We repurposed a vintage wooden puzzle with some missing pieces into a rearrangeable magnetic diorama for the fridge — gluing some magnets on the backs of the pieces. It took a few minutes and turned out to be a lot of fun to play with. Details at Windy.
There are some cheap & cheerful children's hats at some of the local big box shops around here. But I just did some loose math in my head: It takes me about a couple of hours to get out to a shop and back and I don't always find what I'm looking for. Finding boy's things is especially tricky (unless you like sort of surfer-golf style, which isn't our thing). Now that I'm not pushing a sleeping baby around in a stroller, and instead have a wide-awake, running-around little boy, shopping doesn't fit in my schedule very well right now and we're not really enjoying it.
I have a few boxes of fabric to use up, so if I can do an item in under 5 hours, the extra two to four hours it takes is the cost of the item. So I've been doing little bits of sewing here and there instead of going shopping.
What got me thinking about this in the first place is that the store where we bought our summer hat last year was involved in a sweatshop incident. Overseas manufacturing is a complicated issue, and it's not that we'll never shop at a big box store again. But it's another reason I'd like us to buy less. We don't always know who is making our clothing, or in what conditions.
There are two handsome, free hat patterns available online: a unisex reversible bucket hat from Oliver + S (^ elephant cotton canvas by Daiwabo) and a simple boy's hat from By Miekke (^ leaf pattern, I think by Kokka). They were simple and turned out fine. I used cotton poplin for the lining and didn't make them reversible. If you'd like my pattern notes (especially for the By Miekke, which is in Dutch) just visit Windy later today to see them.
We've been doing mostly unstructured making and drawing lately, but we got ambitious yesterday and made a stuffy out of one of auggie's drawings (a truck). I put up a quick & dirty tutorial on Windy.
^ We took a picture to text to his dad and he said, "Like this, I'm showing my hand." It works out well in a way, because I'm on the fence about putting pictures of him on here now that he's older. I've been taking less pictures, too, because I want us to be in the moments and he's moving faster now — it's hard to keep up and take pictures at the same time.
I did a tutorial post today on the Windy blog: easter baskets upcycled from newspaper, lucky star strips & washi tape (full tutorial at link). We also used kool-aid dye for the eggs which smelled nice (boiled eggs, don't smell quite so nice...) This is our neighbour's basket: W, age 4. I did here a little washi tape "W" on the front. My son preferred to make an abstract washi tape sculpture around the table.
I put up a pattern and tutorial for a doll apron with pockets up on the Windy blog today.
Little Quick began developing another series last year called Sixes & Sevens with Leah Mallen of the great documentary Coast Modern as well as our little Foggy film. We've paused in development to take care of some new Windy business. These aprons were part of the project.
This spring I found this screenprint of a ship at a thrift store in Sooke. It's by Howard Smith and printed by Vallila of Finland. I don't know where it was living before I found it, but it looked like it might be a leaky cabin with a chain-smoking knife thrower. It was ripped, yellow, and badly mounted onto a broken frame. I'd been looking for a canvas print to put above my son's bed and this seemed perfect, so I looked into restoring it. I took the cheap option, because it's all we needed. But here are additional tips and sources should anyone want to restore a canvas. Someday, I expect I will look this up again, myself:
Professional restoration — If your piece is valuable, it's best to take it to a professional, like Fraser Spafford Ricci. For a larger canvas (3 x 2 feet) you can expect to pay between $700 – $1,000, but that will make it like new(ish). I spoke with them on the phone and they gave me some tips about cleaning. Their process for canvas involves a special chemical solution that you cannot buy. They have large rolls of cotton wool, like large q-tips that they gently roll over the surface of the canvas.
Drycleaning — screenprinted canvas is different than screenprinted linen. You cannot wash or dry-clean it. If you think it might be linen, you can cut off a test strip off the side and send it to a good drycleaner's. I cut off a damaged area along the side and my dry cleaner tested it with a few solutions (it didn't work).
Surface dirt — it isn't as time-consuming as it sounds, it's maybe 20 minutes a day for a week. Lay out the canvas on a large, flat clean surface and have a bowl of cotton wool (or big facial wipes — I think Shiseido facial cotton would be perfect, because it is quite large) and another bowl with a mild ph balanced soap, like baby shampoo or Eucalan. Keep the water well away from the canvas — it can permanently damage it. Wet a cotton ball and squeeze it out. Gently rub or roll over a section of the surface of the canvas — start with an area you can cut off if it damages the print or canvas. If you get the canvas wet, it will permanently buckle, so you want the cotton wool to be damp, not wet. When your cotton wool begins to look dirty, throw it away and get a new one. This is really boring, I listened to This American Life while I did it.
When you have done a whole pass of the canvas, let it dry. If you can, let it dry flat in the shade or hang it outside in the shade. Fold one end (as short as possible) over the line and use several clothespins so it doesn't stretch too much. If there isn't shade, you can hang a thin piece of cotton or linen over it, to protect it from the sun. You will have to do this a few times and it won't get it all off, but it should brighten it and make it smell better. I alternated sides.
Cigarette smoke — this was the big one for me, because it was to go in my son's bedroom. Each time I washed the surface with the cotton balls and the canvas was very slightly damp, I sprinkled the canvas with a ton of baking soda. I left it for half an hour before putting it out to dry. Once it was dry, I gently beat it to shake it all out. The canvas doesn't smell at all like smoke now. The professional cleaner I spoke to said that baking soda does not help with cleaning.
Water damage — water damage (that big patch on the upper left area) doesn't come out without professional help. I decided it was a big fog-covered sun, and it doesn't bother me now :)
Tears — There's a tear in the canvas. I was going to have it invisibly mended, but I had a hard time finding a good invisible mender (the one I used to use is closed — email me if you know a good one in Vancouver). I decided to leave it and if I ever find a good mender I might bring it in. When we had it stretched for a new frame, the framer handled it so it wouldn't stretch and tear further.
I discovered a few things while we (really, entirely my husband, master of duct tape, card board and sharpies) made the yellow tractor trailer costume requested by our wee Augs:
1. Use acrylic paint when painting a carboard box. This will let it withstand at least 10–15 minutes of rain . Acrylic is water soluble and non-toxic. Once dry, it becomes very unwashable, though.
2. If painting a kraft/brown cardboard box, paint a thin layer of white paint first. Gouache or acrylic work fine.
3. You can find loads of great truck costume supplies in the bicycle section of a dollar store, especially reflectors and flashing safety lights. We did a bicycle light for the tail-lights and two pen flashlights for the headlights (duct taped behind holes).
4. Even though it doesn't look quite as nice, glue the bottom of the wheels flush with the bottom of the box: that way it is easy to take off and set down.
5. We criss crossed the straps over the back and hand-sewed them down, this was helpful. Beg or bribe or heavily distract your child to stand very still while you get the strap length really well-figured out, it's worth it.
Make your hat soon. At the first sign of autumn, Snufkin slips away from the valley and doesn't return until spring comes again.
Glow-in-the-dark lucky star papers. Maybe we'll save them for halloween.
Ooh, ok, I think this is a pretty good one. We found a video on youtube called Jim Henson on Making Muppets, 1969, from Iowa Public Television. Jim Henson shows children how to make puppets from household objects like socks, potatoes, spoons and tennis balls. It is great!
Augs and I watched it together and then gathered up some materials and made a handful of puppets and little movies.
The dish mop lion, Auggie was very excited to make a pink scarf for the lion because "he was cold".
Wooden spoon puppet.
The pineapple bird. I put on the eyes and Auggie did the nose with a sharpie. By the way, he was horrified by the feeling of his finger in the potato, so we poked a pencil in the bottom and he could hold that instead. I don't have a picture, though — this is my finger. The pineapple bird is the only one who received a name from the Augs, he is special.
I had a bunch of yarn and old knitting swatches out, so these plastic spoon guys have scraps of yarn and a knitting swatch taped on as hair (or hat?). I cut out circles and rectangles out of sticky labels from my studio and gave them to Augs for the faces to colour and place. He was incredibly careful about placing them evenly on the face — he really likes some things to be straight and even. This is an aside, but I was very slightly concerned about how careful he is with crafts, as I don't want him to feel pressured while he makes things — however, yesterday he created a new technique of covering his hands in different colours of ink, yelling "sputz, sputz, sputz" (and also, "look at my fancy nails") and making crazy fingerprint paintings, so I think he's not turning into too much of a perfectionist and it's all ok. Phew.
My favourite part of this guy are the pieces of tape Auggie put over each eye — they are "goggles". Ha!
This spring we ordered a living room rug online with a pebbly texture. Auggie did not like the feeling on his feet, and would not step on it. It was too tricky to return it and so I made a quilted playmat instead — it seems to have worked. It was pretty easy and took about 5 hours. I took my best bloggy photo of it (above) immediately after we last cleaned and vacuumed.
