Upcycling for Kids (Using Teeshirts) Part 4: No-Sew Braided Rug

Perhaps you have got a few Teeshirts that are very worn out and not even worth giving away. You could rip them up and use them as cleaning rags, or you can try extending their usefulness by braiding them into a nifty rug, old-school style!

I actually tried making a similar rug earlier this year using old towels, but sewing the towel braid together hurt my fingers – and the rug didn’t hold together as well as I liked.

Using old teeshirts for this braided rug worked better for me, because the braid was easier to work with, and I could weave the rug together – no fussing about with needles and other pointy hurty things. This craft turned out to be straightforward enough for Little E to do it on her own! We ended up with a lovely, soft rug which made a great bathmat – and it’s washable too.

In this tutorial, I use a four strand braided technique (like a ‘fishtail’ braid), because I feel this gives a wider and flatter weave, but you can use a three stranded braid if you feel that a puffier rug works for you.

How to make an Old-School Braided Rug from Old Teeshirts

Materials:

  1. Old Teeshirts (I used about 3 large men’s tees to make a round floormatbut you can use more if you want a bigger rug)
  2. Scissors

Instructions:

tee-shirt-rug-braid-fishtail

  1. Cut the tees into 1.5-2 inch strips widthwise so that you end up with a bunch of loops
  2. Stretch the loops as far as they will go until the fabric rolls in on itself
  3. Cut the loops open on one end so that you are left with long strings
  4. Choose 4 strings and knot them together. I decided to go with 2 strings of contrasting colours to get a nice chevron pattern.fishtail-braid-four-strand-rug-tee-shirt
  5. Cross the outer (green in the picture above) strings over each other, right string over the left to form an X.
  6. Take the next set of outer strings (dark blue in the picture above). Cross them over the centre of the braid, right over left, to form a second X.
  7. Take the following set of outer strings (green) and cross them in the centre again, right string over left, to form a third X. You are now back to your original position, having done three layers of braiding!
  8. After you have done about 4-5 inches of braid, roll the braid into a spiral, with the original knot in the spiral centre. Now you can weave the free braid together to form the rug.
  9. Take the string that is closest to the centre of the spiral and pass it through one of the loops of braid that it is nearest to it (see the picture below).
  10. Pull the string tight to secure the free section to the rest of the rug.
  11. Continue to braid, securing each section every 1.5-2 inches.braided-teeshirt-rug-upcycle-recycle
  12. When the lengths of string become too short to braid, you can add another string to it by knotting the ends together. To make a less bulky knot, snip a small hole about 0.5 inches from the end of both strings that you wish to join together.
  13. Pass the end of the old string through the hole in the new string.
  14. Then, push the other end of the new string through the hole in the old string
  15. Pull tight and it should form a small, tight knot!
  16. Continue braiding your rug until it reaches a size that you are happy with
  17. To finish off the rug, knot the ends of the free braid to one of the loops from the braid next to it, securing the end of the braid to the rest of the rug. You can then trim off any excess string or tuck the strings into the rest of the rug to make them neat.
  18. Enjoy your soft new floormat!

    braided-rug-teeshirt-upcycling-repurpose

    Left: Eleanor braiding using two sets of contrasting colours to form chevrons, Right: Another rug that we made using four different colours

Upcycling for Kids (Using Teeshirts) Part 3: No-Sew Multilayered Necklace

Here’s a super quick and very simple no-sew tutorial to turn an old teeshirt into a pretty cute multilayered necklace or infinity scarf – and it’s an easy one to do with the kids too!

Materials:

  1. Old Teeshirt (a seamless tee is best)
  2. Scissors

Instructions:

  1. Lay Teeshirt flat
  2. Cut off the bottom hem of the teeshirt and put it aside.
  3. Cut your teeshirt into 1-2 inch strips across the width of the tee. I used 2 inch strips because it was easier for Little E to manage, but I think the necklace will probably look nicer with thinner 1 inch strips. You should end up with a bunch of loops.
  4. Stretch out each loop as far as they will go until the fabric rolls inward.teeshirt-necklace-kids-craft-upcycle-recycle
  5. Join all the the loops together, doubling them up if necessary to create that multilayered effect. Make sure that you can still pull the loops over your head easily. I used three loops doubled up to make a necklace for Little E but you can use more to make more complex-looking necklace.
  6. Cut the bottom hem of shirt that you saved in half to make a long flat ribbon at least 10 inches long.
  7. Using this ribbon, tie a knot around the necklace loops to hold them in place.
  8. Wrap the rest of the ribbon tightly around the loops a few times. I made the wrapped portion a few inches wide.
  9. Tie off the ends of the ribbon with a knot.
  10. Trim the ends to look like a little bow or tuck them under the rest of the ribbon to hide it.
  11. Enjoy your new necklace!

