Friday, February 1, 2019

Getting Started with Handicrafts :: Sloyd

I almost called this series "Handicrafts for the Non-Crafty," but I decided that it's important that we as mothers redefine ourselves and be open to changing self-perception and self-description. I am not a particularly crafty person by nature, but that doesn't mean I can't become one by habit! Skills are learned, and it turns out that I like crafting much more now than I ever thought I would. So let's say "Getting Started with Handicrafts" with the idea that we are starting with few skills and little knowledge in the area but that we will learn and grow alongside our children.

You can read a bit about my personal handicrafting story here: Meet the Maker.

These posts are NOT written from the perspective of an expert -- neither in Mason's approach to the craft nor in the craft itself. They are written mom-to-mom, answering frequently asked questions I get about our personal experience with these activities, all of which our family has picked over the past few years and now practices regularly and joyfully.

For many years, handicrafts was my nemesis on the Mason timetable. I didn't feel like I could give it dedicated time with all the littles underfoot. I got creative and made it a priority and I'm so glad I did.

Here's my plan for the series so far:
Sloyd << we're here!
Knot Tying
Sewing with Felt
Needle Felting

Thanks for reading along!


Today I'd like to share some thoughts on getting started with sloyd. I am not going to present the case for sloyd, talk about its history, or share research from PNEU practice. That has already been done! If you are interested in learning the hows and whys of sloyd, please head over to The Mason Jar to hear my friend Camille chat all about it! She has taught sloyd in both classroom and homeschool settings and has pulled together some posts at Learning How to Live as well. My friend Amber is also a sloyd fan and will be presenting on sloyd next month at CM West -- so if you will be there, you can wait and hear Amber's talk and get hands-on practice with the group!  My goal here is just to share a few tips on how to get started based on our experience...

Resource we're using:

Our current manual for sloyd studies is Ednah Rich's Paper Sloyd: a Handbook for Primary Grades. I have found the reprint by Yesterday's Classics very easy to use. I often need the image to decipher the instructions or to adapt the instructions to rephrase them for my kids, but we haven't met with any real challenges in understanding. Some of the projects are more useful than others, but they are all fun to create and we have found various uses beyond what the book recommends. Case in point: our "folding card holders" are wallets and our "handkerchief boxes" store assored ribbons. We did skip the comb holder (!) and a couple of the "catch-alls" -- because I am up to my eyes in catch-alls! :)  Our favorite projects so far have been the spool basket, the portfolio, and the small books, but we have various box shapes organizing items in our drawers and all of our scissors have nifty sleeves. So I would recommend this book of projects heartily.

How it works in our home:

My rule of thumb is to keep my hands off of my kids' work. 🙂 This is a sloyd principle mentioned in the forward to Ednah Rich's book, which you must read before you get started. Don't skip it!

The exception to this "rule" is Bridget, my Year 1 student. She and I are "sloyd buddies" and do the projects together. She measures, I mark, she cuts, etc.  I wanted to be able to move through the projects at the pace of my older kids, who have great fine motor skills and already enjoy papercrafting, and I knew she would get left behind as the youngest student and a bit of a perfectionist. But to leave her out seemed a bit cruel. 🙂  So she sits right by my side and helps me make the models. The next time through this book, she will be one of the olders and have a chance to do the projects completely solo. I also give her independent supply access during her free time, which she enjoys. This has been a good middle ground for us with the age spread I have.

We do sloyd weekly, usually completing a project each week in about a 30-minute session. But all of my kids began this with really good fine motor skills and scissors ability. Definitely budget for several sessions for the first few projects if you aren't yet there. It gets much easier as you go along, even as the projects get harder! Everyone will be better at using their rulers, pencils, and scissors AND at following directions.

A few suggestions:

It is very helpful if you can make the projects yourself first. I actually just stay one step ahead of the kids during the lesson to make sure I know what directions to give. But if you are going to use the book with a group of people other than your own children, I'd prep in advance just to make sure you have everything you need.

We move through the projects in order. There are a few we have skipped, but we haven't really jumped around much. The projects build in skill and difficulty. (Forming those intellectual habits bit by bit!)

It's easiest if each student has a pair of scissors and a ruler, but you can share in pairs. More sharing than that and the students have to do a lot of waiting, which isn't as fun.  We keep all of our sloyd materials in a box in the school cabinet and our paper on the shelf so we don't have to leave the table once we've begun.

Materials to get started:

We use two kinds of paper for these projects, medium-weight scrapbook paper and thick scrapbook paper, both 12x12 and mostly double-sided. Most of the finished projects do look best if you have double-sided options. We use the thicker paper for boxes and other things that require a good amount of structure, and the thinner for everything else.  I also looked for boy-friendly options and found a couple that have worked really well too.

thicker papers, all double-sided
left - center - right

medium-weight papers, left is one-sided and right is double-sided
left - right

The projects ARE easier to do with solid-color or white paper, but we really like the prints so we make it work! 🙂 If you have kids that are easily frustrated, I highly suggest using white or light paper for the first time through a project -- white copy paper would be fine. Then they can experiment with various patterns and colors in their free time.

Other necessary items...
ruler (we like a nice metal edge)
scissors (larger-sized, not kid-sized)

So far, 75% of the way through the book, we have also used:
glue stick
craft glue
scotch tape
twine and ribbon
small stickers
hole punch
smaller hole punch
small scissors
x-acto knife and mat

Many of these were optional, but since my kids do lots of crafting anyway and these are inexpensive supplies, I decided to just get them to have on hand both for these projects and in free time.

The next step in traditional sloyd is to start work with cardboard and then wood, but I can easily see a new spin on many of these projects by adapting for leather and felt! I think Gianna and I may tackle some projects of that nature this summer.

And that's some non-expert advice from a mom that looks forward to sloyd every week! 🙂 

Fun fact: we used sloyd to make Christmas ornaments for family and friends this year! So even though the projects are meant to be useful, they can certainly play a decorative role too. The patterns are lovely in their simplicity. There is a joy in creating simple, clean, geometrically-ordered pieces that serve a purpose and require care and effort.

Last fun fact: You may find that your toddlers and preschoolers like to watch and make their own "envelopes" during playtime. They will be ready when it is their turn to go through Ednah Rich's course! :)

Drew and his "envelope"


  1. We are on our 2nd year of working through the same sloyd book (I used the free PDF from internet archive My boys have loved sloyd. We used washi tape instead of gummed parquetry for the envelopes and 3m adhesive squares as well. I wish we would have used double-sided scrapbook paper for some projects, because they would have looked even better. However, I think the single-sided was easier to see the pencil marks. We made modified pinwheels for Christmas ornaments 2 years ago, but I think we'll try your spool ornaments next time.

    1. Yes, we just use glue and tape whenever the parquetry stuff comes up! LOL I agree that the single-sided is easier to use. I like the idea of the pinwheel ornamnents!

  2. Hi Celeste
    Is there difference between sloyd and origami?

    1. Yes, there is. Sloyd involves measuring, cutting, and folding. Origami can usually be accomplished just by folding.