Whether you hate to teach art, love to teach art or you’re somewhere in between, you’ve probably been in a position where you are obligated to provide art work for a Christmas concert or winter concert or other winter event.
While December can be a very busy time, we do love the holidays. Our students are a mix of backgrounds, but the majority celebrate Christmas. In our classroom and school we celebrate every holiday. We’re so inclusive, we literally celebrate every holiday. All students are welcome to participate as much as they like (or not at all). And while we call it a Christmas concert, it’s not always Christmas themed.
While it can be very busy around the holidays, we like to allow our students to create pieces of art that can become family keepsakes. Sometimes these items are ornaments, but other times they are paintings or wall hangings.
We wanted to share one of our favourites. This is one that students can work on for several days and they don’t all need to be at the same stage at the same time. We show students the finished product (you can use our pictures) and teach them a few steps and then they do the rest.
Warning: This requires some simple sewing. If your students are Grade 3 or more they should be able to do this sewing on their own with a little instruction. Let your students do the sewing-it’s part of the fun-even if it looks horrible.
If you’re avoiding activities because of the perceived mess or you think it’s just too much work, remember these are the times your students will remember for years to come. You need to read this post: Are You Avoiding Teaching Art?
We have a complete lesson plan for this lesson available for you for free. It includes step by step instructions, tips for making this project with a whole class and patterns for your students. Make like easier for yourself and just download the lesson! It includes helpful diagrams.
- felt (each stocking uses two pieces about 12 cm by 7 cm) in red and green (though other colours do not matter)
- sewing needles
- thread that matches your felt
- paper scissors
- fabric scissors (optional but makes cutting the felt MUCH easier)
- hot glue and glue gun
- pom poms (big and small in natural colours like white, black, grey, brown)
- googly eyes,
- straight pins
- tissues (clean ones)
- cotton balls, buttons
- random little Christmas decorations like bells, beads or snowflakes, ribbon (optional)
- keep all your felt scraps for the decorating
Background Information for the teacher: This project requires students to sew.
We had our students cut out their own patterns, but we folded the felt and cut it into student-sized pieces before starting. Doing this prep in advance made the project start much quicker. We had our parent volunteers prep this for us.
Show students the examples of this project included. Tell them they
are going to create their own ornaments.
This project takes place in three stages: pattern, sewing and decorating. All of these are outlined next, but there are suggestions on how to do this activity with a whole class when students work at different stages. Remember you can download this lesson for free. It’s in our Resource Library.
The Sewing Pattern
Show students how to prepare the sewing pattern by cutting it out. Take a piece of felt and fold it in half. Place the cut out pattern on the felt and pin it into place so that it will not slip. Cut out the pattern. Students should not be cutting the paper when they cut the felt. Fabric scissors work really well for this, but they should not cut paper (it ruins them). The reason the fabric is folded is because then there will be two pieces cut at the same time.
Once the pattern is cut out, unpin the pattern from the fabric. Put the two pieces of fabric back together. Fold down the front piece and pin it.
Ninja Note: We did this project in stages. We will outline this more clearly a little later. Each of these steps is described right now so you know how to teach each stage. It is impossible for all your students to be at the same stage throughout this project as that would mean lots of materials (class set of everything).
Students will sew the two pieces together. We teach students to gather a length of thread about 60cm long (two ruler lengths). Thread the needle. We teach students to cut the thread with sharp scissors instead of biting or tearing it. This makes it easier to thread.
Once the needle is threaded, pull the thread tail so that it matches the length. Tie a knot opposite the needle at the end of the thread where it meets.
You may need to help get students started, but generally they will need to sew from one side of the stocking to the other side. It does not matter which direction they sew. The first few stitches need to be snug and double back (this is called a backstitch when you stitch over the same area again) so that it’s secure. We found this was easy for some students, but the ones with fine motor challenges needed a bit of help.
Ninja Note: We made it very clear that these ornaments were going to be gifts for their families and that no matter how it looked in the end, their family would love it because they made it. This helped with perfectionists.
Sewing Continued: If your student runs out of thread before they get to the end of their sewing, the will need to cut their thread, get more thread, rethread the needle and the start a few stitches back from where they ran out. Backstitch a bit to make sure it stays closed.