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If you are particularly handy, you can experiment with braiding or knotting the teeshirt strands together, or mixing loops of different colours and textures!

P.S. Check out our other Teeshirt Upcycling posts here.

Upcycling For Kids (Using Teeshirts) Part 2: No-Sew Tasselled Tunic

As I said in my previous Upcycling For Kids post, Singapore generates an embarrassing amount of textile waste, which is why I am trying to think of ways to give old clothes a new lease of life instead of discarding them.

Whilst clearing out my wardrobe, I found a few teeshirts that have pretty cute designs on them but really do not suit me anymore. These shirts, although beloved, weren’t really fancy enough to be worth putting aside for Little E for the future. So I decided to repurpose them into cute outfits for Little E to wear right now!

Due to the fact I have the Midas Touch when it comes to sewing machines (i.e. I turn them into blocks of inert metal), this will be a no-sew tutorial.

How to Upcycle Old Teeshirts into a No-Sew Tasselled Tunic (2 versions)

Materials:

  1. Old Teeshirt
  2. Tunic Top That Already Fits
  3. Scissors
upcycle-teeshirt-kids-tassel

Cutting around the teeshirt to make it the correct size

Instructions:

  1. Lay Old Teeshirt flat
  2. Place Tunic Top That Already Fits on top of teeshirt to act as a guide
  3. Cut the teeshirt into 1 inch strips all around the sides, bottom and sleeves), leaving a 1 – 2 inch border around the Tunic Top That Already Fits (depending on how tight you want the final result to be)
  4. Trim off the tassels on the sleeves, leaving just one pair of tassels in the centre, which you can tie off with a knot. This makes cute, new fluttery sleeves for your new garment!

    tee-shirt-upcycle-kids-clothes-recycle

    Knotting the sleeves, sides and bottom of the teeshirt

  5. Cut the side seams of the teeshirt, then stretch the tassels as long as they will go, until the fabric rolls in on itself. If you don’t use a seamless teeshirt, cut off the seams entirely for a nicer look
  6. On the sides of the teeshirt, tie each pair of tassels (one front and one back) tightly together with a knot, to make a row of knots and tassels down each side of the tunic top.
  7. For the bottom of the teeshirt, stretch the tassels until the fabric rolls in on itself, then knot each pair of tassels (side by side) tightly together. When you are done, you should have created a hem of knots around the bottom of your tunic.
  8. Then, create a second row of knots by tying pairs of knots together. Don’t worry about the tassels looking uneven – you can trim them to equal lengths once you are done. I left our uneven because I thought it looked nicer that way.
  9. Your new and improved tunic is ready to wear!

    upcycle-top-shirt-tunic-kids

    Little E wearing the No-Sew Tasseled Tunic (With Sleeves)

  10. If you think that the neckline and sleeves of the Tasseled Tunic are too big (especially if you’re trying to make it fit a tiny tot), you can turn the whole thing into a sassy sleeveless number. Cut the sleeves off at the seams and at the tops of the shoulders, then tie them off with a knot.
  11. Wear your new Tasseled Tunic with pride!
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Little E wearing the No-Sew Tasseled Tunic (Without Sleeves)

P.S. Check out my No-Sew Hobo Bag Tutorial here.

Upcycling For Kids (using Teeshirts) Part 1: No-Sew Hobo Bag

In the last 6 months, whilst I’ve been ruthlessly downsizing my wardrobe, I’ve become ever more aware of the amount of waste there is just from the amount of clothes I’ve had to remove from my house (more on this in another post).

I was appalled to find out that in Singapore, we generate over 156,700 tonnes of textile and leather waste in a single year. This means that in Singapore, we generate THREE tonnes of textile waste every 5 minutes! And less than 8% of that is recycled. Yikes!!!

Upcycling is a great way to breathe new life into old clothes, and if you are anything like me and cause all sewing machines within a 100m to malfunction, here is a great No-Sew tutorial that is so simple, even a kid could do it!

