When I do crafts, I always make sure they’re evil crafts. Especially when I’m doing crafts with kids. The one thing I hate about having kids is that no matter where they go – school, church, the local Y, a community fair – there’s always a table set up with “crafts for kids!” Those crafts are always crap. Coloring sheets, cotton balls stuck to popsicle sticks with cheap glue sticks, and those glob-awful craft bits of “craft” foam stuck to paper plates colored with washable markers to make what I think is supposed to be some sort of puppet but ends up being a snack for my cats that eventually gets thrown up all over my carpet.
So yeah, I hate lousy kid crafts.
As I am a Girl Scout troop leader, and as such, I am expected to be an expert in crafts and to share said expertise with the girls. So when we have troop meetings, I always try to come up with something good. Or rather, something EVIL.
One thing Girl Scouts do is make SWAPS. SWAPS stands for Some Whatchmacallit Affectionately Pinned Somewhere. At least I think that’s what it stands for. Girl Scouts make and trade these things and I’ve seen girls with vests and sashes and hats and shirts just covered with little pinned-on doodads. Some are fantastic! Some are… eh. I decided this year my girls were going to make the “fantastic” kinds of swaps.
So far this year, we’ve made a flash-light swap that actually lights up (and you can replace the battery and bulb when needed!). We experimented with lenticular portraits, but it’s really hard to make those small enough to be wearable, if you do them the old-fashioned way. This past troop meeting, I decided we’d do one for the winter holidays.
For the winter holidays, I wanted a way to make little snowflakes that the girls could pin on their vests. I wanted the snowflakes to be durable, so paper was out. I also needed to be able to teach the girls how to make the snowflakes quickly, and the process had to be fairly simple to follow. After browsing through the craft shop for a while, I stumbled across the Perler Beads display, and a little light bulb went on over my head. I was able to get a big bucket of beads for a low price, along with the plastic peg boards, and I went straight home to research snowflake patterns.
What I discovered, however, was a new crafting addiction!
You see, when I went online to look for Perler bead patterns, what I discovered was that Perler beads are a great way to recreate 8-bit graphics. As a digital artist of a certain age (I’m 45), I cut my teeth on 8-bit graphics, and seeing all those Perler bead patterns made me giddy like you wouldn’t believe.
But then I saw the patterns for 8-bit versions of my current favorite cartoon characters (Adventure Time, Regular Show, Gumball) and suddenly I was ecstatic.
And when I saw the Perler bead patterns for 8-bit kawaii cookies and donuts? You could have heard my screams of glee in the next state.
Here is a quick sample of what I made.
As you can see, I made a snowflake, an 8-bit shrimp sushi, and a kawaii cookie. Those 3 snowflakes on the bottom are a little experiment. I popped a couple handfuls of the beads in a silicon cookie tray and baked them in the oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit. I had to flip the snowflakes over in the tray a couple times to get the melted beads to even out, but I liked the results.
My iron doesn’t heat evenly, so I’m going to replace it before I do any more Perler beads. But in the meantime, I’m already planning an evening of making Minecraft Perler bead ornaments with the kids and some of their friends. Oh, and the Girl Scouts LOVED working with the Perler beads. Some of them made the cookie I made below, some of them made snowflakes, and some of them made a blocky version of Olaf from “Frozen.” But they all LOVED working with the beads.
I have a few other evil craft projects in the work at the moment. I will share them with you as soon as I can get some good photos of the work in progress 🙂