Triangle kids caught up in Rainbow Loom bracelet craze

cbolling@charlotteobserver.com astewart@newsobserver.comAugust 7, 2013 

  • Creation of the loom

    The toy was created almost on a lark by Cheong Choon Ng, a Malaysian immigrant and Detroit crash-test engineer for Nissan who had an idea one day about two years ago while watching his daughters, then ages 9 and 12, weave bracelets out of tiny rubber bands for hair.

    He picked up a few rubber bands and tried to make one himself, but found it impossible with his fingers. So he went down to the basement, stuck some push pins in a long, skinny piece of wood, and began weaving a bracelet. He tinkered with the design, imagining how it would work with hollow, slotted pegs that would allow a crochet needle to slip bands around each other. When he was satisfied, he applied for a patent and reached out to manufacturers.

    Once the first batch was created, he took them to toy stores near his home. Nobody was interested, so he sold the looms online.

    Sales started taking off late last fall and haven’t stopped.

  • Rainbow Loom kits and classes

    • Learning Express in Raleigh, Cary and Durham

    919-881-4141 or lexpblog.com/tag/rainbowloom

    • Brilliant Sky Toys and Books in Cary

    919-465-3866 or facebook.com/BrilliantSkyToysCaryNC

    • Michaels stores will begin selling Rainbow Loom kits Aug. 9 and will offer Saturday demonstrations in Kids’ Club classes from Sept. 7-Oct. 5. Classes are $2 per child.

    michaels.com

If the little people in your life are sporting particularly colorful wrists and necks lately, you can attribute it to the latest crafty trend sweeping the land. All across the Triangle, kids are engrossed with Rainbow Loom, a bracelet-making kit that uses tiny rubber bands to create an endless variety of wearable designs.

Kids are so crazy to learn new design techniques – boys are just as into this trend as girls – that many stores have started offering free Rainbow Loom classes. Jenna Stirling, part of the management team at Learning Express toy stores, has been watching the trend grow for months.

“It’s the number one thing keeping me busy in my job,” Stirling says. Learning Express has stores in Raleigh, Cary and Durham, and all offer free Rainbow Loom classes on Tuesdays and Saturdays. The stores’ “Rainbow Loom Ambassadors” are trained in bracelet-making techniques, but often, Stirling says, kids become teachers during the classes, showing off new tricks and color combinations to the group.

“It’s for that older kid, and it’s very hard to reach the older kid sometimes,” Stirling says. “They’re very much into video games, and for them to put those things away and say, ‘I’m going to sit down and do this,’ is very exciting.”

The Ambassadors

N.C. State student Anna Thompson is one of the Rainbow Loom Ambassadors at Learning Express at North Hills in Raleigh.

“It kind of got around the schools,” Thompson said. “My mom is a teacher, and she noticed that kids would trade their bracelets at school and also do it in class, and she would have to take their Rainbow Loom away from them because they were doing it so much.”

Each week, Thompson teaches a new design to the class, ranging from beginner to advanced techniques. She said she watches YouTube video tutorials to learn the new designs, which she then teaches to the kids.

“I think it’s popular because it’s something kids can sit down and do whether they’re in a car, whether they’re in class and they’re not supposed to be doing it, and also it’s hand-eye coordination,” Thompson said. “It takes practice, like a sport. And then you get a cool product afterwards.”

Ericka Barclay of Raleigh, 11, began her Rainbow Loom obsession after noticing all her classmates making their own “jewelry.” She saved up her chore money and bought herself a kit.

“My teacher almost banned them,” she said. “We trade them, some friends give them to each other.”

Nine-year-old Madison Morgan of Raleigh was learning the fishtail technique at Learning Express. She already had about three weeks of looming experience under her belt.

“It’s fun to make them and it looks cool,” she said.

Boys love them, too

Sam Birckhead and Daniel Sherron, also Rainbow Loom Ambassadors at North Hills, have been encouraged by the recent uptick in boys who attend classes.

“When we first started, it was all girls,” Sherron said. “But just in the past month or so, there have been a lot more boys.”

Birkhead and Sherron, each in their twenties and wearing multiple bracelets, said they’re starting to see moms, dads and even college kids wearing the bracelets.

Adrienne Appell, trend specialist for the Toy Industry Association, says Rainbow Loom goes right along with what’s hot right now in the toy world – creative play for kids, featuring everything from backpacks kids color themselves to pretend cupcakes they make and wear as jewelry.

“Parents are happy about it, because kids are using creative parts of the brain and taking the passion to the next level,” Appell said.

So how long should parents expect this trend to last?

Appell, of the Toy Industry Association, says that’s a tough question. “It’s really ruled by the kids.”

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