It seems too early to talk about holiday gifts. We haven't even started our Halloween costumes. But if you are planning some handmade objects of affection, this is the time to start crafting.
If you want to help your kids make some gifts this year, do a little homework now and keep these tips in mind to ensure their heart work results in gifts worth giving.
1. Use quality materials.
When you give your kid cheap materials, their crafts will look cheap.
Most kids' brand art supplies and kits are really crummy. The paint brushes always shed hair into the project and the colors are often chalky or goopy. Let your kids have nice supplies and their crafts will be instantly elevated. Poor quality scissors are just frustrating for everyone.
I choose wool and cotton over polyester, wood and glass over plastic and stitches over hot glue. These choices can be more expensive or require more advanced skills. The results have such warmth and style, it is absolutely worth the extra money or time. Look for ways to cut costs at thrift stores, using scraps from your own materials or by buying quality basics in just a few colors.
For high quality wool felt locally, go to Fairhaven Toy Garden. Online visit A Child's Dream for gorgeous selection. Felt is so easy to work with (you don't have to finish the edges!) and the nicer wool makes a visible difference in the crafts and how they age.
2. Pencils first.
Some techniques that make an object durable and high quality are just too hard for tiny hands. Your child can make lines with a pencil first and you can go over them with the permanent ink or wood burner. You can also use their drawings and marks to be stitch lines on a quilted item or the plans for a three dimensional object you construct.
Pencils and rough drafts are also important for kids who want everything to look a certain way. Younger kids may be okay with lopsided shapes and backwards letters. But older kids often get frustrated if their project doesn't look "right." And while I have lots of inspirational philosophy to spout about embracing the human touch of imperfections, no kid will hear that if they are crying about messing up.
3. Be a production line.
Make more than you need so you can give the best, allow for mistakes & learn what works as you go.
We made these ornaments with cookie cutters and stamps on air dry clay. While the unicorn seemed like a good idea, the damn magical horn kept breaking off. As we went along we learned how much pressure to use and which cutters looked best. If a project has several steps, allow for experiments and goof ups at each stage.
4.Sign them up for a class.
It's okay if you can't gently nurture your child's creativity through a complex craft project. It's okay if you can't even thread a needle or hammer a nail. There are loads of talented artists and craftspeople in the world who would love to show your child how to make a bowl, paint a portrait, build a birdhouse or sew a felt flower.
I am running my Blooming Scraps workshop just for kids this month. They will learn my technique for hand sewing flowers from scrap material in a class just for little hands. They will make at least one pin or hair clip and leave with inspiration and materials to keep making gift worthy flowers at home. This class is on Thursday October 28 (early release for Bellingham Public Schools,) 2-4pm, $20. Sign up online or in person at The Ragfinery.