Family Connection Letter Writing Center
By Bernadette Noll and Kathie Sever
Future Craft Collective
In addition to being all about sustainable crafting, Future Craft Collective is also about building sustainable connection. When we spend our days with small children, so much of life has to be focused on the here and now that we sometimes forget we’re actually building long-term relationships. We forget, or just don’t even think about, the fact that our children will one day be grownups with whom we will have lifelong, grownup relationships. And we will have those grownup relationships for a whole lot longer than we have small children in the house!
As our own children grow and mature, we realize how crucial it is to think ahead and to think outside of what we are doing at the moment. We have to shake ourselves into thinking of the relationship we are building, not just the snacks we are getting, the mess we are cleaning, or the bedtime we are facilitating. But how do you teach the idea of long-term connection to your children? Like so many other things we want to teach, we model it now, build activities around the modeling, and hope the messages will stick.
One of the tools we’re big fans of for building lifelong connection is maintaining ties via the written word. Letters and postcards sent to family and friends far and wide make us feel attached for now and for the long haul. And who doesn’t love to get a handwritten letter in the mailbox, amidst all of the bills and bulk mail?
We try to encourage this love of letter writing in our own children. We use old drawings for stationary. We make postcards out of cereal and pasta boxes. We even save the many surplus reply envelopes that come in the mail with other mailings. We found, however, that to save them was one thing and to have them all accessible and in a sort of clearinghouse was quite another indeed. Our letter-writing center led to the creation of more stationary and the writing and sending of more letters, thereby creating more connections with all the people we love.
And so, because of our love and our need, we created the Family Connection Letter Writing Center. Hooray for the art of letter writing and postcard sending. Hooray for finding ways to use the many cereal boxes and old file folders that come through our world. And hooray for showing our children that we can maintain connection no matter how far away we may be.
Piece of fabric, 1’×3′, or thereabouts
4 fabric scraps, approximately 7″×7″
2 fabric scraps, approximately 5″×4½”
Large piece of burlap, slightly larger than the 1’×3′ piece
Large piece of random fabric smaller than the burlap, but larger than the other piece (optional)
Paper and envelopes of any variety
Iron-on adhesive backing (optional)
Small scrap of white or light-colored fabric enough to make labels that are 1″×3″ or thereabouts
Rubber stamp letters or permanent marker Test the marker before using to make sure it doesn’t bleed.
Rubber stamps pertaining to letter writing Kathie made ours. You can do that or use what you have.
Fabric paint and cellophane or stamp pad
Straight-ish stick We found ours outside on the ground.
Note: Depending on the ages of your children, they may be able to do the whole project with you or just certain steps, but there are definitely tasks that are suited for a wide age range, so everyone can participate.
Step 1: Cut out your large piece of fabric. Ours is 36″×15″. The size is variable so it would be a good use for a larger-sized scrap.
Step 2: Cut out all your small pieces. Again, the sizing can be approximate, allowing you to use any scraps you might have. We used 6 different fabrics. You can mix it up or make them all the same, depending on your design needs. These will be the pockets.
Step 3: Fold over and iron ½” on each side of the pockets.
Stitch the top fold of each pocket. On the smaller pieces, the top of the pocket is the long side.
Step 4: Iron the adhesive backing onto the small scrap of light-colored fabric. Cut it into labels with each one measuring approximately 1″×3″. If you are opting for sewing on labels instead of ironing them on, simply cut the labels.
Step 5: Mark out on each label: Stamps, Cards, Envelopes, Addresses, Ideas, and Pens using either rubber stamps with fabric paint or markers.
Step 6: Arrange and pin the pockets onto your large fabric piece. Make sure the tops are up. For the Stamp pocket, which is one of the 2 small pockets, pin 2 small pleats into the bottom of the pocket.
Step 7: Sew the pockets into place, being sure to backstitch on both sides at the top.
Step 8: Pull the backing off the iron-on adhesive and iron it onto its appropriate pocket. Remember the Stamps label goes on the pleated pocket and the Pens go in the other smaller pocket.
Step 9: Stamp whatever designs you want onto your cloth. Get crazy or keep it simple — this part is a design choice. We made rubber stamps from sheets of rubber. Also try inner-tubes cut and nailed to a piece of wood. Or use whatever rubber stamps you’ve got.
Step 10: Fold under ¼” on each side of the large piece of fabric and iron them down.
Step 11: Sew the large piece onto another piece of cloth or directly onto the burlap. If you choose to add another piece of cloth, repeat the folding and ironing down of the sides and sew that piece onto the burlap.
Step 12: Fold over the top of the burlap and sew straight across, creating a wide enough loop or hem to put a stick through. And we used just that — a stick off the ground! Run your stick through the loop.
The next steps will involve filling the pockets. In the Ideas pocket, put writing prompts to inspire creative letter writing.
Here are some ideas:
The highlights of my week so far have been…
This week I went to…
The next time we see each other we could…
Something I saw this week that reminded me of you…
I am looking forward to…
We hope you have a good time designing and making your Family Connections Letter Writing Center. Join us next week when we’ll discover some fun ways to utilize discarded items from your recycling bin to make beautiful cards, postcards, and envelopes while wiling away a hot or rainy summer afternoon. The pockets of your Letter Writing Center will then just beckon you to create more and connect more with family and friends.
About the Authors:
Future Craft Collective is brought to you by Kathie Sever and Bernadette Noll. Kathie is an accomplished seamstress, creator of Ramonsterwear Custom Western Wear, artist, and mother of two. Bernadette is a writer, co-founder of Slow Family Living, and mother of four. They have found renewed energy in their collaboration and are continuously amazed by the ideas, inspiration, and a-ha moments that have come from this shared effort.