Homespun Checkers

The kids are getting older around here, which means the game playing is getting a little easier (fewer tears). I’ve had so much fun playing the classics with them lately. The other day, when felting my millionth rock, and wondering what to do with all all these felted rocks I’m accumulating (never mind that some would wonder what to do with even one felted rock)?? I had the idea come to me to make a checker set for the kids and I and, of course, the treehouse.
First I pulled out all the floral-y, colorful fabric I have in my stash, but then quickly thought better of it. Something like that could get cutesy looking very quickly around here, sometimes I just need to remind myself that we truly are “barely floral” people- if that makes sense- little bits are all we need (plus Ian would not be caught dead playing with a flowery set of checkers). So I went totally neutral, using what I had on hand (and I have to thank you, goodwill, for that fabulous stash of woolen remnants I found a few weeks ago).
To make it, I cut 2 pieces of the dark gray wool 12 1/2″ x 12 1/2″, cut a piece of medium weight interfacing the same size. I cut the light gray wool into 1 3/4″ square (keeping in mind the size of the rocks, which were already made) then hand sewed them to one of the dark gray pieces using cream cotton thread (2 strands) with just a running stitch around the edge, which truly is not straight at all (that’s the homespun part). I pulled some threads around the edges to fray them slightly. I see a couple of squares I will probably redo because they look really wonky, which will bother me. Anyway…
Once I finished sewing the squares on, I put the 2 dark gray pieces right sides together, and put the interfacing on the back of the solid piece. Leaving a 4-5″ opening, I sewed around the edge of all 3 layers together, 1/4″ seam allowance. I clipped the corners, then turned inside out and pushed out the corners. To finish, I topstitched all the way around, close to the edge (which closed the opening as well).
I am thinking of making another set as a gift, but I’ll probably attach a ribbon so it can be rolled up into a tube for storage. As for the rocks, I’ll probably make a drawstring bag to put them in, or maybe some sort of pocket on the back to stow them. These rocks are so soft and tactile, fun to hold.
I have discovered that clearing off family room coffee table and leaving a game like this or a puzzle, or our word tiles, mancala etc out and ready has proven to be a great starter for the kids when they are wandering around. This is easy to set up while they are away at school (which is out on Friday), and they always seem excited to see something new set up. Who knows how long it will last?

  • Rachel

    June 8, 2009 at 9:14 pm

    WOW. This is really, really stunning. I love the elegance of the homespun look. Just gorgeous. I’ll be linking.

  • The Antidote

    June 8, 2009 at 10:59 pm

    This is such a lovely idea.
    At the weekend I read a chapter from “By the Shores of Silver Lake” by Laura Ingall to the children where Pa makes the girls a checker board, and a few days (and 150 years) later you are doing the same thing.

  • Susie

    June 9, 2009 at 12:45 am

    I can’t tell you how much I love this!

  • Michele

    June 9, 2009 at 3:53 am

    This is definitely the prettiest checkers set I’ve ever seen! I like the idea of felting rocks too. I’ll have to read back and discover how that project began. 🙂 (I just found your blog via Curiositys, by the way!)

  • Mariah

    June 9, 2009 at 4:09 am

    I love it!
    I also wholeheartedly agree with the leave it out and they will come theory…
    Thanks for the ongoing inspiration 🙂

  • Erin

    June 9, 2009 at 4:39 am

    i’m in awe – this is so fantastic.
    i need to be better about the leaving things out part. just picked up mastermind at fatty’s parents’ house. i think that is going to be the next game we play around here.
    and the tudors – in my queue!

  • Andrea

    June 9, 2009 at 5:29 am

    What a great idea! Love the game.

  • melissa Crowe

    June 9, 2009 at 5:41 am

    How lovely and smart. Smart move, Mom! (Ahem.)

  • blair/wisecraft

    June 9, 2009 at 6:37 am

    Melissa, I just left a comment on your blog and it came through as “Story
    Trading” instead of me…its me.

  • blair/wisecraft

    June 9, 2009 at 6:37 am

    Love Mastermind, thanks for reminding me about that one.

  • Erica

    June 9, 2009 at 6:58 am

    Oh, excellent idea! I made the checkerboard from Weekend Knitting ages ago, but never put it into use because I couldn’t find something I liked for use as checkers. But having taught a class on felted rocks to the girls’ classmates recently, we are overrun with them…and now they will have a home. Thank you!

  • Elizabeth

    June 9, 2009 at 7:13 am

    I really like the way this turned out and that you repurposed thrifted wool. The colors of the rocks look beautiful with the darker wool. Lovely!

  • Ellen

    June 9, 2009 at 7:57 am

    This is wonderful! So much better than those plastic chip pieces and chipboard board. I think I might have to make a set of my own – encourage the kids to play more. This would also be good as a take-with-you type of game.

  • Tracy

    June 9, 2009 at 8:23 am

    wow, this is freaking awesome. Checkers was always one of my favorites. Do they stack well? To king?

  • Toni

    June 9, 2009 at 8:38 am

    What a brilliant idea, Blair! Yes, I would be one of those people wondering what to do with just one felted rock, but I can see now that a whole pile of them is better…checkers!!

  • Heather - Dollar Store Crafts

    June 9, 2009 at 9:07 am

    Wow, it’s so nice. Love the wool with the felted rocks. Awesome. You did a great job! The Tudors is entertaining, too. Have you seen Rome?

  • joanna aka FiberDeviant

    June 9, 2009 at 9:16 am

    oh! i love this! what an utterly charming idea!

