Monday, February 27, 2012

Truffula Tree Pencils

This week my son’s preschool is celebrating Dr. Suess’ Birthday.  My husband and I are big fans of Dr. Suess so I pulled a bunch of our books off the shelf and read them to our boys.  Many of these tales are familiar to them.  The Lorax, while a favorite of my husband, was not one that we had read to the boys much… yet.  Our oldest really liked it.  In fact, we’ve read it at least twice every day since it came down off the shelf last week!   A friend of mine made truffula tree pencils for her students and I immediately asked how she made them.  Some of hers were made with wool roving which I happened to have on hand from when my son and I made felted bead earrings for teachers at his school around Christmas time.  I was a little leery of gluing loose pieces of roving onto a pencil that I was handing to my preschooler so I took a few minutes to do a little wet felting of the wool first.  It’s relatively quick and easy, two requirements for doing crafts with preschoolers!  I was pleased with the outcome and my son loves tickling his cheek with the soft truffula tuft.  Hopefully when my son practices writing with his Truffula Tree Pencil he will be reminded of the tale of the Lorax and conserve paper!
Wool roving dyed in bright colors
Old Towel
Bubble wrap
Spray bottle with warm soapy water (a little soap goes a long way)
Waxed paper
Rolling pin
Glue or a hot glue gun
Yellow #2 Pencils
Black Fine Point Permanent Marker

Directions:1. Spread an old towel on your work surface. Place the bubble wrap with the bubbles facing up on top of the towel.  Separate the fibers of wool roving and fluff them.  If you are not familiar with working with wool roving, grab the piece of wool with your hands a few inches apart.  If you pull and the fibers don’t easily pull apart, your hands are too close together.  Lay the wool fibers directly on the bubble wrap. Layer the fibers until you have a nice thick layer that is about 6 inches long on the side where the ends of the fibers are lined up.  You can put a few fibers along the edge running them perpendicular to the other fibers to make your felted portion stronger.
2. Place a piece of waxed paper over the fibers leaving only the ends exposed (an inch or less).
3. Spray the exposed fibers until they are just damp.  Gently fold the bubble wrap over the wool fibers and wax paper.  Roll over the ends of the fibers with the rolling pin for about 30 seconds, rolling in different directions.  The bubbles in the bubble wrap act as little fingers massaging the wool fibers.  The warm water and friction from the bubble wrap make microscopic barbs on the wool fibers link together and tangle to create felt.
4. Peel back the bubble wrap the fibers should not look fluffy anymore.  
5. Fold the hairy ends over onto the rest of the wool and pat them, spraying if necessary so they stick.  Put the bubble wrap back over the fibers and roll the same as before for 30 seconds.  Peel back the bubble wrap.  Remove the wax paper flip the wool fibers over.  Cover the dry section with the waxed paper.  Spray the felted edge if needed, place the bubble wrap over the fibers and roll with rolling pin for 30 seconds. 
6. Allow the wool to dry (overnight) or use a hair dryer to speed this step along.  Separate the fibers into sections and twist them (similar to twirling your hair).
7. Glue the pencil to the wet felted edge of the wool.  I chose to glue these for my son using a hot glue gun (after he was tucked into bed for the night).  Roll the pencil along that edge adding more glue as necessary.  If using white craft glue I probably would clip a clothes pin while it dried to keep it tightly in place.
8.  Allow to cool or dry.
9.  Sculpt your truffula tuft by spinning the pencil between your fingers and swirling the ends to achieve a shape and texture like the illustrations in Dr. Suess’ book. 
10. Using the permanent marker, sketch zig zag stripes around the pencil to simulate the bark in the drawings and allow the marker to dry.

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