Saturday, 25 July 2015

Shell Lady - summer crafts for kids

I love shells. Put me on a shelly beach and that's me sorted really. Helped along by happy memories of summers spent by the sea. But here's the thing, what to do with all those shells that find their way home? A lot of mine are still in a large glass bowl in the bathroom... scary to think some of the little cowries near the bottom were found on Tyrella beach almost 40 years ago. But they're not all keepers, and there are plenty of other fun things to do with shells - Red Ted Art has some great ideas here. Making little figures and animals was my thing though, so I thought I'd share a favourite. The Shell lady.

If you'd like to have a go, it might be worth reading through first, so you know what to search for on your next beach trip. They're all common UK shells - periwinkles, whelks, limpets, banded wedge shells (we called them finger nail shells - wrong apparently!), and collect a good range of sizes and colours so you can try different ones together. Look out for any tiny shells too, or colourful shiny fragments to put in the basket.

Once you've got your shells, all you need is some strong, clear, all-purpose glue, like UHU, pens for face and hair (Sharpies are great for this) - and kids need a little patience... some waiting involved!

Start with the skirt, and either use one limpet shell on its own, or find a few that fit on top of each other, to give a pretty tiered skirt effect. Glue together.

The body is a small whelk shell. You want the opening to sit on top of the limpet - keep trying different ones until you're happy, and it stays put without being held in place - then glue onto the body and leave to dry. This is important, because if you plough straight on, bits will start to slide!

While the glue's drying, make a little basket. Use a small, flatish limpet shell, spread a bit of glue inside and add some tiny shells and colourful pieces.

My daughter made a few for her Sylvanians...

The head is a periwinkle, and again you're looking for one that fits snuggly on top of the pointy bit. Glue in place.

When dry, draw on a face and hair. Use a pen that won't wipe off, like a Sharpie.

Find two similar sized banded wedge shells for arms (or small mussel shells work well). If you want her to carry the basket, just glue on one arm...

....then glue the basket on the other side where the skirt meets the body. We propped ours up with a limpet shell while it dried.

Stick the other arm just behind the basket.

If you fancy a bonnet, glue a small limpet shell to the back of the head.

We didn't varnish ours, but it does help to protect the shells and bring out their colour. If you don't have any, a good 'make do' tip is to use a coat of clear nail polish instead.

The basket-less lady is looking a little left out, so we'll make her a pram to push next time!


  1. These are brilliant Tracey and I'm impressed with your knowledge of shells. Knowing you, I'm sure there will be a few shell animals in the pipeline too. x

    1. Oh yes! Quite fond of shell mice, though difficult to get the ears to stick and stay... Not really so knowledgeable about names, had to look up a few of them! x

  2. So much nicer than the quite scary shell people you can buy (or dogs. They are usually dogs aren't they?) :D

    1. Know what you mean! Can look a bit scary. Pretty sure I was given one of those dogs many moons ago - probably thought it was lovely in those days though!

  3. So cute and something I remember doing as a child too, though I always struggled to keep things in place, I think I probably wasn't patient enough. Yours look adorable, I will have to collect some shells on my next beach trip and have another go, you have certainly inspired me. Thank you for sharing such a lovely instructions and photos on #Trash2Treasure

    1. You're right! A little patience needed with the gluing as things can way round this I think is to use other shells to prop bits up :)

  4. These are amazing. So clever and my daughters would love playing with them. We have a load of shells from our last beach trip just waiting for craft projects - must go and have a rummage and see if any are suitable. #Trash2Treasure