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Bead Weaving With Children

This is an adaptation of an American Indian skill. To do your own bead weaving, you need:

– black plastic lacing (used for making lanyards,)
– black crochet thread
– pony beads
– a shoe box
– scissors

Examine how big the pony beads are. Now cut four slits in one side of the shoe box, each a little more than a pony bead wide (see photo below). Cut four more slits opposite, on the other side of the box. Make one extra slit to fasten in the knotted end of the plastic lacing.

Now make your warp. Leaving a long tail of the crochet thread, wind the thread around and around the box through the slits which face one another. Tie the ends together on the side or underneath the box.

Tie a knot about 3 inches from the end of a long piece of plastic lacing, and slide it onto the extra slit. It will be your woof thread.

Now think about your design. Do you want a random design? Do you want to make vertical, horizontal, or diagonal stripes? Do you want to make checks?

String three pony beads onto the lacing, like this girl below is doing. Push the beads down to the loom.

Put the end of the lacing UNDER your warp threads and pull it all the way through.

Look below to see the girl’s first row of beads, and the second row ready to weave. She has positioned the beads between the threads, and is holding them up with her hand.

While holding them up, go back through the beads with the lacing, OVER the warp this time. Pull the lacing all the way through the beads for a smooth edge. Keep going until it is as long as you want it.

If you are a preschooler, you can have fun stringing beads on the lacing while the big brothers and sisters are weaving.

When you have woven as much as you want, cut the warp threads under the box, and knot the ends close to the beads to keep your weaving together.

What are you going to do with your bead weaving? Make a bracelet or a key chain? Or something else?

If you are in fourth grade or older, you can do much more complex and authentic bead weaving, using small glass beads, warp and woof made of the crochet thread, and a narrow embroidery needle to push the woof through the little beads. With a parent’s help, you can make a stronger bead loom by using a saw to cut slits on a wooden clementine box. You can also put more threads in your warp, to accommodate many more beads. You can make complex geometric and pictorial designs. Look at some old photographs of American Indian clothing to see some wonderful examples of bead work.

Beth Curtin is a Providence artist, portraitist, craftswoman, and mother of three.  She recently went from being a complete technophobe to launching Acorn Pies, a blog for children and their grownups, all because she got a new MacBook.

Photo Credit: Beth Curtin

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