Healing Handcrafting

exploring process and healing through fiber arts and handcrafting


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Learn to Make Your Own Circular Loom and Lovely Bowl

Greetings, fellow crafters. In my Fiber Saturday class yesterday, I demo’d how to make a circular loom out of cardboard. Here, I am offering more detailed instructions and a project idea. Many of the kids I have gotten to craft with LOVE circular weaving. In a way, it’s easier than weaving on a rectangular loom because you just go around and around, rather than back and forth (coming back the other way on a loom can be super perplexing to some. What do you do with that end warp thread!) Getting into the flow is easy and you end up with something beautiful at the end.

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Quick Disclaimer: I’ve woven many things on circular looms at this point. I’ve often had the experience where I wanted my circular weaving to lay flat, but it curls up instead, or I’ve wanted the piece to be a bowl, but it’s lays more flat than I wished. So much affects the way this project turns out. The yarn or fabric variability really changes things, how tightly the yarn is pulled as it is taken around the loom certainly affects how taut it becomes… Things I always stress with this project are: have fun, the goal is not to adhere to a rigid idea of what you want but rather to play with colors and textures and see what you get! No matter what, it will be beautiful. For elementary kids, the book Beautiful Oops, by Barney Saltzberg, is a great companion to this project. I also love the book Ish, by Peter H. Reynolds.

To make a bowl on these looms, you do want to pull a little firmly on the yarn, especially as you reach the edges of the loom.

One more thing! This is a great project for kids, but elementary age kids will likely need adult or older kid help with the construction of the loom and the step-up.

Materials:

  • cardboard- the flaps of cardboard boxes are plenty strong enough
  • yarn for warp
  • yarn, fabric, ribbon, string, jute… whatever you want… for the weaving
  • marker
  • strong scissors
  • tape
  • round things that can be used for tracing a good circle- must fit on the cardboard
  • tapestry needle (or a sewing needle with the very large eye, or, you can even use a paperclip- just find the smallest one you have and tie the end of the yarn to end of it)

 

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Step 1: Trace your circle. This will be the approximate size of your circular loom.

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Step 2: Cut out the circles as neatly as you can.

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Step 3: Some folks who are really good at being precise might balk at my lack of straight or perfectly measured grid-work here. I get that. BUT, the point is to demonstrate that this does not have to be incredibly perfect. In fact, I think it’s a relief to many to not have to stress about that. You generally want to split your circle into four kinda even sections.

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Step 4: Around the edge of each section, you will start to make triangles. These will be cut out and serve as notches for your warp thread to hold on to (the warp is what you weave around). You want the same number of triangles in each section EXCEPT ONE! You can see that in each of my looms below, I added one that straddles a segment line. This is because you need an odd number of notches so that you have an odd number of warp threads. Otherwise, each time you go around the loom, you’ll have the yarn always going under the same warp thread and over the same warp thread. You don’t want that.

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Step 5: tape one side of a piece of yarn to the back of your loom.

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Step 6 (warping the loom):

  • turn the loom over so you are looking at the front (the front for me is the side with no marker.
  • pull the yarn over, crossing the loom to the other side. you have an odd number of notches in your loom… so when you pull your yarn across, it won’t land right in the center, right? So you want an even number of notches on one side and an odd on the other, of the yarn just pulled across, having one more notch on one side.

 

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  • hold yarn snuggly and wrap it around the notch, moving from right to left and then turn the loom so it is “up” again, with the notch you just wrapped on the upside

 

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  • Β bring yarn down, crossing in the middle, going to the left of the notch with the yarn in it.

 

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  • wrap the yarn around that next notch, again, moving from right to left
  • repeat this step until you’ve brought the yarn around every notch
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Warping the loom:

 

Tying the center of the warp:

 

Step 8: Then start weaving! I generally weave from right to left, but it doesn’t matter which way you go as long as that is the only way you go as you weave. No doubling back! The same weaving principles apply with circular looms as do with other looms. Bring the yarn over one warp thread, under the next, over the next, under the next, and so on… The first few rounds might not look right, but as you go around, it will become more and more organized and clear whether you are to go over or under.

