Wednesday, April 16, 2014

In the Art Room: Circle Loom Weaving with Second Grade

When it comes to art lessons, I'm not much of a repeat offender. Since I like to change up the cultural theme of my art room every year, my lessons usually follow suit. However, I always have my 2nd grade create a circle loom weaving for a coupla reasons:

* It's excellent for building fine motor skillz and pumpin' up those wee hand muscles. And what kid doesn't want super strong man-hands?

* It's chock full o math connections: measuring, pattern making, long division (okay, maybe not that last one but you get the idea.)

* It reaches those kids that might otherwise slip through the art cracks (dude! what if there were such a thing as "art crack"?! Would that be like the equivalent of huffing a sharpie and drinking the paint water?!) Particularly my boy students. They absolutely thrive on weaving, being the tactile learners that they are. In fact, I overheard one little guy tell a buddy whilst weaving, "this is the best day of my life, I love this!" Daawwww.
All that being said, I've not been in love with how I've taught circle loom weaving in the past. Usually when we wove on a plate, we simply started with a blank Chinet plate, created our weaving and used markers to color the rim of the plate (go here and scroll down to 2nd grade art to see). Last year, in an effort to change things up a bit, we did the whole weaving on a CD thang which was cool and all but I still wasn't in love with the end result.
This year, in an effort to try something totes different but still make sure the kids got in their much needed weaving time, I opted to have them paint their plates before attaching them with woven greatness.
 Wait, you wanna make a Painted Plate Circle Loom Weaving too?! Okay, kids, russell up the following: 

Chinet Plates. Ya'll don't use anything less. These bad boys are as good as a canvas as far as plate-painting-surfaces go.

Tempra Paint. I only use Crayola's Washable Paint. The colors are about as good as it's gonna get in an elementary classroom.

A Loom Template. You'll thank me later, ya'll.

Yarn and Beads.
 Over the course of 2-ish art classes, we painted these plates. On our first day, we chatted about Kandinsky's concentric circle paintings and created our own. The following art class was spent using the World's Smallest Paint Brushes to craft those patterns that you see. By the way, if these look a pinch familiar to you, I shared these plates in a recent post about (attempting) to teach good craftsmanship. 
 Once the plates are painted and patterned, I give the kids a loom template with exactly 19 notches (not nachos) cut into it. The kids are to trace these notches onto the rim of their plate, count to check that they only have 19 lines to cut (because there will be the rando kid that has 55 lines drawn everywheres) and then cut the lines on the rim of the plate. I encourage them not to cut beyond the rim as this will make for a saggy weaving. Which sounds about as ugly as it is.
 Once the kids have their plates (which we now call our looms) cut, they are to grab a small skein of warping string and meet me on the floor. For the correct amount of warping string, I wrap the yarn from my hand to my elbow five times. These small bundles are available in a variety of colors for the kids to choose from. 

Now. Let's talk about teaching the kids to warp their looms. Which can either be like watching a train wreck happen in slow motion or a piece of cake. Lemme show you the cake route cuz, well, everybody loves cake.

First of all, when we are all seated on the floor, with our looms and warp string in front of us, ain't nobody allowed to touch nuthin until I say "go". You even think about touching that loom and yarn and Ima gonna snatch it up. Because, you know wuz about to happen. They'll think they've got it, fiddle around and not catch a bit of direction and the next thing you know, you've got a class of 20 all train-wreckin-it-up. So. Watch me and wait for the "go". 

First step: Put the tail end of the yarn in any notch. There should be a short tail about the length of your finger in the back while the rest of the yarn hangs loose and free in the front. Go. (I tell the kids that their "go" signal to me for the next step is to put their weavings on the floor in front of them. When I see that, I can proceed.)

Next: Bring the length of yarn down dividing the plate in half (see above photo). But, there's a catch. Be sure that there are 8 empty notches on the left side and 9 on the right. That's muy importante, ya'll. Go.

