Category: textile/yarn/thread

Geometric – String Pattern Art (Weekly Unplugged Project)

By , August 30, 2009 9:55 pm


The theme for this week’s Unplugged Project was geometric.

Inspired by this article from Family Fun we made geometric string patterns.  However, not being able to resist changing instructions, we did it a little bit differently.

The article uses wood panels and nails.  While this would certainly produce a sturdier and probably more striking result, I didn’t want to mess with wood and nails, so I came up with a simpler alternative: foam board and straight pins.

You’ll need foam board, colored yarn, scissors, and pins.

Cut the foam board into a 12 inch square.  The edges were messy so I bound them with red duct tape which actually made a nice frame.

Trace around a dinner plate onto a piece of paper to get a perfect circle.  Cut out the circle.  This will be your pattern for placing the pins.

Fold the paper circle in half four times and unfold.  You should have 16 evenly spaced creases.  Lightly tape the circle to the center of the foam board.

Stick a pin in at the top of each crease touching the edge of the circle.  The pins will be sticking out pretty far, but that will give you lots of room to wrap the yarn. (NOTE:  We experimented with cutting the pins in half to make them shorter, but they kept falling out and didn’t leave enough room for multiple strands of yarn.)

Remove your paper pattern and choose your yarn.

Tie the end of the yarn onto the top pin (the “12 o’clock pin”, let’s call it number 1).  Create a repeating pattern and wrap your yarn.  For example, moving clockwise, skip two pins and wrap around number 4, then go back to the next pin over from the “12 o’clock pin” (number 2) and wrap, moving clockwise, skip two more pins and wrap, etc.  This pattern would be: 1, 4, 2, 5, 3, 6, 4, 7, etc. (NOTE: Pattern in the photo below is different, don’t get confused!)

Work all the way around the circle.  When you are finished you should have a nice design.  Cut the yarn and tie the end onto the last pin (should be the 12 o’clock pin).

Tie a new color onto the 12 o’clock pin and proceed with a different pattern.  Any pattern at all is fine as long as it repeats itself all the way around the circle of pins.  We found that three different patterns were all the pins would hold comfortably.

My 9 year-old daughter loved this so much that she made two other little ones in the corners of her board:

My 3 and a half year-old enjoyed it too.  I gave her a small piece of foam board, stuck pins in for her, and told her to do whatever she wanted.

This was the result:

She was very proud and couldn’t wait for me to take a photo!

USEFUL TIP: Remove all cats from the room. Much to everyone’s aggravation, Pita The Adventure Cat enjoyed this project tremendously:

OTHER IDEAS:  You don’t have to use a circle.  Try triangles, squares or rectangles.  Try different numbers of pins.  If you really want to get fancy, you can even make these in three dimensions!


  • History of string art
  • Bézier Curve – String art takes into account the mathematical ability to create a curve from set points using a series of straight lines. When straight lines are put through at least two points in a pattern, Bezier Curves emerge, giving the illusion of rounded shapes, when in fact no curved lines are used.  If you are really into math (or computer animation), Google “Bézier Curve” for lots of technical information on this string art-related topic!


As always, if you did a geometric Unplugged Project, then please leave the link to your actual post below.  If you didn’t do a geometric project, then please do not link.  You can read more about how to join in here.  We’d love to have more participants!


The theme for next week’s Unplugged Project will be:


Have fun and please join us!


Clothing – Dollhouse Rag Rug (Weekly Unplugged Project)

By , February 22, 2009 8:25 pm


The theme for this week’s Unplugged Project was clothing. We had a few ideas, but ultimately decided to experiment with weaving strips of fabric made from an old shirt.

First: the nasty shirt.

This is a shirt that had been a comfortable favorite of mine for quite some time. Too much time. It was stretched and shapeless and discolored.  Très chic, don’t you think?   I knew it was time for the shirt and I to part company. But since I didn’t even think it was in decent enough shape to donate, it was clearly a perfect candidate for shredding.

I cut the sleeves off, and then cut the shirt in half along the seams. I cut the side and bottom seams off, as well as the neck. I was left with two flat pieces of fabric.

The kids thought I had gone mad at first when they saw me cutting up my shirt, but then they got into the spirit of the moment and I had a hard time getting my cut up shirt back to finish the job!

We cut each section of the shirt into an oval shape and then began cutting it into a single spiral strip about 1/2 inch wide (approx 1.25 cm).

