The idea of providing a hands on fiber arts experience to a small group of children who would then inturn expose a multitude of others was the original intent of the project. The grant money was used to provide expertise, equipment, and supplies which can also be used in the classroom by TLA staff and thier students. TLA will have the support of the project directors and our local spinning and weaving group to help keep tradional skills alive.
The class met weekly for two hours after school where the children learned about the history and science of wool; making yarn on a drop spindle; wet felting; natural and chemical dyeing; introduction to knitting; introduction to weaving on lap looms, rigid heddle looms and potholder looms; and basket weaving. Everyone at least tried to do the project and had good attitudes even when frustrated.
It wasn't all rosy; we took on more topics than we or the kids could hanlde in such a short time frame. The schedule was pretty rigorous and demanding of an attention span that was taxed after being in school all day. We took a survey of all the participants after the class was over and they gave us wonderful feedback about what they liked and didn't like so much and where they would have liked to have spent more time. This will be useful for future classes. The most encouraging thing was every child wanted to continue with some aspect of the class.
Many people volunteered their time to make the project a sucess; the school administrator, her assistant, adult volunteers who came to each and every class, and our local spinning and weaving guild who helped out with advice and labor. Portage township provided the class space at no charge, the Manistique Lions Club matching grant funds for the project, and the Erickson Center for the Arts provided encouragement, grant support and much needed and helpful advice.
Sucess of the project can be viewed in many ways; items produced by the children include hand woven market baskets, tapestries woven on a loom (many still in progress!), small quantities of yarn spun on a drop spindle, yarn hand dyed by each child, a swatch of knitting or knitted item, wet felted pouches, and the ubiquitous potholder. Non-material measures include an increase in self confidence, dexterity, hand-eye coordination, team work, responsibility, and new found artistic abilities and skills. These are priceless discoveries for children and adults alike.