A ‘Founding Father’ of our country, Benjamin Franklin, was a Renaissance man with many skills, talents, achievements, and innovations. His professional life includes titles such as: scientist, activist, politician, postmaster, inventor, musician, and diplomat. An astute inventor, Franklin counted bifocals, the lightning rod, catheter, odometer, and glass harmonica among his inventions; he even mapped the Gulf Stream. By teaching and practicing the ideology of “paying it forward” and other social justices, he contributed to a greater society.
Benjamin Franklin saw potential in even the simplest things, perhaps most famously in the act of flying a kite. Stepping into a lightning storm with key, jar, and string in hand, he turned what would be a leisurely pastime for most into scientific research.
I return to this humorous, enlightening article on Mr. Franklin from the NY Times series ‘And the Pursuit of Happiness’ by Maira Kalman. “He believed in doing good everyday.”
Here you have instructions on how to make your own kite in Alabama Chanin style. While we chose to fly our kite on a clear, blue-skied day (rather than in a lightning storm), we keep in mind that there is always opportunity for innovation.
Fly at your own risk.
One 21” x 31” diamond-shaped piece of brown kraft paper
One 17” x 27” diamond-shaped piece of brown kraft paper
5 linear feet of 1/4” bass wood (This is can be found at your local arts and crafts store.)
Anna’s Garden Stencil
Paint or decorating method of your choice
2”-wide x 50”-long strip of lightweight organic cotton jersey for kite tail
20’ of 1/2” twine for kite string; you can easily make this twine by cutting and tying together cotton jersey fabric scraps.
Recycled thread spool (We used our wooden embroidery floss spool.)
Button Craft thread
Cut two diamond-shaped pieces of brown kraft paper. The large piece measures 21” along the top edges and 31” along the bottom edges. The height – from the top point to the bottom point – measures 36”. The maximum width – from left point to right point – measures 23”. The small piece measures 17” along the top edges and 27” along the bottom edges. We made our small piece two inches shorter along all edges, creating a seam allowance.
Stencil one side of each piece of kraft paper using Anna’s Garden Stencil and textile paint (or decorate with the technique of your choice).
Once the paint is dry, align the paper with stenciled sides facing out. There should be a 2” seam allowance, or border, along each edge of the small diamond.
With the small diamond facing up, fold the edge of the larger piece in by 1” then fold over another 1” to allow for a clean-finished edge. Crease the paper to make a crisp edge.
Thread your needle with a double strand of Button Craft thread, “love” your thread, and knot off with a double knot. Starting at one of the “points”, insert your needle into the folded piece, 1/4” from the inside fold. Then using a straight stitch, stitch 1/4” from the inside folded edge along its length until you arrive back at your starting point. This will make a finished edge for your kite.
Cut two pieces of bass wood for your kite frame; their lengths will be 36” and 23”. These should be the same length as the full height and width of your small diamond pattern.
Lay the pieces of bass wood on top of the smaller diamond-shaped pattern piece. Mark their point of intersection.
Draw a 1” diameter circle where the two pieces intersect. Using your paper scissors, cut out the circle shape. Secure the open edges of the paper where the circle was cut with a blanket stitch using your Button Craft thread.
To reinforce the frame, we chose to wrap each piece of bass wood with tape at their point of intersection.
Slide the bass wood into the paper fold at each point, or corner. Secure the ends of the bass wood to the paper with a whipstitch at each of the corners.
Further secure the bass wood to the kraft paper with whipstitches evenly spaced across each length.
Next, you will need string to fly your kite. Follow instructions for our cotton jersey pulls, changing the width from 1” to 1/2”. We tied our pulls together to create 20’ of length to fly the kite.
Wrap a recycled thread spool with your twine.
From the finished side of the kite, take the open end of your twine and tie a box knot.
To finish our kite, we cut a 50” x 2” scrap of lightweight cotton jersey to use as the tail. We attached to the bottom of the frame with a basic knot.