Monday, February 8, 2010

I-Spy Blocks or Storytelling Dice

Have you ever heard of Storytelling Dice?  There are no real rules...  You use blocks or dice with a different image on each side.  You roll the dice and make up a story about what comes up.  You might have one dice with characters, one with transportation, one with food, one with accessories, etc.  I love this idea, and have had it in the back of my mind ever since I first heard of it.  Well, my brain finally chewed it up and spit it out, and here's what I came up with!

Soft and squishy I-Spy Storytelling Dice!  These are so much fun to play with, even just using them as blocks or the ever-popular-at-my-house "safe projectile!"  I wish you could hold one to see for yourself how satisfying they are.  They've got an excellent feel to them, and are even a bit bouncy!

The secret ingredient is high density foam, which you can purchase at JoAnn's.  If you are familiar with this stuff, you know how EXPENSIVE it is.  Never fear!  For this project you need minimal amounts, and can use one of their 40% off coupons.  I used 3" foam, which is 25" wide and normally costs $40/yd.  I purchased 1/4 yard, using my coupon, for $6, ending up with enough foam for the "guts" for 24 blocks.  Not too shabby!

Here's how I made them:

4" I-Spy Squares (6 per block)
3" high density foam*
electric carving knife
pencil or disappering ink marker
STEP ONE:  Mark your foam in 3" intervals for cutting.  I used a permanent marker and my rotary cutting ruler.

Be sure to mark all sides of your foam.

STEP TWO:  Carefully cut along your lines with your electric carving knife.  This photo shows my first attempt at cutting (on the left) -- I got much better at it later on down the line -- hint:  don't stop in the middle of a cut!  JoAnn's actually uses a steak knife to cut it at the store (shown at the right of the photo), so you could try that if you don't have an electric knife.

STEP THREE:  Lay out your I-Spy squares.  If you end up with a couple squares that have the same color background, you might want to space them so they won't end up touching.

STEP FOUR:  On the wrong side of each square, mark the corners 1/2" in from each side.

STEP FIVE:  Sew the four sides of your block in a row using a 1/2" seam allowance, stopping and starting at each marked point as shown.  Don't forget to backstitch at the beginning and end of each seam!

You now have a long strip (the sides), and the top and bottom.

STEP SIX:  Take your "bottom" square and begin attaching it to the sides, starting with the first square on your strip of "side" pieces.  Sew the bottom to the first square in the row, carefully stopping and starting at your marked points.

STEP SEVEN:  You will then rotate your "bottom" piece to the next square in the row, as shown, and do the same.

Be sure to pull the seam allowance from the first square out of the way,

and check to make sure the seam allowance from the next square in line is out of the way at the end of your stitching line as well.  (The seam allowance should be pointing toward you, as shown in the photo.)

You will continue until the entire bottom is attached, as shown.

STEP EIGHT:  Take your remaining unattached piece, the "top" of the block, and press three sides 1/2" in, using your iron.  This does need to be accurate, so use a seam gauge or ruler.

Then do the same on three of the top edges of your block.  This step will save a lot of headache later -- don't skip it!

STEP NINE:  Attach the two un-pressed edges together between the marked dots.  You will then have what looks like a box with the lid open.  Almost done!

STEP TEN:  Press all the seams of your block open using your fingernail.

STEP ELEVEN:  Turn your "box" right side out, paying special attention to the corners, and stuff a foam cube inside.  I didn't get a photo of this, but I actually pinned all the seam allowances open (pins on the outside) before stuffing my cube in.  It made the edges much smoother.  Tuck the pressed edges down inside.

STEP TWELVE:  You will then close the lid and fold the pressed edges inside.  Those nice crisp, pressed edges are now your registration marks for stitching the edges closed!

(Different block here, but same idea)
I used pins to hold the edges in place before sewing it closed so I could be sure the corners were matching up just right.

Ta-Da!  Ready to stack or tell stories with!
WARNING:  They are super addicting to make!!  Look out!!

*If you prefer to omit the high density foam, you could certainly use a 3" square of fusible stiff interfacing centered on the wrong side of each square, then stuff with polyester stuffing


June said...

Excellent tutorial - thank you!

michelle@somedaycrafts said...

Brilliant! What a fun idea! I will feature these tomorrow at

Lori said...

What a precious idea! My son (now 3) loved playing with similar blocks and know I know how easily I can make custom ones for my yet to be born baby girl!

Also, thanks for the foam cutting tip. I have some foam I need to cut for another project and I have been lamenting on how to do it.

Anonymous said...

What a fun idea!!!! Great Tutorial, thank you for sharing!

Leslie said...

these are adorable and such a fun idea to make. i have made blocks before and it is really easy to get carried away.

Anne said...

This is such a cool project!! I featured it over at Craft Gossip Sewing:


Jen said...

Way cute :) Very fun!

Holly said...

I love this! I recently made story dice for my son and his friends, and admit I was a little worried that the wooden blocks would become projectiles!

Stitchnmom said...

I love these!!! You just might have changed my mind of what I am going to use my I-Spy squares for!!!

Jess@craftiness is not optional said...

cool blocks! soo so fun! hey- you've got a bag of my scraps coming your way...just need your address! my email is


Anna said...

fun stuff Care! Looks like a blast!

the mama monster said...

thank you,this is really a great idea!

Paula -- CutieFruity said...

FYI!!!!! JOANNs will have this foam on sale for half off presidents day weekend!I'm going to go then!

Nancy said...

This are such a great idea!!! I'm adding this to my to do list for the kids.

Nikki @ Eveningsong Ink said...

Ah yes, the 'safe' projectile lol. I am rapidly learning the concept of this at my house!

Excellent tutorial and a fabulous idea. This is something that will grow with children from infancy to school.

woof nanny said...

Wow, I wish I had seen this earlier. I had seen "puzzle" blocks, where parts of an image were on each of four blocks, so stacked together they made the whole. And I made blocks with the child's name, and I use pretty fabrics. But I really love this idea the most.

CatNCartCrafts said...

Wow, love this - I think I could use the foam that comes in packing cases ... it is quite rigid, but worth a try ... I am really keen to try these, they look fabulous ... thank you

ARTwendy ... said...

I'm back ....
This is another sensational idea!
Thanks for sharing ... might just need to do this one too .... oooh!

Sophia Crane said...

I love these! I plan on making some for my son, he will LOVE them.

Wendy P said...

This is so cute! I have been waiting to make these. My grandson is only 11 months old. I'd love to do it now but I worry he'll chew on them too much.

Can't wait to make them. They'll go perfectly with an I Spy quilt.

Manda said...

I'm going to start collecting fabric so that I can get in on the next i spy swap! This is the first thing I want to do! Love it.

Lynn said...

I know this post is a bit old, but I am linking up to it today from a post on my blog about encouraging storytelling. :)

April said...

These are awesome! I have never heard of storytelling dice, but what a fabulous idea! My kids would love this! I would love for you to link this up to my Sew Crafty Saturday Party!

Anita said...

Thanks for this! I added it to Pinterest, I think a lot of people there will be happy to learn how to make these for their kids :).