Watching my daughters’ little hands matching thread to fabric and seeing them caught up in the Zen of the project stretched before them in their embroidery hoops, fills me with gratitude. To be the mother of 4- and 6-year-old girls who are willing and able to craft with me is nothing short of amazing.
Amelia Haywood, 4, holds up the felt wall art project she designed and stitched.
I couldn’t wait for my little craft pals to grow up, so I started each of them with hand-stitching at age 3. It’s early, I know. But if you sit with the child you’re teaching and help guide the needle, it’s fine. It takes forever to get anything done, but the time spent creating something together is such a treasure. And then before you know it, they’re learning to thread their own needles and you’re freed up to work on your own project while they stitch.
And now that summer is in full swing, I want to share this quiet-time craft that you can have at the ready for those moments when you and the budding crafters in your life can really use a calming break. So unplug the TV, pour a round of refreshing lemonade and go stitch the day away out on the porch or under your favorite shade tree.
* Craft felt in a variety of colors*
* Compass for drawing circles in different sizes. (Or, skip the compass and trace round items like drinking glasses and coins to make circles in varying sizes. You can use a dye cut machine to cut them even faster, but that is not necessary.)
* Embroidery thread, needle and a thimble
* Assorted buttons
* Wooden embroidery hoops in a the size of your choice (I recommend a 6” or smaller hoop for children because the small hoops seem hold the tension on the fabric better for beginning stitchers.)
* Unbleached cotton muslin fabric cut to at least 3” inches larger than the diameter of the hoop you’re using.
* Note: You can improve the quality of your finished project by using wool felt. However, it’s more expensive and often limited in color selection in many craft stores. Shopping online may be your best bet if you want to buy the good stuff. My daughters and I used regular craft felt for our projects.
Step 1: Cut circles in three or four sizes. The exact size of your circles is completely up to you, but the circles my daughters and I used ranged in diameter from 1” to 2.5” inches. (Note: If you want to have a variety of colors to choose from, cut the circles ahead of time and bring out a whole colorful container of circles when you’re ready to stitch. This is an especially great way to entice a hesitant stitcher to give the project a try. Kids have a hard time resisting a container of colorful circles.
Step 2: Stretch a square of muslin fabric across your hoop. Then select felt circles in three or four different sizes and colors and stack them up biggest to smallest with the smallest on top. Add a button to the top of the stack if you’d like and stitch the whole stack in place atop the muslin, sewing through all the layers of felt. If you’re not using a button, begin by stitching with embroidery thread (in a contrasting color) around the perimeter of the smallest circle. This will keep the stack in place while you stitch around the rest of the circles. I usually alternate between a small whip stitch or running stitch that looks like a dotted line.
Step 3: Sew around the perimeter of each circle. Then add another stack and repeat this process. To make the stacks look like flowers, stitch stems using a back-stitch or chain stitch. Amelia, my 4-year-old daughter, used the running stitch to make her stem. Abby, 6, decided she just wanted to stack up dots and embellish them with buttons and stitching.
Step 4: Once your stitching is complete, you can easily display your piece in the hoop. Simply tighten the tension of the fabric in the hoop and then stitch the excess fabric to gather it on the reverse side. If you want to display your work this way for the long haul, you can hot glue a piece of felt to the back of the hoop to cover the gathered mess of fabric. But don’t stress about this, no one can see the back of the hoop when it’s hanging on the wall.
Jennifer Ackerman-Haywood is the producer of the CraftSanity podcast. She blogs and publishes craft tutorials at CraftSanity.com. She writes a weekly art and craft column for a West Michigan newspaper and does regular craft segments on a local morning TV show. Last summer she expanded the CraftSanity brand to include a line of wooden peg weaving looms in a variety of sizes that she sells online at etsy.