I’ve been meaning to write a post about sock puppets for months! But, you know… life. I was reminded of these hilarious characters when I read through the stupendous thank you notes I received from the kids in my son’s class for all the activities we did over the year. A large number of them said making sock puppets was one of their favorite activities. So, of course I should share what we did!
#1: Gather socks you are willing to separate from. Got any loose ones kicking around, lonesome without their mate?
#2: Collect random bits of stuff you have in the arts & crafts category. Pom-poms, beads, googly eyes, moss, old costume jewelry, felt, buttons, yarn…
#3: Get glue ready. I found my glue gun to be the most effective but standard glue works, too. Clear glue is better because you don’t see it once it dries.
#4: Arrange sock on hand. I find that the heel of the sock fits nicely over the knuckles. When you open you hand, keeping your fingers together and away from your thumb, you can tuck the extra sock fabric that would otherwise be around your toes, into that space, creating the mouth. Close your hand, holding the mouth in place, and glue on the eyes where you want them. Then, gently remove the sock and lay it on the table.
#5: Notice the personality that is already evident! Amazing, what eyes do. 👀 Start adding whatever you want to your puppet, being careful not to overglue. You don’t want the sock to stick to itself. On mine I knew mossy hair was necessary, and feathers.
And more hair… and a nose…
#6: after the adornments dried for a few minutes, I started on the mouth. I propped open the space designated for the mouth and eye-balled the size.
And cut out a felt oval…
I tucked it into the sock mouth to ensure a good fit, then took it out, put glue around the edges of the felt, and tucked it back in there.
Then I added a felt tongue which was simply a smaller oval with one side cut off.
#7: And Voila! You can introduce yourself to your new friend!
Here’s another one I made with a tube sock.
Ugh, do I need to use bleach?
Shiny red yarn for a lovely lip expression. This took a little patience as the yarn needed ample time to dry in order to withstand this character’s rather loud voice.
I can’t share pics of other people’s kids, but I can tell you, we had so much fun that day! These characters come out of nowhere and invite story telling, play acting, comfort enjoying and frivolity! Here’s some other perks:
👉 They are inexpensive to make.
👉 They require only as much detail as you feel like giving them. A sock with a mouth on its own is fun. Each thing you add gives it more flavor.
👉 Patience is needed, and flexibility in expectations ~ both good things for projects to support us in practicing. Sometimes we gotta weight for glue to dry. Sometimes we don’t know how to make top hats.
My life is organized by school years. I’ve not really had much time in my life when that was not the case. I completed my own schooling when I was twenty-five. Then I worked in schools for six or seven years (I already can’t remember that detail), and then I worked for years with kids in my practice who were in school. Now my own children’s school schedules shape our family’s life. The calendar year means very little to me except for a quiet chance for me to reboot and rethink where I place my energies. The school year, on the other hand, shapes most aspects of our lives.
I spent a lot of time in my kids’ school this year. I volunteered in their classrooms teaching the kids all different kinds of things to do with wool, yarn and other fibery crafts. I also taught the same things in a more official capacity in two other classes. I loved it and I plan to share more here about some of the lessons that I taught. One thing I did in both my kids’ classes was leave a loom set up, the simple kind, for kids to work on as they pleased, with the idea that at the end of the year (or whenever it was finished), I’d turn it into something to decorate their teachers’ rooms with. Yesterday, I finished both of these woven pieces. My son’s 3rd grade classroom filled their loom. Almost every time I went in, someone was working on it.
Here’s their finished piece:
My daughter’s 1st grade class didn’t do many rows on theirs, but I assured their teacher I could make wall-art with it, not to worry. That class also did epically cool stuff with wool they dyed with Kool Aid, wool they felted and wool they experimented with.
Here’s their wool decor:
And, here’s their finished woven wall hanging:
I used antique wooden needles and a sanded dowel to serve as the structure from which the weaving hung. I also had a needle felted little nest hanging around that I opted to attach to the piece. I made that in their class as a demonstration one day and wanted to include it to represent that part of the work they did.
