I’m not sure why it’s taken me so many years to figure it out, but I’ve finally realized that the secret to happy crafting with my kids is to keep our projects exceedingly simple. I guess I always figured that because at least some of them were capable of complex projects and because I have the know-how (and thus the perceived responsibility) to teach them, that we ought to tackle the three-day wet felting project or the aardvark amigurumi or the fair aisle mittens from thrifted sweaters we painstakingly unraveled. Okay, so we’ve never actually done any of those, but between my high hopes, their fluctuating interest levels and the ever-precarious balance of harmony among siblings, I’ve come to value simple and complete over complex and abandoned, anyday. Happy faces of accomplishment by the end of the craft? HUGE bonus.
This year, I didn’t plan, I didn’t stress and I had no expectations. I just woke up on Saturday morning, scrolled through a few banked ideas (the way I prefer to use Pinterest) and found one that seemed totally doable. I put Taos in charge (where she likes to be), Eli second in command, and equipped Estella with her very own pointy object, which made her day. The results? Three contented girls, two rare hours of golden silence and one wise council of Tomtens.
Here is the sweet little pattern we used (Thanks, Mama Roots!), simple enough for even Estella (with occasional needle-threading help form First in Command, of course). We used hand-dyed wool felt I bought years ago on a trip to Purl SoHo in New York (I told you, I’m done stashing my favorites for some hypothetical perfect project) and substituted lentils for beads. They are quite charming, especially if you’ve read The Tomten, which I highly recommend. In fact, the materials to make a tomten (or three) plus the book would make a sweet gift for a special young person.
While we’re on the subject of exceedingly simple ways to involve your kids in the making ready, I thought you might like to know how to make a twisty twirly! (Come on, admit it — you’ve lived for this moment.) These were all the rage when my girls were in Waldorf-inspired kindergarten circles and we still make them for all kinds of things from adorning presents to hanging plants. It’s essentially just a way to twist rope and make it stay, but using pretty solids or variegated yarns, the results can be rather lovely.
First, cut a really long length of yarn and grab a kid or two. (The final length will be about a third of the original length.) Fold the yarn in half. Stretch the doubled length between two kids (or you and a kid) and decide which direction each will twist. (Twist in opposite directions.)
(Disclosure: Apparently I am WAY lame for making my kids pose with their thumbs out like that, just so you know that it was NOT their idea.) Now TWIST. And twist, and twist and twist and don’t let go! Twist until you are pretty much sick of twisting and someone is complaining of thumb cramps. Then twist some more.
Once it feels pretty tight, the participant less likely to let go should walk their end to the other person’s end, while taking hold of the middle.
Now for the really exciting part. Slowly, without letting go of the loose ends, have the person on the looped end let go. You can do it fast, but it’s more likely to get all jumbled up. The two twists will twist together on themselves like a really kinky hug.
Tie a knot in the loose end (all four lengths together) to keep it from unraveling. That’s it! You are now the lucky owner of a plethora-o-purpose twisty twirly — perfect this time of year to adorn brown paper packages, use as garland or wrap around the tree.
And as if that weren’t enough excitement for one day…Taos just taught me how to make the perfect bow, which also requires two sets of hands. Take a length or several lengths of yarn or ribbon and follow the photos (paying no attention to the hairy, half-naked man model)…
And there you have it! Three simple ways to keep your kids occupied, useful and crafty over the next week. I’m telling you — let them pick their yarn colors and you may end up with more twisty twirlies than you have presents. Have a merry week my friends, and enjoy the making ready.