Step 9: Optional- You can add new colors and textures whenever you want. I usually just tie on the the thread and begin weaving. When the loose ends come up against the weaving as the new yarn starts getting woven with, I gently tuck them under the already woven part. DON’T SNIP THEM! You want them longer so you can sew them in once you are finished and the piece is off the loom.

As I make my way towards the upper part of the loom, I like to use a tapestry needle to weave. It keeps one from pulling on the warp too much and allows for weaving right up to the top.

 

Step 10: Once you feel you cannot weave anymore, it’s time to take your piece off the loom! Gently pull off the tape, and the warp that is wrapped around the notches. You will notice how it is naturally shaped- will it be a bowl, or a coaster/placemat/wallhanging? Does it curl up or lay flat? Assess and gently shape it as you wish.

Step 11: Time to sew in those loose ends with the tapestry needle. I usually sew them into the bottom/underside of the piece. Just gently bring the loose end down through the column of weaving right below and it and carefully snip the remaining bit. It will be completely hidden in your piece.

Step 12: Admire your handiwork! I love my little bowl! I can imagine making several of these and having nesting bowls all over. Or sewing them together in a way to make something that looks like coral, or finding a little stuffed bunny or chick and making this a little nest…

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Have fun with this. I’ve done circular weaving with kids as young as 6. And I intend on weaving this way for as long as my fingers let me. It is so relaxing and so satisfying, and you likely have all you need already in your home.

Take care,

Bradie


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Cookie Sheet Weaving Project

Hello All~ I sure do hope you are doing okay, wherever you are. I have so much I’d like to say and share about what this COVID-19 pandemic is teaching me. I may have to do that in another post. But here and now, I will share with you a project I made up for wonderful kids I get to spend time with, even though we are all doing some wicked epic social distancing. I have spent large bits of the last seven years teaching fiber art in my kids’ classes (and in some others, too!) and I can tell you, the kids inspire in me so much longing to keep making, keep creating and keep sharing. Now that our Fiber Friday classes are happening on Saturdays via Zoom, I’m trying to figure out lots of yarn-y things to teach using materials we might have kicking around at home. The thing with weaving is, you can make a loom out of so many things! “Homework” for this week is to look around the house and yard to see if we might find weird, unexpected, unique or random “looms” that could be woven on. These could be sticks, frames, chairs, trees… whatever! I hope I see some good ideas next week!

This project is aptly called the Cookie Sheet Weaving Project. As you can see, I’ve used a cookie sheet, yarn, and tape to make this loom. I’ll give step-by-step instructions and maybe you can give it a go!

Materials:

  • cookie sheet, any size
  • yarn
  • scissors
  • tape

Optional Materials

  • fabric
  • large eyed tapestry needle
  • lots of variety of yarn- this is a great project for using up small bits of yarn stash

This is what your loom will look like once it is set up. I’ve chosen to warp my tray the long way, making my weaving piece wide. You can do it the other way, too. You can also choose to warp only a portion of the tray.

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To secure the warp, tape the end of skein of yarn to one side of the bottom of the tray, and then start wrapping the yarn around the tray, with about a 1/4 inch to a 1/3 inch between each wrapped thread. You can see, the underside of the loom isn’t gorgeous, with tape everywhere, securing the warp. Don’t worry about that. It’s most important that your warp is securely fastened onto the tray. Since my tape wasn’t turbo sticky, I used a lot of it.

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I opted for making a very fringy piece. Rather than moving back and forth and back and forth with the yarn, leaving no fringe on the edge, I chose to cut lengths of yarn that were several inches longer than the width of the cookie sheet. I wove each thread individually and then made sure that the remaining yarn was about equal on each side. If you don’t want fringe, just keep weaving back and forth with a long length of yarn, being sure not to pull too hard on the warp threads as you come back the other way.

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Row 1: I started by taking one end of a cut length of yarn and going under the first warp thread, over the next, under the next, and so on.

