Wrap a God's Eye

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Click to enlarge imageAlso known as an Ojo de Dios (pronounced Oh-ho day DEE-ohs), this traditional Mexican ornament is made by wrapping yarn around two sticks made into a cross shape. The simple weaving is thought to have originated with the Huichol Indians of Mexico, but God's Eyes have been found in Africa and in the Far East, as well. Symbolizing the loving, watchful eye of a god, the ancient design is thought to bring good luck.

		 to enlargeIn the Huichol culture, a child's birth is celebrated by the father weaving a central eye around the sticks, and then an eye in the form of a new color is added each year until the child is five years old. Originally placed on altars to watch over the worshipers, the weavings eventually were hung in homes in hopes of blessing children with good health and long lives. Today, God's Eyes are found in cultures all over the world, and people often use them to decorate Christmas trees.

A common way to create a God's Eye is to wrap yarn on craft sticks, but we can reuse an old Tinkertoy spool and some rods to make a larger and more elaborate one. Created in 1914 by stonemason Charles Pajeau and his partner Robert Petit, the Tinkertoy Construction Set was invented after Pajeau watched children play with pencils and empty spools of thread.

The main parts of the toy include a flat, wooden spool that has holes drilled around the outside and one through the middle, and wooden rods or sticks. Popular since the day it was introduced, the toy is among 36 in the National Hall of Fame Toy Museum. Creating a God's Eye from old Tinkertoys and using scrap yarn is a good way to help save natural resources, energy, and landfill space.

You Will Need:

How to:

To make a traditional God's Eye, only five colors of yarn and two sticks are used. However, it's possible to make a more unusual, layered ornament creating it with Tinkertoys and variegated yarn.
This type of fiber has many colors on one skein or length of yarn, and they change slightly from one color to another. For example, dark red may fade to rose, which fades to pink, and finally ends up as a length of white  
Since using variegated yarn will automatically make the eyes change to another color, it won't be necessary to knot the yarn except at the beginning and end of all the weaving. The example shown here was made using this type of yarn.  
If you use a wooden spool for the God's Eye's center, you'll need to paint it before weaving. Choose a color that goes well with the yarn you've selected. Working on the newspaper, squeeze a small amount of paint into a jar lid or plastic container and paint the entire spool. Allow it to dry before proceeding. If the spool is made of colored plastic, just go to the next step.   
Click to enlarge imageClick to enlarge image To make the weaving framework, firmly place the sticks into the holes, as shown. Whether you make a God's Eye with variegated or plain yarn, both start the same way. Tie the end of the yarn onto a short stick next to the spool. 
Click to enlarge imageClick to enlarge image Divide the end in half, and tie the tails as if you were knotting a shoelace. Now skip the long stick and move in a clockwise direction to the next short one on your right. Begin weaving by wrapping or going around it one time, as shown.
Click to enlarge imageClick to enlarge image Turn or rotate the framework to your left. Skipping the long stick, proceed to the next short one on your right, and wind around it once. Continue doing this skipping and winding process until you've woven around all four, short rods.
Click to enlarge imageClick to enlarge image When you come to the stick on which you first tied the yarn, lay the tail out onto the rod, holding it down with a finger, as shown. Wrap around the tail or loose end each time you come to it, catching the yarn in the weaving.
Click to enlarge imageClick to enlarge image After you've woven around the four, short rods many times and come to the ends of the sticks, finish the weaving by tying the end of the yarn onto the last stick. As before, unwind the end, tie the tails to make the final knot, and clip the extra yarn.
Now turn the framework over, and begin weaving on the long sticks on the other side. As before, tie the end onto a stick next to the spool, divide the tail in two, and knot it. Rotate the framework one time to the left, and proceed to the next long stick, going around it once. Then go on to the next long rod, wrapping the yarn as before. Continue weaving the God's Eye until it meets the shape you wove on the short sticks. When you've completed the eye and and come to the end of the last stick, knot the yarn and clip the tail.
Click to enlargeClick to enlarge image Click to enlarge imageClick to enlarge
Click to enlargeClick to enlarge To finish the weaving, turn the framework over again, and knot the yarn onto a long stick next to the first weaving you completed on the short sticks. Moving in a clockwise direction, wrap the yarn around the next long stick one time and proceed to the next one. Continue weaving by going around each stick once until you come to the end of the last long stick. Finish the weaving by tying the tail in a knot, and clip the extra yarn. To display, hang on a picture framing hook or nail.
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Tips and Tricks:

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If you don't have enough rods from an old Tinkertoy set, use ¼ inch dowel rods bought from a lumber yard or hardware store. Just cut each dowel rod into the sizes described above.

It's important to tightly wrap the yarn around each rod, but too much pressure will cause the sticks to bend.

Remember to wrap up tails on loose ends in the weaving. This will help keep them from showing, and it will make the God's Eye stronger.

If you're left-handed, wrap the yarn going in a counterclockwise direction, or to your left instead of your right.

If you'd like to decorate the spool, have an adult use the hot glue gun to fasten a bead or button to the center.

To make a design that's in the shape of an octagon, weave around all eight sticks at one time.

If you prefer making the more traditional God's Eyes, use plain yarn. To change colors, just end one color and start another by tying the yarn onto the sticks, being careful to wrap up the tails in the weaving. Continue weaving until you've added five colors to the framework.

To make smaller versions of God's Eyes, wrap scrap yarn or leftover pieces of embroidery floss around two toothpicks or Q-tips. Lash together in the center, begin weaving, and when finished, hang from a loop.

Visit the National Toy Hall of Fame, which is located in the Strong-National Museum of Play in Rochester, New York, to learn more about Tinkertoys and others that have been recognized for their importance in encouraging kids to use their imaginations when playing with toys.

© 2008 Marilyn J. Brackney (updated 2018)

Volume 21 No. 3

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