Saturday, June 18, 2016

Basket Weaving at Camp for the Blind

The week after post-planning for teachers, I taught Art, including basketry, at a special camp for middle and high school students who are blind or visually impaired. Basket kits for weaving baskets are expensive, and frankly, end up looking like kits, so I decided we'd just buy the reed and start from scratch.

Weaving works because the under, over, pattern alternates based on an odd number of reeds from which to weave. I started by cutting 4 flat reeds of the same length and one half the length. I used twine to start the weaving pattern with the half length joining in as the 9th spoke.

After enough twine is used to fill in the tiny gaps, and add some stability to the frame, round reed can be used to weave. The smaller the size of the reed, the smaller the number. So if you buy round reed 1 or 2 or 3, it will be very easy to soak in water and bend around corners. I think we used size 2. Pull it tight each round and push it against the previous circle for a stronger basket. After finishing one reed, simply add another, and tuck the ends in as you go. 

 Because the reeds come rolled up, there will be some curve, which helps with the shape of the basket. Students pulled tighter for a taller, thinner, shape, or flatten it for a wider shape. Once the body is the right size, students soaked their baskets, bent the flat reads inward, and tucked them into the round, woven reeds. We held them in place with clothes pins until drying.

I was so surprised at which students were able to pick up the weaving process quickly. With enough practice, this could be a viable career path (craft shows or online store) for students with no vision. There was a lot of enthusiasm among kids as they went from telling me, "The struggle is real," to "I got this!" On the end of camp survey, basket weaving was listed more than any other activity as something new that was learned at camp. It was well worth the $3 of materials for students to have the experience and take home something to be proud of.

 I had a couple good volunteers, doing the prep work of cutting the flat reeds. My son, Jonah is on the left.

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