Purls of Wisdom

Weaving: A Beautiful, Ancient, Craft That You And Your Kids Can Try This Summer!

Posted by Cameron Lee on Sun, Aug 05, 2018 @ 10:05 AM

Not too many activities that we take part in today have been around for thousands of years, but there is evidence that weaving, a craft involving the intertwining of yarn or thread to form fabric, existed in the Paleolithic era. Early humans weaved branches and twigs together to create shelters and baskets, but weaving as we know it was only able to develop with the production of string and thread. Finger weaving, lacing, and knotting were also early forms of weaving, and are still used today!Yellow, blue, pink, and white weaving pattern on wooden loom

For a long time people mostly weaved with their hands, but when humans began to settle, looms came into play. A loom is a frame, typically made of wood, meant to improve the weaving process. Horizontal looms that lie flat on the ground were typically used in warmer climates where weavers would sit outside and work, and vertical looms were often used in colder, more temperamental climates and kept inside so the weaver could avoid the harsh weather. People also weaved different materials and fabrics depending on where they lived and what the weather was like and could create anything from linen to silk to cotton to wool.

Weaving was a craft mostly kept to the home until the Industrial Revolution in the 1700s, which meant that weavers (who were usually women) took their looms from their houses to factories. In 1733 John Kay invented the flying shuttle, a device that sped up the weaving process significantly and revolutionized the craft, allowing for faster, more efficient production. Then, in the early 1800s, Frenchman Joseph-Marie Jacquard invented the Jacquard Machine, a loom operated by a punch card that allowed for patterns to be created in the weaving automatically. Handweavers were so afraid that Jacquard’s invention would put them out of work that they burned many of his looms! (Sound familiar? Something very similar happened to Frenchman Barthélemy Thimonnier in 1830, not too many years later when he invented a sewing machine!) After the Industrial Revolution, 90% of weaving looms in North America were automated, and the craft was changed forever.Woman weaving geometric pattern on upright loom

There are many different kinds of weaving, but all of them involve the intertwining of warp threads and weft threads. Warp threads are strung over the loom vertically and provide the backbone for the weaving, and the weft threads are woven in and around the warp threads to create the design.  In the most common type of weaving, a plain weave, the weft yarn goes alternately over and under the warp yarn and creates a flat surface on which it is easy to print patterns. Basket weaving creates a checkerboard pattern, and twill weaving create a strong, heavy fabric like denim.

There are many tools that go into weaving, like a tapestry beater to push down the weft threads, a tapestry needle to pull the weft threads through the warp threads, and shed stick to create a gap to easily pull the weft thread through, but you won’t necessarily need all of them at once. A fork is an excellent substitute for a tapestry beater, and you can even make a homemade loom out of cardboard! When you first start out teaching your kids to weave, it might be useful to string the loom yourself with the warp thread so that it’s all ready to go, and even have your kids practice weaving with paper first - the stakes will be lower, and it will help them get a sense of how the process goes. You can even invite some friends over and make it a party, and set up a “yarn buffet” to make it easier to distribute supplies without chaos. When a kid runs out of yarn, they can return to the buffet!  Five colorful weaving projects hung on wall by branches, pom poms

If you’re stuck without any ideas for designs or how to get started on a project, check out this fantastic weaving, complete with branches and pom poms! For some great tutorials on simple weaving projects, check out The Handwork Studio’s videos on straw weaving and hand weaving. And as always, if you want your kids to learn amazing handwork skills with incredible teachers and also make lifelong friends, check out The Handwork Studio’s camps and classes. We hope you enjoy weaving, and if you want us to see any of your cool new projects, post a picture on Instagram with the hashtag #SewMoreLove! Best of luck!

Image Descriptions
1) Yellow, blue, pink, and white weaving pattern on wooden loom
2) Woman weaving geometric pattern on upright loom
3) Five colorful weaving projects hung on wall (https://www.artbarblog.com/weaving-kids/)

Tags: crafts, history, fun kids activities, activities, Handwork, Summer Camp Spirit Crafts, Inspiration, Kids Activities, Weaving

Machine Sewing: Learn Its Wild History and Why You Should Try It This Summer!

