Backstrap Weaving Workshops with Handmade Wooden Heddles

backstrap weaving

Recently I’ve been showing various groups of friends my take on backstrap weaving in various living rooms. I think anyone can do it, and I just like showing people because I love doing it myself. I like the simplicity of the process. Also, the variety of artifacts that come out of it are as unique as the people who make them.

backstrap weaving backstrap weaving session backstrap weaving on door handle backstrap weaving

After School Club Masks

Drawing masks

We looked at some black and white images of masks from all over Africa. This student is really getting to grips with using charcoal.

double mask

Then we made masks with paper and paint and some other bits and bobs. Which was fun.

triangle mask

small face mask

Youth Club Pom Pom and Finger Knitting party

The youth at Spotlight (the youth centre) had a great time making pom poms this week.

we used the method where you wrap the yarn around your hand instead of those awkward cardboard circles. It worked a treat!

The other technique we tried was finger knitting, which has some similarities to the very popular loom band trend. We couldn’t really get it off the ground at this session unfortunately. At least 4 people went home with a finished piece of finger knitting but it didnt take off. It just would have required focus and concentration for about 30 seconds more than was given. At least 4 more kids started and gave up just before they got the hang of it. It also could have worked if one of the louder kids had grasped it early on, but you know how it is with social dynamics, especially after a long hard day at school. Anyway the POMPOMs caught on and they were all addicted to that instead.

also didnt get any good pics of finger knitting becuase my fingers were full of yarn during those times!

scraggly pompoms

I did show them how to trim them ‘give them a haircut’ but the scraggly pompom look was more fashionable.


One teenage boy made all these pompoms! 8?! he’s going to make a scarf.simple way to make pom poms

This is the easier way to make a pom pom. It does help to have your friend’s finger on hand to tie a tight knot.

Painting silhouettes on marbled paper like Jan Pienowski

I always loved the illustrator Jan Pienowski’s work with marbling and silhouettes. This summer at art camp we made some illustrations in his style. jan pienowski jan pienowski jan pienowski castleJan pienowski

Weaving at Spotlight Youth Club age9+ Backstrap/paper plate

I am running a series of weaving sessions at SPOTLIGHT youth club in Langdon Park, London, UK.

Week one was very successful. It is a drop in ‘cafe’ style event so has no clear beginning but the young people can do as much or as little as they feel like, which I quite like, because it’s after school. I dont want to make anyone do anything. Thankfully, they were very into it (because its weaving!) I am always amazed how some people just get it straight away, and the kind of focus that it can inspire.

I had one exchange with an adult there that I didn’t have enough time to talk to properly, it went like this

him: so what will it be?

me: with this, it could just be decorative, or you could make a belt, a guitar strap, a headband, trim.

him: so in about a year you could make a bed sheet?

[aRGH! thats not the point!!!] If I’d had time I’d like to explain that it is about construction, understanding how things are made, how the qualities of weaving (strong, not stretchy) can be used for different purposes. About working together, showing and explaining to each other what can seem a complicated process at the outset. How you can create patterns, how colours can be created by combining yarn. How you can alter the style, thickness, texture by combining different thicknesses of thread or tension as you pull or slacken. Understanding how the clothes, carpet, seat covers, hat, basket, shoes, sails, flags, wallet, tent around you are made. Not by going to a factory and seeing an incomprehensible machine but  by understanding the fundamental concept that people have been doing for thousands of years by DOING it for yourself!

anyway, I think the kids got it!

backstrap weaving paper plate spiral weave helping each other weave paper plate stripe weave OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Rajasthani puppet making workshop at kids storytelling art camp

rajasthani puppets

I have these beautiful Indian puppets that hang from strings. we talked about them, drew them and played with them before making our own versions.

handmade puppet kids made puppet

I didn’t know how old the children would be when I planned this activity and they were quite small!  lots of 4, 5, 6 year olds, going up to 11 years old. I think its important with kid’s art though to have a balance of activities between making something very impressive, and making something very independently. This activity was the former, as the students needed lots of assistance with cutting, glueing, painting, stapling. However, they were really impressed and proud of their results, continuing to play with the puppets long after, and make stories and personalities around them.

child made puppet

Shadow Puppets at Kid’s story telling day camp

shadow puppet

We made shadow puppets as part of our storytelling day camp. above is a 25 legged spider and a rooster.

We stretched some white fabric around 2 conveniently placed pillars in the church hall.

shadow puppet

a cat, a dog and a horse. The puppets had moving parts (using a split pin). We were a bit hurried, but next time I’ll make sure everybody’s puppet is bigger and the moving part is bigger and easier to see. It would also be cool to make a large collaborative dragon or something with many moving parts (and puppeteers).

shadow puppet

Story book writing – primary kids workshop

As part of my summer holiday art classes we made a book in 1 hour. we used the method folding a large piece of paper and making a slit. Some kids include a secret foldout poster/bonus illustration on the inside.


I told them they could write or draw as much or little as they liked, and I didn’t correct their writing in line with how I never ‘correct’ drawing. This was a chance to feel proud of producing a cool thing, not get it right or wrong. The topic could be anything they like, but as a starting point I said to make a story with themself as the main character.

open book

Hard at work. The children were very focused!


This is the last page of “my perfect pet” all the animals except the kitten (citan) are sad because the author didn’t choose them.  🙁

a kitten

Kids in charge of puppet theatre, workshop with butterfly finger puppets

puppet theatre

As part of my storytelling with art day camps we made butterfly finger puppets and put on a show. I narrated while the puppets flew by. The puppets are very simple to do and can reinforce learning about symmetry. They fit on the child’s finger from 2 or 4 slits in the card fold.

We also made a theatre and accessories which I left the design and decoration entirely up to the group, besides putting one table on top of another. The group was made up of 18 children between 5 and 11 years old. I think it’s really important for my students to have time where I’m not telling them what to do; for them to lead the direction and use their imaginations. I suggested we can make tickets, posters, signs, curtains, decorations, whatever you like. They focused on decorating the stage and making tickets and numbering the seats. It was interesting to watch who ended up bossing the others around and who copied who/made rules for each other. One boy volunteered to be a welcome announcer he announced ” Welcome to the flying creatures show. Please ask me if you have any problems and I will ask a teacher. Enjoy the show!”

butterfly finger puppets

Good efforts on symmetry!

butterfly finger puppets

This student is making a ticket. They decided that the title of the show is “Flying Creatures”

flying creatures ticket theatre

When the curtains are closed.

puppet theatre curtain

Harriet Powers Inspired story quilt making with Primary school age children

Harriet powers quilt

As part of my day camps for children aged 4-11 on the theme of storytelling, we looked  at the quilts of Harriet Powers, like above.

Harriet Powers was born a slave and made some beautiful quilts with bible stories, local stories and personal stories included. For example, the bottom centre panel is about a famous local pig called Bess who ran away from home many miles, echoing slave escapes. The centre left panel shows Jonah and the Whale.

For the project the class used sticky back felt (easy to use because you can draw the shape first in pencil) to show a story they could back up orally.

Below is a self portrait-as-giant, with a normal sized person in orange, for scale)

harriet Powers inspired quilt harriet Powers inspired quilt P7312538

The one below by Reuben shows two penguins in love in a snow storm.

harriet Powers inspired quilt

I can’t remember the details of this one but the orange shape is an underwater cave.

harriet Powers inspired quilt


sally hancox

I am an artist, illustrator, weaver and workshop facilitator currently living and working in London, UK.

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