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Take 5: Craftfails and the Lessons Learned (from Christie G.)

Everyone has good times and bad times with programs- and crafts are no exception.  In over ten years of teen services experience, I have had many craft fails.  But these are my top 5, and the lessons I learned from them.  Hopefully, you can learn from my mistakes (or at least get a laugh).



So, some people LOVE glitter.  I am not one of those.  I avoid it at all costs.  One summer, however, I had a couple of teen volunteers who LOVED to help with crafts.  I would get everything all laid out, placed on a book cart, and the day before, they would go through and make a prototype, then the day of go through and do the craft with the kids and myself.  All good, right?  Yes, except for the one day when I got called out of the program room, and they decided to improvise, and got out the glitter leftover from the previous librarian. 20 minutes later, and I’m back in the programming room, and my two volunteers and kids had glitter EVERYWHERE.   Tables, chairs, carpet, walls….  They may still be vacuuming it up from that carpet, for all I know.  
Lesson Learned:  Lock up the glitter.


What works for one library will not work for others, as everyone should know.  I love felties, and think that it’s an awesome craft for people.  Yet, for some reason, my teens never get into them.  I’ve brought the book out, gotten all the materials, made different types, and when they see MINE, they’re always, “Oh, Miss, that’s so cool!” Yet, when when it comes time for the actual feltie craft program, it’s always, “Oh, Miss, it’s too difficult.” “Oh, Miss, I can’t sew.” “Oh, Miss, no.”  So I have felt and stuffing sitting in a back room just waiting for some other idea to strike.  
Lesson Learned:  No sewing or really complicated crafts for my kids.

Image Source: http://blogs.davenportlibrary.com/teens/2009/06/22/gocks-pocks/
When I first started my current job, goth/emo sock puppets were all the rage with teen services specialists. Everyone was doing them with their teens, posting pictures on various listservs, and they were AWESOME.  SO, I thought that it would be really cool to do them during our first teen lock-in. Got the dark tube socks (very hard to find during the summer in Texas, BTW), and got over my fears of letting the teens loose with needles, and got everything else together. Had everything set out on a table for the group activity after dinner.  What happened?  Instead of sitting down and crafting sock puppets, they ran rampant and stuffed the socks into one another, and smacked each other with them in some weird tag variant. 
 Lesson learned:  we need games/active activity after dinner.

Other crafts that have failed for me are ones that have anything to do with weaving.  I don’t know what it is with weaving or complicated directions, but it just goes in one ear and out the other.  Maybe it’s a timing thing- our craft programs are usually afternoons after school because that’s when we have the most traffic, and they don’t have the concentration for things.  Maybe they just want easy-peasy, who knows.  The most horrific one that we had was dream catchers.  We were talking about dreams and spirituality that month with a variety of different books, and I thought it was a cool craft.  They picked it out, even.  We even got kits, so everything was all together, and it had instructions with it.  10 minutes into it, all I heard was, “Miss, can you finish this? I can’t figure it out.” “Miss, mine doesn’t look right.” “Miss, this is WAAAAY too hard.”  
Lesson learned:  Not too many steps, especially when the program is after school.


By far, however, the biggest craft fail I had was when I didn’t have enough crafts.  That’s happened two different times in two different jobs, and both times, it’s been because I’ve had groups come in that weren’t scheduled.  With both jobs, we have to plan out everything way in advance- either three to six months out, including craft supplies.  When groups show up unannounced with their 20-40 kids apiece, supplies can run low.  
Lesson Learned: have a back-up plan.  I always have a file of color sheets to use in case a group shows up, and a box of leftover crafts to fill in gaps.  And I always talk to groups that come in so that they know the procedure.

What have been your library craft fails?  Share them in the comments?


  1. I use to hate glitter but I've come to accept it. After all (as I pointed out to a teacher who know laughs and repeats this to me every time she sees me) glitter is not poop! If it doesn't clean up – a few sparkles do no harm.

    My worst fails were running out, since I do drop-in and you never know how many people will come. My Star Wars crafts were a fail, but that whole program was a disaster. And I have tried over and over again to teach kids to finger knit or crochet and nobody gets it. Sigh. But it's so easy!

  2. Trying to do Pictionary last week with chocolate bars was a fail…I thought it was fun, but they weren't getting into it…then we filled a bowl from the chocolate fountain, and I let them finger-paint it instead. Much more fun for everyone, except the custodian. Oops.

  3. Glitter everywhere! AHHH! Replace the word blood with glitter in the AC/DC song, and that is what that room looked like…. I am so glad that I am not the only one that has problems with it.

    What Star Wars crafts did you do?

    I can't get mine to sit still to finger knit, so we're in the same boat there!

  4. Did they just not have the background on Pictionary? I had a *very* bad experience with Live Clue my first year at my current library… the kids around here didn't play it, so had no reference… they spend more time teasing the little kids that the duct taped body outline was actually from a crime scene. *sigh*

    I'm jealous of the chocolate fountain. I'm coming to your library… 8D

  5. Oh, where to start? How about putting out my own items for decorating, to discover later that someone tried to use my craft punches as stamps? Oh, or the time when I thought that it would be easy for a room full of teenagers to measure a 4 inch line?

    My biggest fail is I always try to cram too much in too little time. For some reason, I'm hooked on doing 3 projects in a program, and I'm having trouble convincing myself that it just doesn't work. 2 or less!

  6. Awesome! I envy the people who are able to have craft 'stations' within their programs… I'm typically by myself when I'm doing crafts, and have a hard enough time herding everyone through the one that we're doing, let alone going to different islands or lands to do different ones… *sigh* I'd love to do a room of crafts one day….

    Thanks for sharing!

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