Posted by Cameron Lee on Sun, Jul 29, 2018 @ 10:10 AM

What enjoyable, kid-friendly summer activity has a history filled with theft, sabotage, and fortune? Your first thought might be that there aren’t any, but it might surprise you, as it surprised me, to find out that machine sewing fits all those categories! How is that possible, you might ask? Keep reading to find out more, and learn how to teach your kids to machine sew today. hands using sewing machine, close up

As I mentioned, machine sewing has a long and rather complicated history that originated with hand sewing, something humans have been doing for thousands of years. Early humans used bones and horns for needles and animal sinews for threads. The first real sewing machine was patented in 1755 by a German gentleman named Charles Weisenthal. Weisenthal never actually designed the sewing machine, but he had the idea and acted upon it, so he’s pretty important.

After him came an Englishman named Thomas Saint who in 1790 created plans the first sewing machine. It was to be powered by a hand crank and used for leather and other materials. (Unfortunately, he never built it, but a man named William Newton Wilson made a replica in 1874 based on Saint’s plans, and it actually worked!)

The first truly successful sewing machine came in 1830 when a French tailor called Barthélemy Thimonnier invented a machine with a curved needle that used one thread. The French government patented Thimonnier’s invention and commissioned him to produce uniforms for the French army, but about 200 tailors burned his factory down (with him inside!) because they thought his machine would destroy their business. Luckily Thimonnier survived, but his machines were burnt to a crisp.Painting of Isaac Singer, Singer Company

Ultimately a now famous man named Isaac Singer drew inspiration from the many machine designs and plans that came before him to create the Singer sewing machine. The Singer Company became an incredibly famous and well-loved brand, and Singer died with a personal fortune of $13 million to his name. At a time when the average American household income was $500, Singer managed to sell his machines for $125, and they were extremely popular. Although Singer reportedly didn’t care much about sewing, he did care about money, and he built his company into one of the world’s leading sewing machine suppliers for many years.

Even though the history of the sewing machine is intriguing, to say the least, you might still be wondering why you would need a sewing machine when hand sewing is seemingly less expensive and potentially less challenging to learn, but machine sewing definitely has its benefits. For example, machine sewing can save you money on clothes and other items once you learn how to make them yourself. You and your kids can also customize clothes, blankets, and other items and make them personal to you in a way that store-bought things won’t necessarily be. If you are a non-traditional size you can make clothes that fit you, and express your personal style through special items that you make for yourself! Learning how to machine sew can also save you a trip to the tailor if your child accidentally rips their clothes because then you can fix them right up at home. You and your child might even be able to start a business with your new machine sewing skills, like The Handwork Studio’s very own Anna Welsh, and sell clothes and items you make to friends, family, and others. Like knitting and crocheting, machine sewing also helps strengthen your mind and relieve stress, so in addition to being a fun activity for you and your kids, it is a beneficial one as well!Girl working with sewing machine, The Handwork Studio

If you’re like me and aren’t sure exactly what parts make up a sewing machine, you can check out The Handwork Studio’s YouTube videos on getting to know your machine and its components. Here are a few of the basic parts of the sewing machine to get you started. Sewing machines also allow for crafters to use a variety of stitches! Most machines have settings for straight stitches and zigzag stitches, and higher level machines also have decorative stitches, blind stitches, and stretch stitches. Each stitch has a different use, and once again, it is always beneficial to do some research on which stitches are best for what you and your child are trying to create.

