Paper Snowflakes Program in the Library

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Kids hard at work contemplating their snowflake designs.

When I started as a library intern in high school, one of my first jobs was cutting out paper snowflakes for a display. I love cutting snowflakes and had a lot of fun making them. The display was very well-received and while there was a lot of time involved, it was low cost.

As I try to regenerate interest in teen programs, I’ve realized that I prefer to lead low-effort/high-impact craft programs. Basically: I like programs where participants can put in as little or as much effort as they like and still leave with some kind of finished project.

My library has a monthly Ezra Jack Keats program which includes a story by Ezra Jack Keats and can also feature other stories, rhymes, songs, or fingerplays. After the reading, everyone makes a related craft. Although it was summer, I decided to do cut paper snowflakes along with a reading of The Snowy Day.

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Coloring snowflakes with crayons.

Before the program I gave teen volunteers a snowflake-making tutorial and then asked them to cut some demo ones. I grabbed a ream of white typing paper and a ream of blue typing paper and lots of scissors. I also used a box of crayons so that more adept participants could draw designs to cut. The crayons also allowed the younger kids to color and decorate pre-made snowflakes.

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A finished masterpiece. Cut and colored by one of the kids at the program.

Because this craft is so simple, I was able to let teen volunteers do a group reading of The Snowy Day. I then talked a bit about if kids did the same things in winter as we see in the book and we figured out some facts about snowflakes. Then I explained the craft and gave quick instructions before everyone got started.

During the program I discovered it’s really best to have a lot of actual scissors (child size) but NOT the safety-scissors with almost no blade–they are impossible to use for cutting through the multiple layers of folded paper to make a snowflake.

I also spent a lot of time going around to ask kids how they were doing and tell me about their snowflakes. If I noticed anyone who was frustrated with cutting, I was able to quickly make a snowflake for them to use as reference or to color.

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Snowflake, mid-coloring.

The biggest downside to this program was that there was a lot of paper scraps by the end but cleanup wasn’t terrible with help from volunteers. (We couldn’t find a broom so I did have to ask a custodian to sweep up the last bits.) I would not recommend doing this program in a carpeted room unless you have a vacuum handy.

Related Books:

  • Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin, illustrated by Mary Azarian
  • It’s Snowing by Olivier Dunrea
  • When Green Becomes Tomatoes by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Julie Morstad
  • It’s Snowing by Gail Gibbons
  • The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
  • Snow by Uri Shulevitz

So I still have a Crochet Club

Remember back in November of last year when I announced that I had started a Crochet Club at work?

Well it’s still going and it seemed like it was time to share an update.

My library isn’t always the best with teen retention–we have regulars but even they won’t come to the same program every week. In the months that I have been doing this club, I only have one regular. However it has been so incredibly satisfying to watch her learn and grow. She just told me this week that she crocheted Easter eggs this year for her family’s egg hunt. How cool is that?

Periodically others will drop in but never with the same regularity. I’m not sure if that’s because they don’t actually like to crochet or just because they’re busy.

In having a weekly craft program, I have learned that weekly craft programs are exhausting. It’s a weird push and pull between always having the same things available and also having new projects. It’s also hard to have someone who can’t even do chain crochet while my regular girl is making hats and stuffed animals but I try to tell everyone it’s about working at their own pace. (As I suspected, the older kids catch on with the crochet nuances a lot quicker.)

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I’ve also learned that metal crochet hooks and acrylic yarn are the way to go. I’m hoping to order some when our new budget rolls out.

For every Crochet Club, I come assuming I will be teaching someone to crochet from scratch (which means I rarely crochet things and spend a lot of time doing slip knots and chains). I also have some simple patterns including Granny Squares printed on my yarn labels, a slouchy hat, a keychain and my template of a freehand bookmark that I made as my first sample.

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I also have a board on Pinterest with super simple projects that I can add into the rotation. Amigurumi is really simple to do once kids figure out how to read stitches and feel comfortable working in the round. (I don’t do Magic Rings so the only thing is I have to show them an alternative for that.)

As hooks have disappeared and broken, I’ve also stopped stressing about gauge. Except for the one hat pattern (which I help with fitting) all of the projects can be done to any scale so we just work with whatever hooks are on hand.

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As we’ve started working on stuffed critters we’ve also covered sewing and finishing. I knew my mom taught me a lot but I have to admit I was surprised when no one knew how to sew together a finished project. (In doing this I’ve also discovered I need shorter, smaller blunt needles. Live and learn!)

I’m particularly fond of this owl pattern found free on Ravelry and this monster pattern. Both projects are simple and invite enough variation that they can be made repeatedly without feeling boring. Sometimes they don’t look exactly like the demo item, but I’ve realized that doesn’t even matter as long as it’s fun.

My library also has a huge box of buttons and white glue so we’ve been using those for eyes.

Last week I made this little monster and already have plans to make more:

My regular also made one and even added a mouth. I was very impressed.

While the program isn’t the biggest or coolest thing my library has, it is one of my favorite parts of the week and I’m really happy to continue to have the opportunity to host it.

So I started a Crochet Club . . .

