Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Fiber Arts with Kids

A while back (shamefully long ago) I received, for review, a book by Laurie Carlson. It's full of great little fibre arts projects to create and explore with kids age 9 and up.

My initial response was very favourable. There are fun sections on spinning, dyeing, weaving, knitting, crochet, and braiding. It wasn't long and I had chosen a project to do with my 9 year old granddaughter.

She had great fun creating what was meant to be a woven cup basket. I don't think she ever fully finished it though. The instructions for finishing it off were a little vague. And with this we come to one of the difficulties with this publication.

There has been an attempt in this book to cover numerous different crafts. Even though it is a substantial book of 148 pages that is not nearly enough to adequately teach that many crafts! For instance there are only 6 pages dedicated to learning the rather intricate craft of knitting. Of those six pages one is a description of how to make your own knitting needles. More space is taken up by a paragraph or two of knitting history. I'm a very experienced knitter and I can tell you that I never could have learned to knit with the vague, brief instructions written here. I don't think any adult could, let alone a child. The same brief coverage is seen for all of the other projects, and yet ---- 6 pages of text were used to describe various fibres.

The other problem I see is the lack of child appeal in the way the projects are presented. The only colour is seen on the cover. All of the projects within the pages are represented by simple, black and white line drawings, as seen above. There is no wow factor to draw a child in! Let's face it, books and crafts have some pretty tough competition these days! Kids have the world of the internet, television, and video games at their fingertips. A wall of text and simple, colourless line drawings just cannot compete. Even the 2 pages dedicated to the colour wheel are done in very boring to the eye black and white line drawings. 

Does this mean I think the book is a total loss? No. There are plenty of simple projects to keep a child busy during those long summer months --- if you can pull them away from the technological distractions long enough to engage them in using their hands to create something. Don't expect to hand an enthusiastic child the book and have them learn a craft on their own though. There will definitely have to be lots of additional instruction given by an adult already experienced with each craft, and for most of the crafts, access to supplemental material, such as YouTube's instructional videos. 

I don't recommend this book for the target group, which is supposed to be children ages 9 and up. I would, however, give a guarded approval of the publication as a resource for adults interested in teaching children fibre arts. As a source for small project ideas to create with children it has merit. I could see camp councilors and youth group leaders keeping it as an inspiration and reference book. 

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