Tutorial: Making A Mat Board Loom for Weaving

Recently I taught a weaving class at an assisted living center with a delightful group of women, the oldest being 90 years old! My training as an occupational therapist provided some foundation on adapting the weaving project for individuals with some limitations as to memory, vision, and gross and fine motor skills.  I always like to focus on the 3 P’s when I work with seniors: the person, the process and the product.  The person should be interested in being an active participant and thus be in control of creating his/her own work. The process should be somewhat repetitive and yet hold the interest of the creator by employing colorful and tactile materials. The process should also guarantee that the person succeeds at it. And finally the product should be attractive and finished in a way that it can be displayed or given as a gift. Using this methodology, young children and adults with physical or developmental disabilities could also benefit from such a project.

However, this means that a lot of preparation is required by the instructor. For art teachers or others interested in this activity, weaving on mat board looms, I am sharing a brief tutorial on preparing the looms. Teachers with students who are able to do so can also have their students make their own mat board looms in advance of the weaving.

Materials Needed        

IMG_5265 Mat board cut to 6″ W X 9″ H

2 pieces decorative card stock measuring 1″ W X 9″ H

2 pieces heavy cardboard measuring 1″ W X 6″ H**

**I used book board for this, illustration board can also be used

2 pieces decorative card stock measuring 1″ W X 6″ H

Glue Stick

Discarded piece of mat board measuring 1″ W X 6″ H

Pencil and ruler

Small drill or awl

Tapestry needle

Strong yarn for warp, such as cotton carpet warp or perle cotton

Picture frame hook (optional)

Assembly Instructions

With a glue stick, glue the 1″ X 9″ decorative card stock to the long edges of the mat board.  Then glue the 2 pieces of heavy cardboard onto the top and bottom short edges of the mat board. Lastly, glue the shorter pieces of decorative card stock onto the heavy cardboard.

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Now make a template from a piece of discarded mat board measuring 1″ X 6″. Mark and measure a  4″ length in the center of the   template. Within this marked  section, find the  lengthwise halfway point and with a ruler draw a straight line from one end of this 4″ section to the other end. This line will be your guide to make evenly spaced holes across the template. The holes in my loom are roughly spaced 1/4″ apart for a total of 17 holes. I used a small drill like a Dremel stylus to make the holes, but an awl would work just as well.

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Next position the template on top of  the bottom edge of the loom and carefully following  the holes of the template use an awl or other sharp tool to pierce corresponding holes through both the heavy cardboard and the mat board. Do the same for the top edge of the loom.

Warping the Loom

Measure a 4 1/2 yard length of strong warping yarn such as cotton carpet warp or perle cotton. With a tapestry needle, thread the yarn through the holes that you just pierced on the bottom and top edges of the loom. The front of the loom should look like this:

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The back of the loom should look like this:

back of loom

Note that the warp threads are threaded in a vertical direction only at the front of the loom. On the back of the loom, the warp threads are threaded horizontally through consecutive holes. This will prevent the mat board from curving toward the front during the weaving process. A picture frame hook can be glued to the top of the loom if desired.

Now you are ready to weave. I use thick and colorful textured yarn threaded through a wooden weaving needle. A long plastic needle with a large eye will work just as well. A strong comb or pick is used to “beat” each row of weaving.

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The classes at the assisted living center were sponsored by  Creative Aging Midsouth. Miss Eula was one of the participants in the class. Here she is with her finished weaving project. This lovely lady celebrated her 90th birthday during the course of the class!

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KISS of the Weaver

For five years, I had been teaching weaving to senior citizens through Creative Aging Mid-South. The students I have worked with often express their creativity through their lifelong passions and experiences. Students’ abilities have ranged from the completely independent and self learning individuals to those with dementia who require a fair amount of assistance and guidance toward the completion of their projects.

When I work with individuals demonstrating decreased levels of cognitive functioning due to dementia, disease or other illness, I need to structure the project so that the many steps of weaving are broken down into a limited number of  tasks with a repetitive element. For instance, residents of an Alzheimer’s or dementia program will more easily remember the repeated rhythmic chants of  “under, over, under, over” than trying to remember the many steps of weaving with a frame loom such as “raise the heddle, insert the shuttle, beat, lower the heddle, insert the shuttle, beat” and so on. In fact, many of the individuals with cognitive impairments will remember the under and over motion of weaving on a potholder loom, either from their own childhoods or from teaching their children.

In previous classes  offered to dementia groups, I taught weaving on a simple frame loom, or on a cardboard loom where the finished project had to be removed in order to be displayed or worn, such as a woven pendant or necklace. This meant that the students needed to finish their projects before the piece had to be removed.  More often than not, I was the one who ended up having to finish their projects and then preparing them for display or to be worn. In this way, the art work became a piece woven by me and not by the students! And so I had to remind myself to KEEP IT SIMPLE, STUPID!

For my current class with a group of residents in an assisted living facility which housed an Alzheimer’s unit, I referred to this book for inspiration.

Small Loom and Free Form Weaving by Barbara Matthiessen

The book is Small Loom and Freeform Weaving: Five Ways to Weave by Barbara Matthiessen.  It is available here at Amazon.com. And specifically, I was interested in adapting this altered book project by Ms. Matthiessen and present it to the members of the Alzheimer’s group:

Altered book weaving project idea from “Small Loom and Freeform Weaving”

The author of  Small Loom and Freeform Weaving used the discarded cover of an old book as a loom to weave a non-traditional piece with open spaces in the weaving. In my own studio, I have many sheets of mat board as well as scraps of decorative paper, and so I designed my own mat board looms for the residents of the assisted living facility.

 

Mat board looms in various stages of completion

The looms were made from rectangles of mat board with a decorative frame of scrapbooking paper around the four edges. Carpet tacks were inserted at the top and the bottom of the boards and cotton carpet warp was wound around the tacks. Students used a large wooden weaving needle and bulky novelty yarns in a variety of colors and textures to weave under and over the cotton warp threads.

 

Mat board loom with a wooden weaving needle and bulky weft yarn

For some residents, I needed to begin the first row or two so that they could have a visual image of what their weaving would look like. Once they began  a rhythm of  weaving  “under, over, under, over”, the class was well underway.

 

Selection of some of the yarns students used for weaving

Students most appeared to enjoy the various textures and weights of the yarns, and the brightest and softest yarns were the most popular choices.

 

Weaving on Mat Board Looms at Table I

Weaving on Mat Board Looms at Table II

Ten students joined me in this class and will continue to meet weekly for three more weeks. Many will be able to complete their projects by the end of this time. And the mat board loom will become part of their art creation, because their weaving will not have to be removed from it in order for their work to be displayed! Whether or not they finish weaving, all will have a frame with a woven picture that they can proudly display, and know that they wove it themselves!