Saturday, November 19, 2011

Paper Wampum Belts - Thanksgiving Craft

We found fantastic instructions for weaving wampum belts, over at There's a Dragon in my Art Room. The instructions are so simple, and easy to follow, that A (age 10) was able to handle the project alone, with just a little help getting started, and finishing up.

The original project called for using pony beads, but after reading about all the work the Eastern Native American tribes put into to making the tiny, purple and white, shell beads, used for decoration, and currency, I decided to have the children make their own paper beads, by rolling rectangular strips of paper around a wooden skewer and gluing the end.

C (age 5) helped by coloring sheets of paper purple, but rolling the small beads was too difficult for the younger children. I had thought about making up a large number, and then having them earn beads in payment for jobs around the house, to bring home the concept of why wampum was valuable enough to the Indians to use for money, but that was before we were distracted by the bag of cranberries.

In the end, we made just enough beads for one small wampum belt. We arranged them into a pattern we were pleased with...


...and then I prepared a weaving board by cutting six notches out of both ends of a cardboard box flap.


We attached a waft thread by tapping a piece of embroidery floss to the back of our cardboard, and then running it back and forth across the board, through each notch, cutting it, and securing the cut end to the back of the board, as well.

We tied our weaving thread to the bottom edge of the first row of waft string (the length of the string will depend on the size of belt you're making, but you'll want to use more string than seems necessary)...


...taping the short end to the back of the board...


...and placing an embroidery needle on the other.


Then row by row, A strung the beads over the needle onto the weaving string...


...and ran the string under the waft, placing each bead in the spaces between the horizontal rows...


...before running the needle with the weaving string back down through the beads, this time on top of the waft...


...continuing on, row by row, over and under...


...until all the beads were in place. She secured the beads by tying the end of the weaving string to the waft, next to the last bead.


Then, I helped her to remove the tape, and we cut the waft down the middle, on the back side...


...freeing the belt from the board.


Finally, we tied the loose ends of string, in pairs, up against the beads, and then together into two knots, one on either side.


As I said, you can find excellent step-by-step instructions at There's a Dragon in my Art Room.
With a colorful assortment of pony beads, the pattern possibilities are nearly endless. I'm pretty sure we'll be revisiting this project, with prettier beads, when it comes time for making Christmas presents for friends. Of course, then we'll call them bracelets, headbands, or chokers, instead of wampum belts.


It's great to be a homeschooler.

6 comments:

Debbie said...

I like the simplicity of this project. A lot of work put into it, but I bet your daughter was proud of her accomplishment.

Wonder Mom said...

EXCELLENT job by your daughter!

I am pinning this idea for next year, 'cause there is no way we would get to it this year... ;0)

Phyllis said...

I like the paper beads! We made ours out of pasta.(http://homeschooljournal-bergblog.blogspot.com/2011/06/making-wampum-and-wampum-belt.html) We used a weave that doesn't take a weaving board, but it looks like she didn't have any problems with it! Beautiful job!

An Almost Unschooling Mom said...

Phyllis - Thank you for that link. I thought I remembered you making one, but couldn't find it on your blog.

Raising a Happy Child said...

Impressive! I am looking forward to the time when my wiggly will be able to stick to this kind of projects :)

Ticia said...

Oh, I bet Princess would love this soon! I'll have to give it a try. She's getting into jewelry making.