This was the result:

We wound the two lots of cloth into balls:

Next we got out our $2.00 picture frame loom. I warped it with the fabric by winding a single strip up and down around the nails.  I have seen this done, but … hmmm… I didn’t like it much.

This was an experiment. Next time, I would warp it like our yarn dollhouse rug, by cutting single strips and tying one on each set of nails. We got a bit confused because there were two warp strips on each nail. Since this rug was “rustic,” a few mistakes didn’t really matter.  In fact one could optimistically say that they actually enhanced the rug.  But now I know that I prefer to have one warp string on each nail.

I wrapped the cloth around the shuttle and we began weaving.

To finish it up, I lifted each loop off the nail, cut it, and tied the two ends together in a sturdy knot.

The final result:

We used it to keep the dolls’ feet toasty in their bathroom, but it could also be a potholder, or even a dish washing cloth (that’s what my husband thought it was).


If you did a clothing Unplugged Project this week, then please link to your project in the Mr. Linky below. If not, then follow the links to everyone’s project and enjoy! If you are interested in learning more about how to join us, then please read about it here. We’d love to have you!


The theme for next week’s Unplugged Project will be:




Wrinkle – Batik Book Covers (Weekly Unplugged Project)

By , February 15, 2009 8:56 pm


The theme for this week’s Unplugged Project is wrinkle.  We decided to do a little batik and experiment with wrinkling the wax.

You will need a piece of fabric (a natural fiber works best, we used a piece cut off of an old cotton sheet), wax, and a dye.  We almost used beet juice, but finally decided on blue food coloring.   As usual, I was ill-prepared and had no wax so we just melted some candle stubs.  If you melt candles, be thoughtful about your choice of colors since colored wax will dye the fabric.

First we melted the candles in a tin can set in a pan of boiling water.  We had white candles and green so we melted them separately and planned on using the green to help color our fabric.

We laid the cloth out on some wax paper and poured the wax on it.  Be careful, the can will be very hot!  First the white:

Then the green:

As you can see, we tried to cover most of the fabric since we really wanted to see the effect of wrinkling and cracking the wax.  If you would like a different effect, then just cover parts of the fabric with wax, or pour on a design or pattern.  The dye will not stick to any waxed portion of the fabric:

We let the wax dry and cool completely.  The cloth was now as stiff as cardboard.

We crumpled and scrunched the stiff fabric and created cracks.

We put some blue food coloring in a bowl of cold water (hot would melt, or at least soften, the wax), and then we pushed the wax covered cloth in with a spoon.  We left it in for an hour and the exposed areas turned a very pale blue. This step might not have been necessary, but at least it got the fabric wet and ready for more dye.

Next we laid the cloth out on a foil-lined baking sheet and dropped straight food coloring on to the cracks and spread it around.

What I learned – be sure to wear gloves if you are going to be handling food coloring!  (This photo was taken AFTER I had washed them several times…)

I might be blue forever.

We let it sit for 10 or 15 minutes to let the color absorb, then we set about removing the wax.  First we used knives to scrape off as much of the wax as possible.

I covered my ironing board with an old, folded towel and laid the fabric on a brown paper bag.  I covered it with another brown paper bag and ironed with the iron on the highest setting but without steam.

The wax simply melted onto the bags.  I replaced the bags a few times until no more wax appeared and it was all out of the fabric.  We also tried paper towels, since I heard that they worked too, and they did quite well also.

Here is our finished fabric.  The ironing dried it all nicely and we were able to work with it right away. Notice the green color in with the blue?  The green is from the green candle wax, and is why we chose blue food coloring because we thought the two colors would look pretty together.

We had two little old notebooks that we covered with the dyed cloth using fabric glue.

We added a matching ribbon bookmark, and there you have it!  A fun afternoon!


If you did a wrinkle Unplugged Project this week, then please put a link to your post in the Mr. Linky below.  If you link to the post rather than the blog, then we will always be able to find you – forever and ever!  If you did not do a wrinkle project, then please do not link, but be sure to follow the links to see the other great wrinkle projects.  If you wish to read about how to join in, then read more here.  We’d love to have you with us!


The theme for next week’s Unplugged Project will be:


I hope you all have fun!


Square – Picture Frame Loom (Weekly Unplugged Project)

By , January 11, 2009 9:25 pm


The theme for this week’s Unplugged Project was square, an unpremeditated choice on my part.