As I worked on turning the woven pieces into wall-art yesterday, I thought about all that has transpired since September, for my children, for me and my husband, for our family as a whole. It’s so much life squeezed into all of these academic months. I reflected on how much my kids learned with their fabulous teachers and with their peers this year, how much more they are doing on their own compared to September, and how much some of our growing pains have been, well, painful. I thought about how lucky I am to have been able to hang out in their classes so many times this year and be given the chance to learn how to teach better, listen better and be more flexible. And, I thought about how much I want to keep doing this. Handcrafting and fiber art are extremely effective mediums for teaching kids about art, history, creativity and themselves. I hope I do this for a long time.
Fueled by that hope, I cleaned off my work desk, and daydreamed about summer break.
I am so very lucky to have standing dates on Fridays when I teach kids how to do things with wool and with yarn. These Fridays are now known as “Fiber Fridays”, and have become a part of my life I am extremely grateful for and proud of. I think about it a lot, why I want to do this stuff with kids. First of all, I have two kids of my own and I relish any chance I get to participate in things in their classrooms. I get to meet their friends, know their teachers and just be part of their school world for a small time, which is amazing. I never leave without internally bowing to teachers, para-professionals, one-on-one specialists, reading specialists, special educators. They make the world go round, in my book. Their love and dedication to the field, and the skills they have, just blows me away.
Okay, so yes, I love being in my kids’ classes. I also love going into other classes and meeting even more kids and answering questions and getting excited about new stuff. It’s just fun and a beautiful complement to my work as a psychologist. I’m not being a psychologist in any formal sense of the word when I am in with children on Fiber Fridays. However, I am sharing something that I truly believe is deeply healing to the human spirit, and is a restorative practice. Handwork/fiber craft tie humans together in a most fundamentally ancient and organic way, and exposing kids to as many ways as I know how to work with fiber has become a prized part of my career.
In one of my first grade classes (the one my daughter is in), we’ve been exploring wool. We started with real free flowing exploration. I brought in big wool batts, smaller mounds of wool in a variety of colors, some fabric, some yarn, and a needle felting tool for just me to use, just in case some quick stick-togetherness was needed. I showed the class first different ways we can play with wool. I pulled it apart, I twisted it, I formed it into shapes and wrapped them in fabric and tied yarn around it. I encouraged them to just play and sculpt and imagine, and I let them know that there were no specific things they had to make at the end. Each table got its own basket of a big assortment of wool and then, it was off to the races! I was actually amazed, and I learned so much that day of free wool play. Children made babies, cradles, nests, birds, balls, clouds, old ladies, and animals. They played and laughed and shared. For some reason I was really worried that they’d be confused or adrift without a specific goal in mind, but I was wrong! They were happy to just go for it! I was lucky to have plenty of help from the teachers and a parent volunteer with cutting fabric, wrapping, needle felting and tying. It was peaceful and joyful. I do believe working with wool is magical.
Two weeks later in the same class, I referred back to our previous experience, and said, “this time, we are going to experiment with wool mixed with soap and water!”. Our project was to make felted balls. Before we began, I first showed them balls I made at home. I also showed them my “oops” items… a disc that was supposed to be a ball… a nest that was supposed to be a ball… a weird creasy ball that was supposed to be smooth. You know, it’s kind of hard, at least for me, to get a wad of wool to felt into a perfectly smooth felted ball with just warm, soapy water and your hands. I don’t know how Martha Stewart does it!
And we talked about having one idea in your head when you go to make something and how sometimes it doesn’t turn out like that. I told the kids that we are learning, experimenting, having fun and seeing what comes out of our efforts.
On the floor I had set up a drop cloth with towels covering it. On that were six plastic mixing bowls, two with soapy water and four with clear water that had to keep being replaced as kids dipped their creations into them to rinse the soap.
Water + Wool + Soap + Being Okay with Oops = Felting
Balls were made. Some were smooth. Some were crinkly and seamy. We got a mushroom, some discs and some wild looking blobby alien life form planets, or maybe coral? I saw a bunch of children totally okay with experimenting and just seeing what happened and I think that right there is a major piece of wisdom gleaned from mindful handwork.
