This can be done at any level, but the younger the girls, the more adult assistance required. It was a perfect craft for my third graders.
If you have a smaller troop, and are able to find some of these retired Try-Its on eBay, you can work on the "Stitch It Together" badge! (Remember, they need to complete four steps to earn this badge.) Our troop is fairly large though, and it's tough to find affordable Try-Its in bulk, so I've opted for a cheaper generic fun patch instead. More to come on that!
What Are Sit-Upons, and How Can They Be Used to Learn to Sew?
Sit-Upons are a proper Girl Scout tradition. They're inexpensive, fairly easy to make, and a great way to introduce the concept of sewing (without a machine).
There are lots of different approaches, and not a lot of wrong ways to go about making a Sit-Upon, but the basic gist is:
- Waterproof material exterior
- Padded interior
- Some form of water/weatherproofing for exposed seams/edges
. . . and that's pretty much it! Anything else is just gettin' fancy. ;) Some leaders prefer to make these out of bucket lids, so the girls don't have to sit on the ground (plus, they can carry things in their buckets!). But keep in mind it can be tiring for little ones to carry big 5-gallon buckets everywhere when at camp.
The smaller square versions can also be used at camp, sporting events, wherever, and are more easily portable than the bucket versions. But they can't be used to carry other items in them, like you can with a bucket.
Because I wanted this to be the introduction to sewing for my Brownies, we went with the square versions instead of buckets.
As with all my posts, go with whatever works best for your girls. :)
To make a traditional Sit-Upon, you will need:
1. Waterproof Reusable Shopping Bags (it's okay if the handles and sides are a mesh material (this material is called "non-woven" even though it looks woven. The key is the front and back of the bag need to be laminated. You can use vinyl-type tablecloths cut into squares instead, if you prefer. Some people use the "non-woven" bags and cover completely in duct tape for weatherproofing. But it can get expensive). One for each girl, plus one for you (not a bad idea to get a spare to experiment with, if you're new to sewing)
2. Hole Puncher (regular size -- don't get the 1/8" confetti size. Those holes aren't big enough)3. Yarn (pre-cut strands, prepped with masking tape on both ends; bring your skein to the meeting, along with the roll of tape, as well; see below for details)
4. Masking Tape
5. Adult-Sized Scissors (don't use your expensive sewing scissors. The ones you use will end up with lots of duct tape residue on them)
6. Duct Tape (bring more rolls than you think you'll need)
7. Padding (I used an old, old mattress pad, cut into 10" squares. These are some super comfy Sit-Upons! You can use newspapers, but keep in mind you'll need to ensure ALL the edges/seams are sealed well, because wet newspaper gets kind of gross. Packing foam works well too. Bubblewrap? Not so much, unless you have Girl Scouts who never bounce. Because otherwise bubblewrap will pop and flatten pretty quickly. Magazines can work, but may not be big enough. Be sure to remove staples if you use magazines). As with everything else, get creative, and use your resources wisely!
8. Sharpies (optional)
9. Adult Volunteers, especially if you have a large troop
Dollar Store Score! These polypropylene bags cost $1 each, and are laminated on front and back, to make them durable and waterproof. The sides are non-laminated polypro and not waterproof, but we're going to cover that bit up, so that's okay.
How to Make a Sit-Upon:
Step One: Flatten your bags and measure the padding to go inside. Be sure to leave room for the edges to be sewn together easily. My padding was ~2" smaller than my bags, so roughly 10" square.
Keep your bags flat throughout this process. Once you open them up, it's a lot harder to keep the padding in place, and to stitch/seal.
Step Two: With the padding tucked securely inside the bag and centered, flatten the edges of the bag with one hand, and use the hole puncher to go through ALL edges in one punch, all the way around the bag.
Do not punch through the padding.
I punched my holes about 1-1/2" apart, roughly. Don't punch too close to the edge, as it won't be as reinforced when stitching and will tear easier. You'll be punching through many layers at once, in some parts of the bag.
You can sharpen a dull hole puncher by snipping through layers of sandpaper, if need be. If you have a ton of bags to do, wear a glove to protect your hand from the pressure of repetitive hole-punching.
Step Three (for You): Measure and prep the yarn.
When you're making your sample one, don't tie off the yarn when you begin. Run it through with masking tape on one tip only, leaving the yarn connected to your skein at the end.
Once you've stitched all the edges, and have enough left to tie off (~4-5" inches on each end), then snip the end connected to the skein. Carefully pull the yarn out of your Sit-Upon, and measure the length of your yarn.
Cut strands that length, one for each girl (I actually made them a couple inches longer than mine, just to be safe). Then immediately apply the masking tape to both ends of the strands (otherwise it will fray and you'll have to trim the yarn before taping the ends). Your masking tape tip should be at least 1-1/2" long.
