Looming Large by Angela Caldin
My eldest granddaughter, aged 8, is an accomplished loombander. On her Rainbow Loom she can make bracelets, charms and key-ring fobs in all kinds of shapes and colours. She has made owls and pandas and many individual characters such as Rapunzel, Belle, Cinderella, Ariel and all the Disney princesses including, of course, the ubiquitous Elsa. She makes them out of small rubber bands of every colour and type you can imagine. There are metallic bands, as well as sparkly, luminous and see-through ones and to her the differences are important and blindingly obvious, while to an ocularly challenged grandma like me, they all look about the same.
Rainbow Loom was invented in 2011 by Cheong Choon Ng, a Malaysian of Chinese descent living in Novi, Michigan. He thought up the idea of a toy loom for rubber-band crafting after seeing his young daughters trying to make rubber-band bracelets on their fingers. He wanted to make it easier for them to link the rubber bands together, so he stuck a scrap-board with multiple rows of pushpins on which the bands could be linked more easily. They could be looped and pulled by a crochet hook. The looms and the resulting bracelets became popular with the neighbourhood children, and his daughter suggested that he sell them. The rest, as they say is history.
The key to it all is the many videos that you can find on YouTube which explain in detail how to make the various bracelets and charms. The first videos were made by Ng featuring his daughters and niece, but now all kinds of people, young and old, have put videos online giving you step by step guidance in enthusiastic, yet patient tones. My granddaughter sits on the floor for hours at a time, surrounded by bands of many colours, following instructions on the iPod and producing charm after perfect charm. It’s detailed work and you need nimble fingers, good concentration and accuracy. She likes a challenge, she tells me, so the more complicated the better. It’s not everybody’s cup of tea though, because it’s fiddly and the hooking procedure is not easy. A metal hook is a must, she further tells me; don’t be tempted to settle for a plastic one, as it just doesn’t have the strength required.
A Craft for Girls and Boys Alike
The good thing is that it’s not just a craft for girls. Boys too are into loombanding, making bracelets of their own and charms of their favourite characters. My hairdresser told me that her ten year old son had made her a loomband cover for her phone. I was tremendously impressed and when I told my granddaughter, she was off like a shot to find a demonstration video, though a little concerned that the finished product might cover too much of the smartphone screen. Even more ambitious projects have included a dress made of loombands and a suit.
I like the idea that in this day and age of electronic gadgets and social media on all sides, such a simple toy should be so popular with girls and boys alike, keeping them absorbed for hours while at the same time developing their powers of concentration, staying power and ability to follow quite complicated instructions. Is there a downside, I hear you ask? Well, the bands do tend to get everywhere and it can be a bit tiring and irritating picking them up off the floor and from behind the sofa; I even found one in our bed the other day. But, in my opinion, this is a small price to pay compared to the enjoyment and creativity they provide.