How to Upcycle Old Teeshirts into a Cute No-Sew Hobo Bag

Materials:

  1. Old Tee-shirt
  2. Scissors

upcycling-teeshirt-t-shirt-kids-tote

Instructions:

  1. Using the scissors, cut off the sleeves of the teeshirt.
  2. Then, holding the shirt together, cut off the collar of the teeshirt to make the opening of the bag. A nice oval shape will do.
  3. Decide how deep you want the bag to be. I used a large square book as a guide.
  4. Cut the bottom of the teeshirt into strips about 1 inch wide to make a row of tassels. (Pro-tip: I left the book on the teeshirt and just cut the teeshirt up to the bottom of the book.)
  5. Make sure you also cut the side seam of the teeshirt. tee-shirt-hobo-bag-upcycle-recycle
  6. Turn the shirt inside out.
  7. Stretch the tassels as far as they will go. This will make them long and thin and easier to work with.
  8. Knot each pair of tassels (one tassel from the front and one from the back of the tee-shirt) tightly together. The shirt will begin to bunch up at the bottom, and you’ll have a row of knots with two strands hanging out of each knot.
  9. (Optional Step) Take any strand from the first knot and tie it tightly to any strand from the second knot in the row. Then from the second knot, take the remaining strand and tie it to any strand from the third knot in the row. Continue down the row, tying all the knots together. This will close up the gaps between the knots and make the base of your bag more secure.hobo-bag-tee-shirt-tshirt-recycle-kid
  10. Now turn the bag inside out so that the shirt logo and patterns are showing and all the knots and tassels are on the inside. You should have two straps at the top of your bag.
  11. Cut the two straps in half where the shoulder seam is, knotting them at the top to create the shoulder strap for the hobo bag.
  12. Enjoy!

Optional ideas:

  1. If you like the look of the tassels, leave them outside the bag for a cute boho look.
  2. You can leave the two straps at the top alone if you prefer a simple tote bag.
  3. You can cut each strap at the top into three strips and braid them together to make a braided shoulder strap.

Science in the kitchen: Eggs and Vinegar

So, J asked if he could perform an experiment at home that he read about in one of his Horrible Science books. I had a look at it and realised that we had all the ingredients in our kitchen and nothing seemed explosive or particularly messy…so why not?

Warning: Science! Also puns. Lots of EGG-ceptional puns. You’re going to crack up. Seriously. Omelettin’ this happen, yo. 

J’s Question: What happens when you soak eggs in vinegar?

What we used to answer J’s Question:

  1. One hard boiled egg
  2. One raw egg
  3. Vinegar (we used apple cider vinegar, but white vinegar probably works best)
  4. Glass jars of roughly the same shape and size.

What we did to answer J’s Question:

1. Label the jars and place the respective eggs inside.

egg-vinegar-experiment

2. Cover each egg with an equal amount of vinegar and watch the science happen.

  • J’s Observation #1: Bubbles appeared on the surface of the eggs
  • EGG-CITING SCIENCE! The acetic acid in the vinegar reacted with the calcium carbonate of the eggshell, releasing carbon dioxide gas as bubbles!

experiment-science-egg-vinegar

3. Leave the eggs in the vinegar for three days. Check on the eggs and see if there is more science happening

  • J’s Observation #2:There is a yucky white scum floating on the surface of the vinegar
  • EGG-CELLENT SCIENCE! Calcium acetate is a the other byproduct of the chemical reaction between the vinegar and the eggshell, and is a white solid at room temperature.

4. Remove the eggs from the jars and rinse away the vinegar (and any residual eggshell) under running water. Remember to EGGS-ercise caution whilst doing this.egg-vinegar-experiment-science-membrane-diffusion

5. Place the eggs on a plate and allow them to dry. Compare the two eggs.

  • J’s Observation #3: Both eggs have a smooth and waxy surface. The raw egg is much bigger than the boiled egg (Debs G: It is EGG-ceptionally large) after it has been soaked in vinegar
  • EGG-STREME SCIENCE! The eggshell completely dissolved in the vinegar. Underneath the eggshell is the egg membrane. Some of the water from the vinegar has moved across the membranes to the inside of the raw egg, but the contents of the egg did not leak out. This is because the egg membrane is semi-permeable and allowed only certain sized molecules through. The egg membrane is stretchy, so the egg swelled as the water moved inside it. Water moved inside the egg because the contents of the egg contained less water than the vinegar outside the egg. The process where a solvent (such as water) moves from a lower concentration solution (such as vinegar) to a higher concentration solution (such as egg white) is called osmosis.