Freedom to experiment and see what happens, within one’s own heart and spirit, is such a beautiful thing, and it’s something that I think we all should tend to as often as we can. I am often guilty of hanging on so tightly to what my plan is that I forget to see what’s actually happening right in front of me. I forget to loosen my belly and breathe and just let things be as they are. It’s so easy to forget that.
You know what else blows kids’ minds about wool and felting? With some simple ingredients and some agitation, soft and fluffy wool is transformed into felt and it is impossible to return it to its original form. I can’t explain why something so obvious is so mystical and amazing to kids, but it is, and I need to meditate on the symbol.
Stay tuned. I’ll be sharing more projects and ideas and insights from this cool gig I have.
All I can say is, please watch this gorgeous video with Renate Hiller, from The Fiber Craft Studio, as part of NPR’s On Being with Krista Tippett. Ms. Hiller captures in gorgeous simplicity the importance and meaning of handwork, useful work, productive and grounding work. I’ve watched this several times and she is always inspiring. She speaks directly to the part of me that has been utterly awakened since I’ve become involved in the fiber arts and crafts. She also speaks to my longing to bring fiber art and fiber itself to children’s hands, so they can themselves feel the natural and beautiful renewable resource that is all around us in the hills and valleys of Vermont.
It’s been a while since I’ve written. The thing that’s hard about a blog is, it’s not a diary (at least not for me), it’s not for writing about everything because really, I must honor the privacy of loved ones, and in this case, it’s somewhat specific in terms of topic. Let me just say this: if you like this blog and noticed I’ve not been keeping up, I’m sorry and it’s been a regrettable reality of my life these days. Things got a little heavy, a little stressful, a little complicated and a lot lifey, and I need to work on still writing through those times.
A recent event has reignited my fuel center, and reminded me of what the heck I’m trying to convey through this blog. I had the opportunity to bring a weaving project to my son’s second grade class, and wow, was it amazing. Let me just jump in and explain.
First know this: I am not an expert weaver. I took one weaving class years ago where I learned how to use a big loom, and by learn, I mean was guided every step of the way, multiple times. The apparatus that is attached to a wall that you wind yarn around to get it prepared to warp the loom (I think), almost made me lose my mind. All of it. In a burning inferno of frustration. No matter what I did, I could not keep my yarn from tangling and turning into a wild Medusa hair-like mess. Omg. I shudder to remember it. I did make this though, and I’ll always be proud of it.
I know I’ll take another class on using a big loom now that I’m more mature and have practiced a bit of mindfulness.
Anyway, I love hand weaving on simple looms, circular looms or looms made out of random things like wire, branches, busted out doors. I love how intuitive it can be, how much freedom there is to throw any such thing into a piece because it feels good, and you don’t have to worry too much about a complicated machine. I love how accessible it is, and how it’s possible to make a downright beautiful piece of art simply by understanding some basic concepts, and appreciating how different materials respond to the process of moving around warp thread. I wanted to share this with children because again, it is accessible art, and going into summer, I wanted to encourage them to use their found treasures in art projects and just experiment. I also find this medium to be extremely satisfying, grounding and soothing. I often find when I’m talking to people about it, I place my hand on my stomach when describing how it makes me feel… it’s like it makes me feel comfortable in a part of my body that holds a lot of tension, and I think sometimes a lot of grief.
Here is a little picture montage of my process:
I used this book by Sarah Swett (check out her blog/website. you won’t be sorry) to gather some ideas. The loom I made was a bit different, but based on one described here. It’s a wonderful book and one I will refer to often in future projects with kids. And, my husband made me a standing loom from this book that I hope to write about soon!
Figuring out the appropriate loom size and number of warp threads took some doing.
I went with the 4×6 cardboard size, but chose to use only seven warp threads. I found that the loom stayed stronger and more in tact with less threads, which I was interested in because my plan for the kids was to have all sorts of materials available to them to weave with. They also were going to only be using their fingers to weave, not needles, so I needed the loom to be able to withstand the pulling that would inevitably happen.
I wanted kids to understand that they can weave with all kinds of things.
My weave in progress…
Cardboard looms and another example piece using less wild materials.
Example of a weaving done on the simple cardboard loom.
Not gonna lie: I love my piece.
