Article 4 of 10
by Debi West
Who doesn’t love bringing fiber art into the art room? I have a feeling there are a lot of art teachers who probably don’t agree, and I have to say, until I took a few workshops at state art education conferences, I was intimidated by the thought of weaving and fibers in my art room, too.
But, I now love it—and so do my students! There are so many cool things that weaving teaches our kids, so let’s dive in and discuss a few of the fun and educational projects that we can do with weaving techniques.
WEAVING IS A PROCESS of taking warp (threads that are longitudinal/vertical on the loom) and weft (threads that are latitudinal/horizontal that go over and under the warp threads) and interlacing these two yarns perpendicular to each other to form a unified weaving, or piece of cloth.
Weaving is generally done on a loom and consists of three motions: shedding, picking and beating up—which, naturally, the kids think is hilarious! Here are some quick definitions of these weaving terms:
• Shedding is where the ends are separated by raising or lowering the warp, or in simple terms, the area that the “over-under, over under” technique takes place.
• Picking is where the weft actually goes on a journey; I tell my students, it goes from “weft to wight” (or left to right), which is the repetitive action that is weaving.
• Beating-up, or battening is where the weft is pushed up again the top layer to keep the threads close together.
TYPICALLY, I BEGIN the weaving procedures with paper weaving. This teaches students the basic concepts and the tools needed, such as the loom, the warp and the weft without the stress of using yarn, which can be a bit daunting.
I first have my students watercolor a large piece of paper and then cut these when they dry into long strips of various widths. Then I have them cut into a piece of 9″ x 12″ folded paper to about a half-inch from the edge to create their paper loom.
Once this is done, they begin to pick—or weave—their paper by going over and under the warp, or going “weft to wight.”
Kids love this! They get a quick feel for how weaving works and see the importance of beating up and being aware of their picking.
When these paper weavings are completed, we begin with our yarn and create cardboard looms by cutting about half an inch on each side and then hooking string into these cuts, creating their warp threads. They then select their yarn colors and textures and begin the weaving process all over again. It’s really that simple!
Once students get the hang of the routine, you can begin to introduce various weaving textures such as:
• Tabby is a plain basic weave with which students often start out.
• Soumak, which is a weave that resembles a braid and creates a raised, slanted, look.
• Pile, which is a way to add a bubbling effect.
• Fringe, which is a creative way to add vertical hanging textures from the final weaving.
Grouping strands or combining all of these textural techniques creates a truly beautiful final weaving
You’re going to find that once your students begin to learn how to weave, they won’t want to stop! So I have brought in the history of weaving and tapestry art for them, and have researched a plethora of ideas of where they can go with these fiber works. A few ideas are belts, scarves, bags, weavings from recycled materials and textural mixed-media works.
I can’t wait to see what your students create when you offer them this wonderful 3D opportunity. I think you’ll be thrilled with what they will come up with and, better yet, you’ll be thrilled that they are all engaged and excited to be in your art class!
Next up … Pop-Up Art History.
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Owner of WESTpectations Educational Consulting and retired art educator, A&A Contributing Editor Debi West now resides in Hilton Head, S.C., where she is writing, teaching art camps and creating her own art.