I love maps. I love opening them out on the table like a cloth. Leaning forward and scanning every inch in detail. I can quite easily lose time pouring over a map. Reading the names and studying the lay of the land. Each teasingly hint at long forgotten stories. The most tantalizing ones duly noted to be explored on foot one day.
You need to be able to read a map to fully appreciate it. The key to the symbols is found at the side, but to bring the map to life, you need to be able to turn the flat 2d representation into a 3d version in your mind. It takes practise.
The other day we were pouring over a map. The Teen was off on an expedition. Seeing as she had a heavy pack to carry, we were paying close attention to the contour lines.
Youngest joined in. What were contour lines? I explained that the closer the lines were the steeper the land would be. The further apart, then the flatter the land.
Then he gave me that “Ah” that I’ve heard so many times before. The one that means he kind of understands, but he doesn’t. It’s the same “Ah” that sent me off, a few years back, baking castle cookies to explain erosion and why castles become ruins.
So I came up with a plan. One to make sure he truly understood map contours. I’d chose a set of map contour lines that would fit completely on a piece of A4 paper, that he would recognize and we could turn them into a 3d model. I chose Glastonbury Tor. It was ideal. A hill surrounded by flatter land. It stands out in the Somerset Levels landscape. Plus it’s a landmark we often use in our local travels, so the Boy knows it well.
Here’s how we made a 3D model from a map
Step 1. Photocopy part of a map and scale up one part of it that will be your model. We used 1:25,000 map and scaled it by 10.
Step 2. Using blue-tack, we temporarily fixed the map, face-up, to a piece of cardboard. Cut all the way round the contour line nearest the edge.
Step 3. Remove the middle part of the map and fix it to another piece of cardboard and repeat step 2 and 3 until all the contour lines have been cut around.
Step 4. You should have a pile of cardboard map sections, increasing in size. Number them now, before they have a chance to get out of order. Make sure they are flat.
Note: You don’t have to be too precise, it’s up to you. If it is very steep, then contour lines run into each other and can become difficult to separate when you are cutting. This is not meant to be a perfect scale model, just a way to introduce contours.
Step 5. Check the height between each of the contour lines on the map. On our map it was 5 metres. I roughly worked out that the scale we had made, we could space our different map layers by 1cm. Youngest was sent scurrying around the house, with a ruler, to locate suitable spacers. We found jam jar lids and bottle cap were just about right.
Step 6: Build up the map layers with a spacer in between each one. (The Tor doesn’t look quite so tall in real life, so I think our calculations or measuring may be slightly too generous, but the Boy didn’t mind. He got the idea)
3d model complete!
» Looking down on top, we saw how the contours of the model resembled the printed map.
» We took out layers and left every third one. The hill has now lower, but it was also less steep. We compared it to the top five layers of the original model. Same height, but one was steeper than the other.
» We looked from on top to see how the contour lines were now spaced further apart.
»The Boy asked how would we know if it was going up hill or down. We looked back at the real map and saw the numbers on the contour lines. The numbers decreased as they went down hill and increased as we went up hill.
I do love a project that starts with a question. I have a feeling that next time we go walking, the Boy is going to be a lot more interested in the map.
We needed an easy, creative activity today. We had snow, but not enough to entertain anyone more than 5 minutes outside. Just finger nipping cold, nose chilling wet. I don’t wish to sound greedy, but can someone send us enough to make a snowman next time, please?
After a very short time, everyone retreated inside. Queue activity to head off the requests for screen time.
I love making patchwork bookmarks. It uses up teeny, tiny scraps of fabric, which I cannot bring myself to throw away. Also, there is no right or wrong with it. Perfect as a beginner project or one for children to do, or, to be honest, anyone who likes making fun, pretty things. So long as the scraps overlap each other and more than cover the piece of felt, practically anything goes. I like to quilt as I go and this is a brilliant way to practise the technique.
This is how we do it.
a bundle of little scraps of fabric
a strip of felt, cut 20cm x 5cm (8″ x 2″) approx
a piece of fabric 21cm x 6cm (8.5″ x 2.5″ ) for the back
small piece of ribbon
sewing equipment (scissors, sewing machine, pins, knitting needle, tape measure or ruler)
Each scrap of fabric needs to have straight edges to keep this project on the easy side. They also need to be at least 1cm wider then the narrow width of the felt piece.
Step 1: Arrange pieces of scrap fabric on top of the felt strip, making sure the edges of the scraps are overlapping each other by at least 0.5cm (1/4″).
Step 2: Take the first scrap of fabric. Right side up, position it overlapping the top of the felt by 0.5cm. Now this part is slightly tricky. Channel your inner school maths self and think rotations. Imagine a sewing line on the scrap (big, bold, arrowless lines in pictures above), 0.5cm from the edge. Now, flip the scrap on to the wrong side, along the imagined line. That wasn’t so bad, was it?
Step 3: Sew along the sewing line. As shown, above left. Fold the fabric up, so the right side is now showing, and iron the fabric in the direction of the arrow in the picture, above right.
It’s plain sailing from now on.
Step 3: Putting right sides together, and lining up the edges, sew the next scrap to the first one. As shown above. You are sewing through the felt as well. Flip the second scrap down and iron it.
Repeat for all the other fabrics, until the felt is covered. Overlap the lower edge of the felt by at least 1cm (0.5″)
Step 4: Putting right sides together, line up the bookmark with the backing fabric. Sew around 3 edges, just catching the edge of the felt. Leave the bottom short edge open.
(Tip: at the start and the end of stitching, sew back over your stitches. This stops them pulling apart when you do step 6.)Step 5: Clip the excess fabric around the edge and clip the corners.
Step 6: Turn the bookmark the right way round, by pulling it through the open edge. Use the blunt end of a knitting needle, or a stick, to push the corners into a point. Take care not to push through the corners and make a hole.
Step 7: Iron the bookmark and tuck the unstitched ends back into the opening, as if to hide them. Push the ends of the ribbon in too. Pin in place.
Step 8: Topstitch along each of the four edges of the bookmark.
Step 9: Iron, and then slip bookmark into your current book.
All three children (9, 12 and 14) loved this activity. They really got into the selection stage, and the chance to use my old sewing machine. The one aspect of this activity you can guarantee is, that no two bookmarks will ever look quite the same. Colour, fabric and wonkiness just add to the charm.
These make great gifts, especially when giving a book. Often thought they would work well as a Father’s day present or teachers thank you gift. So easy that several can be made in one afternoon.
Hope you have fun making one. I’m off to check if it’s snowing again. Fingers crossed.