Child Silhouette Mother's Necklace

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 As always, I got myself a little out of control with this project.   It all started with this little package of necklace charms.  That's all it took.  I saw them and I thought "Mother's Day silhouette project for my class!" Lucky for me, the charms went on sale the next week, and I was off and running.

Making silhouettes is a little time-consuming, but fairly easy in photoshop.  I took pictures of each of the children in profile.  Knowing that I was doing silhouettes, I chose either the white wall as a background, or the window - and it helped when I remembered to set my camera to not use a flash.   My sister, Natalie, sent me a fantastic link that made it go even quicker, since her technique is more efficient than what I had planned.

They turned out beautifully!  In fact, it made me a little sad to shrink them to the tiny size to fit in the charms, because they look so fun bigger.  But as the entire point was the charms.....

Here is a before and after of one of my darling little sunbeams, and another cute one - I love the hair.

With the silhouettes figured out, I moved on to the necklace itself.  Here is the summary of my goals for this project:
  • The kids do as much as possible themselves.  (The lesson title that week was "I am thankful for my hands" - so a "hand"made gift was the biggest emphasis)
  • A pretty final product.  Something that could actually be worn on days other than Mother's Day when the average fashonista Mom can be seen to sport a fruit-loop necklace.
Not too tall of an order, eh?  A beaded necklace with pretty beads seemed to fit the bill.  I did some research and was intrigued by the couture textile necklace trend, that uses ribbon and other fabric objects to make jewelry.  Ribbon was the perfect base for little hands to thread.  I found this picture as my inspiration.  Lovely, eh?  Though I decided on a clasp instead of a bow - more secure for a mom with toddlers tugging on the necklace. I figured out how to add the clasp by looking at the picture below.

I ran into my big problem next.  I could not find beads with big enough holes for three and four year olds to thread, that looked like anything classy, AND that didn't cost at least $5 per bead.  I'm on a budget here, despite my big ideas :-)  So what do I do whenever I encounter something I can't find in a store?  I figure out how to make it myself.  Once I accepted that this was what I'd have to do, I was actually really excited because having the kids not only string the beads, but make them themselves would be even more meaningful!

After online research and a half dozen library books on bead making, I settled on polymer clay.  If the kids wrapped the clay around knitting needles, the holes would be perfect size.  I bought a Studio by Sculpey in a really nice blue, and a silver (another Sculpey, but I can't remember the specific name)

The first step in working with polymer clay is to work it until it is soft enough.  Some books and websites suggest putting it in a food processor or a pasta machine.  I divided it into chunks and gave it to my own kids!  They played for over an hour, making sculptures - like this one that Lily made of me (perfect likeness, I think!), and rolling different objects on it to make textures.  It was  a blast!!  When they were done, I took a chunk of blue and rolled it flat with my rolling pin covered in peel-and-stick so the clay wouldn't get on it. I alternated layers of silver and blue until I had one big flat slab.  Then I cut the slab into squares and rolled them loosely into balls that would each make a reasonable size bead.  This prep was so that the kids would be able to grab one, make it whatever shape they wanted around the knitting needle, and still end up with relatively uniform beads.  By rolling the layered clay, I achieved the marble effect I was after.

The class had so much fun with the bead making!  It was adorable to see how they giggled and enjoyed the clay.  Except things didn't turn out exactly as planned.  A couple of them grasped the concept, and made roundish beads from their balls of clay.  The rest squished it all into one mass along the needle.  I thought I would take it all off and do them myself, but then I decided that it could be salvaged.  I squished down the biggest lumps so that the beads wouldn't be too thick and heavy, then I just cut the clay stick into sections to make barrel beads.  They have great personality because they aren't uniform - but they're classy enough that they don't necessarily look like stereotypical kid-made beads.  Bake according to the directions on the clay.

Finishing up the beads with a nice couple layers of a high gloss clay glaze, I was pleased with the results.

Pre-cut the ribbon before class, and add the crimp thingies onto the ends to give a nice stiff tip for the kids to thread through the beads.  We spent most of class threading beads, then, as the children decorated cards, I attached the clasps using jump rings.  We wrapped our gifts and took them home to (hopefully) pleased moms!

One more finishing touch, to make sure the moms knew that the kids had made the necklaces themselves (except for the silhouette charms), I wrote a silly little poem that went with the "I am thankful for hands," lesson theme.  Here's the poem.  I hope all the mothers out there had a fantastic day!!  I sure did!!

My hands turn the pages
While your hands hold the book
My hands reach for something high
Yours lift me up for a better look

My hands hold the rope
Your hands push the swing
My hands get scraped up
Your hands soothe the sting

Your hands do so much for me
They clean, they cook, they play
They hold my hand to cross the street
They show me how to pray

Once, around one of your fingers
My tiny hand could barely cling
Now I'm growing bigger
My hands can do so many things!

I'm thankful for my hands
So I could make this gift for you
And my hands will show I care
With the helpful things I'll do

For all the things your hands 
Do for me each and every day
I love you, Mommy, and
I say, "Happy Mother's Day!"

Footnote:  This morning I found this post and wondered if maybe I over-obsess about things.  This necklace craft uses clay kid-made beads, and it is adorable.  Hmmm 


Shannon said...

There was one moment when we started making the clay beads that I heard myself say to Sweet Pea, "No! You are doing it wrong!" She was understandably startled and I immediately said, "I'm sorry. You can't make it wrong. The important part is to have fun doing it." And after that, my ideas of perfectly formed, glitter coated beads strung in an intricate pattern went out the window. But it took a lot of self-control to keep my hands off off Sweet Pea's creation the entire time. ;)

Unknown said...

Clarification - since I've been asked about it - it is totally fine to bake the beads while they're still on the knitting needles. They come off just fine when they're cool, and I can't see any damage to my needles from it.
For painting on the glaze, I put the beads back on knitting needles, but on a smaller gauge wrapped in plastic wrap. I have a feeling that the glaze would ruin the needles. The smaller needle is necessary because the beads resisted going back on their original needle once the plastic wrap was added.

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