So, on the day of class, we did a little show and tell bit first. I showed the kids a napkin made from cloth that my mother-in-law’s mother, Else Jacob Eberitsch wove herself. We have a set of these napkins, and a matching table cloth. I am forever blown away by the beauty of them. My son was so proud to show it to his classmates.
I also showed them circular looms of different sorts, as well as one of those rectangular kid’s looms that can be found in most craft stores, reminding them that many might have some of these things kicking around their homes.
And then, when the wiggles got going and after answering some wonderful questions, I unveiled their materials and worked out with their teacher how to go about the rhythm of the acquisition of supplies.
tons of yarn of all different colors, thicknesses, textures… hitting up garage sales and second hand shops is the way to go when gathering supplies for big projects like these.
And guess what happened? The kids were pumped. Truly. All of them, every single one, was into it. It was by far the most fluid and flowy project I’ve done with kids to date. Some got right into the weaving using worsted weight yarn and hit the flow. Others got into using minimal and the most wild materials~ I called theirs delicate porcelain-like pieces. I offered each child a strip of material that they could write a special message on, to be kept private or to show the world to commemorate the approaching end of their school year and some jumped on that. Some got real creative with making space between the individual woven stitches and needed some help understanding the concept behind the strength of the material they were making. Their teacher got into it, too! Her finished piece is gorgeous! Wish I had a picture of it.
Weaving is in us. It’s in our DNA somewhere. It must be. We’ve been doing it for as long as we’ve been covering ourselves, making baskets, mats, shelters (more to come on that topic, too).
If I had to do it over again, (which I will because I was invited back to do another round before school ends!!!), I would:
spend more time highlighting the importance of “beating in” or pushing the new row of woven material down against the previous row
for those whose pieces are very fragile, I would have encouraged them to keep their piece on their loom and decorate their loom to make the whole thing an art piece
I’d leave out the popsicle sticks~ those buggers are slippery
bring more ribbon
write their names on their looms BEFORE they start weaving
I actually can’t wait to go back and do it again. Seeing the children so engaged and so calm in their bodies while they worked kind of blew my mind, and I’ve spent a good deal of time in classrooms. Not to belabor the point, but I think weaving speaks to a part of our souls that is so organic, so without words and so true, that it simply must be something kids can do whenever they want. That’s why I love this. It’s inexpensive, it does not require special training, and anyone can do it. It just requires some stuff, some space, and some freedom to experiment.
It’s about time I report on how the last Farm to Frame morning went, in my daughter’s kindergarten class. Recall, this wonderful group of little ones started this project weeks before, learning how to wash wool, dye it, and then card it. They worked hard, and were so busy. With each passing class, students wanted to keep their wool, and were amazed by how it transformed in their own hands.
Finally, the day of the project arrived. I wish I could share pictures of the whole thing in the class, but privacy issues are real and I did not ask for permission to post pictures of other peoples’ children. Included here are picture from a slideshow I made to show to the class to detail what they would be doing that morning.
Each student got their own gallon ziplock bag. In it were a bunch of different colors and textures of wool. They all got colors from the batches that they dyed and carded, plus some extra that I already had on hand. Also, they had a piece of pre-felt, the “paper” for their felted painting.
Next, I showed the kids how they could layer the scene. I chose to make a sea creature scene to go along with their recent unit on sea life.
More examples… my daughter got to demo her skills.
I then explained that I’d be securing their pictures using a needle felting tool. It’s sharp! So I emphasized that I’d be the only one using that tool. I wanted to do this before the wet felting part so that it didn’t come apart in the bag.
Once the picture was completed, students could tell me or their teacher, and we’d help them slide it into their bags. Enter some warm, soapy water, and let the felting begin! I encouraged gentle, open handed pressing at first. Once felting began, they could lift their bags and really press/rub on both sides. I let them know that their picture would look different once it was felted! This was important. What goes into the bag comes out looking quite different and I encouraged them to be artistic experimenters, learning about what wool does during felting, and watching their beautiful colors take different forms. This proved to be an important reminder to some.
Above are the examples of finished products that my daughter and I made at home.
All in all the class went beautifully. What I learned was, children love working with wool. They love doing the work of preparing it and learning about about other people around the world who make things with it. They responded to the idea that people have been using wool for functional things since the Middle Stone Age. Time, of course, does not make sense to them in that way yet, but feeling connected to our ancient history is important, and it resonated.
