Category Archives: kid crafts

Bottle cap cufflinks and a lesson in elastic

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Rob had a birthday this past week. He collects cufflinks and has many interesting novelty pairs, including a couple I have made from Scrabble tiles and Legos. This year I was thinking it would be fun to have a pair made from the bottle caps of an iconic beer–maybe PBR or something. Dorothy and I keep a stash of bottle caps for crafting so I checked them to find a fun matching pair but all I found were caps from yuppie imports, nothing with the “real man” cache as Pabst Blue Ribbon. I did find some Coca Cola caps, however, from a case of Mexican Coke (made with actual sugar!) we’d bought on a whim last year and enjoyed by drinking with ice cream (him) and bourbon (me), and decided these would work. I glued three stacked pennies inside each cap to make a platform for the cufflink hardware, then glued it on and that was that. Making cufflinks is really a three-step process: 1) find what you want to use, 2) acquire cufflink hardware, and 3) glue them together. Done!

Here is my crew getting ready to sing the birthday song to Dad. Dorothy made the paper chain decoration like last year, and I made Rob’s requested angel food cake with strawberry icing and also devil’s food cupcakes for the chocolate-loving sinners like me. Worth has just recently graduated from his high chair and is proud to be seated in an elevated chair at the table with his sister.

Dorothy decided to sew yesterday. I gave her some scrap fabric and she announced she wanted to make a pair of mittens for her brother, a simple thumb-less pair just like some he’s already got. I don’t like to get in the way of her crafty experimentation, so I allowed her to cut mitt-shaped fabric much too small. She impressed me by turning the fabric right-side-in before stitching around the perimeter of the mitt, but once she turned it right-side-out she realized the sizing problem. Undaunted, she stitched up the other mitt and presented them to him, saying, “Buddy! I made you finger-warmers!” And he wore them around the house proudly. After a few minutes, though, she got to thinking maybe she wanted to try again. This time she asked for my help and suggested that her previous design might also be improved with some elastic. I unearthed some scrap fleece which I thought might make better mittens than the cotton, rounded up the requested elastic, and together we cut out much larger mitt shapes. She stitched around the edges and I helped her make a casing for some elastic at the wrist. Our joint venture just about fell apart at this point because she could not get the hang of pushing the elastic (with attached safety pin) through the casing. She shoved it over to me and just wanted me to do it for her, but I knew she’d enjoy this project more if she could really call it her own. I got an idea to sew a casing into the side of a plastic bag, so she could practice threading the elastic through it and actually see the progress she was making through the clear sides. This worked perfectly.

Dorothy figured out how to push the elastic through very quickly and then did it several more times.

She was rightfully proud of the mittens she made her brother, modeled by her because he refused to have his photo taken in them. He’s fond of them too, since she made them, and I’m hopeful he might even keep them on outside.

I’ve been growing herbs in my basement, of all places, courtesy of an AeroGarden I purchased used last year. I’d gotten it around the time we moved but never had the chance to set it up until this fall when the cold weather chased my outdoor gardening efforts inside. The setup really works beautifully and looks so lively and cheerful downstairs in our basement classroom. The basil has been so prolific I’ve had to take snips upstairs to put in water in my windowsill until I can use it. It feels a little decadent to be snipping fresh herbs in January. (Please ignore the splattered window in the background. I never claimed to be a great housekeeper.)

I just realized that this blog’s second anniversary has now come and gone. Two years! That doesn’t seem right, but as I’m browsing back through my early posts it seems even longer than that, making tiny things for the “big” boy who now sits at the table, and then admiring his wee ways. Dorothy’s grown so much in this time too. I’m glad to have this record to reflect on; thanks for joining me!

 

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Holiday puttering

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Such a busy time of year! We’re making homemade granola and putting it in jars for teachers and sitters…

crafting up cute gift tags, baking cookies, using too much tape, running late to events, forgetting to water the tree, thoroughly enjoying the season, and being so thankful we’re not moving like this time last year!

Hope you’re having a wonderful Advent season!

Fall snacks and more pillows

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When I did the bat pillows last month I also cut out pillowcases for my family room sofa. I wanted something that could stay out all fall, not just for Halloween. I vaguely remembered seeing something in a magazine that used a similar style for a felt leaf applique and I liked that idea, so I went with it. I didn’t want these pillows to match so I put an acorn on the other. These pillows have been nice projects because they are quick but make a nice impact. I used really inexpensive clearance fabric for the pillow cases, attached the felt cutouts with fabric glue, then stitched around them with embroidery floss. I printed out some internet clip art to look at while I cut out the shapes. The only problem with these was that in a couple places the fabric glue soaked through the felt and left dark splotches. If I did this again I’d use less glue and not handle the pillowcase at all until the glue was dry. After these were done I thought that if I was going to blog about it I should try to look up that magazine reference and I found it. I love the shiny fabric they used but that wouldn’t be so practical in a home full of peanut-buttery fingers.

