To read more about the Chinese history and legends of kites, read our post here.
Weeks ago, in getting ready for the Double Ninth festival, the girls made their own Chinese kites. They perused Demi's "Kites: Magic Wishes that Fly Up to the Sky" for inspiration. With rice paper, acrylic paints and thin dowels, we jumped head first into making fanciful Chinese kites. They looked gorgeous! As it turns out, we weren't being very practical.
|Their gorgeous Chinese kites - they spent hours making them.|
Pea's butterfly kite symbolizes beauty and free spirit; Elle's bat kite symbolizes joy and long life.
The Wright brothers used kites to study aerodynamics
|Kites have been patched with lots of masking tape on the back, touched up and hanging as art (next to the tetrahedral kite we made years ago, but haven't even tried flying).|
We then decided to try a simpler kite, the classic diamond shaped two stick kite. We were inspired by this, (though we made a single kite):
|Above is an example of a train kite - mulitiple kites connected by a line together|
Photo Credit: Will Clayton
|Yay! It can fly!|
How to Make a Kite
- 1 sheet of standard 8.5 x 11 paper
- Pencil, ruler, scissors
- Newspaper (Hubby brought home a Chinese newspaper, and, well, what else was I going to do with it?)
- Dowel (one 1/8" dowel, 48" long was all we needed, found at Home Depot)
- Masking tape (there will be a lot of "secure with tape" - make sure it is good tape, and easy to peel off the roll)
- Spool of quilting quality thread & needle (one with lots of thread)
- Crepe streamer
- Measuring tape
- Paint or markers to decorate the kite
- Small piece of wax paper (optional)
- First, make your template with your sheet of paper. I made a "half" template to create a symmetrical kite, which is important for balance. Using a ruler, trace a diagonal line from top corner to opposite bottom corner, dividing it in half. Keep one half as is, and take the other half to form the top of your diamond - see picture below. Cut to size, and tape the two pieces together.
|Cut along the lines, tape both pieces together|
3. Decorate your kite - it is easier to do that now rather then when it has rods in the back. Bright, bold colors will show up more when your kite is high up in the sky. Inspired by the Chinese kite train above, we painted an opera mask. You can download a free printable, ready to color or paint mask here that can be glued on, or try painting it freehand. Let it dry before attaching rods to the back :)
4. Cut your dowel into two pieces: 1 at 17 1/4" long, and the other at 16 1/2" long. Don't throw out the leftover piece, you'll be using that for the kite reel. Using masking tape, cover each end of the dowels, so they don't pierce through the paper. Lay the two dowels in form of cross using your kite piece as a guide. Using twine, secure the two pieces together where they meet in the middle. Place a piece of wax paper underneath the knotted center, and cover the twine with glue. Let dry. This ensures it stays good and sturdy. I used wax paper underneath so it could be peeled away once the glue dries.
5. Secure dowels in place with masking tape - one piece at all four ends. Cut each corner perpendicular to the dowel so that folding the edge will be easier (see figure B, right image). Take twine, wrap it around the tip of one dowel, then run it around all sides, twisting it securely at each tip, knotting it when you have returned to the first one. Make sure the twine is taut. This forms a frame. Secure the twine at each dowel tip with tape.
6. Fold the edge of the paper over the framing twine. Unfold, spread glue over the edges, and press them over the string. Let dry.
7. Attach the bridle string. The bridle is a string about 3 times as long as the kite. The bridle is attached to the kite, in this case at both ends of the spine, and the kite line is attached to the bridle. Cut a piece of thread 53" long. Tie one end of your thread to the dowel at the bottom of the kite. Once knotted to dowel, thread it through the paper, to the painted side. Doing it this way means you will see your image when the kite is flying. Thread the other end of your thread back through the paper at the top of the kite, knotting it to the top of the dowel. There should be hanging thread from the front/painted side of the kite.
8. Holding the length of thread from the top of the kite, measure down 17". This is your tow point, the point where the kite line will be attached. Tie a loop in your thread at this point (see top right image). If you lift your bridle from the loop, the thread should be shorter near the top of the kite.
9. Make your kite reel. Rather than pulling it feet upon feet of thread to wrap it around something else (piece of wood or heavy cardboard) - I just used the rest of the spool of thread. I poked the remaining piece of dowel through the center of the spool, making sure there is enough length of dowel on either side of the spool to hold onto, and secured with tape. Attach the thread from your reel to the loop on your kite bridle.
10. Lastly, attach a tail to the kite. We used a paper streamer - actually, we used two :). The tail should be 1 1/2 times the length of the spine - in this case 26" long. I added a much longer tail after having difficulty with the kite spinning in circles - the second tail is 60" long. Attach the tail to the bottom end of the kite, securing with tape on the back. Make sure it is centered.
It's done! Try taking the kite out for a spin. Despite crashing repeatedly after spinning madly in circles (prior to the 2nd tail), this kite remained resilient and did not need any patching up. The longer, second tail really helped stabilize it. It make take a few tries to get it up - but that is part of the fun. Keep in mind - location, location, location. An open field, with light to medium wind is ideal. And don't forget to never fly near power lines.
You can find more cultural and historical activities at the following linkups: