Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Puzzling Situation

We spend a lot of time gathered around a table working on a puzzle or two or three. We have over the course of time developed a system for how we build our rather complicated puzzles. I thought I would share a few of our family tips with you so you can make building a puzzle a fun thing to do. There is nothing worse than finally getting time with your family doing a fun activity only to have the fun activity turn into a major disappointment. I realize that there is not a lot of contrast between the table and the puzzle pieces. I apologize for that, but the pictures still clear enough to see well.

Step 1

Turn over all the pieces and separate the straight edge pieces from the inside pieces.

Step 2

Build the border.

Step 3

Isolated color patches. Grab ALL the pieces that have the small patches of color that is a small part of the puzzle. This is usually a color that stands out so it is rather easy to cherry pick the the puzzle pieces out of the seemingly endless sea of puzzle pieces. For this puzzle it is the the sky. See how Alyssa has the pieces lined up? Her system makes it a lot easier to find the piece she needs.

Step 4

After the mini patches of color have been put together, then start organizing the puzzle pieces. This will help a lot in the next step. Group pieces together that have the same shape.

Step 5

'Innies' and 'Outties'

I have names for the parts of a puzzle piece. They are real imaginative names that help me look for the piece I need. Now lets just say that the puzzle piece we need is not sitting right next to the puzzle. We would have to search through all sorts of pieces to find the piece to fit into that green hole. The piece we need will be mostly green and have at least three 'innies'. Since we have already grouped all the pieces together all we have to do is go to the groups that have three or four innies and find our piece. :-)

Step 6

  • Chat, laugh and don't take it too seriously.
  • Grab a cup of something warm and settle in. Puzzles can take days to build. There's not a time limit.
  • When you get really stuck, try changing seats and looking at the puzzle from a different point of view. We do a Chinese fire drill sort of thing and every so often, everyone moves one seat to the right.
  • You might not want to start with a 1000 piece puzzle on your first time out, but find a picture that you really like. Some 1000 piece puzzles are easier than 500 piece puzzles. I think photographs are easier to put together than heavily textured painting style puzzles.
  • Make sure you have plenty of space. I like to build the frame and keep all the un-worked pieces outside of the frame so that way when you start getting chunks put together you can put them into the approximate place they will be in the frame. If it is full of puzzle pieces you have no where to go with it.
  • Use the picture on the box as a reference. It will help a lot
  • If you cannot tell if two pieces go together, flip them over and look at the back. The seam between the two pieces should be completely flush with no gaps at all.
  • If you cannot find the piece you are looking for...check the floor. Pieces are so light and they easily stick to your sleeves so check the floor often. (This is also a tip in case you have young ones that put everything they find into their mouth. Puzzle pieces are choking hazards.)

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