Charlotte's Web

Blogging my world since 2006

When in Doubt, Craft


One of the prerequisites of being a parent in Germany is the ability to craft (basteln). It is one of the givens of society along with the hot lunch, no noise on Sundays and goal-oriented neighbour observation. A birthday party is never a birthday party without a crafting corner, kindergartens frequently require parental attendance at craft evenings (Bastelabenden) and crafting is one of the subjects in junior school. While I completely support the notion that a homemade gift can be a wonderful thing (especially if it is a homemade cake), and I cherish the fact that my kids are learning to craft, I am rubbish at it. All those little pieces of paper that flutter messily to the floor, the guiding of shaky hands as they try to cut out complicated shapes and fail so you have to draw the shape again, and the arguments as you try to work out how best to render a birdie out of paper. Not for me.

So when Lily brought home a Bastelprojekt – to make a car – I did the obvious. I handed the project over. To my husband. He grew up watching Blue Peter, so he is not scared of making a giraffe out of a shoe-box and three wine corks. He gave Saturday  over to crafting the car. Which was so successful that he had to make a car for Ollie and a plane for Daisy, turning the last couple of days into a Bastelwochenende, and the dining-room table into a Bastelwerkstatt. He made all three objects with found materials around the house, and only needed to purchase straws, kebab sticks, pin tacks and some glue.

Here are the results:

img_43141Bastelprojekt 1: Lily’s car

Please note sun-roof and sliding-door. Also important to note: this car goes!


Inside view, of steering wheel, seats and people

img_4316Rear view, with straws for exhaust pipes

Here is Bastelprojekt 2, a racing car for Ollie:


And the cars, along with Bastelprojekt 3, Daisy’s plane:


So now I know, next time kindergarten requires parents’ attendance for a craft evening, who I will be sending along.

Although he still insists on calling it engineering.


Author: charlotteotter

Novelist, feminist, crime writer

14 thoughts on “When in Doubt, Craft

  1. Wow. Finally. A use for scratched cds. Your engineer rocks.

  2. I think it’s marvelous that the cars go. Otherwise they are quickly just so much recycling. That’s my only problem with everpresent crafts is when it creates just more stuff to deal with. I’m not a great crafter, but I’m amazed at what my kids come up with on their own.

  3. Oh…and what is goal-oriented neighbour observation?

  4. my mother and father met in the 1930’s…he a principal, she a teacher. He very much needed a picture of a camel for something or other. She doodled one. Crafting led to wedding….op

  5. I am blown away by GTH.

  6. Good to know that dedicated Blue Peter watching has such good effects – I have one word for him – sticky backed plastic – oh that’s three!

    From what you’ve told us I think Waldorf is just German culture packaged and exported – craft is huge in Waldorf too and we’ve spent many a parent evening in kindergarten sewing felt egg cosies and such.

    V. impressed with the sliding door!

  7. Very cool. Although it kind of looks more like an Amish buggy than a race car.

  8. The CDs have really low rolling resistance, and the size means that they go relatively straight. On the first model I had the axles quite long, but on mark 2 I shortened them considerably, and I added washers to further improve the rolling capability. Next time I would use a stronger stick for the axle, probably metal. The hardest part was figuring how to bond the CD to the axle, but synthetic corks seem to work well.
    The complete axle construction consists of a straw glued to the chassis and the stick runs through the straw.
    Next time I think we will need to build steering and perhaps add a motor and a sound system.

  9. Yup, my husband loves craft projects too, and he is an engineer. Well done on the homework delegation – an important skill for the next decade or so!

  10. that is just…amazing. AMAZING. Something I could never do. And I second the question…what is goal-oriented neighbor watching?

  11. Oh, he truly is Germany’s Best Husband! My husband is a born crafter too – whatever we see in a shop or art gallery, he will say “oh that’s easy, I can make yuo one of those”. Of course, the catch is that I might have to wait 3 years or so for the project to come to fruition!!

  12. And I love the Paul Gallico allusion in the post’s title!

  13. We often have a Bastelwerkstatt on our dining room table. My favorite was making a castle, complete with interior stairs, drawbridge, and several Rapunzel towers, out of cardboard and duct tape.

  14. Duct tape is an invaluable substance. I don’t craft so much as “paper”. But I do it a lot and I love it. It is one of the main reasons I have my Very Own Desk in addition to the shared computer work station/desk.

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