When a student gets the end of the place where they are sewing to, they need to backstitch a bit. Tie a knot and cut off the extra thread.
Each stocking will need a candy cane made from pipecleaners. This is the hook that will hang the ornament from a tree (or wherever the recipient chooses to hang it). Use hot glue to attach it so that it’s inside the stocking and then sticking out a bit. Stockings need to be stuffed with tissue so they’re puffy. We found that tearing up the tissue made it less lumpy. One big napkin or two standard tissues seemed to be enough.
Students can create a creature with a pom pom head, googly eyes and a little pom pom for a nose. A couple students used black thread scraps to make whiskers. All of these pieces were hot glued together. We let students do the gluing with some supervision. Students made ears and noses out of felt scraps. These were also glued on. Once the creature is assembled. It can be glued into the stocking at the top of stocking where the opening is.
If your pom poms are small, try making two creatures.
Our students glued a piece of white felt across the top of stocking, but it you have cotton balls, this can work, too. Some of our students added a few other little details like buttons or beads to their stockings.
This is their chance to be creative, so let them personalize their ornament. Some of our students made little hats, whiskers or bows, They were super adorable!
Ninja Note: If you don’t have time for the whole “stocking” aspect, buy a bunch of baby socks from the dollar store.
Ninja Note: If you don’t have parent volunteers you can still do the stages by completing one stage each day. This way you can help supervise and help. Don’t forget to recruit your own students to help each other.
How to Run This in Stages:
- Demonstrate the pattern and sewing for all your students.
- Set up a pattern station with a parent helper. Students can cut out their patterns by taking turns. Everyone not working on their stockings can be reading quietly.
- Once a pattern is cut out, a student can start sewing. You can have a parent volunteer help you thread needles and get students started. The sewing takes quite a while.
- Students who finish sewing can decorate their stockings. You may want to limit the amount of items students can use so that students who finish later don’t have to use the scraps. We did this by allowing students to choose 10 items total (2 eyes, 2 pompoms, 2 pipecleaners, 4 special items). We set up a gluing station with three glue guns. Students don’t take too long.
- Students that finish return to reading.
Ninja Note: If your parent volunteers are extra helpful, they could make the stockings using a serger. Your students can stuff and decorate them. This is a good option for students who are too young for the cutting and sewing. We made stockings for our buddy class (Grade 1). It took about 35 minutes to pin and cut out 25 stockings. It took about 8 minutes to sew them all.
Sewing Tip from Fifth Grader: If your thread keeps getting tangled and knotted, hold your stocking up and let the needle and thread dangle. It will twist when you sew, so this will let the twist out.
When your ornaments are all finished wrap them up as a special gift from your students to their families. It makes a great keepsake.
We have created lots of other interesting crafts with our students over the years. We’ve collected them into a series posts you can check out.
- Fingerprint Art: Use little fingerprints to make all kinds of wonderful Christmas themed creations like cards or ornaments.
- Recycled Paper Ornaments: Use leftover paper from newspapers, fliers or magazines to created folded paper ornaments.
- Christmas Word & Logic Activities: These logic puzzles will keep your students busy between craziness of the holiday season.
- Recycled Cork Ornaments: Put all those wine corks you have laying around your house to good use and make some new ornaments.
- Recycled Can Characters: Collect metal or cardboard cans with plastic lids (like the one’s hot chocolate or coffee comes in) and turn them into adorable holiday characters.
- Wooden Christmas Ornaments: Use wooden pieces to create adorable characters that you can hang on the tree.
- Recycled Materials: Christmas Wreaths: Create interesting wreaths by using recycled fabric.
- Simple Christmas Tree Art Projects We Love: These simple to make and create art projects are perfect for the teacher with limited art skills or time.
- Design a Gingerbread House: Combine math and art in this fun activity that makes a mess and a wonderful creation!
- Elfbook: A Digital Creative Writing Activity: This activity uses Google Slides and lets your students create a social media profile page as if they were an elf.
What other projects would like to see? We’re always looking for more! Leave us a comment if there’s something you would like us to add.