Monday, July 08, 2013

5 Family Crafts That Travel Well - My Favorite All-Ages Crafts for Traveling

My family is headed off on a big vacation this week. It's a mountain trip, this time, to a bare-bones cabin. We have to bring just about everything we want for the week, and we tend to travel like Victorians anyway. This means we have to take sheets and towels, but our trusty minivan will also be loaded with rugs, hanging lanterns, speakers for the ipod and that big skillet I use to make paella.

Oh, and the craft stuff. We can't go anywhere without taking some making activities. What makes a good travel craft? For me, it needs to be portable and packable, easy to clean up and, most important-sharable. We're taking this trip with a big group of friends and any craft that gets started on the picnic table can attract a crowd, fast.

Wait, I have one last criteria for a good travel craft; it can't be trashy. It needs to be lovely. I want to make something (or help my friends make something) that I want to keep. I'm not a fan of time-killer crafts; the junky things made from foam stickers and paper plates and google eyes that keep your hands busy but really need to be popped in the recycling bin immediately when you get home. I try to find crafts that are engaging, interesting and look beautiful when they are finished.

This is my list of Great Travel Crafts:

1.Needle felting
Needle felting is a fabulous travel craft. You can embellish items that you are wearing or plan to wear, you can make toys, you can make felted book marks. Needle felting is appropriate for anyone old enough to hold the needle. Yes, I just wrote that. My children both needle felted at age 3 and no one lost a finger. They made dearly-loved balls of wool with eyes and ears and tails. I think they were supposed to be hamsters. Or kittens. Imagine a very young child's drawing, but three-dimensional. Children can also make snakes (long, ropey things) with ease. The wool is inexpensive, the tools are reusable and the clean-up is absolutely minimal. If you want to read an amazing needle felting blog, check out Puffy Little Things from New Zealand. Her work and tutorials are super incredible.
What you need:

  1. Wool Roving (get an assortment like this)
  2. Felting Needles (I like this tool to hold the needles, it is safer)
  3. Extras-yarn scraps, needles for stitching the yarn, buttons for eyes (you can also felt the eyes!)

2.Kumihimo or macrame knotting projects
Friendship bracelets and stacking bracelets are such a trend now that just about everyone in your group will want to make something colorful and knotty to wear. You can use a kumihimo braiding board or print out and make your own. You can also embrace your inner love-child and create some macrame bracelets. I love the bracelet tutorials on this site for macrame and knotting.

What you'll need:

  1. yarn or cording of some kind (I like this hemp assortment)
  2. kumihimo braiding boards  (I like this assortment of shapes)
  3. scissors! I like these cute ones!
  4. a ruler or yardstick is also helpful

3.Altered books
Creating an altered book while on a trip is a nice way to make the scrapbook in the moment. Especially if you are travelling with school-age children, this can be a good way to insert some quiet time into your day. We've do this on beach trips. We borrowed a small photo printer from a friend and each day the children could cut, paste, paint and stitch their pages describing the activities that happened the day before. I'm one of those people who has boxes of photos and ticket stubs and maps that I want to add to a scrapbook 'someday' - doing the book ON the trip means nothing else has to go into that box! To create an altered book scrapbook on your trip, take along some scissors, glue sticks, rubber stamps, ink pads, markers, an old book and a photo printer. The rest of the embellishments can come from your trip. For inspiration, you can check out this book.

4.Apothecary bottle necklaces
These tiny glass-bottle necklaces are a great travel craft. You can fill them with beach sand, sharks teeth, a feather, a leaf or a tiny rock from the mountains. This craft is EASY PEASY and perfect for the 'I am not crafty' set.
You'll need:
tiny glass bottles (find them here)

Decopatch requires a bit more of a work space, and some drying time, but it's a great rainy-day-on-vacation craft. You can cover a paper-mache animal, or a box, or you can even Decopatch a pair of shoes! This craft is also good for the 'I'm not crafty' crowd as it involves little more than paint brush strokes and really, you can't mess it up!

Don't laugh at this last one. I am trying it this week in the mountains with a group of friends. We'll take some copper discs and decorate them with words or images using Sharpie markers. We'll etch them and then use a punch to turn them into pendants or key-chains. Handmade souvenirs, voila! This meets my criteria for a not trashy craft, and I don't think it will be super hard to clean up.

Do you have a favorite travel craft you think I should try? Leave it below in the comments.