Somehow, by some strange act of providence, Family Fun magazine started arriving in my mailbox. Even stranger, I found the time to read this newest arrival and, in a few months’ time, it’s become my favorite of the parenting rags that find their way into my mailbox each month.
In a recent issue of Family Fun, they offered the idea of Shoe Gnomes: little clothespin creatures that live in children’s shoes and help keep them together in pairs. I was captivated: my house is covered with children’s shoes, rarely in pairs. Most mornings feature frantic scrambling to find two shoes in the proper size for the proper child that actually match. Could Shoe Gnomes solve my shoe problem?
Shoe Gnomes are a relatively easy craft for parents to make with children’s input. They are definitely not a craft designed for the 2-5 year old set. To make your very own tribe of Shoe Gnomes, you will need the following items:
- A Shoe Gnome cloak pattern. Yes, there’s a pattern, which Family Fun will give you for the low-low price of free and signing up for their digital newsletter. The link to the pattern is from the September 2013 issue: http://www.parents.com/fun/printables/familyfun-printables/?page=2
- Straight clothespins. These are hard to find–I got 24 for about $4 at Michael’s.
- Felt. Peanut and Sprout picked out two colors of felt each, also at Michael’s, for about $0.30 a sheet.
- A regular sewing needle and thread, to sew the top seam of the cloak.
- Yarn and a darning needle, for the cloak tie. (The magazine suggested using embroidery floss. I’m a knitter, so I just scavenged yarn from my stash.)
- A Sharpie or another permanent marker.
The trick with Shoe Gnomes is that you really need two different sizes of gnome: a regular gnome, which works well with dress shoes and other shoes with thin sides, and a queen-sized gnome, which works with sneakers and other shoes with wide sides. I recommend starting out by sending your children to find pairs of shoes–Peanut and Sprout got really excited by the concept of gnome shoe-guardians, so this was easy–and testing your clothespins to find which pins fit on which shoes, and which shoes will require the two-pin model. You will then let your munchkins pick the color of cloak they want, the color of eyes (we had green and violet Sharpies), and the color of tie. The munchkins are then free to dance to toddler tunes piped through Pandora while you craft.
We have found a pin that fits our shoes!
Sprout picked blue for this gnome, so we pin our pattern to the felt and cut around the pattern. You may need to alter the pattern a bit, depending on the size of your clothespins–I shortened the hood for mine.
Fold the cloak in half, and whip-stitch the top of the hood together (a very short seam), and, if you are a true sewer, turn the hood right-side out so the stitches are on the inside. The end of the darning needle is a good poke tool for this.
At about gnome-shoulder-height, loosely run a line of long stitches around the neckline of your cloak. You will then put the hood over the round top of your clothespin, and you’ll winch the piece of yarn around the indentation as tightly as possible. On a few gnomes, particularly the queen-sized version, I wrapped the tie all around (looped around the back before knotting in front) to make sure it was extra secure. You will finish by putting two little dots on your gnome’s face for eyes–make sure that the gap in the pin is facing you, because otherwise the gnome is going to be staring off into space rather than your children’s rapt faces. Put your gnome on the shoes, like in the picture of Sprout’s gnome above, and send your giggling child off with his or her new friend to put those shoes away.
The steps to make a queen-sized gnome are very similar, except you will want to use two clothespins instead of one. Here’s how I made a queen-sized gnome for a pair of Peanut’s boots:
Start by finding a pair of clothespins that will fit on your boots. This can be more challenging than you’d think. If your kiddo has boots like Peanut’s, try up by the laces–the shoe is almost always thinner by the laces.
Here, you’re going to secure the two halves of your queen-sized gnome together. I tied the two heads together with figure-eight ties (basically, you wrap the yarn diagonally between the clothespins periodically) and knotted it tightly. I then wrapped the two inner “legs” together and tied it tightly. On a few gnomes, I did an outer wrap by the legs as well.
Cut the pattern a bit larger than you would for a standard-size gnome: the head is a bit bigger, and you’ll need more cloak to wrap around the larger “waist.” Make the cloak tie longer, too: for the queen-sized gnomes, absolutely tie the cloak both in front, then as a loop around the heads, to help keep the two heads together.
Draw one eyeball on each clothespin head, so it looks like a gnome with a larger face, and clip one pin to each boot. Viola! A Queenie Gnome who can hold even the largest shoes together.
And yes, for anyone who’s wondering, Peanut picked pink. Sparkly pink. The yarn is white with sparkles, too. It’s just a color, yo.
The gnomes have, indeed, helped solve my shoe problems. They hold their shoe homes together tightly, and the kids are still excited to replace their gnomes at the end of the day. This may be helped by their crazy mom, who has written a Shoe Gnome Song to get them excited about the gnomes. It’s generally improv, but I wrote down a version for those who would want to serenade their own munchkins with Shoe Gnome Songs:
I am a Shoe Gnome, sung to Home on the Range. Must be sung with over-the-top twang. Yes, twang:
Oh, give me a home.
I am a shoe gnome.
I like to hang out with your shoes.
Whether here or there, I keep them in pairs.
I’m a shoe gnome, it’s what I do.
I am a shoe gnome.
Your shoes, they are my home.
Whether here or there,
I keep them in pairs.
I am a shoe gnome.
I probably won’t win any Grammys, but it did get the kids excited about the craft.
Is this a VI-friendly craft? Yes and no. Peanut didn’t do the craft himself: I did it with his and his sister’s input. I imagine finding shoes that match is a challenge for any little kid, and these definitely help with that. The end result is a tactile craft that allows you to stay more organized more easily; I think that’s something anyone can find useful, regardless of how well they see.