Sewing with Kids: How to Make Embroidered Biome Maps for Geography Studies

Hey guys! I recently posted a picture of my daughter’s latest embroidery project — a biome map of Africa — on Instagram and I received a lot of questions about it. So I thought I’d do a really quick tutorial on how we made our biome maps in case you’d like to undertake this type of project, too.

I’ll be honest, though, when I started I didn’t give much forethought into how it’d turn out. However, in this case NOT having a plan mapped out was actually pretty exhilarating since Lilly and I were able to collaborate on the project together.

In a rush? No worries! Simply click the “Pin It” button on the image below to save this post to Pinterest and then come back and check it out any time.

Sewing with Kids: How to Make Embroidered Biome Maps. Looking for a new handiwork activity for kids? Try embroidering biome maps! Sewing is wonderful for fine motor skills, and coupling it with biome maps makes it a wonderful extension for elementary science and geography studies. #homeschool #kidshandicrafts #charlottemason #sewingwithkids #montessoriathome #practicallife #homeeducation #biomestudies #geography #minimalistcrafting

Since we’ll be starting biome studies this fall, I’ve been considering what materials we’ll need and one of the things at the top of my priority list was a set of biome maps. Waseca Biomes sells gorgeous ones, but at $65 dollars each they’re just not within our budget.

I had then intended to purchase their complete set of control charts for the biome puzzles and simply laminate them so we’d have them available as a reference, but when I started looking for an embroidery project to practice some new stitches I figured embroidering a biome map would be pretty awesome, right?

Best of all, it would actually serve a practical purpose in our homeschool! #minimalistcrafting

A continents globe sits on top of a Moppe storage unit from IKEA. An embroidered biome map sewn by a child is hung on the wall, and several Schleich animals are displayed beside it, inviting open-ended play and exploration for young children.
Here’s a look at Lilly’s finished embroidered map of the biomes of Africa displayed in our homeschool room.

Graciously, Waseca actually makes available a TON of learning resources for biome studies free in their A-to-Z PDF Library, so I headed there and found the biome map for Africa.

You can find the individual biome map under the “Masters for the Biomes of…” files in the A-to-Z PDF Library on the Waseca Biomes website.

I selected Africa first because we’ve been reading — and re-reading — several chapter book series based in Africa (The Anna Hibiscus Collection, The Akimbo Adventures, and the Precious Ramotswe Mysteries for Young Readers) over the past few months, so the biomes of Africa were relevant to us.

If you’re looking for some new read aloud books for kids ages 3-6 definitely check out the ones I listed above! They’re all really fun to read. You can find a more detailed summary of these book collections here: Montessori-Friendly Read Alouds Perfect for Preschoolers.

So, onto the supplies and materials!

I selected cotton drop cloth as the fabric on which to embroider since I already had a bunch of scraps available.

Now, if by chance you’re reading this and you’re an embroidery expert, then please forgive my ignorance when it comes to the best fabrics for embroidery. Since we’re still beginners around here, I just try to use what we already have on hand, and I’ve discovered cotton drop cloth is actually a pretty durable material for kids to practice their embroidery skills on so it’s been a win-win for us.

Here are the materials needed to make an embroidered biome map: an embroidery hoop, corresponding shades of embroidery thread -- one for each biome, a pincushion, a water erasable fabric marking pen, a pair of scissors, and a piece of cotton fabric.
Here are the basic supplies you’ll need for this project: an embroidery hoop, an embroidery needle, a pincushion, a pair of scissors, a water erasable fabric marking pen, a piece of fabric, and corresponding colors of embroidery thread — at least one for each biome and another for the map’s outline.

Next, I simply printed the map onto the fabric so I would have the corresponding lines.

If you’re not comfortable printing on fabric or would prefer a more seamless biome map, then you can instead print the map onto a sheet of paper, lay your fabric on top, hold both up to a bright window, and then trace the lines using a water erasable fabric marking pen.

The map of the biomes of Africa has been embroidered and is now ready to be cut out. You can download biome map templates from Waseca Biomes.
I even forgot to erase the map legend before printing the map onto the fabric. Told you I was totally winging it at the start!

Once you have your template lines, it’s time to begin stitching. I used a medium size embroidery hoop, and my daughter selected a small size embroidery hoop. She finds it’s easier to hold, and then she just repositions the fabric as needed.

As I mentioned on Instagram, it really wasn’t my intention for Lilly to join me in this project.

It was simply a project I selected for myself to practice embroidery because I feel very strongly that handiwork is important not only for our children but also for adults. And what better way to encourage our children to learn a handicraft than by putting forth the effort to learn one ourselves? Remember, children are remarkable observers and are more likely to do as you do than do as you say.

The project piqued Lilly’s interest, though, and she asked if she could make her own map. I quickly reviewed backstitch with her since it had been awhile since she had used it, and then she diligently set about embroidering the outline of her own map and quickly completed it.

A water brush can be used to erase the fabric template lines on an embroidery project with kids.

Once the outline was complete, it was time to figure out which fill stitch to use. Lilly and I looked at a couple examples online before we both agreed on seed (or rice) stitch. She thought it looked like sprinkles and was excited to begin.

