Friday, December 18, 2015

Navajo-Inspired Rugs with 2nd Grade

     (photo found in Google images)

(an example of a Navajo rug)

Navajo rugs are textiles created by the Navajo people of North America.  The rugs have been a  highly sought after item of trade for over 150 years.  When I worked in textile restoration (before teaching), I enjoyed restoring Navajo rugs and woven pieces from private collectors.  Before the 19th century, Navajo weaving coloration was mostly natural brown, white, and indigo. Over time, the colors expanded to include red, black, green, yellow, and gray.  

I came across a project from a book created by Denise Logan called "Amazing Art Projects for Children."  In the book, Denise shows step by step instructions on designing the rug patterns on paper.  I adapted by own methods for creating the rugs with my schedules and materials, which I list below:

-9 x 12 70 lb. or greater white paper
-Black permanent marker
-Colored washable markers
-Hole punch
-Various colors of yarn
-Examples of Navajo patterns

The 2nd grade students learned about Navajo culture within their classrooms.  For the project, students are introduced to the tradition of Navajo weaving and attempt to create their own design.  With the yarn, students learn how to loop and fringe their finished paper "rugs."

This projects takes about 3-4 40-minute class periods to complete.

Day 1:  I started with a discussion about the myths and traditions of weaving with the Navajo people.  I found this description that I share with my students:

         It is said that Spider Woman taught Navajos of long ago the art of weaving. She told them, "My husband, Spider Man, constructed the weaving loom making the cross poles of Sky and Earth cords to support the structure; the warp sticks of sun rays, lengthwise to cross the wool; the heddles of rock crystal and sheet lightning, to maintain original condition of fibers. For the batten, he chose a sun halo to seal joints, and for the comb he chose a white shell to clean strands in a combing manner." – Spirit of the Weaving Comb

I created a pattern example sheet from scrounging around my Pinterest boards:

Hand out the 9 x 12 white paper and have students create their own designs using the Navajo patterns as examples.  Once students are done drawing, have them trace in black permanent marker.  Use washable markers to color in the spaces.

Day 2:  Review the steps to create the patterns.  Finish tracing and try to have students finish coloring the entire page.  On your own, crumble the paper, dip in water, and un-crumble to create a tie-dye effect.  If you have a spray bottle, that will work too!  I lay out the wet paper on larger sheets of paper on the drying rack for support.  Once dry fold the paper in half and poke a total of 7 holes on the edge, so there are 14 holes total.

Day 3:  With most of the projects ready and hole-punched, Demonstrate to the students what length of yarn to cut, how many, and how to tie the fringe.  You may have students still finishing their coloring this day, as well as taking their time to fringe.

Day 4:  All projects should be tie-dyed (pre-dipped and hole-punched) and ready for fringe.  Have students complete the fringe and hand in their work.  I have students write their artists statements on a separate sheet of paper with their rubric.

Here are some finished examples!

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