Happy Pioneer Day!  For anyone not from Utah, Pioneer Day is our State Day, and we celebrate the founding of the area by early pioneer settlers.  In honor of the pioneer fun, I'd like to share a couple of crafts I've done with my kids over the past couple of years that are appropriately themed.

Handcart Races
Now, I've been on a pioneer reenactment trek, and it is not a whole lot of fun to pull an actual handcart, but it is fun to make and play with these cute little carts!  I started off with a couple of Jiffy muffin boxes for cart bodies.  There are some paper templates online for origami handcarts, but I wanted something a little more solid - and most importantly, I wanted something that would actually roll.

The Jiffy mixes were just about right, but a little too oblong.  First off, I cut the front of the boxes off, opening up the bed of the cart.  Then I cut just about an inch of the length, cut slits at the folds the same length as the depth of the cart bed, and folded the sides in and the back up - glueing to close it all in.   I chose to paint my handcart boxes (actually I had my kids do it - they LOVE to paint anything, even if it's just boring brown), but they could alternately be covered in paper.

 The wheels are the most important part!  For the wheels, I used an empty ribbon spool, cut in half. I had to use a craft knife, and it was still pretty tricky, but it gave me a beautiful, sturdy, perfectly round wheel with a nice hub to keep the wheel from sitting too tightly against the handcart so that the wheels turn freely.  For the axle, I had to experiment a little to get the placement right.  It is NOT placed right in the center.  The balance, once the handle is added, does not work.  After looking at diagrams of real handcarts, I decided to place my axle a little forward of center - about half an inch.  My axle and handle are made of wooden BBQ skewers, cut to size (be careful here - when you cut them, the ends tend to fly around the room.  my kids love this phenomenon, but I find it a little dangerous).  The skewer must extend out of each wheel about a quarter of an inch.  I blacked out any writing on my wheels with a sharpie, then cut spokes out of cardstock and glued them on.  The whole wheel is finished off with a pony bead glued securely over the end of the skewer axle. Hot glue works great.

 The handle is attached in exactly the same way, using pony beads to secure the skewers that have been poked through holes in the box, only this time on the interior of the cart.  Then I took cross-lengths of skewers and glued them across, finishing up the handle.

Once I had two carts done, the races could begin.  This has become quite the favorite!  I use foam shape beads, but marshmallows or any small object would work.  Each participant is given equal amounts of whatever items the cart needs to be loaded with.  Another person shouts "GO" and both participant pioneers load their "handcarts" with "supplies" as fast as they can in whatever manner they want.  They then use the attached string (oh, did I mention I attached 18" of string?  It's too easy just to pull the handle - where's the fun in that?) to pull their carts across the table or floor to the finish line.  The handle must not drag, and nothing can fall out of the cart.  If anything does, it must be picked up, the pioneer must return to the start, load the item back into the cart, and then continue onward once again.  It's harder than it looks!  And it's a blast!!

EASY Pioneer Bonnets
As I mentioned before, I've been on a pioneer trek, and I sewed, or helped sew, dozens of bonnets.  They are an absolute PAIN!  The interfacing in the brim is the primary culprit.  Getting it stiff enough, getting it to cooperate, turning it inside out, getting the seams flat, it is not at all fun.  Just isn't.  But I love bonnets!  They're adorable!  So I came up with a plan to make them quick and dirty.  Well, hopefully not dirty bonnets, but my methods would surely be frowned upon by my pioneer ancestors because they're far from proper!

That pesky brim being the biggest problem - let's solve it with craft foam.  That's right - craft foam.  It is the perfect stiffness, light, cool, great colors, can even be decorated - the possibilities are endless.  And the most important thing in its favor?  YOU CAN SEW ON IT!!  Yea, probably old news to some of you, but still - HELLO!  Sew on craft foam?  Sweet! You can get two brims out of one large piece of craft foam - the 12 x 18 (I think?).  Just coordinate with a cute calico of your choice, cut out the pattern (or a reasonable facsimile - it doesn't need to be exact, just that rounded shape), and you're done with the brim.

For the crown, I keep it super simple, again.  This is a fast and easy pattern, remember, not an heirloom sewing project.  I'm not edge finishing or doing any fancy work.  It's possible - I have some lovely full quality bonnets - but that's not what I'm doing here.  So, I actually made up a pattern from looking at an old doll pattern and modifying it a little, then figuring out the measurements for a child size.  Run a gathering stitch along the rounded edge from dot to dot. Then simply pull the gathering thread, and sew the right side of the fabric to the straight side of the foam brim, as shown.  You could add lace between the two for a fancier look, or rick-rack, or cording - there are many cute options to dress it up.

Sew the fabric crown to the foam brim, using a straight stitch, with the right side of the fabric facing the foam.

What the sewn inside of the brim looks like - nice and neat, eh?
To get the cute little neck ruffle in back, edge finish the raw edge however you choose.  A tiny rolled edge would be pretty.  Lace sewn on would also look nice.  Again, I was mass-producing and going for fast and easy, so I went for the quick-and-easy zig-zag stitched edge.  It looks fine too :)  On the inside, along the straight line, attach a piece of 1/4 inch elastic with a zig-zag stitch.  A casing would be the nice way to go, but the zig-zag works great and looks just as good on the outside, see?  I used a 4 1/2 inch piece of elastic, but this should be sized to fit.  the tighter the elastic, the tighter it fits on the head.

Add elastic at neck, on inside, with a zig-zag stitch that goes through the elastic, stretching to fit as you sew

How elastic faux-casing looks on outside.  

The final step is the ties.  Matching a grosgrain ribbon to the brim, folding it over a couple of times, sew pieces about 16 inches long on the inside of the bonnet at the dots, trying to catch both fabric and foam brim in a zig-zag stitch.  Go back and forth over it a couple of times to make sure it's solid - kids tug on these quite a bit, and the more solidly it joins the brim to the fabric at this juncture point, the better.

Traditionally, the ties are made from the same fabric as the bonnet.  You are more than welcome to do that.  I hate turning skinny things inside out - yup, I'm lazy like that - I'll use ribbon here, thank you!
That's it!  It's like a 20 min or less bonnet!  No interfacing!  And if you're making it for a family pioneer day event, grab some foam paint, markers, or stickers and let the girls doll up their brims to personalize them!  I can see it now - Pioneers with BLING!  
bonnet on a 4 year old

same bonnet on a 6 year old
same bonnet on a 9 year old (getting a little tight)

Note: My pattern is a rough shape - I've made a lot of bonnets and they just aren't that technical.  The thing to know is the basic shape and proportions.  If you go higher and more oblong in the circle of the crown, it doesn't add much to the size, it just adds to the poofiness at the top.  Going wider in the circle does increase the size, but another way to increase the size is to increase the circumference around the brim by adding to the length along the straight side of the pattern (not too much though - there isn't much difference between this brim and the adult one I wear).  I used the same bonnet in all of the pictures in order to show how it fits a child size 3, the same child a year later size 4, a child size 6, and a child size 9.  I think it fits the younger girls great, but I would likely increase the brim to 17 inches and the crown to 14 inches wide if I were to make one specifically for my 9 year old. Hope that makes sense :)
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