I use weaving in therapeutic, creative and group settings. Two years ago, I discovered the pegloom when I bought one in North Wales. It was a very basic wooden loom. Small pegs/sticks are inserted into the top of a wooden board and warp threads are threaded through the pegs. The weft thread is woven in and out of the pegs. Weaving can be done using all types of yarn.The weaver blends colors and textures to produce a finished piece. The basic technique is simple, allowing the weaver to be as creative as they wish, or simply to weave using one ball of yarn. Strips of material or unspun fibers can also be used. The loom is great for recycling. Pegloom weaving is a relaxing way to weave. I love both the process and the end result. The pleasure that I have derived from weaving led me to share this technique with others, and I started to have my own looms made for me for workshops, using thick, strong pegs.
I provide play and creative therapy for children and adults. Many of the people who use weaving in therapy have found great pleasure in the activity; they find it therapeutic and relaxing at the same time, while producing items they take pride in. It seems to be a combination of the rhythm movements and the ability to inspire creativity. There is no such thing as a “mistake” in pegloom weaving, every piece of yarn woven in and out of the pegs becomes part of the design.
During play and creative therapy, adults and children weave and chat at the same time. One woman spent time reflecting on her life and her history while weaving a soft piece of fabric, which she described as being a bit like a “comfort blanket”, using a ball of soft thick cream colored yarn. One little boy uses the weaving to “tell his story”. As he selects colors and weaves them in and out of the pegs, he talks about what the different colors and textures remind him of—both in his own life and in more general terms. A mother who attends creative therapy has extended the technique further and weaves often with her children at home. The family has been making several rectangles and has sewn them together to make a large blanket for their home. This project is still ongoing. The mother has made scarves and bags of her own design.
My most ambitious project to date is almost completed. The Fossdene Tapestry is a weaving completed by over 400 children, aged 3-11 years, in a primary school in South East London. Ten looms were used at once. The children wove in groups, each choosing a ball of yarn and adding a strip to the weaving. A lot of different colors and textures were available for the children to choose from. The tapestry is in the process of being stitched together and will then be mounted and framed. Each child in the school will be given a card with a picture of the finished tapestry including a piece of the yarn they chose to weave with.
Other groups for whom I have provided weaving workshops include after-school clubs, parents at a Children’s Centre, adults with learning support needs; and adults and young people receiving support for their mental health.
At The Turner Contemporary gallery in Margate, peg loom weaving is a part of the regular Craft Club drop-in, which takes place once a month. Several looms are available for anyone to join in. Many individuals and families come in, adults and children weave alongside one another. Several of my workshops take place in settings such as cafes and yarn shops, for both children and adults. People there often comment on how therapeutic the activity is.
Weaving in both play and creative therapy, in workshops and in clubs and in other group settings, can provide a medium for creativity, a way for people to recognize that they can achieve things, a relaxing and sociable environment; and a way of being able to identify and work though issues.
Claire Russell is a play and creative therapist and textile artist, based in London, UK. For more information on play and creative therapy and creative groups see Claire’s website creativedimensions.co.uk Claire’s own creations can be seen on her blog purpleclaire.tumblr.com.