I hope this blog post inspired you and your kids to get informed, go out and buy a sewing machine, and learn how to use it today! If you still want some extra help or guidance, don’t hesitate to check out The Handwork Studio’s camps and classes, particularly the Fashion & Machine Sewing Camp for children ages 9-15, and our line of Simplicity Sewing Patterns. We can’t want to see what you and your kids dream up with your new sewing machine skills. If you want to share anything with us, post it on Instagram with the hashtag #SewMoreLove! Happy sewing!

sewing machine with Handwork Studio Simplicity Sewing PatternImage Descriptions
1) Close up, hands using sewing machine
2) Isaac Singer, founder of The Singer Sewing Machine Company
3) Child working on sewing machine at Handwork Studio camp
4) Sewing Machine with a Handwork Studio Simplicity Sewing Pattern 

 

 

Tags: history, Machine Sewing, Summer Camp, Sewing, Fun, Fashion, Summer, Handwork, Fashion & Machine Sewing, Sewing Machine, Inspiration, Kids Activities

The Handwork Studio and Ben Franklin

Posted by Megan DiFeo on Fri, May 02, 2014 @ 10:06 AM

Ben Franklin Handmade You may have noticed a photo of Ben Franklin on our Facebook Page last week and thought, "Hey, is that Ben?" Well, you were right and we're excited to annouce that we've partnered with the National Constitution Center to bring a life-sized handcrafted replica of Ben Franklin to their museum. He is our new best friend here at the studio and we are extremely proud of how this project came together.

In typical Handwork Studio fashion, it was a true team effort to make Ben come to life. This fiber-friendly rendering of Ben Franklin was handcrafted by The Handwork Studio staff, students and some close friends. The students needled felted and embroidered patches on his coat and used a WonderKnitter tool to create his hair. April Johnston, Project Runway All Star and Fashion Bootcamp instructor, created the patterns for his clothing and constructed the coat and pants. Philadelphia Fiber Artist, Melissa Madonni-Haims yarn-bombed his chair. The project was led and managed by The Handwork Studio's very own Miss Alexis and Miss Julia. See below for a full slideshow of Ben's progress from concept to completion!


The most entertaining part of this project so far was loading Ben into the car. He is very heavy and reliant upon the chair he was designed to sit in. Miss Alexis was able to get him our of the chair and into the car. She mentioned that it was hilarious to see people pointing and smiling as Fiber Ben Franklin took his first road trip down to the National Constitution Center.


Very soon, Ben will be installed for your viewing pleasure at The National Consitution Center - so stay tuned to the blog and our Facebook Page for updates on when you can visit him downtown!
 

Tags: creativity, road trip, history, National Constitution Center, Ben Franklin, Fun

Handwork and History: Knitting with The First Ladies

Posted by Laura Kelly on Sat, Feb 18, 2012 @ 09:43 AM

This is President’s Day weekend, and while many folks take advantage of a few extra days off by going away, I’m going to take you to the nation’s capital.  No, it isn’t to go to camp with our comrades down at The Sidwell Friends School, but to the White House.  You read that right, The White House.  I don’t have top secret clearance, but I do have inside knowledge of the crafts that used to go on in The First House.  Time for a little bit of handwork and history my friends...Knitting Camp

 

During the time of the American Revolution it was considered unpatriotic to buy goods that were made in England, so many American women picked up needles & yarn and began to stitch.  Knitting was a symbol of liberty!

Do you know of any First Ladies that were handy with yarn?  Here’s a quick list:

  • There are records that show Martha Washington sold knitted socks to raise money for the Revolutionary era troops

  • Edith Roosevelt used to have knitting circles at The White House

  • Grace Coolidge sponsored a knitting competition that was judged by Vogue Magazine

  • Eleanor Roosevelt was once introduced as “first knitter of the land” and was pictured on her Christmas card knitting

Eleanor Roosevelt Knits

Crafts are important to thos of us that participate in them.  Whether it's sewing, crocheting, knitting, or embroidery there is probably a little bit of history involved in it that you never knew about.

I’ll bet that you never thought knitting was part of the fabric of our American History did you?!

Tags: crafts, history, teach kids to knit, stitch, Knitting, camp, Handwork