Transform yourself into a beautiful butterfly & create some striking outdoor art at the same time. This large fun weaving project is ideal for a range of ages to create, & can be made by an individual, school class or large group. Being made from entirely recycled materials it costs nothing to make too.
I’ve created several of these butterflies now with different groups of children & the excitement & creativity that emerges from this activity is just wonderful to observe.
To make the basic frame for our butterfly we used ten large garden canes. If you don’t have any in your backyard these can be picked up cheaply from a local garden centre. You could of course use more or less than ten, but we’ve found that this number creates the best shape for the butterfly wings. To secure them in place we pushed each cane into the ground at a slight angle to create the structure below. The ground needs to be fairly soft to insert the canes, & they need to be pushed in firmly to keep them secure when the ribbons are added later. If you find the ground is too hard or dry for the canes try adding a jug of water to the soil to help the process.
We tend to use long lengths of material to weave these structures so I leave a generous gap between the canes, but if you have shorter strips of material you could move the canes closer together to make the weaving easier for the children.
Once you are happy with your butterfly frame you’re ready to start weaving.
Before each project we ask local people if they have any unwanted scraps of material or ribbon & it doesn’t take long before we have a collection of colourful recycled materials. These are cut into long lengths & added to a large washing basket which sits near the butterfly frame. This basket allows children of all ages to access the materials easily & independently. Once they have chosen their ribbon they can independently choose where & how they weave it through the structure. This is a great activity for exploring spatial awareness & motor skills, as well as creative thought & design.
When groups of children have worked together creating these I’ve observed how they’ve been able to independently explore their own creativity, as well as work effectively together as a team. I’ve loved standing back & watching how they’ve negotiated, & how they’ve been able to work out & resolve conflicting ideas.
To make sure the material & ribbons stay in place they are usually wrapped around each cane twice before being woven onto the next cane, but as you can see from the photo above it doesn’t really matter how the materials are woven through, as long as the end is tied onto a cane to secure.A butterfly’s wings are of course symmetrical & this structure allows for this to be explored if desired. Most of the woven butterflies we’ve created have displayed vibrant, colourful materials which have just been blended & woven together, with little symmetry displayed in the colours used.
The neat thing about this large weaving is that it doesn’t really matter where you start or where you end, or even how long the project takes to complete. If the canes are firmly pushed into the ground they will hold the weaving in place for months (even in the rain) although the colours of the materials may fade if placed in a sunny spot for a length of time.
I love watching the sense of achievement children have when they’ve woven their material through the structure & it stays in place alongside everyone else’s. I’ve loved too watching older children help younger ones to tie knots or weave certain materials through. Creating a large piece of art like this with a group of children offers us as adults an opportunity to also observe their interpersonal skills, various methods of communicating, & their empathy towards each other.
Any number of ribbons/materials can be woven through this frame, the more that are added the greater the impact of the finished sculpture. Below is a simple butterfly we created at home, but other butterfly sculptures have had wings full of woven ribbons which have looked stunning.
To create the frame for the butterfly in the following picture we used eight canes to create the wings & left two in the centre as the children were eager the butterfly should have antenna.
The best part of the finished woven sculpture is that you can stand in the middle of it & transform yourself into a beautiful butterfly with your wings spread on either side.
These woven butterfly sculptures are bound to cheer someones day & create a smile. I just love how those unwanted scraps of material have been upcycled into something beautiful & fun, & how a simple weaving frame made from garden canes can spark children’s creativity in such a big way.
If you’re looking for more butterfly activities you might also like our Butterfly Garden, 5 Story Books about Butterflies, 15 Outdoor Minibeast Activities & Crafts.