Thursday, May 14, 2009

How to Make a Magic Carpet

The study of Persian rugs is an interesting way to get into Persian history and Islamic culture. Why are Persian carpets so beautiful? In a culture where iconography is immoral, a functional object like a rug is a place where art can be expressed "legally." Like calligraphy, Persian carpets are art in the guise of a necessity. Given the significance of these rugs to the culture from which they come, it's no wonder they are sometimes portrayed as magical.

Here are a few things we learned about while studying Persian rugs: symmetry, the types of designs (geometric, curvilinear, pictorial), the elements of a rug (border, central medallion, repeated motifs), child labor laws, how to value a rug based on knot count, the difference between natural fibers and manmade fibers, and more.

Project materials:

Large canvas rectangles
Crop-a-dile or other awesome hole-puncher
Lace-weight yarn/thread in different colors
Poster paint and brushes


Punch holes in the short sides of all the carpets, about 1/2 inch apart. You are going to need a serious, no-kidding hole punch to get through canvas. I used a Crop-a-dile.
Cut the thread into pieces about 10 inches long. Deep rich colors are best.

Step One: Fringe

Give each child a choice of thread colors and encourage them to work in patterns. They can use a simple knot to create their fringe. Make a loop in the center of the thread, push the loop through the hole, and then thread both ends through the loop. Pull tight. You can fold over the edge of the fabric as you go to create a smooth edge.

Step Two: Paint

First have the children sketch their ideas with a pencil lightly so they can erase and redo it if they're not happy with it. Make sure everyone remembers to put in a border, a central medallion, and then repeated motifs.

The kids took home some interesting work! Painting on the canvas was challenging for a few, they needed reminding to keep a lot of paint on their brushes. However, making the carpets led to some interesting discussions about what the carpets mean to the people who make them. Here is the class singing a Persian folk song while they worked. They started singing spontaneously, then of course I had to run get my camera and have them do it again!

What class is this? My elementary literature class at Norfolk's premier co-op of extreme homeschool awesomeness, Homeschool Out of the Box.


  1. Oh, if that isn't the neatest thing I've seen in awhile. We are so going to try this! Thanks for the idea

  2. What a neat lesson, and very cool, original craft idea. I've found when I include crafts, cooking, etc. with a lesson they remember the whole lesson so much more than those lessons I don't include the more creative projects.

    Great photos too!

    Thanks for sharing!

  3. What a cool idea. I have a set of nice coloring books with rug like designs that my kids have been coloring in while I read to them. I like the results that they come up with.
    The song you did was really cute. Do you have a link to the words and music?