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Row 2: With the next cut length of yarn, I went over the first warp thread, under the next, over the next, under the next and so on. In this way of weaving, I noticed that I liked weaving from right to left, over and over again. This is different than when you weave with a very long length, moving back and forth from right to left, and then left to right as you head back again.

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Because I have a LOT of small balls of yarn, I chose colors and textures that go well together and I cut a bunch of lengths at a time so I could just get into the flow of weaving. This is a very portable project, so I had it all over the house depending on what I was doing.

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And I wove, and wove… and wove… Once you get to the top, you’ll notice that there’s not much room for your fingers to move the yarn around the warp threads.

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If you have a tapestry needle, this is a good time to get it. Threading it with the yarn you are weaving with (the weft), you can really get up to the edge of the tray.

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Before I thought about taking the project off the loom, I tied off the fringe on each side. You just take one weft thread, and the next one, and tie it in a double knot. Make sure that the two edges you tie are on opposite sides of the warp thread. This will ensure that the warp is secure and your piece won’t become loose and/or unravel.

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When your fringe is all tied up, flip the tray over and remove the pieces of tape that are securing the edges of the warp. Then, cut across the middle of the warp threads, freeing the piece from the tray.

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You have a choice to make here. For both choices you should tie off the warp threads in the same way you did the fringe, tying one thread next to its neighbor. If you have an extra one at the end, just include it with the two next to it.

Then, the choice… Do you leave the warp as fringe, too? Or do you sew it into your weaving? There is no right answer except for doing what you think is best for your piece. If I had used a thicker, more interesting or robust yarn for my warp, I think I would have left it as fringe, but the yarn I chose is kind of tame compared to my fringy side, so I opted to sew it in.

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Here’s the warp threads tied off.

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I chose to sew the two tied threads at a time, because they are already tied together as one.

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Using your tapestry needle, bring the warp threads back through the weaving, drawing the needle through the column of the woven piece that is right under it. Don’t pull too tight here as you’ll pucker your cloth.

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Flip your piece over to make sure the warp threads are really hidden in the column of weaving. Sometimes they peep through too much and you have to do it again.

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Once you’ve gone through a couple of inches, you can snip the remainder off.

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Here you see my piece with the wild fringe and sewn in warp threads. This thing definitely needs a little fringe-cut.

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And there we have it! Who knew I needed a new woven table decor piece?!

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Stay tuned for some more fiber art ideas. These will always be great for kids to do, but for sure, these are also fun for folks of all ages. It’s the truth that handcrafting is good for us. It quiets the mind, especially once we get into a good flow. It helps ground us when things feel wild or unpredictable. And, it can give us the chance to see that we can make some really beautiful things.

Take good care,

Bradie


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Make A Book From Scratch Summer Camp, Recap…

This summer was a time of taking a few risks, including putting my fiber art teaching love out into the universe in a different way. I’ve shared already the camp I offered to do with weaving. You can read about that here. The second camp I offered was all about making a book from scratch. It’s important to me for kids to know and be frequently reminded that they can make stuff, really cool stuff, with found items, recycling and a little ingenuity. Art supplies are expensive, as are art classes, but if you know how to get your hands on materials that are free or inexpensive, you have at your fingertips myriad ways to make art, to be an artists, to add your own beauty to the world. So… I was messing around one day after daydreaming about making a book for collage. My first book was the one pictured below. It’s made with handmade paper, wool that I wet-felted for the cover, a piece of driftwood and cotton thread for stitching together. I’ll show you the camp process, mostly in pictures with a little text, because I think the images speak for themselves. This is the project that inspired the camp.

 

I spent a good deal of time before camp began prepping some materials. Carding Shetland wool…

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Making frames… a word on that: I found wooden frames at Michael’s craft store for $1 each. These saved the day. I had a number of frames on hand that I found at garage sales but I figured that kids are sometimes interested in making sure everything is even and balanced and fair, so, I decided to ensure that each child had the same size frame.

