What do a rug, a sweater, and a pair of mittens all have in common? They can all be made from wool, or the hair of a sheep. Don’t let your children be ignorant about where things come from. Teach them about weaving wool and even how to use it in knitting.
Many different breeds of sheep are raised on farms all around the world. The wool from sheep with longer strands of hair makes smooth cloth, while shorter strands of wool can be used for rougher products, such as mats.
Sheep are sheared once a year in the spring. By the following spring they will have grown a new fleece to be cut off. Workers wash the shorn wool clean and then comb (or card) it until all the strands are straight.
Teach Kids About Weaving Wool
A spinning wheel twists the strands together into a long string of yarn. Then the yarn is soaked in tubs of dye to color it. Once the colored yarn is dry, it can be knitted into things such as scarves, blankets, hats, and socks.
Yarn can also be woven into cloth on a machine called a loom. Here’s how you can make your own simple loom and weave a bag from wool yarn.
- a cylindrical cardboard oatmeal or salt box
- at least one skein of wool
- scissors or a sharp knife
- a large, blunt needle
- Use the blade of the scissors or knife to cut notches about 1/2 inch apart around the top and bottom edges of the box.
- Twine one end of a skein of yarn around one notch. String the yarn up and down, winding it first around a notch at the bottom, then around a notch at the top, and then around the next notch at the bottom, until a series of vertical lines of yarn surround your box.
- Using the same, or a different color of yarn, thread the end of a skein of yarn through the eye of the needle. Moving around and around the sides of the box from the top to the bottom, weave the yarn in and out of the vertical lines of yarn.
- Once you are done weaving, slip the woven cloth tube off of your loom.
- Thread the needle with a new piece of yarn and sew one end of your woven tube of cloth shut to make the bottom of your bag.
- Cut three identical lengths of yarn (try different colors) and braid them together. Sew the ends of your yarn braid to the sides of the opening of your bag to make a handle.
Discuss the process of weaving wool
Here are some questions you might want to ask your child:
- How many objects made from wool can he/she name? If necessary, go on a wool hunt through your home and gather together all the woolen objects you can find. Make a list of the objects and group them by their use (Are they for wearing? Warmth? Decoration?).
- The threads on a loom that go up and down are called the warp. The threads that go back and forth are called the weft. Examine a piece of wool cloth with your child and point out how the strands are woven together.
learn more about wool weaving
From Sheep to Sweater by Robin Nelson explains the process of making a sweater from raising sheep to wearing the final product.
Charlie Needs a Cloak by Tomie dePaola tells the story of how Charlie the shepherd shears his sheep and uses the wool to weave a new cloak.
Charlie Needs a CloakFrom Sheep to Sweater (Start to Finish, Second Series: Everyday Products)