Now: (see left photo) Take the long length of string and have it "go to the right neighbor's house" meaning have your string go in the next notch on the right hand side. Now, this neighbor is super rude and it shouts, "get outta my house!" so the string runs all the way across the plate (see right photo) and makes the World's Smallest X. 

 Next: Rotate the plate so that the length of string is at the bottom (left picture). That story I just told about the string getting kicked out of the neighbor's house? It's a pattern. Which means it's gonna repeat. So, let's do it again! Go to the right neighbors house. Get kicked out. Go across the street and make the World's Smallest X. Rotate the plate.

After watching this routine, the kids walk me through completing my plate warping by repeating this as I go:

Go the neighbor. Get kicked out. Make World's Smallest X. Rotate the Plate.

Which gets shortened to:

Neighbor. Out. X. Rotate.
 You'll know you're finished when your little string has no home to go to. And that will be your weft or weaving string!

The following art class, we start to weave with that wee string.
 The first day of actual weaving is usually the toughest. I tell 'em over and under until I'm blue in the face...and they get it. That is until they pull the string tightly to the middle and it looks like this:
And then they're all "whuh, huh? whuh just happened to my string?" 

At this point, I tell them that they might have to loosen their weaving a bit to see just what they did previously. This will put them back on over-and-under track. When their weft is as long as their hand, they are to double knot tie a new string to the end. It can be a tough first day...but I repeat over and again: Your first day of weaving is the hardest. But you'll get this. And you'll love it. 
And when they do, without sounding like some sappy art teacher, it's pure magic.

During our weaving sessions, some kids sit on the floor with me and we chat and get to know each other. We've taken weavings outside on sunny days and sat under trees. We lay on the floor or relocate to tables where our buddies sit. It makes for such a fun and relaxing environment. 
Since the kids really caught on fast to weaving this year, I thought I'd throw out the option of adding pony beads. Some kids took to it right away, complimenting their designs with a beaded pattern. 

 And others opted out, content to just weave until they reached their limit of a 4" diameter. Once weavings were complete, the last of the weft strings was double knot tied to a warp spoke.

The weaving portion of this project only took us 2-ish 30 minute art classes. Since I limited the diameter to 4" (because I hated the thought of their beautiful paintings being hidden AND because the kids will seriously weave For.Eve.Rrr. if not limited), the project ended up being rather quick. By my weeks-long-art-project standards.
I think I can happily say, I'm thrilled with these circle loom weavings. I will definitely be sticking with this painted plate loom lesson. It's become a new weaving fave. To finish these guys off, the kids will tie a "hanger" of yarn at the top so these can be displayed for our upcoming art show!

By the way, I've shared a couple of weaving posts on this here blog. Some of my faves are the following:

What are your fave weaving projects? I'd love to hear!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

DIY: A Quilted and Embroidered Amsterdam

Tell me if this has ever happened to you:

You're perusing your fave teaching, sewing, art-making blogs and you start to feel a little, I dunno, crappy. Because, well, look at all the amazing stuff those bloggers taught/stitched/created! How did they get all that taught, when I'm still reminding kids not to double stack artwork on the drying rack?! When did they have time to stitch that skirt when I'm still suckin' at putting in a decent zipper?! Wait, someone above the age of 10 made art?! I don't even have a single idea in my head to create from!

If this has ever happened to you, then you and I are in the very same boat, friend. And that boat has a name. I like to call it (not The Love Boat, you goober) The Big Blog Illusion. Which I realize is a crappy name for a boat but bear with me.

 Have you heard of The Big Blog Illusion? I didn't think so because I just now made it up. Lemme tell you why I coined this phrase. As blog reader, I often feel overwhelmed and totes slack-tastic when I read my fave blogs. Sometimes it's inspiring and I'll actually get up off the couch and attack that DIY...but sometimes, it's disheartening. 

