If I grew up in Nazareth...

Learn to weave like Mary!

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imageIf I Grew Up in Nazareth booklet by Julie Rattey

By Julie Rattey

We don’t have malls in Nazareth where we buy our clothes.

In fact, we make our clothes ourselves! Here’s how it works.


First, you need sheep! Then you shear the sheep and collect the wool. Since the wool is full of sand and dirt, we have to clean and wash the wool, and them comb through or card it. After that, we take the wool fibers and spin them into yarn with a hand-held spindle.


If we want the wool to be colored, we dye it with plants like sumac (for brown and red), madder (red), saffron (yellow, orange), or with things like green walnuts and pomegranate shells (brown-black). You can make purple-colored dyes from snail-like sea creatures called murex mollusks, but it’s not easy to do. You need many thousands of mollusks just to make one pound of dye! It’s very expensive, so only rich people wear purple.


Once the wool has been cleaned, carded, spun, and dyed, it’s time to weave the yarn into fabric. To do this I use a loom, which looks like this: (picture). The strands of yarn hanging down are called the warp. The yarn that will be woven across those strands to make the fabric, and to create designs in it with different colors, are called the weft or woof. Clay weights, tied to ten to twelve strands of the warp, help keep the warp straight as I work.


Once I have several pieces of material woven on the loom, I sew them together to make clothing using a needle made of metal or bone. Mostly we wear tunics, which are made by taking material, folding it in half, and sewing up the sides (leaving spaces for your arms and head, of course!). You then add on a belt of material, cord, or leather. For shoes we wear sandals.


You also can make material by spinning the fibers of flax, a kind of plant. A lot of flax grows in Galilee, the northern region of Palestine where I live. But whether you’re using flax or wool, making your own clothes, as you can see, takes a long time. If you’re rich, you can skip a few steps by buying material from other people, but my imma and I make the clothes for our family.


As you can see, making your own clothes from scratch takes a long time. And unless you happen to have a sheep on hand, it would be impossible to do! Instead, let’s skip a few steps and, with the help of a parent or teacher, learn how to weave like Mary did. Though this project uses paper and not fabric, you’ll get the general idea.


Weave a paper mat
Time Required:
  45 to 60 minutes


  • two 9” × 12” sheets of construction paper in different colors per student
  • glue
  • rulers
  • scissors




  1. Fold one sheet of paper horizontally.
  2. Draw a line about one inch from the open end of the folded paper.
  3. From the fold, make irregular cuts up to the line. The cuts don’t have to be straight (irregular cuts make a more interesting finished product.) Unfold and lay it flat. This will serve as the warp and the loom.
  4. Measure and cut, from the second sheet of paper, 1” by 9” strips. These will serve as the weft. Tip: Teachers may wish to precut the weft strips.
  5. Begin by weaving one weft thread over one warp thread then under the next warp and over the next, etc.
  6. Continue this process, alternating over and under with each weft thread. If the previous weft thread went under the warp thread, the following row will begin by going over the warp.



Teachers and parents: If your children would prefer to weave with fabric, you may wish to buy an inexpensive loom and hook kit at a craft store and make a tablemat or potholder. For more comprehensive kits, visit sites such as www.highlights.com (click on “Highlights Catalog” and then type in “loom” in the search box) and www.woolery.com/Pages/kidspage.html#weaving


Today, with the use of machines, making clothing is much easier than in Mary’s day. And as any visit to a clothing store or a mall proves, we have many more choices of what to wear than Mary did! It is nice not to spend days making our own clothes, and to have such variety of clothes to choose from. But we also spend more time thinking about what we look like than Mary, and many people in her time, did. We sometimes hear from magazines, TV, or even our friends that we won’t be cool, or good-looking, if we don’t wear a certain kind of clothes or look a certain way. But God doesn’t care about what kind of sneakers we wear, or whether we’re keeping up with the latest fashions. God cares about how beautiful we are — how good we are — on the inside.


How can you make your inside more important than your outside? How can worrying too much about what clothes or makeup or jewelry or any other “things” you have get in the way?


Text courtesy of dickblick.com and Blick Art Materials.
Ph. #800-828-4548.

Managing Editor Julie Rattey

Julie Rattey is a Boston-based writer and editor. She is the author of If I Grew Up in Nazareth, available from 23rdPublications.com.