I normally don’t write about many of my projects I do at work, but occasionally there are ideas that I just have to share! At school, I have been working with a group of students our Me to We club, which supports the Free the Children Foundation. Our current project is weaving milk bags to make mattresses to send to Haiti, or Nepal. So, we have been saving milk bags for the last couple of months at school, and we finally have enough bags collected to start. The milk bag mattresses do not break down, they are mould resistant, and it turns out, they are pretty comfortable too!
I found instructions to make the looms online from the Town of Markham Here is the link, if you need additional instructions:
milk bag loom instructions
To get the materials for the looms, I went to Home Depot, picked up some 2×2 pressure treated pine, some 1 1/2 inch #6 screws, and some corner brackets.
I had them cut the wood into two 22″ pieces and two 24″ pieces for each loom.
Then I had the kids measure and mark where the screws for the actual weaving would go, and because we wanted them to participate in making the looms, we had them screw them in by hand. But, if you are going for speed, power tools would speed up the process.
So that’s the frame or loom. Now for the fun part… The weaving!
But before you actually start to weave, you have to cut the milk bags into loops. I found that you can cut 5-10 bags at a time. Start by flattening the bags to get rid of wrinkles, and stacking them on top of each other. Then, cut of the top and bottom, and cut the bags in half.
To start the weaving, you need to link two loops together. To easily link two loops together, hang one loop around each wrist, and reach through the loops and grasp the other loops with each hand. It’s hard to explain, but my beautiful daughter is going to demonstrate….
Then, pull! Here is what should happen:
Then, to start the actual weaving, you loop each end around each screw on your loom. Like this:
Sam and I tried to colour coordinate our milk bags…we started one loom with pinks and reds, and one with blues and whites. But it turned out that by the time you did the weaving, the colour choices were not as evident as you might expect. So, even with our hopes of colour coordination trashed, (get my pun there? Lol) we continued on and started weaving.
Weaving is as simple as over, under, over, under, over, under, repeated about 5000 times per mat. The trick is to try not to pull too tight, so the mat doesn’t become hour glass shaped. We did pack the rows together pretty tightly, this makes the mats a lot more sturdy, and I am sure more comfortable too.
Btw, we just kept looping on a couple loops at a time as we wove, rather than making a long “string”…made the weaving much easier, and we didn’t have to pull the long string through every row…
Then, once you have woven all the way up to the top, you remove it from the loom by simply starting from the corner, then putting the loops inside each other, and moving to the next loop. Once we got to the corners, we tied the last two loops in a double knot…
I have to admit, my obsessive compulsive side is difficult to control sometimes, so I did spend some time sorting the bags into colour piles, so we would make different coloured mats… I know, I have way too much time on my hands…
The good news is that you only need eight mats to make a sleeping mat! And… It only takes about 500 milk bags! Sounds pretty crazy, but when you work in a school with 500 kids, collecting the milk bags goes pretty fast, and the weaving goes a lot quicker with 20 kids helping too! I haven’t actually done it yet, but you sew the mats together with a few loops of plastic bags. Here is our first mat, ready to sew together….
Our goal is to make at least three full mats… I will update and post a photo when we are finished…