However, as a blogger, let me fill you in on a wee secret: The Big Blog Illusion is just that, an illusion. Most of the time, the DIYs you see on this blog were made over the course of weeks if not months. That's the trick. Nothing that I ever share with ya'll was made overnight or over a fortnight (do you even know how long I've wanted to use that word on this blog?!). I'm a starter/work on-and-off for a while/put it to the side/pick it back up again/finally finish it weeks later kinda gal. So when I finally get around to sharing my project, it looks like this Big Fat Hairy Thang that I magically completed in a blink. Not so. Take this Quilted and Embroidered Amsterdam DIY for 'zample.
Hubs and I ventured to Amsterdam two summers ago. You'd know this if you could see my hubs now, his beard is down to his chest and his hair is to his shoulders, hence the nickname Ginger Jesus. When we returned I started looking through photos from our vacay and really loved this cityscape...
But really, what's not to love?

So when I saw this illustration in The Usborne Book of Art Ideas, I was all, hey! That's Amsterdam! Ooooh, I wanna make that right now!

And, here we are, Two. Years. Later.
(Ya'll need to get your Kitten Mittens on these Usborne Books for your art room, they're amazingness, no lie.)
But, since this is a DIY post, Ima gonna digress for uno momento. Just in case you wanna make your very own Two Year Long Quilted and Embroidered Amsterdam (which won't take you two years unless you are totes slacktastic like me). 

From my stash, I picked out gingham, striped and solid fabrics that I thought looked nice together. After cutting these into 2" X 3" shapes, I stitched them together vertically to create buildings and then stitched those buildings together to complete the cityscape. This was then stitched to some yellow background fabric and I began to embroider the buildings. Not being one of my fave things in the world, I only worked on the embroidery when traveling as it's my only craft that travels well. Which is one of the reasons it too me so stinking long.
 Now, lemme address that feeling of never having any ideas. I am not a pull-anything-outta-the-air-and-make-it-amazing kind of person. Are you? If so, I envy you and secretly hate your face. I struggle coming up with an original idea. Knowing this, my ideas usually grow out of whatever I'm currently working on. Like these planters, ya'll. I made them at a workshop (DIY here) right after I had started my embroidered Amsterdam. 
(Have ya'll ever tried satin glazes? I use Stroke and Coat by Mayco with the kids...but for me I love using these pastel color that have a lot less shine.)
So, where am I going with all this jibber-jabber? I guess what I'm trying to say is this: if you ever start to feel down like you never ever get anything accomplished after perusing those blog faves of yours,  just think of me. And my Two Year Long Embroidered Amsterdam Adventure and think, "Shoot! Ida at least had that embroidery done in a fortnight, ya'll!"

Chat with ya soonish!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

What the Art Teacher Wore #95 and Edvard Munch

Clay Adventure Monday: This week began the beginning of a two week adventure introducing the entire stinkin' school (all 400+ of 'em) to the Wonderful World of Clay! I absolutely love clay and so do my students. However, it's super hard teaching them in 30 minute increments. That's why I'm dragging it out for two weeks -- I want the kids to have as much time in the mud as possible. I can't wait to share with you all that we're creating! sweater: vintage, Four Seasons Vintage in Knoxville; cat blouse: used, Buffalo Exchange; skirt: thrifted; tights: Target; shoes: Dolls by Nina; necklace: Forever39
Oh, hey there, ya'll. Is it just me or does it kinda sorta feel like summer is around the corner? Maybe it's the weather (it's a balmy 80ish degrees here in Tennessee today) and the longer days, but I feel like summerness is nigh. And it has me TOTALLY FREAKING OUT. I've got, like, one million clay projects currently wrapped in plastic bags in the art room (it looks like I'm running a Barbie mortuary what with the little wrapped plastic bags) that all need to be fired, glazed and ready for display in a month. Not to mention all the art projects that were put on hold for said clay madness. I'm a little stressed that the end is so close...we've got so much art to make!