Earlier this year the library hosted a yarn bombing of the youth wing entrance. It wasn’t organized by my department and I’m still not totally clear who put it together, but everyone was really excited about it. The feedback was fantastic and it generated a lot of interest in knitting and crocheting among the patrons who came into the library.

 

So after hearing from so many kids that they loved the yarn bombing and crochet in general, I asked my supervisor about the possibility of starting a Crochet Club for kids. This was in planning stages since August and I had my first two sessions in November (with a gap because of Thanksgiving).

Crochet Club isn’t exactly what I envisioned. But it’s close and it is getting there.

The first thing we did was a supply order. Because of where the library already has accounts, that meant I had to order from Dick Blick. Unfortunately that did mean there were some limited options but I did eventually find everything I needed.

The supplies I ordered were:

  • Sets of plastic crochet hooks (I prefer metal but they only had plastic. If you are in a position to order individual hooks, that would be fine but I had to buy multiple sets with the knowledge that some hooks will not be usable sizes with my yarn supply.)
  • Yarn (My choices were wool or cotton. Since I’m allergic to wool I knew we had to go with cotton. Acrylic is easier to work with when starting out but it wasn’t meant to be. The yarn I wound up with is the equivalent of sport weight yarn. I would have preferred worsted as it’s thicker but again, had to take what I could get. I went with a variety of colors with 2-5 skeins each.)
  • Blunt embroidery needles (In retrospect I ordered too many of these but if the kids every get to the point where they can handle making actual projects these will come in handy for finishing and weaving in ends. If we get to that point, I also think they’ll disappear at a fierce rate so it’s better to have several.)
  • Fiberfill (It turns out that fiberfill is sold by weight and its extremely light-weight. So I now have a life time supply of fiberfill. Anyway in terms of small projects I assume eventually all crocheters want to make stuffed animals which means you need stuffing)

Before the program started I set down the age guideline of 6th grade and up (my target age was 11 I think but it got printed as 6th grade and up in our program flyers). Programs here tend to skew younger so I knew I’d probably get littler kids. My theory with that is that everyone is welcome to try but if they really aren’t catching on or into it, I’m fine with suggesting the kids leave to do something that’s more fun for them.

I intentionally avoided picking out any patterns as I wanted kids to pick up technique first. Because we are working with thinner yarn my initial idea was to have them make a sampler bookmark using chain, single and double crochet stitches.

It turns out that was wildly ambitious even as a starting point. But that’s okay because it’s a learning curve.

At my first session I had one girl who was in fifth grade. She caught on quickly and left with a chain crochet necklace. She tried to do single crochet, didn’t like it and went back to chain crochet.

In my second program I had the same girl (who I didn’t recognize because she is never, ever in the library except for Crochet Club! I’m still so ashamed!) and several kids from the afterschool program that has arbitrarily decided to use the library as a base of operation.

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The kids ranged in age from 5 to around 10. The 5 year old unsurprisingly wasn’t into it. I tried to show him how to finger crochet but that didn’t work either. He came and went saying hi to his friends and seeing what everyone else was up to.

The other kids ranged from advanced to super beginner. The girl I had my first week remembered everything she had learned and was a champ working by her self for most of the session.

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A couple of the after-school kids caught on quickly–including a boy who was single crocheting for part of the program–but it was hard to police their technique. Everyone was working too tightly and I don’t know how to explain the tension to them in a way that makes sense. The kids also had some weird ideas about how to hold the crochet hooks in that they were using them more like picks than hooks (I think this is because some of them were coming from having done a Rainbow Loom program the day before). While that’s fine for chain rows, they were all working too tight to actually do anything with said chains.

(After thinking more about this I realized the kids were all grabbing any hook so they were working too small. I’m going to take a step back and start the class with an intro explaining skeins, hooks and gauge sizes. I’m also organizing supplies to make it harder for the wrong hook to be taken by the kids. In addition I plan on setting up a sign in sheet so that regular attendees can borrow supplies and also to discourage latecomers/advise when the program is at full capacity.)

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Similarly the kids all seemed to have a hard time letting their left hand do any of the work which is what I am used to when I crochet. I am not sure if this is from years of practice or if it comes easily by virtue of being ambidextrous. (Speaking of which one girl who came was left-handed and figured out how to translate my right-handed demo to her needs like a boss.)

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Moving forward I’ve discovered that I can’t let in late comers because it derails my ability to help others. Maybe if I get a regular group and they get more advanced that will work but not right now. I also think for the time being (particularly as the program skews younger) I’m going to try capping at 10 kids (or less) to keep things a little easier to manage as I’m the only one in the room with crochet experience.

I’m also going to start doing group introductions and some kind of sign in sheet so that I can learn names and so that, as we continue, regular attendees can also borrow hooks and maybe yarn (mostly hooks) to practice.

My other plan is instead of a one-on-one demo to try a group demo with the kids watching me to see if that’s easier than flitting from person to person.

Honestly, I’m thrilled with the progress the kids made even if some of their final products weren’t the prettiest. One girl in particular had a hard time getting started but she also said she plans to practice before the next program. They all were enthusiastic and excited to be there which is all I could have asked for.

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Have you ever taught someone else to crochet? Any tips or anecdotes?