Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Quick n' Dirty Yarn and Twig Stars

I was immediately drawn to these cute summer twig ornaments over at Happy Hooligans. They have all the elements I appreciate in a family craft: lots of ways for the kids to be involved, moderately challenging to me, and the finished product looks good enough to display without immediately apologizing "my kid made it!"
However, I also knew that with my one-year-old running around and a cross-town visit to make, it needed to be even easier if it was going to happen!

Here are the adjustments I made both for streamlining and materials already on hand

1. I ditched the glue gun. Because, you know, I Hate Glue. (And also, the one year old!)
2. I ditched the paint. Because I didn't have time / mental energy to deal with it, and I thought the natural brown of the sticks would suit me just as well. (And also, the one year old! Sensing a theme here?)
3. I substituted some sparkly yarn (Lion Brand "Bon Bons") for the raffia, because it was pretty and on hand.
4. In place of the glue, I used some narrow gauge copper jewelry wire that's been in my stash for years.

Here's how it went:
When my 5-year-old melted down in the mid morning, I staged a strategic retreat from our home school plans and took my 3-year-old to the back yard to hunt for twigs while he cooled down. Happily for Mommy, the kiddos had already collected a heap onto the porch for a "campfire," and our basket was quickly filled. Of course, we were just as quickly distracted by ripe strawberries and raspberries. (Yay!) By the time those were harvested, the 5-year-old was done with his time-out, had come outside, and immediately dumped the basket of random sticks he found so he could use it for something else. A deep breath later, we had everything where we needed it and were ready to begin.

1. I had the kids select sets of 5 straight sticks of about the same length

2. I laid the twigs out in a rough star shape on the table.

Go ahead and let them cross each other a bit at the points: this will simplify binding.

3. On the first set of stars, I used lengths of narrow copper wire to bind each point together. (Maybe 8 inches or so.) On my second set of stars (shown), I just used yarn. Even easier!  However, I think the wire will be a little sturdier over time, and also avoids unsightly tails.

It took a little trial and error, but I soon learned that although a simple loop around both sticks seemed to work, the twigs would often slip apart when laid back out in the correct angle. A figure-8 pattern for the first few revolutions and finished with several loops around both twigs worked better. Also try to leave a quarter inch or so at the top of the sticks.
When binding, try and interweave some of the twigs in the star so there will be a little tension holding the shape together. I also found it necessary to bind one or two "inner" intersections after I'd done the points.

4. And now, the kids can get involved again. Tie (or just loop with a tail) your yarn on to the star somewhere and let your kid wrap several times, however he or she chooses, until they consider it "done." (My inner perfectionist had to bite her tongue a couple of times to avoid giving "helpful" advice. A couple more times she didn't - thankfully no feelings seem to have been hurt!)

5. Finally, tie off the yarn and leave a long tail to use as a hanging loop.

And you're done. If all went well, you probably made as star in 20 minutes or less.  Or perhaps you had a whole afternoon to throw at it and were able to make a nature study out of finding the best, straightest twigs, a math lesson out of counting an sorting, perhaps a cutting lesson out of evening them out... all good stuff!
Also, Grandpa is going to get one of these for Father's Day!