All this craziness has kinda put me in the mind of this painting...
The Scream (of Nature), Edvard Munch, 1893 Did you know that there are four versions created by Munch of this painting/pasteled piece? AND that two out of the four have been stolen (and recovered)  one in 1994 from the National Gallery and another in 2004 from the Munch Museum in Oslo. But it's no wonder as these paintings are worth mega bucks. In fact, The fourth version (pastel, 1895) was sold for $119,922,600. Who has that much coin to drop on a painting, ya'll? I'm guessing it wasn't an art teacher.
So I spent part of my weekend in my sewing room felting away. I've had this old Brooks Brothers dress for years and it was sitting in my "give it to Goodwill" pile until I decided to punch a buncha felt into the thing. Sadly, this might be one of the last felted numbers I do for a while since the temps are on the climb. I can already tell, with the front of this dress being entirely felted, it's gonna be one hot number. Like, literally, ya'll. I'll be Screaming for mercy (pun, unfortunately, intended).

Whilst felting away, I realized, I didn't know all that much about ole Munch. So I thought this week, I'd share with you some of his work and a wee bit of history about the dude. Until next time, have a super fab week, ya'll!
Totally Tuesday: It was teacher appreciation week at my school and I absolutely loved it! Everyday of the week, the kids brought the teachers some sort of awesomeness and Tuesday was flower day. I loved being able to take home an arm full, especially a giant sunflower! necklace: Paper Source; top: used, Buffalo Exchange; skirt: old, Target; mini-palette hair clip: DIY by me
Self-Portrait with Skeleton Arm, 1895 You know, cuz that's normal. So, as you might have guessed just looking at Munch's work, he suffered a pretty difficult childhood. Both his mother and a sister died of tuberculosis which left Edvard and his three other siblings to be raised by their father who sounds a wee bit like an odd dude.  Munch wrote, "My father was temperamentally nervous and obsessively religious—to the point of psychoneurosis. From him I inherited the seeds of madness. The angels of fear, sorrow, and death stood by my side since the day I was born" (go here for more details.) 
Vampire, 1895 If I told you that Munch's dad read his children ghost stories and tales by Edgar Allan Poe, would ya believe me? Whenever I see Munch's work, I always think of Poe. I never knew that there was an actual connection.
Ballsy Wednesday: It never fails, every time I wear this necklace (which is often, cuz I loves it), I get the question: Did you make those balls?! I crack up every time. Partly because I have the maturity level of a 12 year old (no lie) and also because, well, I suppose I coulda. I mean, they are felted balls. But I try not to make it a habit to play with my balls. Felted or not. blouse: thrifted; skirt: vintage, Etsy; tights: Target; shoes: old, John Fluevog
Shore with Red House, 1904 While I find Munch's life fascinating (has anyone read this book? Thinking it might be a good summer read) I've never been wild and crazy about his paintings. Granted, when I think of Munch, I usually think of The Scream, Vampire and Kiss (the painting, not the band). And, having seen those paintings so much, it's hard to appreciate them apart from their commercialness. So I scoured the interwebs and found some Munch paintings that I actually loved. Like this one. I love the colors in the foreground and the patterns on the rocks.
Full of Hot Air Thursday: The other day, while walking on the track at my school with some buddies, I swear to you, a hot air balloon almost landed on top of us! I think it mistook our playground for a nearby park. Just when it appeared they were about to land, there was that super loud blow of hot air (you know, what I sound like when I'm talking) and up and away they went. It made for an exciting walk! hot air balloon sweater: Anthro; skirt: Target; tights: dunno
Weeping Nude, 1913 I read that the German Expressionists were greatly influenced by the work of Munch. In fact, I thought Munch was German for the longest time. Dudes from Norway, ya'll, in case you were wondering. I can see the influence, can't you? When I was in college, all angst and stuff, I was In Love with the German Expressionists, particularly Kirchner. And now...not so much. Do you have some odd artist faves from your college days? I know I'm not alone.
Hello, Friday. P.S. My Feet HATE These Shoes: I now keep this cute little fold up pair of ballet flats in my purse for that very reason. Because walking around the art room barefoot is like taking my life into my own hands. blouse: old, Target; skirt: old, Marshall's; evil shoes: Anthro; belt: Target
Workers on their Way Home, 1913 From what, their shift at the local haunted house?! Yikes, this painting is way more frightening than The Scream, don't you think?! And I've never even seen it before. Which just goes to show that artists are so much more than their most famous piece of artwork. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

