What: Rainbow Loom instructional classes.
Where: Learning Express, 313 Manufacturers Road, Suite No. 103, Chattanooga.
When: Friday, Saturday and Sunday; 3:30 p.m. beginner class; 4 p.m. advance class.
How much: Free
Information: 423-643-8697 or www.chattanooga.learningexpress-toys.com
Her expert sleight-of-hand-like technique can produce a rainbow in just under 10 seconds.
Emma Chamberlain, 10, a fifth-grader at Thrasher Elementary School on Signal Mountain, has become an expert at making Rainbow Loom bracelets, the uber-popular fashionwear now decorating the arms of children in elementary and middle schools across America. Emma makes the bracelets using latex-free mixed-color rubber bands and likes to be creative.
"I can make fishtails, singles, double singles and triple singles," she says, describing various bracelet patterns. "The most popular are hexafish, starburst, bridges, raindrops and fishtails. The kids typically bring their looms to school and make them during recess. No one ever argues. We all share."
Mary Beth Conklin, owner of Learning Express Toys on Manufacturers Road in Chattanooga, says the Rainbow Loom trend is even bigger than the popular Webkinz and Silly Bandz from several years ago.
"Rainbow Loom far exceeds those trends," says Cronklin, who says her store began selling the Rainbow Loom kits last October. "We've been in business five years and we've never carried anything as popular.
"It's become a social phenomenon because kids love trading the bracelets," she says. "I think kids find great satisfaction in being challenged by the endless number of designs they can make. They are able to really push their creative limits. We've seen kids that have made handbags, hats, etc.
"And most importantly, I think parents have really gotten behind it. It's educational and enhances fine motor skills. Not to mention, it gets kids off the iPads, iTouches and all things electronic. I had an adult customer tell me that she had spent two hours making bracelets and her kids weren't even home."
The kit, which includes a Rainbow Loom, a mini Rainbow Loom, hook, 600 rubber bands and clips, is all one needs to get started making the bracelets. The kits sell for around $17 at toy and hobby stores; refill packs of bands range in cost from around $3 to $6.
Jeff Underwood, district manager for arts-and-crafts retailer Michaels, says the Rainbow Loom kits are extremely popular in the stores.
"The first day that we introduced the Rainbow Loom, we had more than 20 Michaels sold out immediately," he says.
"With kids and tweens, it is all about creating something unique and personalized," Underwood says. "Kids love to come up with new designs and share them with each other, so there's a social element, too. It's fairly simple to learn, but can also be challenging if you choose to experiment with more intricate patterns and designs."
The Rainbow Loom was invented by Choon Ng, a former crash-safety engineer for Nissan, according to fastcompany.com.
The engineer wanted to teach his tween daughters how to make bracelets from rubber bands. After perfecting the loom, he promoted his invention on YouTube. In the summer of 2012, Cindy O'Hara, co-owner of two Learning Express store franchises in Atlanta, saw the video and ordered several dozen looms. The public caught on, interest grew, and now the loom is sold online and in many stores. As of August, more than 1 million looms have been sold, the website reports.
Though the manufacturer recommends the crafting kit for children 8 years old and over, Conklin says children as young as 6 can make the bracelets.
"Most 6-year-olds can do it," she says. "My 6-year-old son made an American flag bracelet for me."
And the bracelets appeal to girls and boys, Conklin says.
"I see just as many boys buying the looms and attending the classes," she says. "Boys especially like to make bracelets that are sport team colors. I have three boys of my own and they are addicted to it."
But while the bracelets are hot stuff in local schools, a elementary school in New York City has banned them, with the principal saying the fad has become a classroom distraction and caused fighting on the playground, according to the New York Post.
"The children are playing with the bracelets during class without permission from the teachers. [They] are playing with them at recess, and it is causing conflict between children," wrote school principal Suzan Federici in a letter.
"I can't believe they have banned them in New York," says Tami Chamberlain, Emma's mom. "Emma hasn't mentioned any problems at school. Everyone seems to share.
"I think kids often try to trade them or sell them but most of the time they are given away as a special gift. I've noticed it growing in popularity since the start of the school year. It isn't expensive at all. You can get started for under $20."
She encourages young crafters to get a tackle box for storage because Emma doesn't have one, "so I'm always finding rubber bands all over the house."
Contact staff writer Karen Nazor Hill at email@example.com or 423-757-6396.