HighSchool Art Room: instruction and providing choice to students

Woven Bracelets Inspired by Rakhi

I wanted to share this easy weaving lesson with you all that you can easily tie into Valentine’s Day.  It’s a good introduction to weaving for young students and allows each student to come away with wearable art they could gift to a friend or family member.

My lesson was inspired by a book found in my local library, Thread of Love.   What a great find! Kabil and Surishtha Seghal’s book illustrates the traditions of bracelets and treats exchanged during the Indian festival of Raksha Bandhan.  Sisters create bracelets, called rakhi, with small amulets to give their brothers receiving small treats and toys in return as symbols of love and a promise to watch out for one another.  The book has text which can be sung to the tune of Frere Jacques, which makes it a really fun read aloud and will draw the kids right in. 

I always enjoy bringing multi-cultural connections into the art room. Admittedly, Raksha Bandhan is not a February festival.  And the straw woven bracelet is not meant to be a rakhi, but I think it’s an interesting connection for students. There’s a comparison to be made between handmade bracelets used as a gift in a folk tradition like Raksha Bandhan and the custom of friendship bracelets made at say, summer camp here in the U.S.  If you end up doing this around Valentine’s Day, there’s also a great discussion to be had about showing our affection through a handmade card or token on Valentine’s Day.


Making the Bracelets

If you’ve never made a straw weaving before, it’s easy and a great intro to yarn weaving.   I used short straws (cutting off the bendy part as they need to be totally smooth). Using smoothie straws can make it even easier to weave and thread the the warp strings.  

Changing colors requires the students to be able to tie knots as each yarn piece must be tied to the next.  After years of teaching kids how to tie knots, I finally just made a hand out with pictures of my hands for each table! You can get that handout for yourself right here.

Your students may be interested in learning to braid the warp strings or they can be left loose. 

Plan for two classes to make the bracelets and a little additional time for the decorations.  It may be possible to get it all done in two classes depending on how much experience your classes have with weaving and knot tying!

A cute way to jazz up the bracelets is to cut felt shapes that can be glued to the weaving.  I really like the way these little felt hearts look on the weaving. There are a lot of fun art lessons that tie in a Valentines theme, but I particularly like this for focusing more on the idea of a handmade token of love.  In a world where there is so much focus on buying commercially made items it can be great to remind students of the long cross cultural practice of making items to exchange with parents,siblings, cousins and friends. All made with love.

Weaving is best taught in a scaffolded method! Check out this post that teaches students to weave with paper using "snakes" as the weave and "grass" as the warp, helping kids understand the back and forth motion of weaving! click right here to head over to "Snakes in the Grass"

Thanks as always for checking in to read my blog!

signature photo, emily mceneely