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DIY Human Chess Set

While teaching an after-school chess club for elementary students, my club needed a creative (a.k.a. "inexpensive") way to make a human chess set for the kids to wear.  It also had to store pretty compactly, since we have little room in our club's Rubbermaid bin for an elaborate multiple costume set.

I came up with this system of headbands and foam chess pieces that can easily attach to each other using hook and loop closures, yet can store flat in plastic gallon bags in our club's bin without taking up too much room.  And it doesn't cost as much as outfitting 32 children with character costumes!

Step 1: Materials List

You will need the following:

36" X 36" package of black felt
36" X 36" package of white felt
4 sheets of 12" X 18" (2mm or 3mm) black foam 
4 sheets of 12" X 18" (2mm or 3mm) white foam
Scissors, rotary cutter, and/or Xacto craft knife
White thread
Black thread
White Hook and Loop closure (Velcro), 16 inches each side
Black Hook and Loop closure (Velcro), 16 inches each side
White 3/8" elastic, 128 inches total
Ruler
Black Permanent Marker
White Paint Marker
Double Stick Fusible Glue and/or E6000 craft glue
Sewing Machine
Clipart images of the chess pieces (included here)

<p>I love this so much that I wrote a Donor's Choose grant to get the materials. It was funded so now I'm actually making them. I don't really sew, but I wanted to make them high quality like you did. I'm curious, though, should I sew the Velcro on one strip of felt before I sew two strips of felt together or is better to sew it to the doubled felt? Thanks for this. My students are super-excited. (I have most of the stuff cut out, but nothing is put together!)</p>
<p>You can do it either way. Sewing machines can handle two pieces of felt sandwiched together pretty easily, but if you have concerns you can always sew it to on side first before sewing the pieces together. Thanks for your comment! I never know if people find this instructable useful and helpful until somebody says so. I hope your students have fun with the set. We just used our again a month and half ago in chess club, so they are still holding up well after all these years.</p>
<p>Thank you! I'm kind of afraid of the sewing machine. (I missed that week in 6th grade.) My mother-in-law bought one to use when she visits, but she rarely visits and uses it even less often. </p><p>My students are very excited. I think it really helps them understand it better when they can actually be the piece.</p><p>Thanks for your help and your instructable.</p>
<p>Hi, I was wandering if I could please have an email address from you please so I could contact you directly? I work for Intralinks London and am organising a Winter Corporate party and would like to have a set of these hats. Kind regards.</p>
<p>I made this as costumes for the play The Seven Sided Dice which has a real life chess battle in the last scene. It was for a kids theater company with kids from ages 7-16 participating. We made the foam chess pieces just like in the directions. The only change we made on the foam pieces was using white poster paint instead of the white sharpie paint on the black pieces. We started with that but it was very light and didn't show up well on stage. Instead of making headbands we purchased inexpensive ski caps in white and black and sewed the velcro directly onto the hats. I attached a picture with my three daughters in their costumes. I did 30 in all but didn't want to post pictures with others children in them. The black outline on the white pawn didn't show up well with the black background in the picture but looked good on stage during the show. Right before opening night we realized one of the foam pieces had gotten lost so had to make another foam piece quickly. I didn't have time for E6000 craft glue so just used sticky back velcro instead and it held up for all 4 shows. Overall the directions here were very helpful and I'm glad I found something that was very doable for a small children's theater company with a tight costume budget. We paired the pieces from the directions here with thrift store turtlenecks. The kids supplied most of the pants from home. </p>
That is awesome! I am so glad you were able to adapt it to fit your needs. Thank you for letting me know that writing this instructable was worth it. Sometimes I don't [document all my ideas] because I think no one else will need or use it, but seeing your story makes me smile and lets me know that maybe someone out there needs a jumping off point for their project that I could help with.
That is a great idea! Definitely makes chess more interesting :)
We always have fun playing human chess games at our school. The first time is definitely a learning curve on what works and what doesn't work with kids aged 6 to 13. But the second time playing with all the kids was a blast!

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Bio: Once a mechanical and materials engineer that worked on rockets, I am now a stay-at-home mom to three incredible children who let me craft and ... More »
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