Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Christmas craftiness: coffee filter snowflakes

I was a helper at Ross' school party yesterday. The third graders made graham cracker "gingerbread" houses. After some structural collapses, Ross got his to stand up nicely. (I kept telling the kids to use more frosting!)

After we cleaned up that sugary mess, we set up stations for applesauce/cinnamon ornaments, cookie decorating, and snowflake making. I supervised the snowflakes. Now, I realize that I'm probably the last parent on Earth who'd never heard of making snowflakes with coffee filters, but I thought I should show it on my blog, in case anyone needed ideas to keep their kids entertained this vacation. Let's put it this way -- I had a lot of kids who didn't want to stop making them, and Ross and I were so enthusiastic that I bought a package of filters last night!

Use the basket-style coffee filters. I bought a package of 500 for $1.69. Fold the filter as you would for any paper snowflake (for hexagonal snowflakes, fold the filter in half, then in thirds). For best results, cut with sharp scissors, but be gentle, because the filter paper rips easily. If you have a younger child who isn't that adept with scissors yet, this is a good project to try. It'll give the child a lot of practice, and a pretty result in the end. If they get too frustrated, you can cut snowflakes for them and let them do the decorating.

To decorate: use magic markers, watercolor paints (the inexpensive school sets are fine), very watered-down acrylics or Dye-Na-Flow paints, or even food coloring (the kind in the squeeze bottles, not the paste). You'll also need a small spray bottle of water.

Ross' class used magic markers. They simply drew or scribbled on their snowflakes, placed them on a paper towel, and lightly misted them with the water bottle. This caused the marker to bleed and run, diffusing the colors all over the filter paper.

If you are going to use paints or food coloring, you have a couple of options. You can apply the color to the snowflakes and then mist them, as above. Or, you can mist the snowflakes with water first, and then add the color. (This is a wet-on-wet watercolor technique.) The photos below show two snowflakes that I made by misting the snowflakes, applying watercolors, then misting again and spreading out the colors with my brush.

Don't overdo the water! If you get the snowflakes really soaked, just let them sit on the paper towels and dry out before you handle them.

I haven't tried the Dye-Na-Flow or the food coloring yet, but I'm thinking about dripping it onto the snowflake straight from the bottle, so that it would look more splotchy or mottled.

How to go overboard: I thought it would be cool to make glittery snowflakes, but standard glue and glitter would overwhelm these -- too heavy for the filter paper. So I bought some Tulip Fabric Glitter Spray and spritzed it on, after the snowflake had dried. You've got to go easy with this stuff, but it's very pretty. You can see the glimmer a little in the close-up, below.

How to go overboard, part II: anyone want to try using kosher salt as a resist, as you would for silk painting? Sprinkle it on the snowflake right after you apply the paint or food coloring.

I think we're going to have a pretty snowstorm, all over the house.

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