Making the Color Tablets

Color Tablets, Box 3

Color Tablets, Box 3

The Color Boxes are a lovely material in the Primary classroom to develop the child's ability to distinguish different colors and hues. A few years ago, we decided to replace the commercially-made Color Tablets in the Primary model classroom with ones that were wound with embroidery floss. This was partly for aesthetic reasons, and partly because the commercially-made ones kicked up a lot of glare that impeded one's ability to easily distinguish the colors. We've been asked so frequently about the process of making this beautiful material that it seemed worthwhile to describe it here in more detail. (skip to the bottom of this post for a PDF of how to wind the embroidery floss onto the tablet).

I'm not going to lie: it's a big task, especially if you're doing all three Color Boxes. Firstly, we had a local carpenter make the wooden tablets and matching box for us (while he appreciated being able to help the training center, he made it clear that this was a one-time project, so we shall not disclose his name). Then Corinne Stastny, our intrepid Primary Course Assistant, journeyed to Joann's Fabrics for the task of selecting the colors.

The trick with the embroidery floss colors is not to worry too much about the exact color families that the manufacturer offers, but instead, just put together a gradation of seven colors yourself using your own judgement. You can bring a commercially-made set of Color Tablets to the store as a guide if you need it. In Color Box 3, the middle hue (number four in the gradation of seven) is exactly the same hue of that color that is used in Color Boxes 1 and 2. This will help to orient you to where the "middle" of the gradation is, and will help you know where the extremes are. You may find it easy to sit down with a bunch of embroidery floss colors from each color, find the middle one, and then work to the extremes from there. Remember, it doesn't matter if the manufacturer thinks the colors belong to a set. What matters is that to your eye, they look like a set. It also helps if all the colors that are from the "darkest" are about the same hue, and all the colors that are "lightest" are all about the same hue. We found that one skein of embroidery floss would make one tablet, with very little left over.

The process of winding the thread on is time consuming, and I recommend doing at home, preferably on your sofa with your comfy pants on, Maybe a Netflix marathon playing in the background. Cats are not helpful for this process, by the way (I speak from experience). We've made a tutorial for winding the thread so you can see how to start it and how to finish it (see below for link to PDF). The method we use requires no glue or other fixative, and it's lasted for well over four years without coming undone.

The reverential gasps we get when visitors see the Color Tablets for the first time is worth the time and effort. We notice that people handle them more carefully, using only the edges to avoid touching the embroidery floss. They are indeed beautiful, and more than ever are a pleasure to use.

Tutorial: How to make the Color Tablets.PDF

NOTE: If the PDF is a bit wonky, please email Sally Coulter and she will send it to you as a Word document. Thanks!

Posted on April 10, 2014 and filed under From MNW Staff, Primary, Resources.