Schacht Tools for Schools Grant Update: Brooklyn Heights Montessori School

Schacht Tools for Schools Grant Update: Brooklyn Heights Montessori School

By Anthony DiRenzo

What a joy it has been to have Schacht Cricket Looms in my classroom! I teach a class called Erdkinder, a Montessori-specific class for adolescents which focuses on connection to nature, service to others, work of the hand, and mindfulness. With these looms, my students were able to learn about fibers arts and see the intersection of all of this course’s goals at once. 

The project began with natural dyeing workshops. Students scoured 80 skeins of wool yarn and mordanted them with alum. Using cochineal and weld, students produces yellows, oranges, reds, purples, and magentas. We invited author Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond to discuss her picture book Blue: A History of the Color as Deep as the Sea and as Wide as the Sky. Students then prepared indigo vats and dyed and overdyed the yarns to produce blues, greens, purples, and browns. 

I demonstrated the direct-warp method for dressing the Cricket looms and helped the students prepare their own looms for a 10” wide, 120” long warp of their naturally-dyed yarns. Students learned the basics of tabby weaving, carefully making weft mountains in order to create even selvedges. As the guide for this project, I spent many of the first weaving sessions scurrying around to troubleshoot loom issues. The students grew more confident as weavers, gaining the ability to “read” their cloth, and my help was needed less as they built their muscle memory for the processes. 

Weaving lends itself well to a Montessori classroom. Students who had never woven before were excited to come to their loom each day and see their labor turn into cloth. I worked with the students who had weaving experience to introduce new techniques such as clasped-weft and pickup stick manipulations. Students worked with their hands, learned about the plants and bugs that yield dyes, and found the joy in the quiet repetitive nature of weaving. 

At the end of the unit, we had woven over 30 scarves! We donated these beautiful pieces to Knit the Rainbow, a non-profit organization that donates handmade clothes and accessories to homeless LGBTQ+ youth. Donation fulfilled the service component of Erdkinder class and showed the students that they can be of service through their creativity.

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