As mentioned in a recent post (Birthday Party Food for Kiddos…), Little Man has finally reached the stage where he can understand that a party is being thrown for him, and he can have a blast celebrating with his friends. He will “remember” the event through the stories he is told and the pictures he sees, but not likely through any true, long term memories. So we wanted to throw him a fun party, but not one that would hurt (or even dent) our bank accounts.
After trolling various internet sites and Pintrest boards, I knew what I didn’t want. I didn’t want something based on television, movie or comic book characters. Little Man has his favorites, but none that are really shared with his friends and we wanted this to be fun for all not just for those “in the know.” Then my list of “do not want” started to grow… No guns or camo, not based on cars or construction since I wanted all his friends (boys and girls alike) to have fun, nothing based on junk food (see the Birthday Party Food for Kiddos post), and the list went on. I started to get nervous that I was being too picky.
Then I started to see a number of posts and websites focusing on animal-themed birthday parties. Within the broader animal theme some parties focused on woodland animals, barnyard animals, wild animals or zoos. We decided to keep the party focused on favorite animals, so that I could personalize the party to Little Man’s guests, as well as to him. This would not have been possible if the party had been a large one, but our goal was to keep the number of kids close to 4… then we couldn’t resist expanding for a few more good friends and ended up with a total of 6 buddies for Little Man at his party.
The decorations were from a dollar store, the food was all home made, but the special part about Little Man’s party were the animal masks.
These masks were very simple to make and the cost is quite low; just the felt and embroidery floss needed. I don’t have a working sewing machine, so everything was done by hand. If you have a sewing machine this can go much faster, but just like making bread you don’t need the fancy machine to make these.
I don’t have any patterns to upload since I basically free-handed the shapes, but I can share the pictures with you and let you know what I did. Then if you want to try your hand on the masks, just keep the ideas that you like, and improvise where you think I went astray… and I’m sure there are many places where that happened. 🙂
In the evite we sent out for Little Man’s party, I asked that in the response parents specify a favorite animal for their child. Then I did a Google image search for children’s masks of that animal and basically picked and chose my favorite ideas and features from multiple images to create the look that I wanted. The basic shape of each mask is the same,with the more or less bean-shaped profile that covers the child’s forehead and stops just above the nose. Then it’s just a matter of tweaking small features to make one animal unique from another. For example the cat and dog masks are actually quite similar in shape, but the cat has a little “fluff” accent to the sides and the dog’s ears droop. It is amazing how these slight adjustments can make very different animals apparent in your masks.
The body of each mask is comprised of two complementary colors of felt, one cut slightly larger than the other. The background color then peeks out around the edges of the mask, adding a little more color fun. The stitching around the eyes was done with a blanket stitch, and then the edges were done with a simple running stitch, as were the various felt embellishments. There are a number of great websites out there with instructions for how to do these different stitches.
For each mask I started by stitching the felt embellishments, like the insides of the ears or the noses, to the front piece of mask felt. For instance with the Green Lizard mask, I first stitched the light green ovals where the eyes would be, as well as the rectangular shapes down the nose, to the dark green front piece of the mask. Once those were in place, I pinned the two pieces of the mask together and then cut the eye holes through both pieces of felt. In the first two masks I made the mistake of trying to “eye ball” the eye openings. I eventually came up with the idea (slow to the uptake) of cutting an eye hole stencil out of stiff paper, then using that to cut out the holes for the remaining masks.
Once the eye holes were cut, I then blanket stitched to fix the front and back pieces together. Then I used a running stitch around the outer edges of the front and back pieces to fix them together, and the masks were complete.
The last thing I did was to stitch either elastic or ribbons to the back side of the masks to allow them to be worn. My planning was off here, and I did not have enough elastic for all of the masks. For those masks without elastic, I took lengths of red ribbon and attached them to the back of the mask so that it could be tied on. For the most part the two ribbons worked well, but there was the added issue long hair getting stuck in the tied ribbons. Sorry girls!
The party started with letting the kids play and the parents chat. Then we ate. Once the little bodies were full of Mac n Cheese, we were ready for the dance party. Before the dancing started, Little Man gave each of his friends the animal mask that had been made especially for him or her. Then they all donned their masks and danced away with DJ Daddy to a few of Little Man’s favorite Imagination Movers songs.
All in all the masks were a great hit, and I have to say I’ve felt a little bereft since the masks have been completed and my hands have been idle for the last couple of evenings. But now that I’ve had a bit of a break from the masks, there are a couple of other projects that I need to finish up so that I can share them here too. Who knew that felt could be so cool, or that I’d love being crafty?