By Carrie Miller
In 2019, we offered our first annual Schacht Tools for Schools Grant. Two applicants were awarded equipment grants:
- The Monforton School in Bozeman, Montana
- Hawlemont Regional Public School in Heath, Massachusetts
I had the pleasure of talking with Jean from Hawlemont Elementary School, one of our grant recipients. They used the grant for 8 Cricket Looms to expand and support their weaving classes.
Jean is Consultant for the Agriculture Program and the weaving program is her passion project. Susan Gruen is a master weaver. These two work together to teach weaving and coordinate the weaving program.
About 6 years ago, the school’s numbers were dwindling. The school was considering closing due to lack of funding. In an effort to boost the school’s enrollment, the administration decided to take the school in a new direction. While it still remains a public school, it is now an agriculture-based program. The school grounds include a working farm with cows, pigs, sheep, gardens, and greenhouses.
After a couple of successful years with the new agriculture program, the administration at Hawlemont wondered what to do with the wool from their sheep. This prompted the beginning of the weaving program. Susan Gruen and Jean Brufee worked together to make this program a success. Now they teach a range of classes, weaving clubs and workshops.
At first, the weaving program shared space with the rest of the agriculture classes. All of the looms made this pretty crowded. However, Jean and Susan were very resourceful in converting a basement storage room into a spacious weaving studio.
The weaving program at Hawlemont is very thorough. Lessons start by exploring the larger picture of textiles in our lives. For example, one of the 4th grade classes began with students identifying different fibers and the clothing they are wearing. They look at where the clothing is made and map out their geographical journeys. Then students learn all the steps of the warping process. They even learn to use graph paper to create their own patterns. As the year progresses, the projects become student-driven, with the children deciding what to make. Some common projects include pocket books, mug rugs, and dish towels. The students run a “farmer’s market” school store where they sell their woven goods.
In the spring of 2019, Susan and Jean submitted the application for the Tools for Schools Grant. They received 8 Cricket Looms, which they can lend to students between classes. This way, students can make more progress and become more advanced weavers. Because the looms are smaller, they can fit in the studio space with their other floor and table looms. The school principal even keeps one of the Crickets in his office. Students who need some quiet thinking time can get grounded through the relaxing practice of weaving.
The Next Step
The program is working towards having their wool and fleece processed by a local mill so that they can weave with yarn from their own sheep!