Whether you have a big beach or lake trip planned or the family is doing a “staycation” for spring break, there’s always a rainy day or idle evening to do a project that everyone can enjoy. Turn the kids into fashion designers by showing them a few tricks for customizing items they already have. Chances are, they will go looking for these pieces again later because they helped design and make them.If you organize this project before you depart for your destination, the clothing can turn into “vacation uniforms” for children moving about the country, as well as conversation pieces while globe-trotting. Instant gratification: iron-onsWhat kid doesn’t like something sparkly? You can get yours involved in putting bling on clothing they already own but have grown tired of wearing.Craft stores offer an assortment of rhinestone or crystal iron-ons for T-shirts, pants, shorts or cotton travel tote bags. Blingy iron-ons come in a wide range of styles, both in stores and online. Group your iron-ons into themes. I put a cool rhinestone dove image on a pair of cargo shorts, but added custom studding and pronged gems to give the design more depth. A BeDazzler can be a big help for projects like this. Pronged gems and silver studs could easily be pressed into the front and side of the shorts. The BeDazzler is pure fun and very addictive for most ages, but it should be kept out of reach of small children and requires parental supervision. The studs can be choking hazards, plus you’ll need to be on hand to troubleshoot when the studs get jammed or the prongs don’t close properly. There’s also a Mini BeDazzler, a smaller version of the original tool that retails for about $15 and works great if you have a crew of kids wanting to BeDazzle their garments at the same time. There are also glue-on rhinestones for fabric, which are fun to apply but may not last as long as a stud with prongs. Still, these options offer a tactile activity for younger kids. Carefully read the directions on all iron-on products and stay close while kids are using the iron. As a safety precaution, you might even assign yourself all ironing duties. The directions vary by product, and using too hot of an iron or ironing a garment’s design for too long could result in utter disappointment and quite possibly tears. So take it slowly and do exactly what the package says to make this a success. Caution: You may find that kids who learn to BeDazzle or iron on unique rhinestone patterns will want to embellish other garments, including your kitchen apron or work clothes. Put the BeDazzler on a high shelf after this project or explain to your bedazzlers that if everything in the world were rhinestone-studded, the pieces they made wouldn’t be so special. Appliques, with a twist These have been around for a long time but still can be quite fun, especially if you pair the iron-on applique with simple fabric paint. Newer iron-on appliques have more sticking power than the older ones, which often had to be stitched on in addition. Buy some appliques at a fabric or craft store along with small bottles of fabric paint. Look for nonpuffy paint with a fine point on the applicator. These limit the flow of paint so it works more like a pen. Appliques enhanced with paint can work well on shorts, pants, skirts, and cotton canvas tote and travel bags. I used a chickadee-on-branches theme and green and brown fabric paint to make very simple tree limbs and leaves around a bird applique for a great springtime look. Kids might enjoy putting military patches found at a thrift or surplus store on camouflage-colored or khaki shorts and cargo pants. Use coordinating fabric paint to draw simple frames or even Army men around or near the patches. Encourage them to sign their fashion projects and further personalize the work. (See the online sources given for the chickadee and many other applique themes, including detailed wildlife, turtles, frogs, sport symbols and even sock-hoppers.)Button upCollect vintage or extra sewing buttons for kids to sew or glue onto pockets of skirts, shorts and pants. Taking the time to decide where to put which button teaches them about design and placement. Older children can use safety pins on the inside part of a pocket on pants, a skirt or shorts to pin metal buttons. This can be a temporary way to enjoy the button look without changing the garment permanently. Younger kids can use fabric glue to attach small, flat buttons to garments.Military surplus stores sometimes carry old buttons. If your family is headed to the Texas coast, Galveston Island has a longtime Army-Navy surplus shop called Col. Bubbie’s on the historic Strand. A visit to this shop is a fun experience in itself. There are old canteens, vintage uniforms, hats and unique vintage badges galore, plus oodles of patriotic patches and uniform badges. Near the register is a huge jar of buttons that have fallen off of uniforms. Bag up a handful and your family will have a stellar time embellishing clothing, shoes, tote bags, belts and more. Whether you are staying local or traveling, any military surplus store is a good source for these types of projects. At Omaha’s Surplus in Fort Worth, which also carries buttons, your family will get a history lesson with the store visit and the special buttons will create a spring break souvenir.
Spring break week!
March 6: Local activities for the family
Friday: A tour of the new “Indiana Jones” museum exhibit
Saturday: Zip-line adventures in East Texas
Monday: Great reads to pack in your carry-on
Tuesday: Digital apps for help with college prep
Thursday: Projects for craft-minded kids
Where to shop
Omaha’s Surplus, 2413 White Settlement Road, Fort Worth, 817-332-1493; www.omahas.com
Col. Bubbie’s Strand Surplus Senter, 2202 Strand, Galveston, 800-231-6005; www.colbubbie.com
Try Amazon.com, Wal-Mart or Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft stores for the BeDazzler products, as well as extra rhinestones and studs.