This autumn has been so erratic with the temperatures. Right when I get settled into fires in the fireplace, homemade wool socks and hot spiced apple cider (with brandy after 6 pm!) it turns warm again and I need something refreshingly cool. One day I experimented by stirring some maple syrup into sparkling water and pouring it over ice and I was so happy. Yum. Since that day I have experimented with the syrup, cream and milk and determined that the perfect maple cream cooler is this: 1 TB real maple syrup + 1 TB whole milk + glass full of iced sparkling water. This is what warm autumn days are for.  🙂

And while I’m on fall snacks, it annoys me that the popular consciousness considers peeled apple slices dipped in sugar syrup (caramel, whatever) to be a “snack.” I hate to break it to anyone, but peeled fruit with a side of sugar is dessert. But the dipping of apple slices is kind of awesome, and I’m pleased to have landed on a new apple dip for the days when we’re tired of our usual almond or peanut butters. I stirred a dollop of honey and a pinch of pumpkin pie spice into plain yogurt and it’s very good. Fallish and creamy and reminiscent of pie. And much more virtuous than caramel! If you don’t have pumpkin (or apple) pie spice you can easily make your own. Here’s a recipe that turned up in a quick google search, or you can create your own based on your favorite fall spices. I use it in everything this time of year from pancakes to yogurt to sprinkling it on top of my coffee grounds before brewing. The local schools are on fall break today so my little homeschooler took the morning off as well. Our neighbor friend came over to play with Dorothy and I helped them have a crafty morning together. The girls decorated treasure boxes out of old yogurt containers that seem very much like some flower pots we made once before, and they sewed dolls inspired by the ones I saw in Martha Stewart Living this past month. They made theirs out of old white napkins because they didn’t like the idea of a doll made from printed fabric. They have big plans for sewing doll dresses next but have now taken an extended break to dig in the dirt out in this lovely fall sunshine.

Pressed flowers and crocheted socks

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Dorothy and I pressed flowers as a school craft. I don’t think I’d pressed flowers since I was in high school. It’s one of those things, I think, where I’ve seen supplies at crafty places and gotten suckered into the idea that it’s just a craft for people who have the right gear, which is just silly. Pressing flowers requires only a stack of heavy objects. We have those. We used cardboard to lay out the petals and another piece to lay over them.

After two weeks under the heavy objects (books, in our case) we had beautiful pressed blossoms, which we adhered to cards using rubber cement. This was a pretty and satisfying craft for both of us, and it was fun to count down the days until the flowers were done.

I also finally finished my second pair of crocheted socks. I made socks from this pattern right before Worth was born and loved them so much I knew I needed more.  Then Rob got me yarn for our seventh wedding anniversary, from which I made a hat and started socks. But since I have other things to do (ahem) and have not been too inspired to make wooly socks during the warmer months it took me a long time to finish these. The recent chill has me crocheting again so I finally pulled this project out and finished it up.

I have every reason to think I’m going to love these socks as much as the first ones. This is a great pattern–the small size fits me perfectly, and they are so warm and comfortable. The other pair is my go-to comfort strategy when I come inside on cold or wet days. After we moved to this house with the fireplace I’d put on these socks and sit in front of the fire–domestic heaven! Now I’m prepared for winter weather with this cheerful new pink pair.

Gifts and summer pajamas

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I put the home related sewing aside this week to make myself a pair of summer pj’s. Sleeping in old t-shirts and well-worn pajamas pants is comfortable, but sometimes I just want to feel a little cuter at night, even if the only person to notice might be my still-won’t-sleep-through-the-night toddler. I used a free pattern I found online for the tank, but I’m not going to link to it because I really didn’t care for it. I had to make many alterations and it still is a bit big, even though the pattern involved taking my own measurements before starting. It’ll work fine for sleeping though. I made bermuda-length sleep shorts to match by cutting around pants I already own and they fit perfectly. The pajamas are made from super-soft thrift store sheets in 100% cotton. I love the pretty print, and that new fabric could never be so wonderfully soft. (Aside: Wondering about that beautiful turquoise wall behind the pajamas?  That’s my bedroom! It used to be covered in “tropical” wallpaper. More on that project is forthcoming!)

This was a Mother’s Day project I’d almost forgotten to blog about. I bought some little silver charms at Joann that are intended to hold tiny photographs. Then I printed out a whole page of empty squares just the right size on cardstock and let Dorothy draw mini pictures in each one with pen and colored pencil. We chose our favorites and I glued them onto the charms, then we covered them with several coats of brush-on gloss glaze. The flower charm was a gift to my mother and the bird is now mine. We strung them on silver chains.

