Before I got married and started a family, I used to travel a lot. On many of my trips and vacations, I took little vinyl and plush toys to photograph in front of landmarks. Now that I have my own family, we all love to travel, but it seems that the bigger challenge is getting everyone to look at the camera for a photo. The kids and I joked about needing felt versions of ourselves to photograph in front of landmarks, so that’s exactly what we made.
The beauty of this project is that it’s something that can be made in the backseat since the materials are small, unscented and easy to work with. As the mom, I strongly recommend keeping multiple resealable bags on hand to keep your felt family members separate, and a few handy wipes around in case any fabric glue gets spilled.
Before you pile in the car, draw your family with pen and paper. You *could* have the kids work from memory or a photo, but we’ve found that when you do a quick sketch of the people you love, you tend to simplify shapes; simple shapes are much easier to cut out. Trust us.
Also, in case you are thinking, “Oh, I’m terrible at drawing, I can’t do this.” You are incorrect, friend. We have quite a few family portraits that were done by kids of all ages. The drawing doesn’t need to be photo-realistic, so don’t worry, just have fun. (Just in case, I’ve included a template for you to use.)
Things you’ll need:
A drawing of your family
As many different colors of wool felt as you are comfortable packing
Sharp scissors (we let kids ages 7 and up use the sharp scissors but always keep an eye on them)
Start by focusing on one family member at a time. We used peach felt and cut an oval for the head, a long narrow piece for the neck, arms and legs. Layer the body parts on top of each other before you glue anything down so that you can make changes as you work. Use felt in a similar color to your hair and try to match the length so there is more resemblance. We also cut out clothing in felt to match the clothing we usually wear on vacation.
When you have most of the body and clothing cut, use your wooden toothpick to dab small amounts of the fabric glue onto the felt. You don’t need a lot of glue to get the pieces to stick together, and if you use too much, it oozes out onto the front of your felt family member.
When the entire felt family was dry, we glued the bamboo skewers — two per person to keep the legs from flopping around — to the backside, and let that dry.
We used clothespins to pinch the felt backing around the skewers while the puppets dried. This isn’t necessary, but was handy in keeping everything pressed together.When your felt family is done, take them out and show them the world!Felt family puppets pack well since they are lightweight and flat; stick them in a heavy magazine, or book if your are worried about snapping a skewer.They always look at the camera when you want to take family photos.
And one more handy tip: Bamboo skewers slide into sand and soil easily so that you can take your felt family photos, even when your pre-teens are so over it and just want to go back to their handheld devices. At least you got a little crafting out of them!
Going to make your own felt family? We’d love to see! Tweet or post a pic on Instagram with the hashtag #eHowfeltfamily. Happy crafting and happy summer travels!
All photos by: Megan Andersen