science-egg-vinegar-boiled-raw

 

6. Drop both eggs from increasing heights and see what happens.

  • J’s Observation #4: I can see the yolk wobbling about inside the raw egg but not in the boiled egg. When I dropped them, both eggs bounced but when I dropped them from very high up, the raw egg burst like a water balloon (Debs G: It was EGGsplosive). The raw egg is liquid, but the boiled egg is solid.
  • EGG-TRAORDINARY SCIENCE! Eggs are full of protein. Proteins are made up of amino acids. When the egg is boiled, the heat messes up the amino acid bonds that hold the proteins together and give them a particular shape and form. The egg protein changes in form and appearance, becoming hard and solid. When proteins change from their original form into a new form, this is called denaturation.

So, don’t be a chicken. Get cracking and hatch a plan to make Science happen in your own kitchen!

These are the yolks, kid. These are the yolks.

 

Last Minute Chinese New Year Crafts: Are you chicken?

angpow-chicken-chinese-new-year-easter-craft-paper

Chick chick chicken!

In J’s school, the kids in his class are planning to bring their own Chinese New Year decorations and make their classroom look really cheerful and festive for the celebrations! J is really into paper-folding crafts and origami at the moment, so I had a look around and here is our favourite tutorial by Yilin Pan!

We used slightly shorter rectangular ang pows for our chickens, so they are more angular looking and can be placed in both a sitting and standing position! J also decorated his chickens using different coloured Sharpie pens.

I think these would look really cute as a table display or strung up or a mobile – and you can use pastel or white envelopes instead of red to make a sweet Easter display!

Happy New Year!

P.S. For more last minute Chinese New Year crafts, click here and here.

 

Developing A Growth Mindset in Kids or, Astronaut Training Camp – A foundational skills workshop by The Little Executive (A Review)

Back in 1995 when I was in Smartypants Class in secondary school, I did a school research project on highly intelligent “gifted and talented” children – partly because I could and partly because it pleased me to think that I was experimenting on my classmates.

My project was an independent study on children who were identified via the use of standardised testing to have IQs within the top 0.5 percentile of their peers. I wanted to compare the emotional and social development of “gifted and talented” children to that of their peers to find out if there was any real or perceived difference.

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Case in point: Debs G going to Smartypants Class (Picture Credit: The Far Side of Gary Larson)

One of the things that I discovered whilst working on this project is that there are a great number of “gifted and talented” children who are also seen to be underachievers by their teachers and that this in fact a rather common phenomenon. I also realised that in my particular cohort of students, these underachievers were from the group of girls who entered the Smartypants Class at 10 years old during Primary School, and were known to be the “Black Sheep” of the class. These black sheep did comparatively poorly on standardised tests as compared to their peers. It was a mystery as to why this should happen, when they had so much potential so as to be identified as “gifted” at a younger age!

Through surveys of my classmates and their parents, I found out that many of my friends believed (as I also did) that success is based on personal aptitude. Amongst ourselves, we would go through great lengths to prove our God-given cleverness to each other, claiming not to have studied for tests or exams as well as making sport of classmates who did work hard in order to score well, calling them “muggertoads”. In fact, so much of our personal identity was wrapped up in being in the Smartypants Class that one of the biggest fears that we had was that of failure – especially if we had bothered to put in effort – because it would prove that we weren’t special at all.

Sad, right?

As part of my project research, I found a book called “Learning and Motivation in Children” at the Smartypants Centre library, and there was an article about how children’s perceptions of their own intelligence affected their ability to learn. In a nutshell, it showed me exactly what I already knew from observation – that kids who were told early that they were smart and talented also became perfectionists who stopped trying when they couldn’t be perfect straightaway. This was called having a ‘fixed mindset’. This article affected me profoundly, as I realised that putting too much stock in my own innate intelligence and abilities instead of valuing persistence and hard work could hold me back from achieving my personal goals.

