22.5.16

a landmark day



 Yesterday was a landmark day...


  My kindergartner learned to ride his bicycle without training wheels!


And just because he's adorable, here's a photo of my big son up a tree.  I don't get many photos of him these days; he's busy tromping around with his group of lanky friends who, in the fashion of Hansel and Gretel, rummage around my kitchen and then leave trails of crumbs behind them, as though they might need guidance finding their way back to the food cupboards for more snacks (and in sisyphean fashion, I follow after them, thrusting brooms and dustpans into their enormous, grubby hands, while enduring their bewildered looks with good humor).


And don't forget -- tomorrow is the final day to add your name to the give-away for this charming book.  Details can be found HERE.

11.5.16

blog tour :: pipsqueaks

FTC Compliant Disclosure:  I was given a free digital copy of this book by C&T Publishing to facilitate participation in the blog tour.


Today I am participating in a blog tour for Sally Dixon's book Pipsqueaks: itsy-bitsy felt creations to stitch & love.  The full blog-tour schedule is posted at the end of this post, and there is also a *give-away* (details of which also appear at the end of this post). In fact, there is a *give-away* at every stop of the blog tour, so if you are interested in winning a free copy of this darling book, I urge you to follow along and visit each blog on the tour over the next 5 days!


When I was a child, my favorite toys were all tiny: I stitched tiny dresses for tiny dolls and had a small collection of ceramic figures made by Hagen-Renaker. I would have enjoyed creating items from Pipsqueaks: itsy-bitsy felt creations to stitch & love as a child, and clearly some things never change. As you can see, just last week I had a great time creating tiny elephants from this book.


And if you are an enthusiast of the book If you Give a Mouse a Cookie, it will make perfect sense to you that, "If you sew a tiny elephant, he's going to ask for a tiny clown. And when you make him a tiny clown, he will probably ask for a silly hat.  And when the hat is finished, he will certainly ask for a tiny tassel to go on the very top of the silly hat."


No sooner did I blink, then I realized that I had the start of a tiny circus parade marching across the kitchen table.  As you can see, Sally's pipsqueaks and my peg dolls get along very well together, indeed.


Besides, tiny elephants, there are clear and detailed instructions for creating winsome mice, a budgerigar puppet, tiny dogs, bunnies & kittens, plus designs for two different koalas and a platypus in a peekaboo bed.  Yes, Sally Dixon (the author of Pipsqueaks) is Australian, and several of the designs in this book reflect her country of origin.  I especially love the embroidery and applique instructions for creating eucalyptus blossoms (there are two perfectly detailed eucalyptus designs; one on page 30 and the other on page 56).  To me, the inclusion of koalas, a platypus and eucalyptus adds an exotic variation from the usual flora and fauna (exotic for an American reader, anyhow).

In addition to clear patterns and instructions, I found some excellent crafting advice in this book.  For example, Sally suggests using small, sharp embroidery scissors for cutting out tiny, detailed pattern pieces; when I read this, I smacked my hand to my forehead and thought to myself, "Why didn't I think of this years ago?"  Sally also advises enlarging the patterns on a copier machine for readers who find tiny patterns too fussy; this advice is likewise given for children who are first being introduced to needle-skills.


Now for the *give-away*: please leave a comment on this post (and make sure I can contact you via email) for an opportunity to win a copy of Pipsqueaks: itsy-bitsy felt creations to stitch & love by Sally Dixon.  A winner will be randomly chosen from the list of comments below on Monday, May 23rd, 9:00 p.m. PST.  If the winner is in the USA, they will receive a hard copy of the book, and if the winner is outside the USA, they will receive a digital copy.   You can find the full blog tour schedule below, and don't forget: there will be a give-away at every stop on the blog tour. Thank you to C&T Publishing for generously sponsoring the give-aways!

Comments for this give-away are now closed.  Thank you to everyone for participating, and congratulations to #34 -- Lisa Marie.  I hope you enjoy making lovely, tiny things from Pipsqueaks!

11th May 2016

11th May 2016
Margaret Bloom

12th May 2016
Karen Wasson

13th May 2016
Joanna Riley

14th May 2016
Anna Day

15th May 2016
Louise

16th May 2016
Sally Dixon

28.4.16

making peg dolls :: new paperback edition!