Children allowed themselves to experiment and to create images, some abstract, and some impressionistic. Some wanted to use every last bit of wool in their bags; some only used a tiny amount and brought the rest home. All, I believe, viewed themselves as artists on that day, and allowed for imperfection and mystery.
If I were to do it again, I would work with smaller groups of not more than five children at a time. With sixteen children in class that day, I did not have the time or ability to make it to each child quickly when they had questions or needed help. For me, it felt rushed and a bit stressful. I think I would work it out with the classroom teacher for me to either work in small groups one after the other, or take a couple of mornings to do it. That way, I could calmly help and respond to questions or worries if they came up.
Other than that, I think it was a great success. I loved being with my daughter and her classmates and learning about teaching, connecting kids to natural and renewable resources in their own community, as well as to their shared history with our ancient ancestors.
Stay tuned as I prepare a new project to bring to my son’s second grade class! This time, it will be a weaving project!
I’ve gotten a bit behind in documenting the wonderful work my daughter’s class did in their woolen adventures. A few weeks ago, the “job” for the day was to card their beautiful, dyed wool. I wanted to share a bit about how we did it and how these young five and six-year olds fared.
For the activity that day, I brought in my Fancy Kitty Drum Carder, which I love and adore. I was careful with it, and I had some rules: no touching it without me being right there, don’t crank it as fast as you can, no fingers on the carding cloth, and have fun! I also brought in some mini-hand carders (for this project I actually used small dog brushes (these are not the exact ones I used, but they are similar). I KNOW! CHEESY! But listen, they worked fine for this project, and they were affordable given the quantity I needed.) I brought in my regular sized Ashford Hand Carders as well.
The way we organized the class that day was to show a brief slide show talking about carding and what it actually means. Then, I met with about five children at a time. Around a table, they all had locks to start fluffing out. Once enough fiber was fluffed, I taught them how to load the hand-carders. While three students used the hand carders, one fluffed more wool, and the other started the process of carding on the drum carder. They all rotated through all of the jobs. I provided coloring pages for the kids who were waiting for their turn to card.
I have to say, the drum carder stole the show. Not one of the students was unimpressed with that tool, and all wanted to use it more. I wished I could have given them more time on it! The children were in agreement that adding different colors to the drum carder batt was the way to go, so by the time we got to the very last student, we had a gorgeous tutti-fruity looking batt that I wanted to spin so bad! Oh, the self-control!
I think that the kids really got to appreciate the time, patience and purpose behind carding wool. They all seemed to feel like they had put in a good day’s work, including my daughter, who’s seen this all a bunch. I was so proud of them.
I’ve gotten a bit behind in sharing what I’m working on. My last post was a share of a fellow blogger who was kind enough to detail her Kool-Aid yarn dyeing know-how. Well, I tried it yesterday with clean, uncarded wool. I needed to practice with the stuff before I brought it into my daughter’s kindergarten class to dye wool that they will be using in an art project in a few weeks.
Last week, the children washed raw wool. I wish I could share pictures of it, but you know… privacy and other people’s children is very important to honor! Let me just tell you it was funny, wonderful and I was so proud of all of them. It is true that there was a lot of “ewwwww!!!!” and “gross!” and “it smells like poop!”, but I can assure you that there was no poop in the wool and once they realized it was kind of like petting sheep, they got over it, and all of the kids wanted to put the wool into the warm, soapy water.
I had to do a few rinses of the wool once I got home because there just wasn’t time to get it all done at school.
This week I’ll bring some of that washed wool back to school to have them dye it. I was stumped when I was trying to figure out how to expose them to wool dyeing- I have gotten really into plant dyes and have done some dyeing with synthetic products, but those are stinky, kind of complicated and very time consuming. Somewhere along the way, I came across a mention of Kool-Aid dyeing, but when I first started researching it, I found a lot of links to directions involving heat, stoves and time. That’s why I was so excited to find this link.