Step Three (for the Girls): Hand-stitch ("sew") using classic overcast stitch (continuous loops around the edge). Start up at one corner near the top, so when you're finished, you can tuck the ends of the yarn down into the bag easily.
Don't aim for perfection. This is all about function, not form. Reassure your girls that it's okay if they make a mistake. It'll be covered with duct tape anyway.
Leave 5" or so as a tail for your yarn (you shouldn't need to anchor your yarn or knot it. It should stay put as is, but you can do a small overhand knot if you like, at the beginning) so you have something to tie it to once you're done.
Pull it taut (carefully) all the way around, so the edges are snugly together as you go. If you pull too tightly though, it may rip the fabric slightly. Which is no big deal, because you're covering it up with duct tape!
Don't be intimidated by the handles. You can stitch in between if necessary. The point is to try to keep the edges as flat as possible, and the holes lined up fairly well. But don't fret if it gets a little off-kilter; you're going to cover it all up.
Be sure to have adult volunteers on hand for this project, as the girls are not only learning how to hand stitch, but also how to do it effectively. And the bags can be unwieldy when you begin.
Your adults don't need to know how to sew in order to help. They just need to be on hand to assist the girls as needed, especially when it comes to cutting the duct tape!
Bring extra yarn and the roll of masking tape, and plenty of scissors (child-sized ones are too small to cut duct tape effectively, so I asked my adult helpers to bring along a pair of regular scissors with them). It is possible the yarn might break, especially for very enthusiastic seamstresses! :) If that happens, tie off the broken part, then prep a new strand on the spot with masking tape, tie it through a hole onto the broken part, trim the broken part, or tuck it inside the bag, and continue.
When finished, tie the yarn ends together (remove any slack in your stitches), and tuck the ends down into the bag.
Step Four: Once the edges are nice and snug (so you've hidden ALL of the "non-woven"/non-weatherproof bits, except for the handles and trim), cut a piece of duct tape that is slightly longer than the length of the bag, and place along one side, covering the holes and stitched. Fold the tape over carefully, so that both sides of the bag have all holes covered, for weatherproofing. Don't worry if there's some hanging at the ends. You can fold it over and cover with duct tape when doing the top/bottom edges.
Cover up everything you just did. The duct tape will be folded over to cover both sides of holes/stitching, and will effectively prevent moisture from seeping in through the holes.
Do the same on the other side, and then along the bottom of the bag.
Taping the top can be tricky, because you want to seal the holes, but still leave the handles accessible. First, cut two small lengths of duct tape to go on the outside of the handles. Apply as you've done with the side edges. Then take a third strip of duct tape and place in between the handles. Adhere to one side, then fold over, between the handles, to cover those holes.
Top edge, with three separate pieces of duct tape.
Once you've done all this, and all holes/seams are taped, you are going to use four additional strips of duct tape, cut slightly shorter than the length of each side (cut as you go, otherwise the duct tape will stick to itself and become a wadded up mess). Use two per side, at the top and bottom.
One goes on the front/top, covering the exposed edges of your three pieces, but is not folded over the edge. The other goes over the bottom folded tape, but flat on the front side only.
Using additional strips of duct tape reinforces the folded/seam tape, and helps keep it in place.
You may need to do the same to the sides as well, or just certain areas (corners, etc.) and that's okay. It's better to have a little too much tape than not enough. And some of the girls may need extra tape -- let them do as much of this as possible.
Now, flip the bag over and do the same on the back side.
Reinforce corners as needed. Fold any overlapping bits and tape over them. Anything left hanging will eventually start to come unstuck, so tape it well.
You do not need to duct tape the whole bag, unless you're using the "non-woven" bags, which are too breathable to be waterproof, and are also pretty hard to clean.
Non-woven bags are made of polypropylene, and are very lightweight, but not terribly durable, or weatherproof. It can be costly to completely cover a bag in duct tape -- more so than buying the laminated bag, or using laminated tablecloths, etc.
Step Five (Optional): Use Sharpie to write names on the bags, and/or color the bags, if desired.
Please note, regardless of the material used, if the surface is laminated/waterproof, Sharpie will rub off onto skin, especially if you've applied lotion or bug spray, etc. To prevent this, apply a sealant over the Sharpie.
Test your sealant first, as it may cause the Sharpie to run or fade. Generic permanent markers seemed to fade more than Sharpie brand, but your mileage may vary.
My Sit-Upon! I love it. :) I decorated one side only, with a mix of Sharpie and generic, let it dry completely, then coated with waterproofing Mod Podge. It took several days for the surface to dry completely, and the generic markers did fade slightly, but it turned out great!
Next up? A Fun and Easy Way to Learn Basic Sewing Stitches!