weaving we use a hula hoop and I know if you’ve been on Pinterest for five seconds you’ve seen the hula hoop weavings that people have done or you can even weave on old bicycle tires. You can use the spokes for your weaving. Over and under but having something like a bicycle tire or a hula hoop that you’ve worked to demonstrate how to weave it just really helps kids visualize it a lot better.
Okay once your library is stocked and you’ve got a couple of great resources like that on hand it’s always fun to actually put weavings in the hands of kids. Over the years just hitting the thrift store on a regular basis like I do I have found a ton of different weavings. A lot of different kinds of looms. Even the potholder loom. Just showing different kinds of loom to kids lets them know that you can actually turn anything into a loom. You can weave on just about anything.
All right now let’s talk about how I scaffled my weaving lessons because that’s really going to help your students learn from one year to the next and build on the knowledge that they previously gathered. I got to tell you my third graders like I said are weaving right now and last year they did CD loom weaving. I made the mistake of having them weave very early in the school year. I was going to have them or I was having them weave on CD’s in preparation for that day. They got it but it was a struggle and I hate, I don’t mind for my students to struggle and push themselves when learning something new. That’s all about the process but I noticed more of them than normal were struggling and it took them longer to get it and I realized that I should’ve waited. I usually save fiber art projects to the springtime because especially for second graders I know that now they are ready. I mean I always have to tell myself every year when I have my second graders at the beginning of the year, “These are still my first-grade kiddos.” My first graders? Those are still my kindergarten babies. So that’s just something I always have to force myself to remember ’cause I very easily forget.
All right so now let’s talk about scaffolding those lessons. Oh I know why I was telling you that. My second graders because they did CV weaving last year they are weaving right now at the beginning of the year and they are nailing it. They’re doing circle loom weavings. Some of them and some of them are also doing tree weavings which I’ll share with you in a moment and I’ve had to give it very little instruction. It’s like a snap of the fingers, “Yeah, we got this.” And they’re off and running. Which is just so much fun to watch.
All right now let’s talk about weaving and building from one year to the next so that your students are successful like my third graders are. So with kindergarten. Ah kindergarten. I’m gonna be really honest with you. It just kind of depends on year to the next if I start with paper weaving ’cause that’s what I would start with with my kindergartners. If I were going to do paper weaving with my kindergartners it’s definitely something that I would save until the springtime. Save until I feel as though they are ready to grasp the concept of weaving and weaving over and under and then doing the opposite with that next strip of paper. That’s a pretty tricky concept. I have done paper loom weaving with my kindergartners before but it’s not something I do every year. Instead what I do is something that I saw, an art teacher buddy of mine Denise do. Denise has centers when she introduces weaving and I just think this I genius. She has created one of those large paper looms that I talked about earlier. She has a couple of those on tables. She also has things like wire racks on tables and a couple of looms. Regular wooden looms that you might find at the thrift store or by a company called friendly loom.
She introduces the kids to weaving and to the concept and then they go to those different centers. I don’t know the specifics but based on the photos that she shared on social media it looks to me as though a handful of kids are at one table working on the wire loom. Another group is working on the friendly loom and yet another one is perhaps working on the large paper loom and then they can rotate from one table to the next. That way they understand the concept is the same even I’d the loom is different. And it’s just a fun way and an easy way. No pressure way to introduce kids to the concept of over and under. So that’s what I plan to do with my kindergartners when it comes time to weaving.
Now moving onto first grade. Because my first grader have learned the concept, the basics of over and under and that’s called weaving. Now they’re ready to actually do some weaving. With my first graders I always do paper loom weaving and I have to tell you it’s one of my favorite things to teach because you can tie in so much. There’s all the great books you can read. So you’ve got your literature check marked. There’s so many geography tie-ins and when it comes to paper loom weaving there’s so much math that I absolutely love it. On the very first day in my 30-minute class I have my students create a paper loom. We use usually a 9 by 12 piece of construction paper. All of my students sit on the floor and I demonstrate on my Elmo. We gold that paper in half and then at the top of the paper where the two papers open up. One little bit or lip is folded down creating a small crease at the top. That we call our stop line and we cut eight long lines up to that stop line with our scissors. If you would like a demo of this there are plenty of videos of me teaching my students weaving or just a video of my walking you through it so you can have a visual on my youtube channel. That’s 30 minutes. Learning about weaving and creating a loom.
The next start class we use that giant paper loom. Learn the basic concept and we sit in a big weaving circle on the floor. Now with paper loom weaving some of your kids are gonna get it right away. Super quick and for those kids I always have them do peer tutoring to friends. I’m big into peer tutoring because I’ve noticed that there’s some kids who just don’t quite get it and I feel like the reason is is that I’m not speaking their language but I have noticed that their friends are far better at speaking their language than I am. And so for those kiddos I always have them be a peer tutor. Now you have to be careful because they love to just take over and weave it for them. I tell them to model it first and then watch as their friends understand how they get the weaving process. Then once you’ve got weavings there’s tons of different things you can do with those paper weavings and just a quick search on my blog I know last year we did a really fun night owl project where the woven portion was the owl stomach. So there’s tons of different things that you can do with a weaving when it’s complete.