Also, I’ve been trying to find on line the tip I came across for outlining the frames with duct tape. I want to give credit to the blogger that shared that brilliant idea! Doing this makes for much easier removal of the paper once you flip it onto the drying surface. I will always do this now, and if I come across the blogger’s site, I will for sure share it here.

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Here’s me stapling the screen onto the frame. I used my mom’s staple gun, which made me think of her. I feel close to her when I’m crafting or creating. You can read about why this is relevant here.

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While things go better with kids when things are fair, they go even better than better when kids know which thing is theirs. It’s lucky I had this flashy duct tape on hand. No guess work needed!

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Here’s the thing about paper pulp (made in a cuisinart with recycled paper and water; the paper I put through the shredder first)~ not all kids love touching gooey, smushy, splootchy wet stuff. It’s handy knowing this ahead of time so you can have at your finger tips ideas of what steps kids might enjoy doing in the process, like soaking up the water from the underside of the frame/screen with a sponge, stirring the pulpy concoction, adding flower bits, etc., in the even that full-on hand immersion in paper pulp is out of the question.

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Here’s the kids looking for flowery colorful bits to throw in to our pulp.

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If those colors aren’t inspiring, I don’t know what is.

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I spent a good amount of time experimenting before camp started…

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And dyeing wool…

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Here’s some kids using a drum carder to prepare wool for felting. This camp included chances to do as many jobs as possible in the time we had. I had the kids pick a lot of the grassy bits out of the wool, fluff it open to prepare for carding, and then card it. There were varying opinions on this. I could sit and pick at wool all day and be fine. I love looking at those tasks as a chance to just chill the heck out and be with my thoughts. Not all kids love that, of course, so some felting was a wee bit chunkier than others, and that’s okay!

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For the wet-felting part, I had the kids arrange the layers of wool they were using to make their book over on a plastic table on top of a sheet of freezer paper. Then, we covered the wool in warm, soapy water, and covered it all again with freezer paper. The paper stayed strong while the kids pressed and rubbed their hands over their wool. Once it was showing signs of felting, they could take off the top layer and use their hands to felt directly. Again, some kids love that textural messy feeling and others don’t. Leaving the freezer paper on for a while longer helped those who preferred keeping their hands free from that specific wet-wool feeling.

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Then, once dried, the kids arranged their books as they wanted them, and had a chance to needle felt a design on to their covers. The night before the last day of camp, I sewed the books together. Originally, I’d hoped the campers would do that part, but we ran out of time.

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I think these books are all so beautiful. Interspersed between their handmade paper, I included sheets of handmade paper from India that is more amenable to writing. I will keep working on my own paper making skills to see if I can get closer to that quality.

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And listen, it’s not right to ignore the behind-the-scenes stars of the show… the sheep! Something I love about being a part of the fiber handcrafting and fiber art community is that I get to meet so many wonderful people. This is the second year that I’ve gotten wool from a wonderful man named Peter Moore, who lovingly cares for his four Shetland sheep. I met Peter because he posted online that he had wool available, and I jumped at the chance. I can say that I would call Peter a friend, now, and I truly don’t know how we would have ever met if not for our mutual love of sheep! Let me introduce his lovely wooly friends:

Meet Dolly…

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And Violet,

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Phoebe,

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And Daisy!

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They are all half-sisters and are four years old. Their wool was the centerpiece of this camp (in my opinion), and the kids were champs, learning new skills every day and hopefully leaving with something they were proud of.

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I’m sitting at my desk now, listening to the wind blow around the house. The temperatures are cooling and the birds are busy at the feeder. I am looking forward to the cooling down, the bundling up, the quieting of winter. Summer can be a full-on explosion of activity, work and play. It’s the extroverted season. These camps were a beautiful expression of all of that. I wonder what new things I’ll imagine up as I sit in the dark introverted winter. I guess we’ll see next year!


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Fun Kid Craft ~ Sock Puppets!Β 

I’ve been meaning to write a post about sock puppets for months! But, you know… life. I was reminded of these hilarious characters when I read through the stupendous thank you notes I received from the kids in my son’s class for all the activities we did over the year. A large number of them said making sock puppets was one of their favorite activities. So, of course I should share what we did!

