Chess boards can be expensive, so when your children have that desire to learn, start them off by having them make the board and pieces themselves.
At 9 years old, my son has interest in learning how to play chess. I’ve played before and have some of the rules down, but we don’t own a chess board. So, since summer is here, I decided to figure out a way that he and I could make a chess board and learn the rules, before purchasing an expensive board and pieces.
This project requires some sewing, (although I’m sure you could glue the felt strips together to make the board as well) some gluing, cutting and writing – all things most kids can do. We had a lot of fun determining the shapes of the pieces so we could tell them apart, and in the end, it’s basically been fun from start to finish! Hope you enjoy it half as much!
- 2 colors of felt, one dark, one light
(enough to cut 8 strips @ 2 ½” x 18” in each color)
- Coordinating thread
- White craft glue
- 2 colors craft foam, one dark, one light
(one 12” x 18” sheet of each)
- Acrylic dimensional writers in 2 colors
We went a little crazy with our chess pieces and made them three thicknesses of craft foam in different colors. In that case, we needed 6 sheets of craft foam.
1. Begin by cutting out 8 strips of dark felt and 8 strips of light felt. Six of the light strips and six of the dark strips measure 2” x 17 ½”. Two of the light strips and two of the dark strips measure 2 ½” x 17 ½”.
2. Once the strips are all cut, lay the darker strips down, butting long edges, with the wider two strips on either end. Then, weave the lighter strips over and under the darker strips putting the two wider light strips at the top and at the bottom.
This way, all four wide strips are along the outside edges and we have ½” all the way around to sew on a trim piece to keep everything in place. As you are weaving, pin the strips in place and make sure to butt the light strips tightly so you end evenly at the bottom!
3. Once the board is all pinned together, cut a strip of felt from the leftovers measuring 1 1/8” x 72”. (I had to cut two pieces and overlap them as I stitched to piece together a long enough strip.) This will be the trim around the edge.
4. Fold the trim piece around the edges and pin in place, making sure to catch all the ends of the strips within the folded trim piece. Create mitered corners and overlap pieces if you have to.
5. When the board is complete, you may iron it if you wish and then get out the supplies to make the pieces!
Making the Chess Pieces:
6. We started by gluing three layers of craft foam together. DON’T DO THIS! It was so difficult to cut the pieces when the foam was so thick. Instead, cut the pieces out first and then glue layers together if you like. So please don’t comment on how rough our edges are! We lived and learned!
7. We started by cutting out 1 ½” x 1 ½” squares out of both the dark and the light colored foam. We chose this size because it would fit nicely on our 2” squares on the chess board.
8. From there we figured out what shapes we wanted for the pieces. A simple circle became the Pawns, and a spool of thread was the perfect template!
9. Our Bishop was a bishop’s hat with the traditional angles cut like all chess pieces. Our Knight wasn’t a horse, but a knight’s shield. The Rook has a castle top, and the King and Queen have crowns of course!
10. Then, because we are learning, we used the acrylic writer’s to put initials on the pieces so we wouldn’t forget what they were. You might think that the “K” on the King and the “K” on the Knight confused us, but the whole crown shape kept us in line!! We also used light writing on the light pieces and dark writing on the dark pieces to further delineate the opposing sides.
11. The next step was to set up the board and give the game a try. We found wonderful directions on how to play at: http://www.chessvariants.com/chess4kids.dir/c4c-intro.html. It makes setting up the board and making moves easy to understand. I’m sure there are many others as well.
So when those rainy days of summer arrive, have this project in your back pocket. It’s a great way to get through a day indoors, and at the same time learn a classic game of skill!! Have fun!