Now second grade, like I said, we’ve done CD weaving. If you’re not familiar with that definitely look online. I know I have a video on that too. CD weaving is great. Especially if you want a quick weaving project. My favorite way to … it’s a form of circle loom weaving. My favorite way to teach circle loom weaving is to have your students paint chinet plates. I love using chinet plates just because they’re a lot sturdier than a regular paper plate. Once it’s painted they can create that plate into a loom, warp it and start weaving. If you have never woven with kids before and your students are not familiar with it. I would definitely have second graders do paper loom weaving and save circle loom weaving for third grade and if third graders have never woven before you might just wanna have them do a quick paper weaving just so they understand the concept of over and under. And again use that big hula hoop. It’ll really help them have a great visual so they understand how they’re weaving this time in the round as opposed to a strip of paper that goes across.
Third grade. I’ve also done, like I said, circle loom weaving but tree weaving is one of my favorite projects also. So for this year because I’m totally nuts I decided to have two of my third-grade classes do circle loom weaving and another two do tree weaving. And again I have these videos on my youtube channel and on my blog so if you aren’t familiar with what I’m speaking of make sure to poop on by. Tree weaving has been super fun because I can teach a great landscape lesson to my students because they paint a landscape on my plate first before they dive into the weaving portion.
Now when it comes to fourth grade I have done a couple of things. For years I had my fourth graders do pouch weaving and for that I would buy pre-cut cardboard looms. They would warp the loom all the way around and then they would weave all the way around the loom creating a pocket. When their pocket was large enough they would stop weaving around the loom and just start weaving on one side back and forth to create the flap. This takes a very long time. In fact it was taking so long that it got to the point where I would let the kids take their weavings home in hopes that they would remember to bring them back on art day and for the most part they did all right but there were always the random looms that either went missing or the kids would just never bring them to art class and then what do you do with those friends?
So I haven’t done pouch weaving in a couple of years and I’m super bummed about it because the kids adore it and they learn so much and they turn out so well. So that’s maybe something I might have to bring back but in the meantime, some other weavings I’ve done with them is to have them create tapestry weavings which usually either stays on the cardboard or they can take off and use as something like a coaster at home. Regardless weaving is one that all of my students really get into. Especially the dudes and it’s funny because the very first year I realized I had to have weaving in my curriculum I remember I was introducing it to group of second graders and one of my very best strongest drawers. Draw ers. He was loved art. Loved everything about art but the moment that I said we were going to earn how to weaving he pinched up his face, he curled up his nose. He said, “Ew. Weaving is for girls.” And I really had no response for that until I did a little digging and realized that hello Kente cloth is actually only woven by dudes. So super excited to share that with him.
But just so you know you’re definitely gonna hit some weaving roadblocks along the way but the end result is going to be kids who are excited about art. Excited about fiber arts and thrilled that you’ve introduced the gateway drug unquote. Quote unquote of fire arts to them.
Tim Bogatz: Hello this is Tim Bogatz from Art Ed Radio if you like Cassie are someone who loves fiber arts and want to recommend the art of ed Studio: Fibers online graduate course. Cassie’s video and teaching play a role in your learning in the course and I think it’s something you’re going to love. In the course you can experiment with a wide variety of 2D and 3D weaving, felting and embroidery techniques. You can create resources, tools and hands-on fiber art examples to use directly in the classroom and push your own personal practice to the next level while revamping your fiber arts curriculum. Studio fibers is a three credit hour course that runs for eight weeks. New sections start on the first of every month. You can see about the class or register at the artofed.com/courses. Now let’s hear what Cassie has to say as she dips in the mailbag and finishes the show.
Cassie: Hey. Let’s take a little dip into the mailbag and this question comes from Mary. She says, “Didn’t you have a blog poster on hairy monsters and yarn stuff? Like how you cut yarn for weaving for the kids? I’m going to circle loom weaving for an enrichment day with elementary students and I have been searching everywhere I can think of. Can you help me please?”
Yes I can help you. Although it sounds like the question isn’t necessarily about the hairy monsters but it’s about cutting yarn for weaving and that is a trick I actually learned from Kathleen the author of you can weave. I attended a workshop that she taught at Tennessee Arts Academy. Something that you people local to the Tennessee Nashville are should definitely check out if you have some free time over the summer. It’s a week-long amazingness of artsy stuff. So Google it. I won’t go into deets here. Let’s talk yarn.