While at Walmart the other day I saw $2.00, 8″ x 10″ oak picture frames, and had a random thought.  I wondered if it would be possible to turn a picture frame into a loom.  These are the kind of odd random thoughts that I have from time to time.

I had looked at a few children’s looms like this one at Christmas time and found them to be rather expensive.  Not knowing if my 8 year-old daughter would enjoy it enough to justify the price, I gave them a miss.  But obviously looms have been on my mind.

I bought a $2.00 frame, dug some nails out of the garage, and away we went.  The only catch is that the frame is actually a rectangle, not a square.  Should I have saved this for a future quadrilateral theme instead?  Hmmm…..  But couldn’t this project have been made just as well with a square frame?

After extensive deliberation, The “Unplug Your Kids Weekly Unplugged Project Standards Committee” (ie.  me), declared that it does indeed meet the official Unplug Your Kids Weekly Unplugged Project Standards (our standards are quite loose).  :)

If you want to try this, you’ll need an inexpensive or thrift store wooden frame, some small nails, a hammer and some yarn.  Try to choose a sturdy-looking frame since you’ll be hammering on it.

Take the glass and back off the frame and save them for some other project.

Place a ruler along the short edge of the frame to measure where to put the nails.  Put a dot about half an inch inside of the inner edge of the frame, and then put dots every half inch.  Stop when you get half an inch from the inner edge on the opposite side.  Do this on both short edges.  If you do it properly, you’ll have the same number of dots on each side and the dots will be opposite each other.

Hammer a nail into each dot.  Try your best to make them straight and about the same height (but don’t worry if it isn’t perfect).

Voilà, your loom is made!  That’s it!  Easy, isn’t it?

(NOTE:  I am NOT a weaving expert and didn’t even know my “warp” from my “weft” until I researched the topic, so I hope I am accurate in the following terminology.)

Now for the weaving part.  But first, we need a few weaving accessories:

A shuttle holds the yarn that is passed through the loom (the “weft“).  I made a simple shuttle by cutting a strip of corrugated cardboard and cutting a notch in each end.  Then I wound the yarn around it lengthwise.  I made one for each color that we would use.  Here they are:

Real looms have something to compress the rows as they are woven.  I believe this is called a “reed.”  We used a wide tooth comb for our reed and it worked perfectly!

To make the passage of the yarn through the weft easier, looms usually have some mechanism for raising the strings of the “warp” (the strings that are tied onto the pegs and form the base for the weaving) which the weft must pass over and under.  The space that is created is called a “shed.”

We used a wooden paint stirring stick (the kind you get for free from the hardware store when you buy paint).  Again, a very successful choice.

To attach the warp I tied a piece of yarn to the nail at the top, pulled it as tight as I could, then tied the other end onto the bottom nail.  I did it for each pair of nails:

I tied the end of the red weft yarn to the top left nail and began weaving:

The paint stirrer easily threads over and under the warp. Turn it on its end to raise the warp and create the shed. Pass the shuttle through the shed.

Remove the paint stirrer and repeat, making sure each time to raise the opposite set of warp strings from the time before.  Pull the weaving tight, and every few rows, use the comb to push the weft up to the top to tighten it.

To change colors, as we did, at the end of a row simply cut the yarn leaving about an inch. Tie the new color on to the cut piece of the old yarn. Try to tie it as close to the warp as possible so you can hide it under your weaving and it will be on the back.

Use the same method to add more yarn to your shuttle. When the shuttle is getting low, tie the end from your ball of yarn to the tail on the shuttle and start winding more on. When the knot appears in your weaving, just tuck it through to the back and no one will see it.

We are not quite finished with our project, but I’ll be sure to post a photo when it is completed and removed from the loom.

By the way, this could be done with any size picture frame.  If 8″ x 10″ is too daunting, start with a 5″ x 7.”

If you are unsure if your children will like weaving, then try this approximately $4.00 project before spending $60.00 or more for a “real” child’s loom.

Please send me a photo of your picture frame loom creations and I’ll post it here!



  • Here is a basic link on how to set the loom up and weave:  How to Weave (it also explains how to get it off, which we haven’t tried yet).


If you did a square Unplugged Project this week, then please put your link (to your actual project, not just your blog) in Mr. Linky below.  If you didn’t join in, then please don’t link, but read more about how to join us here.


The theme for next week’s Unplugged Project is thanks to Meg of Bare Baby Feet.

It is:


Thank you so much Meg.  I love it!


