Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Weird Things My Parents Used To Make Me Do #2: Pom-Poms

One week before the school holidays are finally over and we're scraping the bottom of the activities barrel like only a knackered mum with 50p in the bank until payday can.  With this in mind, I donned my Desperate Measures hat and thought back to the stuff my brother and I were made to do in the 80s.  Baffling memories of trout farm visits aside, there was quite a lot of craft, although I use the term 'craft' loosely as some of you may remember the terrifying Humpty Dumptys that my mother used to make with us from a previous post.

What we needed was something quiet, something familiar and comforting, something we could do together whilst chatting amiably on the sofa, whiling away the hours of an unseasonably gloomy day.  Pom-poms.  We'd make a pom-pom.  My mum used to do that with me.  I must have been about Rory's age.  Such a relaxing activity.

Now it just so happens that I had a bag of leftover bits of wool waiting to be used up, so we were all set.  Here is a tutorial for those of you that wish to experience the same tranquility:

1. Locate cardboard. You will have to fish some out of the bin, I expect.

2. Cut out two circles of equal size, then cut out a smaller circle in the middle of each of the existing circles.

3. Allow child to choose first colour of wool.  Tie end of wool around the two cardboard circles that you have placed on top of each othe...oh FFS, I really can't be bothered to tell you how to make a pom-pom.  There's a reason I'm not a craft blogger, and that reason is that I can't be fannied.  Go and look at this one that someone's kindly done on Wikihow.

4. So, we've skipped to the point where your child is winding the wool around the cardboard.

5. Untangle child's fingers.

6. Untangle child's fingers.

7. Untangle wool.

8. Untangle child's fingers and wool.

9. Demonstrate yet again how to wind wool around a pissing bit of card, it's not hard is it?

10. Untangle child's fingers.


12. (20 boring minutes later) "There now, so you see, once you've got the hang of going OVER and UNDER, it's really easy, here, you just do this last bit and..."

13. Untangle child's fingers.

14. Get child to choose second colour.  Tie on to first colour and use gentle, encouraging voice to help them to build the confidence to try again:  "That's it, over and under, over and, you've got to pull the thread round to keep the winding close together, then over and under, over and under, over and...OH MY GOD, PULL THE THREAD ROUND.  PULL THE THREAD ROUND. I JUST DON'T UNDERSTAND WHAT'S SO FUDGING DIFFICU...No. No. I mean, that's very good. Well done darling"

15. Send child off to find the scissors while you unwind everything they've done and do it again properly. Pom-pom making is a precise art with no room for error.

16. Pull self together and try to locate calm and encouraging voice again, but child is now wise to you and doesn't want to make a pom-pom any more.

17. Little do they know, they will be making the bastard thing whether they want to or not.  If it takes 3 days and you lose all your hair in the process, they will still make and finish a pom-pom.  You will not fail.

18.  Choose colour number 3.  Set them off again, heavily supervising to avoid unnecessary tangling.  this works quite well, but does not allow you to do anything else at the same time, such as send text saying "God I'm bored" to your friend.

19. Realization that this is not the calm, idyllic craft activity of your imagination hits at the same time that you notice that the bright orange quadruple loop Hotwheels track that's overtaken your living room is doing your head in, that the massive hole in your sofa seat cushion has doubled in size and that you are, in fact, living in squalor.

20.  Tension.  Disappointment in self. Repressed anger at child for being a bit cack-handed as feels like a symbol of everything else in life that you've failed to do in your years as a mother and housewife.  House still a tip despite best efforts, chicken nuggets for tea, hole in bathroom wall, no money until pay day, child can't make a pom-pom.  It's all bad.

21.  Have to abandon pom-pom attempt as feeling a bit tearful.

22. Leave child in front of telly while you bash out emotional email to husband which contains the words "squalid", "failure", "going mental" and "pom-pom" far more times than should be necessary.

23. Pause with finger on mouse, hovering over 'send' as you think of husband's working day being interrupted by insane email from wife, and of his thought process thereafter, which will involve memories of pulling all-nighters, getting drunk on cocktails and engaging in riveting conversation with his slender, glamorous wife in a lifetime long ago.  Now wife is sitting at computer snivelling into third round of toast and wearing a pair of jeans with a paint stain on and the top button undone, unable to cope with the emotional strain of making a little fluffy ball of wool with a four year old.

24. Delete email.

25. Steel self.

26. Return to hole-ridden sofa and recommence making pom-pom, doing most of it yourself, but occasionally giving it to child for them to do a bit.  You will NOT swear.  You will NOT swear.  OK, you will ONLY swear in your head.