DIY: A Calligraphy Scarf by Lisa Beynon

Hey, ya'll! When I saw an art teacher buddy post an amazing DIY Calligraphy Scarf on Facebook recently, I asked her if she'd share the details in a blog post. Because, not only is it awesome but it's also awesomely simple as she'll break it down for you. Take it away, Lisa!
I wanted an article of clothing to go with a calligraphy lesson that I teach. I love using text as a texture in paintings,  art journals, drawings, etc. so I thought why not fabric? And I love scarves, so why not a scarf?
  1. The first thing I did was get about a ¾ of a yard of fabric. Any fabric will do. But I recommend testing the fabric with a permanent marker to make sure there is minimal marker bleed.

  2. Lay fabric flat and write desired quote, passage, song lyrics on fabric with a permanent marker. Just remember to try to evenly space the lines of text ( I chose M.J.’s “Thriller”.)

    3. My fabric was square, and it wasn’t going to wrap around my neck how I wanted, so I cut the fabric in half and sewed the two rectangles together lengthwise. Then fold long rectangle in half inside out, and sew up the longest side.
    4. Measure the length around your neck to your desired length.  You can flip it right side out, and sew the edges for a traditional scarf, or make sure the length of the scarf will wrap around your head twice for an infinity scarf. Then tuck in one side of the scarf to the other and sew for continuos circle.

    I ended up chopping off a bit of fabric because it was longer than I like.
    My students got a kick out of it, and just solidified why they love me so much…errr why they think I’m the weirdest!
    Lisa Beynon teaches art to some super lucky high schoolers in Genoa, Illinois. Please let Lisa know how awesome she is in the comments below, I know she'd love to hear from you. And if you're really feeling spunky, get to crackin' on your own Calligraphy Scarf this weekend, email it to me and I'll share it here!

    Thank you, Lisa!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

In the Art Room: Sewing and Embroidery

No matter what your passion is in life, I bet the seed was planted when you were young. One summer, when I was probably 10i-sh, my grandmother taught me how to embroider. And I've loved creating stuff with fabric and thread since. 
This year, I decided to open up my art room to the folks I work with for a Sewing Group. Some of my 4th grade students caught wind of this and wanted to know if they could join. I kinda put the idea on the back burner as I had no freakin' idea how I'd use sewing machines with the youngins...and I kinda thought the kids would forget about it. But, as you know if you work with children, they never forget anything. When one of them started pricing sewing machines at the local thrift store and another petitioned her friends to enquire about a class, I started to toy with the idea of making it happen. When I accidentally said, "I'll think about it," the kids cheered and asked, "Yay, can we start TODAY?!" 
There is a wonderful enrichment program at my school called Gentry's Educational Foundation founded by Evelyn Hickerson, a teacher. I approached her about teaching a sewing class and she agreed to purchase some sewing machines. Because she's seriously that awesome. This woman is so dedicated to the education of all students that she'll stop at nothing to make it happen. We are so fortunate to have her enriching all of our lives. 
In my after school sewing class, I had almost 20 students (3rd and 4th grade) and two adult helpers. I was a little nervous having that many children sewing on machines at once...and I also felt like the kids should have some basic sewing and embroidery skills first. So I decided to start by having the kids create an embroidered sampler using this book as my guide.
I picked up this book years ago when I wanted to teach sewing in my art classes. I've since had to let go of that notion (30 minutes just seemed impossible to teach sewing to the under 10 set) but was thrilled to give it a go with this group. My after school classes were a lovely 60 minutes in length and that felt like absolute heaven. No rush, plenty of time to explain, chat and sew. 

