Friday, January 9, 2009

Sock Snowmen

Sock snowmen are a recurring theme in my life. When my son was in 2nd grade, I was his room parent, and I had the whole class make snowmen out of socks for their winter party craft. Last year when my daughter was in second grade, I was her room parent, and yes, I had the whole class make snowmen out of socks at their winter party. It's a great project for an elementary classroom because it is easy and no-sew.

This year I opted to sit out the room parent gig, one reason being that I was out of ideas for easy classroom crafts. I felt so free, so unstressed, so happy that the party planning worries weren't mine, especially as the holiday season neared with its mile-long to-do list.

So how did I find myself this year once again in the classroom with a basket full of socks, stuffing, buttons, and ribbons? Well, at the Thanksgiving potluck, our room parent told me she was completely tapped out for craft ideas for the upcoming winter party. Did I have any ideas? Ummmm...not new ones! After much deliberation, where I envisioned myself spending too much time paging through craft magazines and clicking online in the hunt for a good craft, I decided to take the well-traveled path and haul out the socks once again. Even though half of the students were in my daughter's class last year, I figured they could bring home one more sock snowman, hopefully to their parents' delight.

The party was supposed to be three weeks ago, on the last day before winter break, but we had a snow day that day, so my basket of snowman supplies had to wait until yesterday. Some of those kids just about kill me. I show them a perfectly darling sample snowman, but a handful of the children have their own ideas of what the end result should be. "Can I wrap the ribbon around his head, like, a whole bunch of times?" "Can I make mine into a duck?" "Can I make mine evil?" "Can I use the nose as a sword instead?" Eeeek. Of course I want them to have creative freedom and individualize their snowman, but I always hope that that happens with their choice of ribbon and buttons, and where they put the nose in relation to the eyes. That kind of thing. I always have to take a deep breath when some of the kids choose to do something completely crazy with their snowman. I wonder what their mothers think when they see a sock filled with stuffing, strangled with a ribbon and scribbled all over, not looking like a snowman at all. Do they treasure it as a keepsake? Or do they throw it in the trash when no one is looking, wondering what kind of crazy craft project this was supposed to be?

I probably don't want to know the answer to that.

Here is what you need to make a sock snowman.
A white sock with a ribbed cuff (any size will do. I prefer toddler size.)
1/3 cup of dry rice (or dry beans or poly pellets)
polyfil
yarn or string
ribbon
buttons
tacky glue
black Sharpie (or any black fine point permanent marker)
orange pipe cleaners (cut the pipe cleaner into the desired nose length PLUS 1/3 of that length more. use tweezers to pluck the fuzzy stuff off the wire on that extra length. This gives you a nice clean wire to poke into the sock, and you won't need glue to secure it)
scissors

To begin, pour the rice into the toe of the sock. The rice gives it a nice weight and lets the snowman stand alone. Next, stuff the sock fairly firmly with polyfil, up to the bottom of the cuff. Using yarn or string, firmly tie the sock closed at the bottom of the cuff. Trim the ends of the yarn. (see below)




Fold the cuff down over the yarn to form a hat. You may want to tug it down a bit over the stuffed portion of the sock.



Tie a length of ribbon around the sock, about a 1/3 of the way down from the folded cuff. Tie it in a knot, like a scarf. This forms the head and body of the snowman. Be careful not to cinch it too tightly. (Over-cinching is always a big problem when the kids are making these.)


I'm short on photos for the next steps, but it's all obvious in the photo of the final product. Determine what part of the sock makes a good front. Poke the orange pipe cleaner in the middle of the face to make the carrot nose. Dot on eyes and a mouth with the Sharpie. (I've also seen the eyes and mouth made with beads or sequins, but for classroom crafts, I need to keep it simple. The less messing with glue, the better!) Choose two or three buttons and glue them on the body of the snowman. If you like, you can tie yarn into a bow around the hat.






Now you have your own sock snowman to sit on your shelf. Maybe you will want to make a whole family!
I also think this would be cute to give in kit-form to friends. Just put all the supplies into a decorated box, along with instructions on how to make the snowman.
Oh, and the kids yesterday were also killing me with the cookie decorating. I baked four dozen gingerbread men so each child would have two cookies to decorate. What did the vast majority of them do? Pile frosting an inch thick on one cookie, then smoosh the second cookie on top to make a sandwich. Needless to say, the cookie decorating center didn't take up nearly as much time as we thought it might! But they all had fun, which was the whole point. Real life rarely looks like a magazine spread!