27.  Finished.  Cut round the edge of wool and remove the cardboard to enraptured "ooohs" and "aaahhhs" from child.  Success.  Sort of.  You have a pom-pom.  Child is disproportionately impressed or maybe just humouring you. "What do you actually do with a pom-pom, Mummy?" asks adorable, tolerant child with huge wide eyes.  Fuck knows darling.  Fuck knows.


  1. There are real tears rolling down my face and my ribs hurt. Thank you, I needed that :)

  2. Awesome! Adding that to the list of things I'm not going to do with my cherub.

  3. if it makes you feel any better, that is actually a BRILLIANT Pom pom

  4. I actually laughed until I nearly vomited. You are actually me. amazing!

  5. "Untangle child's fingers" - Oh I can relate let me tell you! I run a Beaver Scout group and my assistant came up with the fabulous (?) idea of making Christmas robins from pom poms. In theory it was a great idea until we started out and came to realise that 20 out of 24 6-8 year olds CANNOT make pom-poms!! It really is not that simple. By the end of the session I had almost made 2 children cry and was ready to lock myself into the store cupboard as a gibbering wreck myself! So what became of the pom-poms? My assistant and I took them home and made them ourselves - each one took about 2 hours - I kid you not. At the next session we let them pull the rings off and stick eyes and feet on the blasted robins and they were delighted with them, although when a few started playing 'conkers' with them and the robins disintegrated, I had to remove myself from the area for a few minutes muttering " All those hours of winding wool around a circle!" plus a few more choice words... At the end of the evening all we heard was, "Look what I made mummy!" by 24 darling little Beavers whilst my assistant and I smiled politely........... If I NEVER make another pop-pom, it will be too soon!

    1. You've just taken me back to the time during my fiorst year of teaching that I decided that making paper mache photo frames with a class of 25 Year 3 children we completely do-able. I nearly had a nervous breakdown. I think I've actually blocked parts of the memory out due to the trauma.

      That sounds awful. Pom poms have a lot to answer for.

  6. I was directed to your article by a friend who'd posted a link to it on Facebook. My boyfriend and I had a huge laugh reading it; so much of it rings a bell (we have an eight-year-old boy, I remember those long, gloomy afternoons well, I used to think my boyo was cack-handed... and I did click "send" a couple of times). Next time the words "squalid", "failure" and "going mental" come to your mind, do tell yourself that you have an amazing story-telling gift, and that your son is very lucky to have you.

  7. I too have tears in my eyes. Luckily I don't have any spare wool in my house otherwise I would probably smugly think, well I'm sure me and my child could make a pom-pom, only to be proved wrong later! I too have sent a few over-emotional emails to my hubby on bad days, sometimes deleting them and sparing him from being bemused at work!

  8. Ah! I am the mother who made a pom pom with my daughter who found it so impressive that she felt the need to pass this skill on to her son, my grandson. Sorry, dear daughter but I never told you how it really was. Yes, you were impressed with your pom pom but we made several before we got to the final one (i use the royal "we" here as I did most of the work)..... Yes, what you never knew was that after winding the wool round the first circle of card, i realised that there should have been TWO circles of card so that it would be easy to tie the wool round the middle. So we ended up with small strands of wool all over the floor. The second time, i gave you the scissors to cut the strands of wool prior to tying it all together ...... But I didnt watch what you were doing and you cut the inside of the circle instead of the outside. Hmmmmm. Third time lucky ....but the carpet was now covered in multi coloured strands of wool which the hoover refused to pick up. Pom pom fail? It is in the genes my dear...

  9. I am crying with laughter and recognition - this is just like the time my 8yo wanted to learn to crochet. It nearly killed us both.

    Point 9 is ME, gritting my teeth and trying not to hiss/swear at my precious first born...

    1. Oh Jesus, my mum tried to teach me how to crochet when I was 8. I'm surprised that I made it out alive after that.

  10. Oh god I can't believe I don't come here every day for inspiration! This sounds exactly like craft in our house. Except for the fact that I would stop at the idea and take them out to Wagamama's for tea instead. ;)

  11. This is exactly how craft goes in my house, minus the breaking of the craft afterwards by a clumsy mum, which is what happened to me this week - oh the same! Hilarious. Thanks so much for sharing with the Parenting Pin it Party and giving me a good laugh :-D

  12. I also tried to make pompoms with pre-schoolers recently, it was just as disasterous. They couldn't wrap the wool around and when I tried to make the pompoms and when I tried to turn their (my) efforts into pompoms they fell apart because I made the holes to big and the cardboard ring too narrow. Love your honesty.

    1. I really do think it's nece3ssary that every Pom Pom tutorial online should have WARNING, DO NOT ATTEMPT WITH PRE-SCHOOLERS FOR THE SAKE OF YOUR OWN SANITY written across them in large red letters.