As I was taking pictures, Auggie began making soup for this monkey, even though he is quite indifferent about it (the monkey, not soup).
I used the cheerful quilted playmat pattern from the purlbee. It's smart, you don't need to finish the edges, you just turn it inside out with the batting stitched in. I modified it to make it faster: I didn't bother with the quilting step at the beginning, I just used 2 large squares of fabric. Also, I did the top-stitching by machine. I made my mat a yard by a yard. The fish fabric is thrift and the cars are a kokka pattern from purlsoho — both are cotton/linen canvas.
The topstitching is a follow-the-lines technique, done by machine. It would have taken about 3 hours if I had sewed straight lines instead of zig zags for the top stitching — as it was this was a 5-hour project.
Done & dusted!
Here's a version of the shoebox guitar activity (instructions at link) from Sunny. We used a sturdy little giftbox and some paper straws. Auggie had some trouble with the elastic bands so I did that for him, and I cut out the hole with an exacto knife. I think within a year he could tackle this project on his own with safety scissors, but not today. He really loves colouring on black paper so lucky for us we had a black gift box in the closet.
This lace stitch used in this scarf, called the four-spot, came from the book The Essential Stitch Collection by Leslie Stanfield and Melody Griffiths
This pattern is sized for small children: 5 × 36 inches (125 × 915 mm). You can easily size it up for older children or adults. Just be sure that any additional stitches you add in are the right multiple for the pattern: 6 + 9 (see pattern notes for details). You may find the pattern on the Windy blog.
I am not crazy about knitting lace in general. I liked this one because it reminds me of eyelet. Also, the pattern is simple enough that once you have done a few rows you don't have to concentrate on it too, too much. Also, one really nice feature of lace is that it knits up very quickly because of the holes as they open up.
To do this pattern, you will need to know how to:
yo (you can find a continental version at the same site)
The Brooklyn Children's Museum has Kente colouring pages, an Adire tutorial, Adinkra symbols, and other textile activities (colouring pages are on page 20).
Auggie trying out the Adinkra stamps at the Brooklyn Children's Museum.
The child-scale grocery store they had there was fun, too.
The boy in the hat was so cute and so nice.
I was remembering a spread in Mirabella about Valentines made by various artists and designers. One was a painting of hearts, all wonky, and underneath it said, "it is for you that I try to perfect my heart." It made an impression on me as a teenager, I thought it was beautiful.
Anyway, I was noodling around with some scraps of paper that evening, and made an impromptu set of Valentines bookmarks for my booky husband.
Then, because this valentine is often reading several books at once, I made two more. I punched out a loose pair of constellations, one for each of our signs. Then used scraps of gold, silver and pink to colour in the holes by gluing scraps of paper to the back.
I like the way the backs look — little collages.
This weekend we'll be at attending the annual New Year's parade. And we're making classic lanterns for the house.
There a many good tutorials online to make paper lanterns. It couldn't be easier. We didn't use a template, we just folded and cut. It doesn't matter if the cuts are perfectly straight or even. Ours were very uneven and wonky, but you can't really tell at all when they are folded.
We used some red vellum paper we had left over from making mini kites. We punched some flower-shaped holes along the bottom for decoration. We received our decorative hole punch as a party favour and I'm won over. I never would have considered buying one, but we've had a lot of fun with it and Auggie loves it. Some glitter and stickers came next.
We punched two holes in the top to run thread through (we used silver/gold metallic thread leftover from hanging gingerbread ornaments on the tree).
Auggie was into doing some of the cuts for the lantern, but he was more interested in hanging up the red lanterns than decorating them. However, he came up with his own lantern idea, which I really liked.
He took pieces of origami paper (our table had a lot of craft supplies, so he picked out what he liked) and then began making long sticker collages along the middle. He really likes making careful, long strings of stickers right now. Anyway, when he was done, we folded and cut and glued the same way as before and had these train lanterns (with some complimentary emergency vehicles). He was quite proud of them and we hung them over the doors.
It might be hard to read, but the top here image is two pieces of origami paper side by side with stickers down the middle. It has been folded and cut and then flattened out to take the picture.
I love red, yellow pink around the house in the winter.
A few weeks ago we discovered birdhouses in some of the large trees around our neighbourhood. As the leaves fall from the trees, they have begun to show themselves. This has really captured the imagination of one of our junior members, and birdhouses are now on the charts (just behind trucks, snow and slightly ahead of fish).
