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Brittany: The Top-Secret Christmas Craft

As you might recall, last year, when Sam was three, I took him to the local paint-your-own-pottery studio where he (and sometimes John) painted several pieces for our family members. You can read about that here.

I did it on a fluke, and had seriously low expecations going in because three-year-olds don’t produce asthetically-pleasing art, right? Well, Sam proved me wrong. Granted, his pottery painting technique was more Jackson Pollack than Picasso, but the end result was interesting, vibrant, and better still, utilitarian.

I love making crafts, and I want my kids to share in that love, but to be brutally honest for a second, most of the kids’ craft ideas out there are just plain stupid. I don’t want a tissue-paper-bedecked toilet roll pencil holder and I can’t think of a single person out there who does. Yes, I’m a strictly if-the-ends-don’t-justify-the-means-I-don’t-waste-my-time kind of person, and my philosophy is that if I or my children are going to put in the time and energy to make a gift for someone, I want it to be something well-received. I like gifts that are beautiful and useful, so that’s the criteria I adhere to before I pull out the craft supplies.

Now that Sam is old enough to make handmade gifts for Christmas, this has become an annual event (or at least it will be, now that I’ve done it twice in a row!). I’ve alluded to our top secret Christmas craft for a while now, and I know some of you have been eagerly awaiting my reveal, so without further ado, here is Sam’s Christmas Craft for 2010!


Back in September, I got a wild hair that maybe Sam would enjoy making some jewelry-type gifts this year. He seems to have an appreciation for color and fashion (with really specific ideas about what Mom needs to wear in public), and after several years of manpulating a bunch of magnetic trains around, he’s got killer fine motor skills. So it wan’t as totally far-fetched an idea as it sounds.

But when I went digging around the internet looking for kid-appropriate-jewelry-making tutorials, I got a whole lot of foam, a whole lot of pasta, and a whole lot of plastic. Nothing says Merry Christmas like a macaroni necklace. I began to dispair.

Then, around Halloween, one of Sam’s classmates brought in candy necklaces for the kids to make, and when Sam excitedly told me all about how much fun he had making his, the wheels in my head started turning. I’d seen simple beaded bracelets on stretchy cord that he’d be able to make. How different could that be from making a candy necklace?

I wasn’t quite ready to go into this whole hog yet. Beads–the real things–aren’t cheap, and I didn’t want to go buy out Michaels if this was a one-time thing for him. So I went to Wal-mart and bought a hideous foam bead kit and pulled it out on a rainy afternoon. Sam wanted to make one necklace after another…

So I was on to something… but I still had my doubts.

Before I committed to the project, I emailed my friend (and fellow Studio Mothers blogger) Kelly, who’s an amazingly talented jewelry designer in Jacksonville, Florida (and she’s done quite a few jewelry projects with her girls who are a few years older than Sam). I asked her for advice on materials and bead size/type and basically asked her if I was insane to even consider doing this. She gave me the go ahead. My instincts were correct–Sam could do a stretchy bracelet, especially if we used big(ger) glass beads and a product called Stretch Magic (a stretchy cord–we used 0.5 mm).

So then we went to Michaels and Sam got to go bead shopping. I encouraged him to take his time and really look at the beads. Eventually he picked several types that he especially liked and we came home and got started. There are a zillion tutorials for stretchy-bracelet making on You Tube, so I won’t bother posting another one here.

Sam really got into it and would sit down with me and work with the beads–turning out one or two bracelets a day. He does the beading, and all I do is tie them off for him.

Here are the final products after months of hard work:

The bonus is that he’s learning about measurement, sorting by size and color, and practicing counting the whole time. And he says he’s making “really long trains with lots of boxcars,” because everything Sam does is with trains in mind.

After he made bracelets for all the women in the family, he wanted to make bracelets for all the men, too. Knowing that they wouldn’t be quite as keen on jewelry, Sam and I compromised and made the guys beaded bookmarks. This is how they turned out:

Then I started thinking about how best to present these. I mean, they’re gorgeous, right? They should have packages to match.

I wanted to make come sort of cardstock business card for Sam’s “brand” (because I’m actually kicking around the idea of opening an etsy store for our bracelets), so I had him go outside and I took picures of his hand in the fall leaves (this was back in October). It was just a fluke when he made a four with his fingers, but since he was four when he made these, I went with it.

And then, poking around the web, I found the perfect quote to go with it: Love, with little hands, comes and touches you with a thouand memories,and asks you beautiful, unanswerable questions. ~ an excerpt from a poem by Carl Sandberg 

So, I made these little cards to hang the jewerly/bookmarks from:

And then I wrapped it up like this:

Sam really seems to enjoy beading. He didn’t stop after the Christmas bracelets were made, and still asks me on an almost daily basis to make a bracelet. John even got into the act one day when I left our beading supplies on the table. I walked in and found this:

He likes to bead just as much as Sam (but rarely beads long enough to complete a whole bracelet).

I’m so proud of them.

[Cross-posted from Re-Writing Motherhood]


2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Yay! Glad he took to this so well! He really did a great job and I love the idea of the bookmarks for the men. Good thinking. The girls and I did a great last minute craft for the granddads this year that was also super easy (though a bit messy) and went over really well with the recipients.

    December 30, 2010
  2. Your boy did such a GREAT JOB! Well done mama for helping him explore his creativity with “structured abandon!

    January 1, 2011

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