#1: Gather socks you are willing to separate from. Got any loose ones kicking around, lonesome without their mate?

#2: Collect random bits of stuff you have in the arts & crafts category. Pom-poms, beads, googly eyes, moss, old costume jewelry, felt, buttons, yarn…

#3: Get glue ready. I found my glue gun to be the most effective but standard glue works, too. Clear glue is better because you don’t see it once it dries.

#4: Arrange sock on hand. I find that the heel of the sock fits nicely over the knuckles. When you open you hand, keeping your fingers together and away from your thumb, you can tuck the extra sock fabric that would otherwise be around your toes, into that space, creating the mouth. Close your hand, holding the mouth in place, and glue on the eyes where you want them. Then, gently remove the sock and lay it on the table.

#5: Notice the personality that is already evident! Amazing, what eyes do. πŸ‘€ Start adding whatever you want to your puppet, being careful not to overglue. You don’t want the sock to stick to itself. On mine I knew mossy hair was necessary, and feathers.

And more hair… and a nose…

#6: after the adornments dried for a few minutes, I started on the mouth. I propped open the space designated for the mouth and eye-balled the size.

And cut out a felt oval…

I tucked it into the sock mouth to ensure a good fit, then took it out, put glue around the edges of the felt, and tucked it back in there.

Then I added a felt tongue which was simply a smaller oval with one side cut off.

#7: And Voila! You can introduce yourself to your new friend!

Here’s another one I made with a tube sock.

Ugh, do I need to use bleach?

Nah…

Shiny red yarn for a lovely lip expression. This took a little patience as the yarn needed ample time to dry in order to withstand this character’s rather loud voice.

I can’t share pics of other people’s kids, but I can tell you, we had so much fun that day! These characters come out of nowhere and invite story telling, play acting, comfort enjoying and frivolity! Here’s some other perks:

πŸ‘‰ They are inexpensive to make.

πŸ‘‰ They require only as much detail as you feel like giving them. A sock with a mouth on its own is fun. Each thing you add gives it more flavor.

πŸ‘‰ Patience is needed, and flexibility in expectations ~ both good things for projects to support us in practicing. Sometimes we gotta weight for glue to dry. Sometimes we don’t know how to make top hats.

πŸ‘‰ Puppet shows never get old.
Have fun!


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Farm to Frame~ Final Project

It’s about time I report on how the last Farm to Frame morning went, in my daughter’s kindergarten class. Recall, this wonderful group of little ones started this project weeks before, learning how to wash wool, dye it, and then card it. They worked hard, and were so busy. With each passing class, students wanted to keep their wool, and were amazed by how it transformed in their own hands.

Finally, the day of the project arrived. I wish I could share pictures of the whole thing in the class, but privacy issues are real and I did not ask for permission to post pictures of other peoples’ children. Included here are picture from a slideshow I made to show to the class to detail what they would be doing that morning.

Each student got their own gallon ziplock bag. In it were a bunch of different colors and textures of wool. They all got colors from the batches that they dyed and carded, plus some extra that I already had on hand. Also, they had a piece of pre-felt, the “paper” for their felted painting.

Next, I showed the kids how they could layer the scene. I chose to make a sea creature scene to go along with their recent unit on sea life.

More examples… my daughter got to demo her skills.

I then explained that I’d be securing their pictures using a needle felting tool. It’s sharp! So I emphasized that I’d be the only one using that tool. I wanted to do this before the wet felting part so that it didn’t come apart in the bag.

Once the picture was completed, students could tell me or their teacher, and we’d help them slide it into their bags. Enter some warm, soapy water, and let the felting begin! I encouraged gentle, open handed pressing at first. Once felting began, they could lift their bags and really press/rub on both sides. I let them know that their picture would look different once it was felted! This was important. What goes into the bag comes out looking quite different and I encouraged them to be artistic experimenters, learning about what wool does during felting, and watching their beautiful colors take different forms. This proved to be an important reminder to some.