She selected the order in which we completed the biomes, and whenever there was a lull to the day or she saw me working on mine she’d choose to sew a few stitches on hers as well.

Looking for a fun handwork project to work on with your children? Try embroidering biome maps as part of your homeschool geography studies. Here, a young girl is embroidering her biome map while her younger sister works beside her.

It took a little over a week for us to complete the embroidery. At this point, I had to figure out what to actually do with the maps to make them functional. I suggested perhaps framing them, but Lilly wasn’t completely sold on that idea because she didn’t want them to be forever stuck in a frame on the wall. She told me she wanted to be able to play with them. So in the end we decided on backing the embroidered map with wool felt and then cutting it out.

At this point you may be asking, ‘Why felt?’ It’s because felt will actually stick to felt. So I figure once we complete all the biome maps for the remaining continents we can purchase a really large piece of felt and the girls can then piece together their own world biome map using the individual continent pieces.

In the meantime, though, I managed to find a spare frame we had lying around the house and removed the glass cover, then cut a piece of wool felt to size and placed it in the frame.

I hung the frame in the girls’ schoolroom near the continents globe and the cross-stitch world map. The framed felt piece will allow Lilly to keep one of her embroidered maps on display, and since it’s only stuck on via the felt-on-felt attachment she can easily remove the map piece and play with it as desired.

Pretty cool, right?

Of course once we complete the other biome maps for the remaining continents, she can then switch out whichever one she’d like to display until we get a large scale felt map board made.

The geography corner of a Montessori-inspired homeschool room contains a continents globe, a world map, an embroidered biome map of Africa alongside several Schleich animals representative of Africa. Also included on the shelf is a CD player for children to listen to music and a pipedream instrument.

All right, back to the tutorial…

In order to make the embroidered maps standalone pieces, we simply traced an outline around the edge of our maps with a water erasable fabric marking pen, laid the fabric on top of the wool felt, and then used a sewing machine to sew them together. Once sewn, we used a small pair of scissors to carefully cut outside the blue line.

For this part, you need to be careful that you do not clip any of the sewn stitches.

My daughter needed a little assistance with this part of the project since the cotton + wool felt fabric was pretty thick, so we took turns when her hands got tired.

Learn how to make an embroidered biome map with your kids. You can either frame it on the wall, or you can make a cutout version by attaching a felt backing, sewing it together, and then cutting it out. It's now a fun manipulative for geography studies! Younger children may need assistance cutting the fabric once the wool felt backing has been attached.

Once the map has been cut out, you can go ahead and erase your template lines. My daughter likes to use her water brush to easily accomplish this task.

The embroidered map of the biomes of Africa has been sewn and cut out. A young girl now uses a water brush to erase the last fabric market template lines.

Almost done!

Now because we used cotton drop cloth it was important to do something to prevent the cotton fabric edges from fraying. Years ago I made a birthday banner using the same drop cloth fabric and saw a tip on Pinterest about using Mod Podge to seal the edges.

Mod Podge can be used to seal fabric edges to prevent fraying. When setting up this activity with children, it is helpful to provide them with a small dish and a small paintbrush.

That tip seems to have worked since our birthday banner is still in good condition, so I thinned a bit of Mod Podge with water and we set about painting it all around the edge of the map.

A girl uses a small paintbrush to apply Mod Podge to the outer edges of the cotton drop cloth fabric to prevent it from fraying.

Here’s a quick tip for crafting with kids: I like to use the SMULA trays sold by IKEA when we’re using potentially messy crafting items like glue. Not only do they protect the underlying surface, but they’re easily wipeable and the raised outer lip helps to contain spills.

Interested in what other products from IKEA we’ve found to be super useful with kids? Check out our best finds and a detailed description for each here: IKEA Favorites: The Products Most Loved in Our Montessori-Inspired Home.

Okay, so once you’ve sealed the edge of the fabric with Mod Podge, simply let the map dry for a couple hours and then you’re all done! Yay!

If you love this project, I’d really appreciate if you’d save this post to Pinterest. Simply click on the “Pin It” button on the image below. Thanks!

Homespun Montessori: How to Make Embroidered Biome Maps. Learn how to make a set of embroidered biome maps for geography studies. It's a great handiwork project to undertake alongside your children. #sewingwithkids #charlottemason #montessoriathome #embroideryproject #handwork #craftingfever #makersgonnamake

I’m honestly not sure who is more excited to begin our next embroidered continent map — me or Lilly. She definitely has a maker spirit, always seeking to create new things, and I’m grateful to be able to witness her sense of pride, accomplishment, and fulfillment grow with each new project she undertakes.

I’d love to know what other handiwork projects your children enjoy. Please do share in the comments below! ❤️

2 thoughts on “Sewing with Kids: How to Make Embroidered Biome Maps for Geography Studies”

    1. I use our regular inkjet printer. To print on fabric, I either use Aleene’s tacky spray or double-sided tape to adhere the drop cloth fabric to a piece of cardstock and then carefully trim away any overhang before putting it into the printer. Be sure there are no loose strings. Then I just place the fabric face-down and print as normal. I usually let the ink dry for about 5 minutes before removing the fabric from the cardstock. Hope this helps!

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