Karen Weaving for Youth

The Karen people highly value the art of weaving. It is not just a skill, but a way of preserving their cultural heritage and traditions by instructing their children, and future generations, about Karen weaving. The Karen are ensuring that this beautiful art form will continue to thrive for years to come. 

At the East Side Freedom Library in Saint Paul, KOM is working to do just that. Through our summer youth weaving classes, Karen elder weavers in the community guide students in preserving this art. One of the students in the summer youth weaving program shared “I came here to learn the art of weaving, to learn and have a better understanding of Karen culture and tradition because this is our heritage of traditional weaving”.

Traditional back-strap weaving has many steps like wrapping yarn across the warping frame, transferring the warp to the loom, and sewing pieces together. Through each step, the elder weavers stood side-by-side with youth to walk them through it. With their support, students wove their own bags, scarves, and other pieces.

Besides weaving, the elders and youth shared meals together during their lunch breaks. Sitting together sharing rice, vegetables, chili paste and more delicious foods, brings the generations closer together. Being summertime, they even got to go to a local park and have a picnic!

Three of the Karen elder weavers who teach youth in the summer pose together wearing traditional clothing.

Thank you to our weaving teachers for their deep care and dedication to the youth and their culture. We also want to thank our weaving coordinator, Hta Thi Yu Moo, for working hard to run this program. Finally, a shout out to the East Side Freedom Library for their long-time partnership.

This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.


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