Above are the examples of finished products that my daughter and I made at home.

All in all the class went beautifully. What I learned was, children love working with wool. They love doing the work of preparing it and learning about about other people around the world who make things with it. They responded to the idea that people have been using wool for functional things since the Middle Stone Age. Time, of course, does not make sense to them in that way yet, but feeling connected to our ancient history is important, and it resonated.

Children allowed themselves to experiment and to create images, some abstract, and some impressionistic. Some wanted to use every last bit of wool in their bags; some only used a tiny amount and brought the rest home. All, I believe, viewed themselves as artists on that day, and allowed for imperfection and mystery.

If I were to do it again, I would work with smaller groups of not more than five children at a time. With sixteen children in class that day, I did not have the time or ability to make it to each child quickly when they had questions or needed help. For me, it felt rushed and a bit stressful. I think I would work it out with the classroom teacher for me to either work in small groups one after the other, or take a couple of mornings to do it. That way, I could calmly help and respond to questions or worries if they came up.

Other than that, I think it was a great success. I loved being with my daughter and her classmates and learning about teaching, connecting kids to natural and renewable resources in their own community, as well as to their shared history with our ancient ancestors.

Stay tuned as I prepare a new project to bring to my son’s second grade class! This time, it will be a weaving project!


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Wool and Kool-Aid = Fun Times

I’ve gotten a bit behind in sharing what I’m working on. My last post was a share of a fellow blogger who was kind enough to detail her Kool-Aid yarn dyeing know-how. Well, I tried it yesterday with clean, uncarded wool. I needed to practice with the stuff before I brought it into my daughter’s kindergarten class to dye wool that they will be using in an art project in a few weeks.

Last week, the children washed raw wool. I wish I could share pictures of it, but you know… privacy and other people’s children is very important to honor! Let me just tell you it was funny, wonderful and I was so proud of all of them. It is true that there was a lot of “ewwwww!!!!” and “gross!” and “it smells like poop!”, but I can assure you that there was no poop in the wool and once they realized it was kind of like petting sheep, they got over it, and all of the kids wanted to put the wool into the warm, soapy water.

I had to do a few rinses of the wool once I got home because there just wasn’t time to get it all done at school.

This week I’ll bring some of that washed wool back to school to have them dye it. I was stumped when I was trying to figure out how to expose them to wool dyeing- I have gotten really into plant dyes and have done some dyeing with synthetic products, but those are stinky, kind of complicated and very time consuming. Somewhere along the way, I came across a mention of Kool-Aid dyeing, but when I first started researching it, I found a lot of links to directions involving heat, stoves and time. That’s why I was so excited to find this link.

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I tried it myself yesterday and loved the results. This is what I did:

I separated my wool into weighted amounts: 4 2 oz piles and 1 1 oz pile. I then soaked the wool in warm water for 30 minutes. While the wool was soaking, I got my dyes set up.

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I had three half-gallon mason jars and one one-quart mason jar.

In each of the three large mason jars, I put four packets of Kool-Aid, 1/2 cup of white vinegar and filled them about half-way up with warm water. I then stirred the mixture well.

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In the one-quart mason jar, I put two packets of Kool-Aid, a 1/4 cup of white vinegar, and half filled it with warm water.

I had an extra glass bowl hanging around and put three packets of raspberry Kool-Aid in that, along with 1/2 cup of white vinegar and some warm water.

Once the 30-minutes of soaking was up, I put the wool in their respective jars and bowl, added warm water until the wool was submerged, covered the jars and bowl and then put them all in a sunny spot for about 4 hours.

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When I was happy with the color absorption, I pulled out the wool and rinsed. I was delighted with the results and know this will be wonderful for a classroom experiment/project. The color was not totally spent in the dye bath; I’m not sure if that’s because I used too much Kool-Aid for the fiber that was in the bath, or if I didn’t leave it in long enough.

I am so excited to do this with the kids next week. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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