Fluffy – Pom Poms for Peace (Weekly Unplugged Project)

By , December 7, 2008 8:35 pm

This week’s Unplugged Project theme (fluffy) was not premeditated, it just popped into my head.

I wanted an adventure this week so I thought long and hard all week about what to do. Cotton balls? Ordinary. Dryer lint? Flammable. Pom poms? What does one do with pom poms besides add some googly eyes? Not in the mood.

But then I found this: Pom Pom International!

Amy Lamé has a vision.  She is trying to bring people of the world together.  But how?  With music?  No.  Art?  No.  What then?  Pom poms!!  What could be less politically charged and more fun and appealing to humans everywhere, than the humble pom pom!  As Amy puts it:

Dealing with differences is much easier with a stress-busting pompom in your hand.

This is what it is all about:

Pom Pom International travels to areas of conflict around the globe. Together, we create whimsical,
non-political, creative balls of fluffy yarn in a gesture of peace and reconciliation. All pom poms are tagged, tracked and sewn together to make the biggest pom pom in the world.

Why not?  I love this idea!!  A peace pom pom!

If you can’t make it to a live pom pom making event, then you can create your pom pom at home and send it to Amy.  Email her a photo of you and your pom pom and she’ll add it to her online gallery.

I remember my mother teaching me how to make pom poms and I have a distinct fondness for them, so I was quite excited to make pom poms for a higher purpose than merely a place to stick googly eyes.

Pom poms are surprisingly easy and fun to make.  All you need is some sturdy cardboard (corrugated is best) and leftover yarn:

Cut two matching circles out of the cardboard. Next cut matching circles out of the middle of the original circles so you have a doughnut shape. (NOTE: Our cardboard was from an extra heavy box so I ended up using a dremel tool to cut these, but you really don’t need cardboard that is quite that tough!):

The width of the “ring” portion of your doughnut (distance between outer edge and start of inner hole) will determine the size of your pom pom (bigger band=bigger pom pom).  Also, I would advise making your donuts a bit bigger than we did so that the middle hole can be bigger.  A larger hole makes it easier to pass the yarn through.

Place your cardboard rings together like a sandwich.

Choose your yarn and cut a length that is several yards/meters long.  Roll it into a small ball so that it can easily pass through the center hole.  Pass the loose end of the yarn through the hole and hold on to it with your thumb.  Wrap yarn tightly around the doughnut like this (once you start wrapping, you can let go of the loose end):

Keep wrapping all around the circle as many times as necessary to completely cover it.  Keep going until you can no longer fit any yarn through the hole … or you run out of patience, whichever comes first!  The more yarn you use, the thicker and puffier your pom pom will be.

When you finish your first small ball, you can easily add on more yarn by simply threading the loose end through and holding it with your thumb, just as you did before.  You can change colors this way too, as I did with my blue and purple pom pom.

When you are through wrapping, cut the strands all the way around the edge of the doughnut with the scissor tips between the two cardboard pieces.

Now wrap a long strand of yarn around the pom pom, between the two sandwiched sections and tie tightly:

And finally, the really exciting part:  gently pull apart the two cardboard rings to reveal your completed pom pom.  Trim and fluff as necessary, and there you have it!  A nice, fluffy, pom pom for peace!

In order to have your pom pom be a part of the giant peace pom pom simply print out a tag for each pom pom from the Pom Pom International website, take a photo of you and your creation for the website’s gallery (send it via email), then ship your tagged pom poms to Pom Pom International in London, England!  Full instructions, tag and addresses are here.

Tomorrow after school we will be off to the post office to send our peace pom poms to England.  The children are very excited!



Amy’s explanation and diagram of making a pom pom – very helpful!

Pom Pom International

Pompoms Can Save the Planet – May 6, 2008, The Scotsman Newspaper

By the way, Amy also gratefully accepts donations of any leftover or recycled yarn balls and bits.  Send all “orphaned or previously loved yarn” here:

NEW Pom Pom International HQ
106 Lower Marsh
London SE1 7AB

It will be used for the free pom pom making events.

If you are feeling really enthusiastic, she also seeks Pom Pom International Ambassadors.  Can you volunteer to organize a pom pom making booth at a crafts or art fair?  How about a club event?  The more pom poms, the better.


Did you do a fluffy Unplugged Project this week?  If so, then please post a link to your project post (not just your blog) in Mr. Linky below.  If you didn’t participate but would like to learn more, then please do not link, but read about it here.


The theme for next week’s Unplugged Project will be:


Have fun!


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