So something I learned from Kathleen was this. When I am prepping yarn for my students to weave I love to give them a huge variety of yarn to choose from. So I take all of the yarn that I have and I, by the way always pull the yarn from the center of the skein. So when you’re shopping for yarn at the store here’s a little something I always do. I get a skein of yarn. A bundle of yarn and I look to see if it’s got the tiny little tail hanging from the middle of the skein. You never ever want to unravel yarn from around the outside but you wanna find the little string that’s sticking out like a little tongue hanging out of the mouth of the skein of yarn. That’s where you wanna pull the yarn from. So I always when I’m shopping make sure that the yarn that I’m buying has that little tiny tongue of yard hanging out and if it doesn’t I know I’m probably not going to be able to find it and it’s not going to be very fun unraveling that yard.
So make sure you got a little yarn tongue hanging out when you buy your yarn. I grab all those little bits of yarn from the middle. I throw the skeins of yarn on the floor. So I usually have about 10 to 20 different colors and I’m holding on to the ends of the yard while the rest of the yard is just sitting on the floor. Grab all those strings in one hand and I wrap it from my hand, all of the yarn at once. All the different colors at once. From my hand to my elbow back up to my hand and I just keep doing that over and overwrapping all of the different colors of yarn from my hand to my elbow back up again until my arm can no longer hold all of the hundreds of strands of yarn that I’ve wrapped around it. Then I cut all of that yarn all at once right close to my hand where I’m holding it and then I have cut yarn that is all exactly the same length in a variety of colors. Lay that long length of yarn out on a table. Take another string of yarn and tie as tightly as you can a double knot right in the middle.
What you’ll essentially be left with is what I calla yarn monster or sometimes a rainbow wig ’cause that little string right in the middle tends to look like the part in hair. So you can actually wear it on your head but I wouldn’t recommend doing it too much ’cause then the kids start doing it and the next thing you know you got lice yarn and don’t nobody like no lice yarn. I usually make, if my kids are weaving at tables, I’ll make a yarn monster one per table and that yarn monster will last them quite a long time. That’s why she said hairy monsters. Ah okay got it. I was thinking of a project, a sewing project my students have done where they stitched monsters comprendy okay so hairy monsters. Yarn monsters. Whatever you wanna call them. That’s how I do yarn distribution.
In the past I used to have my students cut their own lengths of yarn. You’re probably familiar with those trait text boxes of yarn that you can buy. I don’t love those trait text boxes of yarn simply because my students have a tendency to cut the yarn despite having been told not to really close to that little opening of the box and then the yarn drops down and then you’ve got to open the box or go fishing for the yarn. It’s no fun. I also don’t like the idea of 10 kids at once gathering around trying to reach and cut yarn. I would much rather prepare that they focus on their weaving project and either stay in their seat or wherever they like to weave. In fact when we do weaving I have basically what other teachers call flexible seating happening in my room where they can go and lay on the floor. I throw a couple of blankets down on the floor. Some kids like to go off in little small groups and weave together. Others like to sit in a big weaving circle. Some of them like to sit next to me and other times we even go outside and it really helps if we just have these little yarn monsters that I can just throw, like literally just throw at a group of kids and it plops down on the floor and they’ve got their yarn and they’re ready to weave.
I’ve also been asked this question a lot so I’m gonna throw it in there too. I get asked, “where do you purchase your yarn from?” I’ve noticed that art supply catalogs don’t have the best selection of yarn and it’s a real bummer. They’ll have yarn but it’s either the trait text brand which I do love the colors that that brand has however it does love to come unraveled which is frustrating for my students if they are doing some sewing projects or even with weaving. There’s also the red heart brand of yarn which I really do love but I’ve noticed in the art supply catalogs the only have that in the primary colors. So normally what I will do is I will hit up Walmart. I will buy the red heart yarn because it does actually come at a beautiful assortment of colors and it’s pretty inexpensive at places like Walmart.
So yeah there you have that’s how I make yarn monster os hairy monsters and how I distribute yarn for my students. If you have questions for me throw them my way. Much like a yarn monster. You can find me at email@example.com.
So what were your favorite artsy things to do as a kid? What did you just absolutely love the first time you learned how to do it? Because I feel like that’s always a good place to start. Especially if you’re feeling uninspired with the lessons that you’re teaching or you’re looking just for something fresh and new to share with your students. One thing that my students really like was I brought in my artwork that I made when I was a kid. That string art that I mentioned making in fifth grade before introducing my students to string art I always share with them the one that I created and I love it because I cherished that stitching project so much that my mom actually framed it for me in a little blue frame to match my baby blue bedroom as a kid. And it’s just fun for me to bring that out and to share with my students. So yeah if you’re ever like in a weird place where you’re just kind of stuck. Thinking back to those things you loved to do, the thing is that the kids will think they’re fun and vintage and retro. Especially if you’re old like me. It’s always so much fun to share with your students.
Thank you guys for letting me share all things weaving with you and stay tuned for more fiber arts stuff.