The Fabric of Our Lives

Art Activity

With this activity, students use the metaphor of a woven fabric to develop a cloth mural telling about their community.



Weaving goes back to the Stone Age. In weaving, threads are worked together in a pattern to make cloth. In traditional weaving, rows of threads are stretched side-by-side on a loom. These threads are called the warp. A thread attached to a large needle, called a shuttle, is passed through from one side of the loom to the other, alternatively going over and under the warp threads. These threads make up the weft. Large machine looms do that work today, but there are still many people who still prefer to weave their own cloth.


  1. Send home a letter to parents, asking for photos or other personal items for the activity. The letter should include a deadline by which materials should come in and a date when they expect them to be returned.

  2. Tack the large piece of cloth onto the wall. Have students volunteer what they know about how cloth is made. Share with them the background information above. Then bring students up in small groups to study the example of weaving to note how the warp and the weave hold together to make one piece of material.

  3. Make the analogy that a community (classroom, neighborhood, town, city, state, or country) contains many "threads" that come together to create a strong and colorful "fabric." To make sure students understand the concept, encourage them to give examples of how people live and work together, though they have different backgrounds, talents, and experiences. Tell students that they are going to create a mural on the cloth that symbolizes how the class is community woven together with many different "threads."

  4. Have students think of things that make them and their families special. These could include holidays, celebrations, work, hobbies, special talents, history. Have students select items from home or create, draw, or find objects and items that represent

  5. Begin the mural by having students create small, colorful name tags on paper for themselves and attaching them to the spot on the fabric where they will contribute their part of the collage. Then have them arrange the items they have collected. If they wish, they could create small labels to identify each item.

  6. When the collage is complete, set aside a period every day for students to explain briefly their contributions to the collage.


Learn more about cloth making by visiting a local weaver, museum of industry, or by watching a video of a weaver at work. You might also invite a local weaver to speak to your class and give a demonstration.

Gather samples of different types of fabric and let students handle them to compare them for weight, texture, and tightness of weave.

Students can write reports on fabrics whose development was historically significant, such as linen, silk, cotton, wool, and denim.

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