Saturday, December 17, 2011

5th graders weave pouches!

Here are pouches made by Caleb, Sydney, and Caroline

The first woven pouches are complete and I couldn't wait for the rest to show them to you. Hopefully most of the others will be finished this week, before everyone leaves for vacation. The kids did great on this project and are VERY proud of their weavings.

Below is a pouch both open and closed to show you what it looks like.

This is the process: we began with a hunk of a cereal box (3"x8") as a loom, and marked off 1/4" intervals on the two 3" lengths. We cut down 1/2" at the marks to make notches, or "teeth".

The loom was warped by stringing the warp string up and back, going around each tab ("flossing the teeth"). Then the loom was folded in 1/2 to create the pouch, and a rubber band was put around it to secure the fold. Most kids opted to fold the looms unevenly, so that there would be a flap when complete. For extra security, a lot of the kids put a piece of tape over the teeth to keep the warp from slipping off before they started weaving.

The weaving is done in a circular fashion until the flap is reached, and then it is a more traditional back and forth weave. The students use forks or combs to 'beat' down the yarn so that the weave is tightly packed, getting as close as possible to the top of the warp.

To make sure the kids all understand the importance of OPPOSITES in weaving, we started the project with a 'HUMAN WEAVING'. I chose five kids to be the warp. Another student was selected to weave the weft, and he weaved rope in and out between the warp kids. Then I gave the weaver a second rope and told him to weave again. In one class, it was PERFECT. The boy weaved the 2nd rope the same as the first one, forgetting about opposites. Too funny. I told the warp to walk away and they did, leaving the rope on the floor! The boy realized his mistake, rounded up the warp kids, and re-weaved the 2nd rope, this time in the opposite position of the first rope. I instructed one of the students in the warp to go sit down, and suddenly she found the other 4 kids following her! They were all tied up together. The result: everyone, and I mean EVERYONE understood how important it was to make each strand OPPOSITE the prior one. This is especially important in a circular weave like this, because there is an even # of warp strands. (There are actually 11 warp strands, but when the loom is folded in 1/2 there becomes 22.) So each time a loop is completed, the weft yarn has to double up on an "under" or "over" in order to keep the weave opposite of the prior loop. If you don't understand my explanation here, just try it out and it will make sense. My kids did not have any problem with this, once I told them to check each time they turned the weaving over, and forget what they had done on the other side. "OH! I GET IT!!!" I can't tell you how many times I heard this :-)

When the weaving complete, the two ends of the warp string are knotted off, the warp strings are pulled off the teeth, and the loom is pulled out and discarded. Above is a whole class of work-in-progress, most nearing completion.

Finally, the students use needles or crochet hooks to work through all the yarn ends and hide them in the weave. NOTE: This is a good project to enforce that "ask three before you ask me" rule. The kids who finish first will be very good teachers to the ones moving a little more slowly.

Many students sew a button on the front and make a rope strap. (Making a rope is MUCH faster than braiding or kumihimo).

Don't know how to make a rope? It's easy:
Cut 2 or 3 strands of yarn, each more than twice as long as the desired rope. Then have two students each take an end and start twisting the yarn, as tight as possible. DON'T LET GO!! When it's nice and tight, fold it in 1/2 grabbing the two ends together and knotting them. Let the rest go, and run your hand down it to smooth it out. Voila! Twisted rope!! We use the loop on the folded end to pass through the weaving and pull the rest of the rope through. The other end needs to be either sewn or knotted through the weaving.

My assistant superintendent observed my class the day we did the human weaving and began the actual weaving. She was thrilled with how the lesson went, and loved that my students knew so much vocabulary - all the "W" words of course: weave, warp, weft (or woorf); and the others: loom, opposite, and beater. I hope who ever replaces me next year will keep the kids weaving annually.


  1. These turned out really well. It makes me want to make one for myself. jan

  2. How long on average does this project take?

  3. Ha ha ... too long?

    No seriously, let me figure it out. We spent one entire class marking off the looms, cutting the tabs, warping the loom. Several kids didn't finish warping that day. Then one class with the human weaving and demo. Everyone got started that day. In 2 more art classes everyone had significant progress, and some kids were done weaving. Then another class to finish them off. But lots of kids still need more time to finish, and I also have kids who come in and work on them at lunchtime. So do the math...

    I have my students twice in a 6-day cycle for 40 minutes each time. If I saw them less time, I might pre-mark and cut all the looms to save one whole art class.

  4. this activity is darling! I'm wondering how to use the needles. Do they re-thread a needle every time they switch yarn colors?

