Georgian Court University

Home Up Mat Weaving Reed Pen Appliqué Art Necklace

Weaving an Anasazi Mat from Phragmites

Modified from activities described at:

Introduction: Native forms of Phragmites  were very important to the Anasazi culture.  This lesson is designed to allow students to gain expertise in and appreciation of the art of mat weaving. 


Phragmites  mats are found the world over. The picture above shows a 5,000-year-old mat made from Phragmites  found in the "Warrior Cave" near Jericho. (Image source: )

Grade/Level:  6, 7, 8

Estimated Time Frame:  One or two class periods

Subject(s): Visual Arts

New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards

STANDARD 1.2 (Creation and Performance) All students will utilize those skills, media, methods, and technologies appropriate to each art form in the creation, performance, and presentation of dance, music, theater, and visual art.

D. Visual Art

bulletIndividually or collaboratively create two and three-dimensional works of art employing the elements and principles of art.
bulletDistinguish drawing, painting, ceramics, sculpture, printmaking, textiles, and computer imaging by physical properties.
bulletRecognize and use various media and materials to create different works of art.
bulletIncorporate various art elements and principles in the creation of works of art.
bulletExplore various media, technologies and processes in the production of two and three dimensional art.
bulletIdentify form, function, craftsmanship, and originality when creating a work of art.

STANDARD 1.5 (History/Culture) All students will understand and analyze the role, development, and continuing influence of the arts in relation to world cultures, history, and society.

A. Knowledge

bulletReflect on a variety of works of art representing important ideas, issues, and events in a society.
bulletRecognize that a chronology exists in all art forms.

The activity also addresses National Standards in the Social Studies standards 1 (culture), 3 (people, places and environments)



Phragmites  leaves   (If you do not have any of this plant growing on school property, we suggest contacting local parks or anyone responsible for maintaining public spaces such as parks, game fields etc.  They are often all too pleased to get rid of as much of this plant as you are willing to take.  However please take care not to disperse seeds from one location to another by collecting and transporting specimens with flowering heads.  Since you don't need the flowers / seed heads, be sure to cut them off and leave them where the plants were growing)


Craft glue





Plain weave (simple over under intertwining of vertical and horizontal strips) is one of the basic and simplest weaving techniques.  In all weaving, the vertical strands of the weave are called the warp, while the horizontal strands are called the weft.

1. Lay out 12-20 Phragmites  stems that have been cut open (so that the "roll" that was the stem is now a single flat sheet).  Place the stems next to each other vertically.  These are the warp strips.  Secure the tops of the strips to the work surface using masking tape.

2.  Take out 12-20 more pieces of Phragmites  stem that have been cut open in the same way, use the first stem and weave or intertwine it horizontally to form the weft. (Go over the top of the first Phragmites  stem, under the next and alternate each time until it has passed over and under each of the 12 Phragmites )

3.  Push the first horizontal weft up toward the top of the warp strands.  Then select another strand and repeat, except this time start by going over the first strip instead of under it, and so forth, so that the weaving pattern of the second weft strand with regard to the warp is the opposite of that of the first. 

4. Push the second weft up until it is snug against the first.  Weave the third weft strand similarly to the first so that it's opposite to the second relative to the warp.  Repeat until the mat is completed.


Images from and

5.  Wrap Phragmites  leaves or leaves of other species, crepe paper or any other suitable material, as desired, around the edges and attach then with glue to create a clean edge

6. Allow your mat to dry.



Twill weaves are more complicated than plain weaves, but can result in elaborate and eye-catching designs.  There are also a wide variety of patterns that can be used to weave the materials in these patterns, each of which will have a different result.  As a result, twill weaves can provide the artist with many opportunities to show his / her creativity in using them.  Today we will use a simple two-over / two-under pattern. However, once you get the hang of this technique, a wide variety of weaving patterns is possible.

1. As before, begin by making a vertical warp of about 20 strips of reed

2.  Next, weave the first horizontal weft strip in a two-over/two-under pattern

3. Push the first horizontal weft up toward the top of the warp strands

4. The second strand will also be threaded in a  two-over/two-under pattern.  Where you start this strand, though, will change the appearance of the resulting mat.  Experiment with starting in different positions and see what design you like (see pictures below)..

5.  Once you find a pattern you like, weave in about 20 horizontal strips using that pattern

6.  Finish the mat edges as before

7.  Allow mat to dry.


Image source:


Extension Activities:  Have students use dyes to color the stems before weaving (


Additional Resources (Another Mat Lesson Plan, and some other mat types you might like to try):


TEACHER FEEDBACK REQUEST:  We are always to working to improve these lesson plans. If you use this lesson plan, we'd love to hear from you with your thoughts, comments and suggestions for future improvements.  Please take the time to fill in our survey at .  Thanks!

© 2009. Louise Wootton.  Edited by Claire Gallagher

 Although the information in this document has been funded wholly or in part by the United States Environmental Protection Agency under assistance agreement NE97262206  to Georgian Court   University, it has not gone through the Agency's publications review process and, therefore, may not necessarily reflect the views of the Agency and no official endorsement should be inferred.

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