Interested in giving this a go? Here's what we used:
  • Gingham fabric
  • Patterned fabric
  • Embroidery floss, 24" in length, split into three strands
  • Bees wax. This isn't necessary but it does come in handy. We ran our embroidery floss over the wax to prevent it from tangling.
  • Large eyed, sharp needles
  • Embroidery hoops
  • Graph paper
  • Sewing machine
  • Pins
  • Stuffing

  1. Our first of business was writing out our names. We first did this on graph paper using the guide found in the book. This was then rewritten onto the kids' chosen piece of gingham in pencil.
  2. Next we learned how to split our embroidery floss. I had the kids work with a partner to prevent the floss from tangling. This was then threaded into the needle, doubled over and knotted.
  3. After that, we hooped our fabric. 
  4. We didn't embroider our name first. We chatted about what a sampler was and how this would showcase a sample of embroidery stitches we learned. Our first stitches to learn were the running stitches seen under the name.
  5. Once those were complete, we moved onto cross-stitching our name. Some students sewed buttons onto their sampler while others learned how to create a satin stitched heart.

All that took a couple of sewing classes to complete. Once they were finished, the kids chose a piece of fabric for the back of their pillow. Thankfully I'd just been donated a huge stash of fabric (which included some coveted Scooby Doo fabric). The kids laid their samplers on the fabric, cut it to the same size and pinned it right sides together on the top and sides. We left the bottom open for adding the stuffing.
Now I wasn't at all comfortable with the idea of the kids sewing for the first time without adult supervision. This is where my two super adult sewers came into the picture. They called each child one at a time to a machine and gave them a private sewing lesson. Perhaps in the future I'll be more comfortable leaving the kids less supervised...but until then, I'm all about the one-on-one.

So what were the others doing in the meantime? Well, they set their pillows aside and began creating mini-stuffed animals! In My First Sewing Book, the author gives a ton of animal patterns for the kids to chose from. I simply enlarged them and laid them out for the kids to pick from. Of course, I gave them the option of creating their own stuffies too (see last photo, ya'll. Too cute). With that sampler under their sewing belt, this proved to be the perfect project for them to work independently on while they waited for their turn at the machine.
For a Stuffie, you'd need the following:
  • Two pieces of felt per student
  • Embroidery floss
  • Needle
  • Thread
  • Pins
  • Patterns (or paper for creating their own)
  • Stuffing

  1. After picking their pattern, the kids pinned the pattern and two pieces together. This was then cut out.
  2. After removing the pins, the kids were told they had to use a satin stitch to create a face. Buttons were available for eyes. 
  3. Once that was complete, the two felt pieces were pinned together and stitched almost all the way around with a whip stitch.
  4. Stuffing was added and the stuffie was stitched closed. Most kids were able to create more than one.
When their turn was up at the sewing machine, they stitched those three pinned sides. Stuffing was added to the pillow and they had the option of hand-stitching the pillow closed or using the machine again. I was surprised that not all of the kids picked the machines. I think some of them really enjoyed the control of stitching by hand.
Since completing these stuffies, the kids have started bringing in things they've sewn at home. They've independently created purses, pin cushions and stuffies for their buddies and siblings. Which makes me so super happy.

And excited. I've already started my yearly process of begging for longer art classes next year so I can do this with all my students, not just an after school class. I know how much I loved creating like this when I was a kid...and I want all of my students to have this very same experience.

Do ya'll sew in your art room? Would you mind sharing with me the projects you do? I'd love to have more ideas and share them with my sewing group! Thanks, ya'll!