Handmade Kid Chess Set

Hi all! It’s Autumn, back from It’s Always Autumn. I’m excited to be here today sharing a boy tutorial – I have four boys, so boy stuff kind of rules the house here. Of course, today’s project isn’t exclusively for boys – girls could enjoy this as well – but all my boys love it: a handmade chess set.

Handmade Kid Chess Set - The Ribbon Retreat Blog

My older boys (and plenty of their friends) all love chess. We’ve gone through a couple of chess sets in our family. The first one was really nice with glass pieces, which (unsurprisingly) got broken. The second one was cheap with plastic pieces and a flimsy board, which (unsurprisingly) got broken. A few months ago my oldest son asked me for a new chess set. A few days later The Ribbon Retreat asked if I’d like to participate in their boy series, and an idea was born.

Handmade Kid Chess Set - The Ribbon Retreat Blog

I made this chess set a few weeks ago and my kids have pulled it out nearly every day to play. The board is made of soft flannel, which they love, and the pieces are colorful bottlecaps, which is kind of fun. They even turn the pieces upside-down when they want to play checkers:

Handmade Kid Chess Set - The Ribbon Retreat Blog

I made a quick sack using the fabric scraps so they can fold up the pieces inside the board and tuck everything away. No more lost or broken pieces.

Handmade Kid Chess Set - The Ribbon Retreat Blog

This project is quite simple. If you’d like to make your own chess set, you’ll need:

4 – fat quarters of flannel in various colors (two for the checkerboard, one for the back, and one for the binding)


32 bottlecaps (16 of two different colors)

sharpie or printer/modpodge/wax paper for printing symbols on chess pieces

Here’s how to construct the chess board:

Handmade Kid Chess Set - The Ribbon Retreat Blog

1 – To make the checkerboard, cut 8 22 inch x 2.5 inch strips (4 of each color). 2 – Place right side of two different colored strips together and sew along one long side 1/4 inch from edge. Repeat with rest of strips, alternating colors. 3 – Cut crosswise into eight 2.5 inch strips, discarding extra. 4 – Flip every other strip around to form chessboard design. 5 – Sew strips back together. Consider that it might have been a bad idea to use a yardstick to measure when you were cutting strips, seeing as your squares don’t line up very well. 6 – Cut square of flannel for the back, lay checkerboard on top. Pin well. If your squares are nice and tidy, sew straight lines “in the ditch” in a matching color. If your squares are wonky like mine, use contrast thread and sew slightly wavy lines down each row and across each row.

Use your last fat quarter of flannel to bind the checkerboard. I used this tutorial.

Now all you need to do is add chess symbols to your bottlecaps. If you’re handy with a Sharpie you could simply draw them on. I’m not, so I found chess symbols online and resized them. Get a printable PDF here if you’d like to use them.

Handmade Kid Chess Set - The Ribbon Retreat Blog

You’ll want to tape a piece of wax paper onto a normal sheet of paper, taping all round the edges as shown above. Run the paper through your printer. Allow wax paper to dry for at least 15 minutes. While you’re waiting, you can paint the tops of 8 of each color of bottle caps with Mod Podge. This makes them a little less slick and allows them to take the ink. Once the bottle caps are dry, cut out each symbol, then lay the wax paper ink side down on each bottle cap. Scratch back of wax paper gently with your fingernail to transfer ink. Do not slide wax paper around! Pull off paper and allow to dry completely (20 minutes or so should do it).

Handmade Kid Chess Set - The Ribbon Retreat Blog

I thought it would be a good idea to give the bottle caps a top coat of Mod Podge, but that smeared the ink. Once the ink is dry, it won’t rub off, so you don’t really need a top coat anyway.

Handmade Kid Chess Set - The Ribbon Retreat Blog

Come visit me at It’s Always Autumn! If you’re interested in more boy projects, check out Little Man Pajamas (made from a men’s shirt), DIY Bottle Rocket Launcher, and Marshmallow Catapults (all of these projects will work for girls as well!).

Thank you Autumn! Isn’t this such a fun fun tutorial for your little chess playing fellas. What a great project for the 2nd day of our super cool Oh Boy! series. Autumn is extremely talented and always has such great and innovative ideas for all. The best part about her tutorials…they are always explained well enough that everyone from beginners to seasoned crafters can create her projects!

Thank you again Autumn for your super great chess set and for being one of our FABulous Contributors. For more amazing projects from Autumn, visit her at It’s Always Autumn. She would love for you to stop by and say hello! AND…don’t forget to come and see another Fella-rific tutorial in our Oh Boy! series. See you there!

Happy Chess Playing & Happy Creating!
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One Comment

  1. Martha
    Posted August 5, 2013 at 11:26 pm | Permalink

    What a clever idea! I love the bottle cap chess pieces — nothing to break — and the drawstring bag for keeping everything in one place is perfect!

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