Monday, March 25, 2019

Getting Started with Handicrafts :: Origami and Other Papercrafts

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:
Knot Tying
Sewing with Felt
Needle Felting

Thanks for reading along!


This is my fourth paper-related handicraft post in a row!  I didn't plan it that way, but can you tell where my interest lies? :)  Paper as a crafting medium is unintimidating and flexible, affordable and forgiving. And the skills needed are unintimidating too: cutting, folding, and measuring are skills we use every day, so we don't have to start from scratch, like we do in knitting or stitching. Paper projects are also very easily scaled for different levels, which is helpful when teaching multiple ages.

In this post, I am covering origami and other papercrafts that do not follow the sloyd format. That format, with its thoughtful progression and charitable ends, is best considered separate from this more generic papercrafts category. (I covered sloyd on its own here!) Origami probably deserves its own post too, except that I don't know enough about its philsophical underpinnings to do that. :) So I'm combining it with some other resources we have enjoyed in this all-things-paper category.

What you need:

Below are some of the resources we have used most often, but there are lots more books to choose from! This would be a great category to try to check out from the library to test out what kinds of instructions work best for your family.

Fun with Paper and The Art of Chinese Paper Folding

Dover's Montroll Origami books and 
Christmas Origami set (oop -- others here)

Paper Suncatchers kit (oop) and Origami Butterflies kit

We craft with papers of all thickness, shapes, and sizes. We always have on hand...
kite paper - a colored tranlucent square paper
tissue paper, both white and colored
large butcher paper or newsprint
and white copy paper by the ream :)

For non-origami crafts, we also have plenty of scissors (from our sloyd work!) and tapes of different kinds, including always scotch tape, washi tape, and packing tape.

How it works:

We did a year on various paper-folding crafts when my oldest kids were in Form I, mostly focusing on window stars and origami -- simple shapes that the children could learn with me and then do on their own in free time. The children took to it right away, so I decided to stock the shelf with a few more options and go from there. Since then, my boys have received paper and tape for almost every birthday and craft in various ways with paper all year long.

Paper crafting lends itself well to independent work. During a Babymoon Year, I marked with a post-it all of the projects I thought my Form 2 kids could do without help and told them to make one weekly during Afternoon Occupations. Because it doesn't take specialized materials and usually relies on a mix of visual and written instructions, it's a great option for an independent learner. It's also a nice one for older and younger siblings to do side by side.

I will say, though, that origami tends to get pretty complicated really quickly, and some kids will find its visual instructions easier to translate than other kids will. So I really like to branch out pretty quickly from origami to bring in other options.

It's a great challenge to go through the steps of a paper-crafting lesson and then have the student recreate from memory. I often ask my students to do that during end-of-term exams!

We always make paper stars at Christmas and paper snowflakes at Winter Solstice! These definitely fall in the handicraft level when done with careful attention. We have also made other holiday-related papercrafts -- folded butterflies from kite paper for Easter, tabletop Christmas trees, and so on.

Papercrafts are great for gifting! Since all they need is paper and tape, my kids often make one another gifts from paper. It is great to have something crafty and flexible in their skill set.

Papercrafts are wonderfully gender neutral! My boys make swords; my girls make paper dolls. One Christmas my 7yo son made his sisters paper dolls, which I thought was pretty much the best. :)

After they go through these projects, you will find them rooting through the recycle bin and the cardboard to find "material." This is a great craft to get building juices flowing and to take with them outdoors!

Do you love paper crafts as much as I do? What are your favorite resources? Please let me know what you enjoy in this category in the comments below.

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  1. First off, I am so excited you are doing this series. I can't remember if I have mentioned that before. I am excited to hear about knitting. I taught my 6 year old to knit (after MUCH asking on her part), but I'm not sure how to handle it if she makes a mistake since we are supposed to be "hands off" with their handicrafts, but knitting is delicate. I sometimes do take the knitting in my hands, and often I tell her the "easy" (although less perfect) way to fix things, instead of having her rip out all her stitches and start back over (which seems like it would be discouraging).

    Anyway, we have no issues with getting creative juices flowing here! Actually, I feeling like I'm drowning in the paper/recycling crafting, lol. Do you have set rules as to WHEN they can do this in their free time, and how much they can keep and where they can keep it? I am actually in awe (most of the time) of their creativity, and I hate to squelch it, but oh the clutter!!

    1. I agree that knitting is a challenge. We are doing tower/finger/fork knitting, not knitting with needles, as an intro to actual knitting. I am planning to touch on some of those challenges. :)

      Yes, we have lots and lots of paper here too. I do set limits on how much they cay use and how much they can keep. They each have a box that they can keep special things in, including various projects. I keep a few special things each term in their file, and the rest they sort through, take photos of, toss, keep in their box, or gift to someone outside the family. And I keep a reign on the amount of supplies they are allowed to use as well, although I don't have a hard and fast rule for that -- right now, it depends on the age of the child, what they're trying to make, etc. It is definitely a challenge to keep up with all the paper in a big family! :)