I wanted to develop a project to accommodate my students with limited hand use; one that would also reinforce orientation skills. Hence, weaving. An added benefit to this project is that it is another prime example of how “group dynamics” can benefit all individuals involved. As this is a rather large weaving executed by 6-8 students per group, decisions such as: color and texture, whether one begins weaving one’s strip of fabric over or under, color of frame, objects to be affixed to the finished weaving, etc. must be decided communally.

I began by constructing large looms* from cardboard; at least 2’X3’; the largest that I find can be handled comfortably is 3’X4’. As the looms were rectangular in shape, I made cuts  1”      deep in the two opposite short sides of the loom, approximately 1”-1 ½” apart. I then attached strips of a textually as well as a colorfully neutral fabric from the cut notches on the top to their corresponding 1” notches on the bottom. Thus, I had created the necessary vertical warp for the loom. If you think of a rug or a textile, the warp is the strips of fabric that threads or fabric are woven over and under to create the body of the fabric or weaving. The warp basically holds the weaving together.

At this point, the groups of students became involved. Feeling the different sizes of looms available, as a unit did they want to work with a smaller or a larger one?  Once this decision was made as a community**, the next step could commence.

Students were presented with a large selection of strips of fabric in different colors and textures. Selecting pieces that individuals found appealing, weaving was ready to begin. The body of a weaving, the    pieces that are woven over and under the warp, are called the weft. The weaving must begin somewhere. Therefore, the first student to weave is instructed to/assisted to weave their strip of fabric beginning on the left or right side of the loom, instructor’s choice,  over and under, over and under, until the opposite side of the warp  has been reached.

Once the weaving was completed, a frame needed to be made for the piece. Again, the collective worked as a group to decide on a color to paper mache*** the piece of cardboard that would back the weaving.

The final segment of the weaving process, was to choose objects to be affixed**** to the weaving itself. One more time, I provided students with easily recognized/associated objects.

* A loom is the construction that a weaving is made upon. Usually, the loom is made with a wooden or metal frame. The warp is constructed from string, yarn, fabric or some other weight bearing medium looped over the frame of the loom.  String, yarn, fabric, etc. is then woven over and under the material used for the warp, to create the weft of the weaving.

**Don’t get me wrong; I recognize how difficult it is to have any decision made communally, especially with our students on the spectrum. However, I think that this group decision making is valuable, it is well worth the time and effort that it will take on your part. Just giving your students the opportunity to become aware of their peers.

***again, I see that I am insisting on the “frame”.  As I usually have student artists make frames from cardboard and paper mache, this is a useful parry against tactile defensiveness.

****for this, again I recommend a very sticky water based glue, such as Eileen’s Tacky Glue.

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