Crafting in no time

One of my favorite side gigs (even though it doesn’t pay actual cash) is being a Girl Scout leader. This is a job for which it really helps to be prepared. Sometimes the system forces you into it. Say you want to do a field trip: you have to go and tell somebody and get approval and then send out permission slips and such. For those kinds of meetings, I feel like a whole other woman. But sometimes, you really don't have to be all that prepared.

Which is how I found myself drowning in felt earlier today.

The idea for our meeting today was that the girls from my seventh grade troop would show the girls from my third grade troop a craft and also talk a little bit about what the future of scouting holds for the younger girls, who will bridge up to Junior Girl Scouts this year.

I feel like it was either the most brilliant idea of all or the ultimate example of wallowing in ill-preparedness (I know: six of one, half a dozen of the other). Both troops satisfied a bridging requirement. The craft was one I had already done with the older girls when they were in third grade, so I didn't have to think anything up. And I remembered it was so basic, I didn't need to spend more than a few hours on the day of the meeting to get it together.

So here's a great craft for any group of kids (we had about 25 or so girls because we also invited prospective Daisy Girl Scouts to come to this meeting, but I have also used this craft to fill an hour with only about 6 girls). We made Polar Fleece dog toys. The finished toys will be donated to our local animal shelter.

For the dog chew toys:

I bought one yard of polar fleece in each of four colors. I chose them based on the colors of the various girl scout vests, but you could use just one color or any combination.


To make these toys, you need three strips of polar fleece about three inches wide and 18 inches long. You could use longer or wider strips, but I settled on roughly these dimensions. So one yard of fabric is two 18 inch lengths. I folded each yard in half. To figure out the width, I knew (because I looked at the fabric bolt holder before I bought it) that they were all about 50 inches wide. So I figured I could divide thirds into thirds and get nine strips across. That made 18 strips per yard and a total of 72 strips for all four yards, which, when braided, would make 24 dog chew toys. I would have gotten more fleece if I remembered that the prospective Daisy Girl Scouts were coming, to be honest.

I used a method I like to call "the burrito" to figure out my thirds. First I folded the fabric neatly in half. Then I eyeballed about a third of a fold and folded that on top of the middle third lengthwise, like so.

Then, to make sure that I really had a third, I folded the right side over the center as well, like a burrito. Or maybe just a wrap or a lavash. I don't know.

Then, I smoothed the right third back down and, using the left third folded over the center as a guide, I cut the first third off.


Well, actually, I cleaned the duct tape glue off the scissors, and then had the bright idea to use our knife sharpener to get them really ready to cut. This is either genius or something that will entirely ruin our expensive knives in some way.

There aren’t actually any Biscotti in there.

There aren’t actually any Biscotti in there.

Then I cut the first third off.  I made a mark in the bottom and top of the other two thirds, smoothed the fabric out, and made two more thirds. In a similar way, I made each of these thirds into thirds. Finally, I snipped the bottom fold of each very long strip to make two 18 inch strips.

Some people might be cringing at my technique, because it is not exact. And some of my strips were way wider than others, and for some reason the beige fleece made a similar width of strip by dividing the thirds into halves, which did mean there was less beige.

But that's the genius of this project. It doesn't matter!

In the end, my scissors hand started to ache and I began to question the genius of this project, the likelihood that the dogs would eat the fleece and die (it is made of plastic), and the very fabric of my own existence. Then my friend called and said her 4-year-old daughter was in the principal's office because she pantsed two classmates, and I snapped out of it.

So, with all of these strips stacked up, I did the final preparation. I took three strands in different colors and knotted them at the top. Here is one;


They made a nice pile of preparedness, don't you think?



I then made a sample, by braiding them together and knotting the ends, and they looked like this.




I think trimming the ends would also be a nice touch.

So this way, with one material (felt, which I did have go kind of far to get because there are no fabric stores near me. If you were the kind of person to allow time for shipping and handling, you could order it online) and one tool (scissors) you have a craft ready to go. I brought them to the meeting and the girls braided away. Some needed help braiding, but the it was very scouting to see the girls help one another to learn.

 This post originally appeared a few years ago (my third graders are now eighth graders!) at The Ill Prepared Housewife.