Celebrating Spring: Paper Bag Butterflies

This project was inspired by the Artful Parent recycled paper bag heart project. Instead of hearts we adapted the projects to fit our spring theme. Our project became butterflies with a recycled twist!
Since flowers and butterflies are such a large part of our spring season in Santa Cruz, CA, I began the class by reading the book, Waiting for Wings by Lois Ehlert. This is such a gem because the pictures are bold and colorful, the story simple and educational, AND the book is a piece of art itself. Below you might think that I forgot to rotate the front cover image of the book but it is in fact printed this way. When you open the book the inside pages are all different, some small and square, some tall and rectangle. I discussed with each class how cleverly designed the book was and to pay attention as I read how the pages changed sizes and shapes.

We folded paper grocery bags (first cut open with handles removed) in half and then in half again and traced templates of half butterflies. Folding the cut open bags twice creates two butterfly pieces that match (a front and back). Older students cut their butterflies on their own. Other students were assisted by available caregivers.
We discussed the technique of blotting during a demo and then I set students free to decorate their butterflies. Each student painted with tempera paint and then folded the butterfly in half transferring the paint from one side of the wings to the other. This lesson is a great opportunity to talk about symmetry.
When students have vision and know how I encourage them to follow their creative whims. The blotto technique can be very simple, roughly painted, and still come out beautiful. But this process didn’t speak to all my students. Some were content to work slowly and meticulously across the entire butterfly carefully painting detail.
This project was split acorss two class times because the butterflies required drying time before we sewed and stuffed them. When it came time to sew I prepped each set by placing a few staples to keep the front and back from slipping and punching holes approximately an inch apart around the entire butterfly. We found it helpful to lay the butterfly flat on the table positioned in place by the adult so the student could keep track of which side to start their stitch on. We used language like “enter from the bottom up” or “push the needle up through the hole”.
At first sewing is difficult because the ribbon is so long. It really takes a lot of patience to pull the entire ribbon through on each stitch carefully without getting tangled. Most students used whip stitch but you could easily do a straight stitch.
Stuffing proved to be the favored step for my toddler students. The sensory experience was far more interesting than the fine motor sewing that required focus and patience.
Each child was instructed to pull the stuffing apart into small pieces and stuff it a little at a time so it would distribute evenly. When needed we used a chopstick to push the stuffing into the far corners of the wings.
t’s fun to play with contrasting and complimentary colors when choosing ribbon.
Even though the sewing step required a lot of adult support my students were so proud of their work and loved their butterflies. Many came the following week announcing that they hung them in their rooms.

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