The Fabric of Our Lives
With this activity, students use the metaphor of a woven fabric to develop a
cloth mural telling about their community.
WHAT YOU NEED
- Take-home letter to request permission for students to bring items to school
- A rough piece of fabric that shows weaving (You can also
use paper strips woven together to demonstrate what a weave looks like.)
- Large piece of cloth (e.g., bed sheet or blanket)
- Student, teacher photographs, drawings, and memorabilia
- Drawing paper and materials
- Push-pins, safety pins, two-sided mounting tape, and/or tacks
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.
WHAT TO DO
- 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.
- 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.
- 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."
- 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
- 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.
- 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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