Fabric Crafts For Children
On cold, rainy winter evenings, it can be a lot of fun to have a fabric handcraft. With many fabric based handcrafts, you don’t even have to give up watching your favourite TV programmes, as a lot of them can be done on your lap while watching. They’re great for kids to do and they’re great for adults, too.
Of course, preschool children of the age to attend a Montessori early learning centre probably can’t quite handle anything as intricate as knitting, crochet or even cross-stitch embroidery – or at least not yet – but kids can probably handle a number of easy fabric craft projects. You will, of course, have to supervise, especially if hot glue guns, strong epoxy adhesive or needles are involved, but small fingers can be more nimble than you think.
So what is suitable for a preschool aged child to do? As usual, you’ll have to gauge the ability level of your child and you will also have to make sure you go through the usual Montessori method of instruction. Just to recap the Montessori method of learning, you first demonstrate how to do the skill, going through it slowly step by step and explaining what you’re doing and why; this is followed by letting your child have a go for him/herself. And then your child is left to practice and keep going.
Buttons: Buttons are one of the easiest things to sew on and a child of three or four can easily pick it up. You will have to thread the needle for your child, as this is quite tricky for anyone. One good tip to stop the needle coming off the thread is to double the thread up so the needle is sitting halfway along the length. You then tie the two ends together so the needle can’t get off. The method of sewing buttons on is quite easy:
1. Mark where the button has to go on and poke the needle through, going from the bottom to the top.
2. Go up through the first hole in the button then down through another hole.
3. Go through the fabric close to the mark.
4. Repeat as many times as you like, making sure that you go through all the holes in the button if you have a four-hole button.
5. Make a “shank” by wrapping the thread around and around and around the threads between the bottom of the button and the top of the fabric.
6. Go down through the fabric and make a knot before cutting the needle free (parental help needed to make the knot in most cases).
Your child can just mess around with odd, old or unwanted buttons on pieces of scrap fabric, or he or she can progress to sewing buttons onto old socks to make a sock puppet. If they get good at it, you can encourage them to sew missing buttons back onto their clothes (or yours!). I used to pay one of my children 20c per button when that child was four – a good way to get the mending done and a good way for your child to learn the important concept of working for pay.
Felt “embroidery”: Felt doesn’t fray so it’s ideal for children’s fabric craft projects. Provide your child with a nice fat darning needle threaded with coloured wool or embroidery cotton, doubled to prevent the needle getting lost as before. Draw a simple design on the felt in pencil or chalk – a flower, a smiley face, a lightning bolt or whatever you like. Your child can sew along these lines using simple running stitch. A basic running stitch will leave gaps along the lines. If these are small, they can be left to make an interesting outline. If the gaps are large, your child can go back to fill the gaps in using the same colour or can use a different colour to add extra interest. Again, parental help will be needed to tie the knot at the end.
Sequins and other bling: This one is less suitable to do while watching TV and is best done on a table with lots of newspaper spread about. Glue sequins and other odds and ends onto fabric using a hot glue gun or expoxy-based adhesive (SuperGlue and the like). This should only be done under parental supervision to prevent burns and stuck-together fingers. Transform T-shirts, jeans and shorts into something individual. You can also experiment with iron-on adhesive patches and motifs.
Fabric paint: Another one to do over newspaper. Use a white or pale coloured T-shirt and simply draw a picture or a design. Follow the instructions that came with the paint to set it. The hardest part here for children is realising that they can’t wear their artwork straight away!
Dye: Choose anything made of cotton and get ready to plunge it into a bucket of dye. White or pale clothing works best, although you might like to allow children to see how colours combine (e.g. if you dye a bright yellow shirt blue, it comes out green). You can do plain dyeing, following the instructions on the packet and letting your child stir the clothing in the bucket using a stout stick or a wooden spoon you’re retiring from the kitchen (whatever happened to the old-fashioned copper stick?). Or you can try tie-dying, where you scrunch clothes up tightly and use big rubber bands (cut them out of old rubber gloves) or string to make circles or stripes. The dye doesn’t “take” as much on the tightly wadded fabric and you get a pattern. Or do the reverse by “tie bleaching” on dark coloured T-shirts or jeans. The results aren’t always what you expect, but the surprise value and uniqueness is part of the fun.
Just messing about: Children seem to just love pottering and fiddling with sewing notions, even if they aren’t ready to actually sew or embellish anything. If you have a collection of buttons or bead or trim, children often just like to look at them and invent games with them – they become jewels, pirate treasure or game counters. Fabric scraps are also good to fool and fiddle with, and get used to dress soft toys, sometimes with the help of scissors.