6-7s Building Study: Progressive Education

Zen and the Art of Weaving at the MCS Farm

Zen and the Art of Weaving at the MCS Farm

Friday, January 8, 2016

Textiles class with Lynn is a quiet place most of the time. Students come in, make themselves comfortable and begin work on weaving projects, big and small. A meditative calm prevails—a lovely Zen environment as each student becomes immersed in the tiny details of some larger pattern. Everyone works away in contented silence, periodically broken by quiet conversation. Lynn gives cheerful, soft-spoken advice from time to time, and beautiful pieces of woven cloth emerge from balls of yarn.

The seventh- and eighth-graders have learned about the whole cycle of textiles by now. In their earlier years, as 8-9s, they carded wool and used a spinning wheel. As 9-10s, they made felt from wool, and used drop spindles and Navajo hip spindles. In fifth grade they dyed wool. In sixth grade they spun wool into yarn. And now they are beginning their major projects, creating woven pillows or satchels, and intricate woven straps.

Some have already completed their project piece, and work on smaller pieces for fun on “pocket looms.” They have also by now learned about a whole range of weaving methods, from the little pocket looms to backstrap looms (a technique used in Central and South America), Inkle looms, tapestry looms, table looms and floor looms.

The technology of weaving is both ancient and amazingly intricate. The precise workings of the looms are a fascinating testament to human ingenuity.

The students’ final products are astonishingly beautiful.