  • Ludid

    June 9, 2009 at 9:20 am

    I don’t know anything about felting, but I love this. This is a blog I will certainly visit. Nice!

  • sara

    June 9, 2009 at 10:44 am

    this is an awesome idea! nice execution too 🙂

  • blair/wisecraft

    June 9, 2009 at 11:14 am

    I was thinking about the kings…one idea was to make them a different
    color…or to add a stripe or design on one side of the rock so I could be
    turned over when it becomes a king. But they don’t stack too well, there are
    some flat stones, but not all are flat.

  • Annie

    June 9, 2009 at 1:24 pm

    Yikes! I love this idea so much- it’s really amazing.

  • Kate

    June 9, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    What a lovely idea…it is so cute!! I think my board game loving husband would love one of these!

  • kayla_d

    June 9, 2009 at 5:09 pm

    What a great way to use wool for summer! And I LIKE the couple of (very slightly) wonky squares.

  • this little light

    June 9, 2009 at 7:26 pm

    Family games are the best. What a wonderful way to spend time with your kids. And homemade is an added plus. Love it.

  • Nikki

    June 9, 2009 at 11:50 pm

    fabulous! I’m looking forward to the day my girls can play board games properly without throwing a tantrum or scattering the pieces around the house.

  • rose

    June 10, 2009 at 12:16 am

    Wow, that is cool! Great idea, and so much softer than plastic checkers hehe 🙂
    I also wanted to let you know I made a fabric flower using your tutorial and template, and posted it on my blog. You can see it here:
    Thanks again for that tutorial, it worked out great for me!

  • Deborah Commodore

    June 10, 2009 at 8:59 am

    I love it! I am very fond of your style and enjoy reading your blog. Thank you for sharing, I know it takes time. We love rocks here at our house, oh so much! Can you direct me to directions to create these rocks? Would you recommend it as a project for children 8 years old?
    Debbi in the PNW

  • christina

    June 10, 2009 at 9:50 am

    Lovin’ this! My son whose 5 saw it over my shoulder and insisted i make him one. So here I sit, but I’m having trouble though all the squares the same size? Any ideas. I tried using the first one as a template but its not really working….

  • blair/wisecraft

    June 10, 2009 at 12:36 pm

    Christina, if you have a ruler and a rotary cutter it makes quick, even work
    of the square cutting. As an alternative, mark a barely visible line across
    the width of the fabric, then mark one 1 3/4″ away (or the size of squares
    you will use) parallel to the first line, then cut with scissors. From
    there, you’ll need to mark off 1 3/4″ lines down that strip, then cut and
    you should have consistency in your squares.

  • blair/wisecraft

    June 10, 2009 at 12:40 pm

    Thanks Deborah,
    It is definitely a fun project for kids that age! Once they find their
    rocks, all they need is a sink or bowl full of warm, soapy water, some
    towels for hand drying, and some wool roving (available at knitting and yarn
    stores, some craft stores). Here is a tutorial on making a rock completely
    out of felt, the difference would be you’d be using a real rock inside all
    that roving-

  • Kaylovesvintage

    June 11, 2009 at 5:11 am

    what a great idea

  • frog

    June 11, 2009 at 6:39 pm

    Very cool! Also, I’m reminded that Knitty has a pattern for a felted mancala set. Easily found in the pattern archive, I’m sure.

  • Sjo

    June 12, 2009 at 5:24 am

    What a brilliant idea

  • shannon

    June 12, 2009 at 7:20 am

    i so dig this project! my son loves to play games and puzzles so much. This is going to the to-do list right away!
    thanks for the inspiration!

  • tali buchler

    June 13, 2009 at 1:58 am

    this is a great idea, also easy to carry with you.
    i wonder how would you translate it into a chess set….what would the pieces look like?

  • Sherrie

    June 13, 2009 at 11:33 pm

    i love this but how do you felt rocks?

  • Monkey Lobster

    June 15, 2009 at 4:12 am

    this is really wonderful. how about some chess pieces too?????

  • Tracy

    June 15, 2009 at 1:17 pm

    that’s a good idea!

  • Sean Low

    June 16, 2009 at 5:00 am

    ohhhh! this is so wonderful. the color palette is perfect. you’ll never get sick of it (and you could make some MORE felted rocks in other colors if you needed a change.)
    i’m wondering, just on a sheer mothering level, if you could tell me when your kids started being able to play checkers? what age, that is.
    it doesn’t matter because i’m totally making this, but i’d love to know when you think they might be able to break it in with me.

  • Sean Low

    June 16, 2009 at 5:03 am

    oops, that was me (not my husband, sean) never know how to sign him out properly.
    xoxo, cate (apologies in advance for having to post the link:

  • blair/wisecraft

    June 16, 2009 at 6:33 am

    Thanks Sean! Ian is almost 8, Emma is 10. This is the first year that we have played games that didn't result in tears for Ian. Its different for every kid, and Emma was able to play competitive games earlier, but that's how it worked for Ian. And you should definitely make it, cause they will play checkers forever! We've already played at least a dozen games.

  • MIsty

    June 16, 2009 at 9:12 pm

    Okay I am new and have browsed your site from one to the next but I must be missingthe link. How do you make felt rocks? I just looked online and someone is sellingthem for $240! I love the hot rocks idea, and the checkerboard is beutiful. I’ll be watching your site now. Thanks!

  • Kami

    June 21, 2009 at 7:43 pm

    I love this so much… am off to make one for my son for his birthday, right now!

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