Since Christmas, my older kids have been working on a long block of algebra and my 10 year old has been doing work with decimals. My son loves maths, so this is no problem for him, but my girls find it a bit dry to say the least. So I thought it was time to give them a little break and do something a bit different.

I had seen other people’s pictures of homemade dodecahedron lanterns and knew that this would be crafty enough to get the girls enthused. It also gave us an ideal opportunity to learn some technical drawing skills.

We started off by learning how to draw a regular pentagon with a compass and ruler. Then, they each made their own pentagon template on card. They all made a couple of sheets of colourful wet on wet watercolour paper and left them to dry, while we got on with learning about wading birds.


As soon as the paper was dry, they applied some sunflower oil to the paper, massaging it in to make it more transparent. If you have a go at this at home, do exercise a bit of caution with the oil. One of mine got a bit carried away and we had to soak up a lot of excess oil with kitchen towel. We left them to dry again overnight.

Next morning they used their templates to draw pentagons onto the back of their watercolour paper. You only need 10, as the top and bottom of the dodecahedron are left open for the tealight. Just to be safe, we made a few spares.

Once these were all cut out, they drew five pointed stars on the back, by marking out lines to opposite corners of the pentagon. ANOTHER WORD OF CAUTION HERE – use a yellow pen or pencil otherwise it will show through on your finished lantern. We were so focused on what we were doing that we didn’t really think about it!

Not realising our mistake, we carried on and folded down each point of the pentagon to meet the central lines of the star. Now we were ready for glueing.

We used white pva craft glue and stuck five pentagons together, joining the ends of the chain together, to make one half of the dodecahedron (see above). We popped paper clips on the joins while they dried and did the whole thing over with another five pentagons.

Once they were properly dry, we lifted all of the flaps along the joining edge of the two halves and started to glue them together. We stuck them with all of the flaps from one half on the inside and all of the flaps from the other half on the outside.

At this stage they are finished and just need to be left to thoroughly dry out.

That evening, we popped some tealights in and lit them up. Niamh, Orin and Lark were so pleased with their lanterns (the pencil marks didn’t make them any less beautiful), that I think we will definitely try out other paper lanterns in the future. There is something rather magical about making something that you can light up. Although now that the long days of Orkney summer are nearly here, we’ll probably wait for autumn and winter to come back round!


The lantern project had been such a success, that I thought we would do another shape inspired craft project. This time, we made use of some fabric scraps and made some much needed coasters. Our old coasters had got lost somewhere in the move. I suspect that they got thrown away along with the toaster (and a whole load of other things) on the morning that we left Cornwall. We just couldn’t fit everything in the van!

So, using the ruler and compass method, my three middle children made hexagon templates. Much simpler than the method for drawing pentagons, they had that done in a flash and started rifling through my fabric stash for oddments that they liked.

Each hexagon was cut out with a 1cm seam allowance and they also cut out the same amount of paper hexagons to the exact size of the templates.

I used english paper piecing to make a quilt for Wren when she was smaller and found it to be one of those really therapeutic, calming crafts. Once you have tacked all of the fabric to your paper shapes, it starts to come together very quickly, even if you just do a little bit each day.

With only seven hexagons needed for each coaster, my guys powered through their sewing in an afternoon, removed the tacking stitches and paper and pressed them ready for the following day.

All that remained to be done was to choose a piece of felt each and sew it to the reverse of the coaster. I find that these little projects to make things for around the home, really build their confidence. They don’t take so long that everyone gets a bit fed up and impatient half way through and give a really satisfying result. They are also building up lots of skills that they can then use for their own projects. Matt and I both feel that it’s really important for them to feel undaunted about making anything that they need or want.

We have also done some pattern work using a compass over the past couple of weeks, something which I hope that we will build on over the coming months. You tube has been a great help in getting us started with this and we intend to develop some of these initial ideas into designs for batik and other practical projects.

Making our dodecahedron lanterns and coasters has given us the break from algebra that we needed and helped us to see the maths in things around us. So I think that we are ready to push on with quadratics!