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We’re weaving like it’s 1899

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There is a trail of little elastic bands running down the hallway. Open the fridge and you'll see a single, tiny pink and blue band sitting on the crisper. Go into the living room and it looks like a shipping container of elastic bands exploded.

This is the typical home of a loom bands weaver.

Loom band weaving is very popular among primary and middle school students in Bermuda and around the world. Basically, it involves finger weaving little elastic bands into bracelets and rings. The bands are small and would normally be used at the end of a thin hair braid. The bands come in kits made by a variety of different companies such as Rainbow Loom or Magical Loom. The kit sometimes comes with a plastic loom, but most weavers seem to prefer to use their fingers.

The craze first struck the Island at Christmas time, appearing suddenly, like an unexpected hurricane (and leaving in its wake almost the same level of mess). There are no classes involved; weavers teach each other.

If you think the craze can't possibly be that strong, consider that students in some middle schools have been known to skip class to weave these little elastic bands into bracelets. Children today, as they say.

“My son was into that,” said one parent. “He went to school wearing one. I don't know what happened because he came home with it in his pocket.”

What happened was probably that he was asked by a teacher to take it off.

“They've been banned in my school,” said one young weaver, Ebony Knight. “You can't even be seen with them in school.”

It's for good reason, because loom band weaving may lead to terrible things like, um, maybe an interest in textiles, or worse, knitting or crocheting. Remember what happened back in the spring of 1984 when youngsters started trading Smurf stickers and oilies. Remember? That's right, absolutely nothing happened. The sticker collecting generation survived, although there are now thirty somethings who still stop in the street to pick up a stray piece of sticky paper hoping there's a Smurf on it.

As with any fad, there's a culture growing up around the loom bands fad. In days gone by children made bracelets from other materials and gave them to each other to signify friendship, or they had a neat sticker or stamp and they swapped it for an even neater item. The current generation is a little more entrepreneurial, probably a reflection of the current economic times. Some students in Ebony's school actually make bracelets and rings and sell them to each other for $2 or so.

“If someone gives you one, it means you owe them a favour,” said Ebony. “They just got something for free. They might be asked to pay back the favour by buying lunch or something like that. There are different patterns. For example there is a starburst design. That probably would sell for $4 because it is really hard to make and takes a long time. It looks really cool. There is also a rainbow pattern and a double weave.”

One thing you could say about loom bands is that they might be holding up Bermuda's sagging retail industry.

The bands are reportedly available at Flying Colours, Treats, and Onion Jacks. Bags of elastics with different colour themes run for between $3 and $5. Last Saturday, Riihiluoma's was packed with children buying more elastics.

Ebony Knight with her loom band bracelets and ring. One of the bracelets was on loan from a friend. (Photo by Mark Tatem)

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Published March 13, 2014 at 9:00 am (Updated March 13, 2014 at 9:46 am)

We’re weaving like it’s 1899

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