  5. also wondering how they secured the bottom of the pouch shut?

  6. Hi Wendy, re: the bottoms of the pouches - there's no securing necessary. As the students weave,they keep pushing the yarn down to fill in the bottom. Remember, the warp string goes around the bottom because the loom is folded after being warped, so there is not open bottom seam.
    As for the needles, yes, they re-thread the needle with each new yarn color. I have them work with about an arm's length of yarn. Any longer they get lots of tangles. Just overlap the weave beginning over the prior color; no need to tie knots. If you turn the pouch inside out, any exposed ends will be on the inside.

    Let me tell you, the kids are SO proud of these little pouches.

  7. Thank you so much for sharing this project! I am planning on doing it with my 6th graders in a few weeks. I am a first year art teacher, and I inherited a classroom full of art supplies from the previous art teacher at my school, who retired after over 30 years of teaching. I am constantly finding new things in my cabinets, and today I discovered a box of colorful yarn! What better way to use it then to introduce my students to weaving!

    I do have one question, though....if the students choose to sew a button on to secure the flap, is it necessary to make a button hole, or do you just push the warp threads apart to squeeze the button through? Also, did the students use regular thread and sharp needles to sew the buttons on?

    Thanks so much!

    ~Jessica (

  8. Jessica, we do not make button holes - we simply push the yarn apart. We used needles that are thin enough to get through the holes in the buttons ( a heavy metal needle), and crochet cotton (colored string like the kids use to make friendship bracelets). We did just one pass through the button and knotted the thread inside the pouch. One thing I should mention though - I have done some sort of weaving project with my kids EVERY YEAR, so they are pros. They weaved with paper in 1st and 2nd grade, weaved into burlap with needles and yarn in 3rd grade, and made wampum belts with pony beads on a cardboard loom in 4th grade, so they have a pretty good understanding of the weaving process and vocabulary. I'm not sure I would do this project with kids who have never weaved before. Instead I would use a firmer cardboard loom and make a little wall hanging or something simpler than the pouch, which requires you to beat the rows of weave together more tightly than for a decorative wall-hanging. Good luck!!!

  9. Could you please help me out with finishing the pouches? My warp strings are very short to tie when I cut them off.
    Thx, Lynn

    1. Oh, dear, Lynn; we do NOT cut the warp strings and therefore do not need to tie them. We weave as closely as possible to the end top of the loom, and just fold the cardboard teeth down and slide the loops off, and then adjust the weaving to pit nicely. The only warp string we tie at the end is the one at the very beginning and end of the warp, tat is longer, and is taped to the I dive of the loom. ThT one we pull through with a crochet hook and knot, and ten weave in the end.

      In the rare case where a kid has cut a warp string by mistake, in desperation I resorted to hot glue, since they are simply too short to knot.

      I hope this helped and I wasn't too late! I wanted to answer before everyone cut their warp strings!! Please let me know how you did.

    2. Never woven a pouch before. Only screwed mine up. ;)
      The kids' weavings are looking beautiful! Thanks so much.

    3. The teacher who replaced me when I retired has continued the lesson, but the make them cell phone size! Good idea, I think.

    4. Not sure if you'll see this since you retired... but can you elaborate on this comment to Lynn: "We weave as closely as possible to the end top of the loom, and just fold the cardboard teeth down and slide the loops off, and then adjust the weaving to pit nicely." I'm not sure I understand. I'm excited to make this project with my daughter but need help with how to take the bag off without cutting the warp strings. I don't quite know what "adjust the weaving to pit nicely" means. Thanks!

    5. Hi! Can you elaborate on your response to Lynn? I'm hoping to make this with my daughter but I need help understanding what this means: "We weave as closely as possible to the end top of the loom, and just fold the cardboard teeth down and slide the loops off, and then adjust the weaving to pit nicely." What does "adjust the weaving to pit nicely" mean? We've been making little coasters on a cardboard loom so far and we cut the warp strings and tie 2 together to form tassles. I understand your ending method is different, but I'm not quite catching on. Thanks!

    6. Dawn, thanks for your comment(s)! I may be retired, but I'm still actively blogging, and I get an email notification any time someone leaves a comment.
      The answe to your question is simple. It was a typo! I meant "adjust the weaving to fit"! I cannot edit comments, unfortunately, and honestly I never noticed thrips mistake, so thanks for bringing it to my attention. Let me know if you have any more questions; I'm glad to help.

  10. I would love to see a video of the "human weaving"!