So this week, we visited our local Wildbirds Unlimited shop to find out more about feeding wild birds in our neighbourhood. We got an enormous tub of birdseed and a bird feeder (more on that another time). The tub was the smallest amount available, but at $5, it's been giving us a lot of entertainment. This week, we make a simple 5-minute birdfeeder and hang it on some trees).
One thing we've done is to make little bird feeders out of peanut butter, empty paper towel rolls — cut into pieces — and our birdseed. We found the idea through our pinterest (originally from The Moffatt Girls) and set to work. We used a butter knife to spread peanut butter around the roll, then we rolled it in a plateful of birdseed.
It took us about 15 minutes, and we had a lot of fun vacuuming afterwards (we actually did really have fun with that bit, but that may be just us).
Then we set out to place our feeders on some low branches. We slipped them over some branches near the birdhouses. We used a path we cross at least once a day, so we can keep an eye on them and throw them away when they're empty.
Lastly, we scattered big handfuls of birdseed under the trees on our way home. Probably that was the most fun part of all.
Last week we took a copy of Leo Lionni's It's Mine out of the library, published by Dragonfly Books. The book is about "three selfish frogs [who] bicker all day long. A bad storm and a big brown toad help them realize that sharing is much more fun". The book comes with a craft idea called make your own toad.
Here is photo workbook of a simplified version made with felt and googly eyes. We made three frogs: Milton, Rupert, and Lydia, and the kindly big brown toad. To make a frog, you will need: rocks, paint, googly eyes or buttons, felt or construction paper, children's glue and scissors.
While the 3 frog rocks were drying we came across a perfectly toad-shaped rock. He was already brown, so we didn't paint him.
Next, we glued on some googly eyes, using children's craft glue.
Then we cut out felt arms (skinny rectangle with one slit cut at the ends) and legs (thicker rectangle with two slits at the ends, then pulled apart a little) and a lily pad.
Then we glued on the legs and placed each frog and toad on a lily pad.
Here are some things I found very helpful in getting going on my first quilt: a small one for my son Auggie. If you are thinking of trying your first quilt, you might find these tips and book recommendations helpful.
I was intimidated to begin, but my great-grandmother, Henrietta, used to whip up quilts by hand regularly for charity (they were always white muslin with one contrasting colour, here is a part of a pinwheel quilt she made).
Thinking about how casually she approached her quilting, I thought I would give it a go. I like seeing her hand in the stitches and so I am hand-stitching through the top (the piecing I did by machine). I pieced it together and prepared it for top stitching before he was born.
The inspiration for this quilt came originally from lovelydesign's really beautiful quilt for Adelaide. I thought a simple pattern of squares and quilting in the ditch would be easiest to start with. This is for a toddler's bed, so it's manageable in size. I'm using scraps of blue in the quilt. I might do the binding in orange or red, but probably more blue, I'm not sure.
Books and instructions
Joelle Hoverson's Last Minute Patchwork + Quilted Gifts was very helpful. It has small projects and a good glossary.
The other book I found helpful was Your First Quilt Book by Carol Oakes. It had good, clear explanations about the basics, especially basting.
My inclination was to jump in and use my regular thread and needles. But proper quilting needles and quilting thread (which is thick and doesn't tangle) has been really valuable. I also thought I could use an inexpensive regular embroidery hoop, but it turned out I needed a real quilting hoop, which is sturdy and able to accommodate a thicker fabric.
I used scissors to cut my squares and they are a little wonky. It's not a big deal, but next time I would use a rotary cutter to make it easier.
I used a spare cotton sheet (actually a box-pleated bedskirt that doesn't fit our new bed) for my white fabric. If I were to do another one, I would invest in quilting muslin. The cotton from the sheet is actually very nice, but it's tight and not as easy to stitch through by hand. I'm finding the squares with lighter fabrics are much easier.
I keep all my quilting tools in a little kit. All my needles, thread and thimble are in a little glass mason jar with a puffy top to hold my needles. It is easy to make: you just unscrew the top of the mason jar; pop the ring off the lid, place a handful of stuffing or batting on the top of the lid, position a small piece of fabric over top of the stuffing, then fit the ring back over the lid (securing the edges of the fabric between the ring and the lid). Then you poke your needles in the top. It helps keep me organized as I have only short little breaks to quilt. The idea came from Martha Stewart's Sewing Kit in a Jar, and is great.
Before piecing, I ironed and starched the pieces with spray starch. The starch helped.
I basted my quilt sandwich together very thoroughly, with light blue thread, using the instruction in the Carol Oakes book. The final stitches are white.