Lesson Plan

Looming and Learning: Threading the Past and Present

Lesson Plan Image
Grade Level:
Middle School: Sixth Grade through Eighth Grade
Social Studies
Lesson Duration:
60 Minutes
Thinking Skills:
Applying: Apply an abstract idea in a concrete situation to solve a problem or relate it to a prior experience. Analyzing: Break down a concept or idea into parts and show the relationships among the parts. Creating: Bring together parts (elements, compounds) of knowledge to form a whole and build relationships for NEW situations.

Essential Question

How many articles of clothing do you own? And where do they come from? Why don't people tend to make clothing by hand in their homes anymore?


This lesson plan is intended to make students think critically about how clothing is manufactured today and why. By the end of this lesson, students should have a better understanding of how our global supply chain works, and they should have created their own piece of textile by hand.


This lesson plan is comprised of two major activities: one which involved a map exercies and a hands-on creation element. In the second activity there are three different options for a hands-on activity. Materials will vary depending on which one of the three activities you decide to do.


This lesson is divided into two major activities.

1) For the first activity you will need:

  • A large world map
  • Push pins
2) For the second activity, you have three different options. Each activity requires slightly different materials.
Activity A Materials:
  • 2 inch by 6 inch piece of cardboard 
  • 15 foot long piece of multicolored yarn 
  • Scissors and a marker 
  • Q tip without the cotton swab 
  • Slater Mill Stamp
Activity B Materials:
  • 20 feet of multicolored yarn
  • Two popsicle sticks glued together in the middle in the shape of a plus sign 
Activity C Materials:
  • 5 feet Multicolor Floss Thread (three colors) 


Lesson Hook/Preview

How many people here own more than five shirts? How about more than ten shirts? Does anyone think they own more than twenty shirts? 

What about pants? How many people own more than five pairs of pants? More than ten pairs of pants? Where do you get your clothes from?  

(Answers will vary - store, mall, shipped to their house, etc).  

Do you think you would own as many articles of clothing if you had to make each piece yourself?  

Does anyone make their clothing at home?  

Why don't people tend to hand make their clothing at home anymore?  

These prompts will allow students to think about the amount of clothing people own and how people attain these items. 


Part 1: Using a Map

Ask students to check their clothing tags to see where their clothes are made from (they can check the back of their shirts or even their shoes).  

Have a map displaying the world and use push pins to stick into the countries where their clothes are from. Have students come up to place the pins onto the map themselves.  

This will provide a visual to see how far away countries are that make clothes shipped to America.  

This could lead to a short discussion by the guide to talk about why clothes are made for less in foreign countries.  

Part 2: Hands on Activity

Something to Consider: The Supply Chain

Next, have students consider how clothes get into the stores. Explain that there is a supply chain in which clothes start out as an idea (using patterns.) Then, there needs to be raw materials from plants (such as cotton) or animals (such as sheep for wool) in order to be transformed into thread.  

Today, there may be synthetic (man-made) material being used to produce the clothing. Prior to Samuel Slater’s era, people would make all their thread by hand before even making their clothing using a loom. Today, there is a combination of machines and people who are part of creating the thread which turns into fabric that will then be manipulated during the dyeing, screenprinting, or embroidery process.  

After the manufacturing of the clothing, the clothing needs to be stored into boxes. Those boxes will be placed onto shipping containers that will be transported from a truck to a ship. These cargo ships can take anywhere from two weeks to a month to make their way to America if shipping from China. Once the ships find a port for their goods (in places such as Long Beach, California, Houston, Texas, New York and New Jersey, or Seattle-Tacoma, Washington), those containers needs to be stored on tractor-trailers and hauled to either a warehouse where the items can be picked up prior to going into a store or directly to the distributor.  

People living in New England during the 1700s would typically buy cloth from England who already had the machines put in place to create textiles in factories. This system did not exist in America prior to Samuel Slater. With the creation of machines that could spin cotton into thread, people no longer had to rely on purchasing cloth from England or making thread by hand. They could purchase the thread to make their own clothing at home and use a loom to weave new patterns for family and friends. This was not only seen as a practical way to save money but also patriotic by starting and supporting an American economy. 

Activity A: Cardboard Loom Bookmark (upper elementary - middle school)

  • 2 inch by 6 inch piece of cardboard 

  • 15 foot long piece of multicolored yarn 

  • Scissors and a marker 

  • Q tip without the cotton swab 

  • Slater Mill Stamp 


  1. Take the 6 inch piece of cardboard and draw four half inch tic marks on both sides. For elementary students, this cutting should be precut. For middle school, they can cut themselves but you can use discretion 

  1. Stamp one end of the bookmark with a Slater Mill Stamp to commemorate their day at the mill.  

  1. Tie a small knot in the top right hand corner to act as an anchor for the weaving.  

  1. Then, weave the yarn in and out of the teeth to create the loom. 

  1. Tie the end of the thread and tie a small knot around the Q tip. Remove the cotton at the end but students can take the cotton down with them when learning about the refining process during the tour portion of the field trip. 

  1. Using the multicolored thread (getting a multicolored thread is important because it looks like many different pieces of yarn are used) and weave the yarn in and out of each thread. Once the student reaches the end of the first row, remind them that they need to alternate their weaving. For example, if their thread ended OVER their loom, then they need to weave UNDER the loom. 

  1. It is also important to remind the students that their threads should be completely flush (as close as possible). They should use their fingers to push the thread together before starting the next line of weaving. 

  1. Students can weave their alternating patterns until the yarn runs out. 

  1. Students should tuck the reminder of their string in the back underneath their pattern. 

  2. Once completed, there will be some excess loom material which will remind students about what the loom originally looked like. If there is more of a desire to have the loom exposed, students can use less yarn. 

Activity B: Cat's Eye (upper elementary - middle school)

  • 20 feet of multicolored yarn 

  • Two popsicle sticks glued together in the middle in the shape of a plus sign 


  1. Have students wrap an "x" around the middle of the plus sign two times around. 

  1. Then, students should loop the yarn over one of the popsicle sticks then rotate the popsicle sticks one at a time. 

  1. Eventually, the students will see a diamond shape pattern emerge as they are rotating. 

  1. Students should tuck in the excess yarn into the back. 

  1. YouTube tutorial: https://youtu.be/yEl4TzKHgKM (sometimes this craft is called a God's eye but is alternately known as a cat's eye) 

Activity C: Bracelets/Key Chains (middle to high school)

  • 5 feet Multicolor Floss Thread (three colors) 


  • YouTube tutorial: https://youtu.be/Y_FzuLwCZnk 

  • There are three different style bracelets to choose from. The spiral (first bracelet) is the easiest to create. 

  • In order to turn this into a keychain, simply add a key ring to the top of the loop. 



Enrichment Activities

Further Thought Discussion Topics: 

The use of synthetic fibers and their harm to the environment with microplastics ended up in the ocean from people using the laundry. 

The modern-day overseas factory system as an extension of wage-slavery with unfair labor practices. 

The ease of purchasing clothes as opposed to the creation of clothes in the home.

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Last updated: January 4, 2024