Dorothy had a major milestone this past week–she finished preschool! As much as I’m looking forward to having her home next year it was emotional and a little rough to watch all her treasures come home from school. It was like watching the sweet and nurturing space they’d created for her there being dismantled. She has laid her beloved resting rug on her bed here at home and has been sleeping on it, and we put together a small bag to hold her other treasures such a her photo album and name card. To honor the lovely women who have given her the treasure of such a warm and lovely year of preschool we made homemade shopping bags. Dorothy chose the fabric (from the same sheet as the pajamas) and helped me sew the seams on her little sewing machine.

Her confidence is a wee bit ahead of her ability, but the slightly off-kilter seams don’t show unless you’re looking, and they prove that the love and work of a five-year-old went into the construction. I made small drawstring bags so the teachers can easily stash their shopping totes into their purses or glove compartments.

Wooden Easter eggs

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I bought these gorgeous eggs before my first married Easter. We were still setting up our little household and I wanted some non-hokey holiday decorations. I had previously seen Pysanky eggs at a display somewhere and I found that I could order a whole box of similar ones on eBay to be delivered right to me from some enterprising woman in the Ukraine. They were spendier than plastic ones, but they’ve been worth every penny. I don’t think they are considered true Pysanky eggs because they are wooden and appear to be painted rather than done by wax-relief, but they’re so beautiful and I love getting them out every year. I keep them in a glass bowl on my dining table.

 

This year I decided to use my Ukrainian eggs as inspiration for an Easter project with Dorothy. I showed her the eggs and told her a bit about them, then we made our own. Like the inspiration eggs, ours are made of wood. I first painted them a solid color, some with acrylics and some with the latex paint sample jars I’ve been collecting during our home renovations. Then we used permanent markers and acrylic paints to put on our designs. Ours are not as intricate as the Ukrainian eggs, but maybe the Ukrainian artists weren’t trying to paint just beyond the reach of an impatient toddler! Once the designs were finished and dry I sealed them with a high-gloss glaze. That made them look shiny like our Ukrainian eggs and it seems to have made them more durable, seeing as how they’ve hit the wooden floor any number of times thus far but don’t seem worse for wear. We only painted some of the wooden eggs I bought; it’s my hope to do this project for several years in a row and see how our skill progresses.

I’m also hoping this project excuses me from dying hard-boiled eggs this year because I secretly dislike that project. I think hard-boiled eggs taste and smell nasty and the project is so messy. Dying shirts is worth the mess because after the project is over you get a shirt. After you dye eggs you just have colored hard-boiled eggs which taste just as bad as the originals! Plus Dorothy already dyed some at school and at Grandma’s. Now I’m just justifying, because clearly I’m a bad mom who is trying to get out of dying Easter eggs.  🙂

April camping

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We made our first 2011 trip in the little camper! The trip was the perfect mix of length of travel (not long), length of stay (not long), and low-key activities.  We visited General Butler State Park, which is only about an hour from home. Last fall when we started camper camping I noticed that all the big outfits had family name signs they put out in front of their campsites, kind of like campground calling cards or announcements.  I liked the friendly idea but didn’t think one of the large, imposing wooden signs would go very well with our streamlined setup so I designed and ordered this little lightweight yard sign. It says “It’s all right to be little bitty.”  Now we’ve really got it all!  (wink)

We toured the historic home on the premises, we hiked, played dominoes, and checked out no fewer than three playgrounds. We ate a dinner of pasta that I’d prepared at home.  Dorothy made friends with the girl at the camper next door and created beautiful art at our picnic table.

Worth developed what I’m afraid may be an abiding love of mud puddles.  If you think this brownie-streaked face and pea-smeared hair looks bad, well, you should see his mud-stained bottom. 

At home I’ve been working on setting up a square-foot garden in our new yard.  I recently used colored yarn to mark off the squares.  I brought the rest of the yarn I used for the squares (it’s all acrylic) to our campsite and taught Dorothy how to make God’s Eye weavings. I love that she’s now old enough to do some projects that are fun for Mom too. We sat cozily in our camper before bed and wound our yarn around sticks we’d found at our site. The simple weavings looked pretty on our camper wall last night (photographed), and now they look great hanging on the trellis of our garden bed.

I think one-night camping excursions are just right for where our family is at right now.  We all had a good, relaxing time, got to spend quality time without the distractions of home, were able to fully take notice of the changes spring was bringing to the outdoors, but were able to tote home dirty dishes for our dishwasher and skip the icky camp showers.  Perfect!