Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Earth Day Crafting with Kids

I know Earth Day is later this month, but I am off this week while the kids are in school, so I've had some time to volunteer in Kate's classroom again this year. Her Montessori school encourages involvement and participation from parents to a high degree, which makes for an incredible number of different talent and inspiration and instruction to enter her classroom every year. We are all really lucky she's enrolled there.

So this year, like last year, her teacher was kind enough to allow me to come in and share a few recycled crafts with our up-and-coming generation. Last year we made Mors Bags, which ended up being quite an undertaking, especially with a group of 25 kids, most of whom had never used a sewing machine before. Still, it was awesome; when I visited her school for months afterward, I had kids walking up to me asking, "Are we going to make more Morsbags?" Today I had one girl tell me she still uses hers at home. Yes, teaching imparts lessons that last well after students walk out the schoolhouse doors.

We didn't make Morsbags today. Instead, I came armed with five crafts, all made from upcycled t-shirts, which are plentiful and free (and, bonus, easy to work with). All of the projects were greeted with enthusiasm (some with more enthusiasm than others, but the kids were all ready to try anything, which made for a fun morning). Here's what we did:

1. Shopping Totes - I thought these would be more of a hit, since they're no-sew and simple and I love them and I think the idea is so clever. But the kids seemed very concerned with the 2"-or-so hole that results in the bottom of the bag once you draw the string through. I told them to just not put anything too small in the bag, but they didn't seem convinced, and they looked at me skeptically, like I was trying to pull one over on them. Whatever. I still love them, and I'll be making more for home. The kids seemed to have a tough time using the safety pin to guide the t-shirt strip through the bag bottom, too.

2. Bracelets - no tutorial or link here, because we simply braided 1"-wide strips of stretched t-shirts into long lengths and wrapped it one or two times around wrists before we tied them off. Basic. The kids loved seeing how jersey stretches into a skinny rope if you pull it tight enough, and even boys liked the bracelets.

3. Circle Scarves - easily the most popular of the five crafts from today. The kids absolutely loved it, and the scarves came together much more quickly than I had even thought they would. Kids were even able to easily show latecomers to the group how to assemble the scarves by themselves, and when they were done, they had substantial, tangible, fashionable items to wear. Plus, it inspired some of them to think about what they could do with their own t-shirts once they got home. I did advise them to check with their moms and dads before they started cutting up their clothes, nut who knows if they'll follow my advice?

4. Dog & Cat Toys - we took 1" strips of jersey (about 10 per toy) and tied random knots in them. Dogs like chasing them, and cats like batting them around with that cat-playing thing they do. Easy peasy. And my dogs have never been harmed by them, even when they swallow pieces of the fabric (which Angel does quite frequently; I think sometimes she eats directly from my scrap basket). Make one knot per toy or make 6 knots. Pets like them all.

5. Headbands - the simplest craft of the day. Take a loop (or 2 or 3 or 4) of 1"-wide jersey, circle it around your hand until it's roughly the size of your head (don't forget, it will stretch, so feel free to make it snug for now) and - presto! - instant headband. I actually did this back in December when Kate and I went to see The Nutcracker and I needed a black headband to go with my dress. The kids seemed a little disappointed that there wasn't more to this one, and my original plan was to do a weave-type of pattern with the jersey loops, but after I saw how difficult braiding (see #2) was for some kids, I made a last-minute decision to nix the weave and go with this simpler version, which I like just as much.

Working with the no-fray, upcycled knit strips was definitely the way to go. Happy for the Earth. And a happy, no-fuss day of crafting for us. Win-win.

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