I tried it myself yesterday and loved the results. This is what I did:
I separated my wool into weighted amounts: 4 2 oz piles and 1 1 oz pile. I then soaked the wool in warm water for 30 minutes. While the wool was soaking, I got my dyes set up.
I had three half-gallon mason jars and one one-quart mason jar.
In each of the three large mason jars, I put four packets of Kool-Aid, 1/2 cup of white vinegar and filled them about half-way up with warm water. I then stirred the mixture well.
In the one-quart mason jar, I put two packets of Kool-Aid, a 1/4 cup of white vinegar, and half filled it with warm water.
I had an extra glass bowl hanging around and put three packets of raspberry Kool-Aid in that, along with 1/2 cup of white vinegar and some warm water.
Once the 30-minutes of soaking was up, I put the wool in their respective jars and bowl, added warm water until the wool was submerged, covered the jars and bowl and then put them all in a sunny spot for about 4 hours.
When I was happy with the color absorption, I pulled out the wool and rinsed. I was delighted with the results and know this will be wonderful for a classroom experiment/project. The color was not totally spent in the dye bath; I’m not sure if that’s because I used too much Kool-Aid for the fiber that was in the bath, or if I didn’t leave it in long enough.
I am so excited to do this with the kids next week. I’ll let you know how it goes.
I’m doing a little research on how to easily dye wool with Kool-Aid in my daughter’s class. This is such a great and simple explanation, and I love that the class will get to watch the process over the course of the day! So fun! Thanks for this information!
Well, Felted Rocks, Part. 2 happened before Christmas. In fact, it happened about a week before Christmas. I am just now catching my breath and thinking about what is ending with this year and what is starting with the almost new. I wanted to take a moment to document the wonderful experience of felting rocks with two 2nd grade classes (one of them being my son’s class).
Sometimes, I get bogged down by insecurity. I worry that I get ahead of myself and that really, all of my enthusiasm and energy is momentary, and maybe even a bit much for the people who I want to share it with. But let me tell you this: kids like to felt. And how ’bout this nugget of truth: kids think sheep are really cute and like to look at pictures of them and like to learn about them. For the 2nd graders, I opted to up the game a little by showing them a short slide show capturing the history of humans’ relationship with sheep. I learned so much in the creating of this! Like, humans have been working with sheep since the Middle Stone Age. That is when we humans first started developing language and learning how to manage and control fire. Our history goes way back, and sheep’s wool has been incredibly important to our survival, our society and our culture. Sharing some of this with the kids was great because they really got to see that our history with fiber and with sheep is part of who we are; it’s in our archetypal DNA, and it connects us to people around the world. I showed them pictures of where sheep originated (Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan). I showed them how some sheep made it over the land bridge from Russia to Alaska during the last Ice Age. And, I showed them pictures of children and adults all over the world spinning wool and knitting. I so hope that in that brief moment, they became aware of how unifying working with wool and other fibers can be; that we are all part of the same cloth. I cannot think of anything that is more important than that in these times of great pain and suffering around the world.
In a matter on an hour and a half, I worked with about 35 children. Not one child was uninterested in the fact that they were about to turn a bunch of fluffy wool into a felted piece of art. We got water everywhere. The wonderful teachers commented on having their tables cleaned really well, which was very generous. Next Time: Bring Towels.
It was a little cumbersome, getting the wrapped rocks into their nylon wrap, so I helped each child with that after they got their wool design how they wanted it.
I didn’t get to sit with all of the kids as they rubbed their felting rocks, but I saw some from a distance from where I getting other kids set up and I think many tuned into how peaceful the practice can be. Some children talked about who they were going to give their rocks to; others wanted to keep their big, fluffy stuffed animal looking rocks for themselves. I thought it was all wonderful. I think my favorite moment was when I walked back into the first class I worked with to say goodbye and check out their finished projects. All of the kids gathered around and showed me their work with so much pride and excitement. I felt like it worked~ my hope of bringing this wonderful practice to kids worked and they saw that they could make something beautiful with their own hands with a totally natural substance from animals they see all of the time here in Vermont. I was so happy for them, and for me.
It being right before Christmas break, I did not have time to just rest into the pleasure of it all, but now I do, and I am. I can’t wait to do it again, and to come up with other projects to do in the coming year. Stay tuned.