I didn’t know this at the time, but one of the authors of that article, Carol Dweck, went on to publish many more articles and books about an individual’s implicit theory of intelligence and the importance of children developing and thinking with a growth mindset. She is currently one of the world’s leading psychologists in the field of development and motivation. In her research on learning and motivation, she found that having a growth mindset is a key feature of people who are internally motivated and who are also more likely to succeed when faced with challenges both in school, in work and in life.

Now, as a parent, I have been trying to teach J and Little E  to work hard and persevere, to be self-aware and learn from criticism or setbacks. These are important foundational skills that I feel are important for them to develop at a young age.  Now, I realise that determination, persistence and perceptiveness are considered to be traits which most people will develop on their own through personal life experience, however, it is becoming quite clear that not everybody has the opportunity to figure these things out before they enter the workforce. This is why even our National University of Singapore has set aside a special department, The Centre of Future Ready Graduates, in order to equip all their tertiary level students with these skills!

However, I’m not an expert in education and pedagogy, and all I am doing is trying to muddle through and guide my kids in the best way that I can. When Michelle, co-founder of The Little Executive, contacted me to ask if I would be interested in sending J and Little E to an Astronaut Training Camp during the December holls last year, I was more than happy to oblige!

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J and Little E having fun at Astronaut Training Camp with The Little Executive

The Little Executive actually came into being when one of the founders of Leapfrogs Children’s Therapy Centre, which supports children with learning disabilities, realised that there were more and more parents attempting to enrol their mainstream schoolchildren into her occupational or educational therapy classes.

She realised that all these children, even though they had no learning disabilities at all, seemed to struggle in school on a daily basis as they not only lacked resilience but also had certain learning gaps and a fixed mindset about their innate capabilities. The Little Executive aims to help children develop those essential executive functioning skills needed in order to develop a healthy growth mindset towards lifelong learning.

In my opinion, courses aimed teaching study skills tend to be quite dry and boring as they are often quite abstract in nature – and yes, I have attended my share of such courses as a kid attending the Smartypants Class. However I was pleasantly surprised to find that The Little Executive has found ways to help kids develop these skills in a really fun, hands-on way! I don’t think that the kids even realise that they are learning how to learn – but I have seen the results on my kids and I can tell you that it works. I wish I’d attended these classes myself as a kid, because it really would have saved me a lot of angst.

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J with Jim, one of the educators at The Little Executive

The Astronaut Training Camp, which was held over 4 mornings, was a real treat for J and Little E. Through games, sensory experiments and brainstorming sessions, the kids used their problem solving, communication and observational skills to learn about various aspects of preparing for space travel – even preparing their own dehydrated snacks from bananas, troubleshooting potential issues that might happen during space missions and working together to construct their own shuttle!

Parents were invited to attend a short presentation on the last day of the camp, and I got to tinker with all their craft projects and find out more about what went on during the camp. I was most impressed with the incredible rapport that the educators were able to build with the kids in such a short space of time. Additionally, they were able to engage not only the youngest preschooler (Little E), but also the oldest primary school kid (J) and cater to their different learning abilities.

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After exploring the space shuttle, Thumper is waiting for his turn!

The educators also gave me great verbal feedback on the strengths and shortcomings of both J and Little E, which showed me how experienced they were in assessing children and working on supporting their weaknesses. I would also have appreciated some written feedback on the kids that I could peruse and mull over at my own leisure!

Thumper was really excited to see all the things that his brother and sister made during the camp (especially the really cool jetpacks), and I can tell that he is waiting for his turn to attend Astronaut Training Camp with The Little Executive one day.

I think the greatest reward for me was to see how the course affected J and Little E. I’ve been observing the two of them since school reopened and I have noticed two things:

  1. J’s handwriting has improved dramatically as he has become more conscientious in class, taking more pride in his work.
  2. Little E has started revising her Chinese language readers on a daily basis, asking her brother for help with words that she doesn’t know.

Needless to say, I am more than pleased!

For more information about The Little Executive click here.

Trial classes for The Little Executive’s regular programme are held every Saturday (SGD$48 for a 1.5 hour parent-accompanied class). For more information on trial classes click here.

The Little Executive has got two very exciting camps lined up for the 2017 March school holidays:

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A Special for Owls Well Readers: Congratulations for getting to the end of the post! The Little Executive has kindly offered a very generous discount code just for Owls Well Readers! If you would like to sign your kids up for any of classes at The Little Executive, just quote  OWLSWELLBLOG15 for 15% off the total fee!