There is some exciting news in the world of peg dolls!  My first book, Making Peg Dolls, has been reprinted yet again, and this time Hawthorn Press has issued it in paperback.  The layout inside the new edition is the same as the hard cover, however the paperback version feels fresh & modern, and the cover has a new tag-line, "Over 60 fun, creative projects for children and adults." 


Inside, there is a fancy jacket-flap with photos and text...


And, of course, all the excitement over the new edition has inevitably led to a session of peg doll painting.



Thank you to everyone who has purchased a copy of one (or both) of my books; your support is deeply appreciated!  And now a request: if you haven't already done so, it would be amazing if you could possibly write a review on Amazon, A Child's Dream, Bella Luna Toys or any other online store which stocks my books.  Fair and honest reviews help immensely with book sales; this keeps publishers in business, which, in turn, enables authors to write more books (hint, hint)!  My gratitude always... xo

20.4.16

something soft



Tomorrow my little one is having surgery to correct his herniated belly button.  I fussed at the pediatrician, "His belly button has been fine, just as it is, for nearly 6 years -- why should we fix it now!?" However both he and the consulting surgeon agreed that there was risk of a small section intestine becoming trapped in the opening. 

For the hospital visit, I decided that my son should have something soft to snuggle, so I used this fabric (which I purchased for this project) to sew a "sleepy heart" inspired by drawings he's created.  I wanted to make the mouth smiling, but my son insisted on a round, snoring mouth; he even demonstrated, with his own face, exactly how the stuffed heart should look.


Actually, what I really wanted to do was surprise him on the morning of the surgery with these new soft toys, but I've had a horrible cold, so by the time my little son is in bed (and I am free to work in secret), I've also needed to go to bed.  In a way it was fortuitous because my son truly enjoyed helping with this project: arranging the pins in my pin cushion, lowering and lifting the foot on the sewing machine and stuffing the toys.


I will miss my little one's funny, bulgy belly button, but at least we have some new friends who will join us at the hospital and cheer us along.


P.S. The new kitty is named Charlie because it looks just like our real kitty (also named Charlie) who follows us around the house purring & demanding we nuzzle his ears.

P.P.S.  I would refer you to the book where I found the pattern for this kitty, but the pattern design was so horrible, that I cannot, in good conscience, recommend this book or pattern to anyone.  In fact, I'm thinking of donating the book to the local library bookshop, but then someone else might buy it, suffer though the terrible pattern & instructions, and, despite meticulous effort, end up with an oddly shaped stuffed toy.  I might have to shred the book.

18.4.16

garden stepping stones :: tutorial re-post


 

After allowing our vegetable garden to lie fallow the past two years due to drought in California, we decided to plant a modest garden: 3 tomato plants and 6 blue-lake green bean vines.  With careful, targeted irrigation through a drip system, we hope our little plot won't require too much water.


I was so excited to once again fill this dedicated vegetable garden space with green things that I decided to do some sprucing up and make our little plot a festive place. I planted a passel of climbing nasturtiums to fill in & ramble over the spaces we would not be planting...


And also decided that some new stepping stones were in order... hence a repeat of this tutorial from last May.


MATERIALS REQUIRED
An assortment of glass tiles & flattened glass marbles

Clear vinyl pot saucers (we used these)

A bag of cement. Try to get the kind of cement that is smooth -- i.e. no little rocks.  By accident, I bought cement which is full of little rocks and it's annoying -- not as easy to work with.

A bucket for mixing cement

A plastic bag for lining the bucket (optional)

Rubber gloves and some cleaning rags


STEP 1 :: Line your bucket with a plastic garbage bag for easier clean up (this is optional). Scoop several cups of cement into your bucket. Add water and stir. For best results, put on rubber gloves and mix by hand.  Keep adding small amounts of water or cement as needed until the cement is the approximate consistency of thick cake batter.

STEP 2 ::  Scoop cement into your clear vinyl pot saucers until 1 cm below the brim.

STEP 3 ::  Have children add tiles & marbles, etc... to decorate.  Be sure the items are pressed in firmly with the edges slightly submerged or the items might fall out once the cement is dry.

STEP 4 ::  Once the design is completed, use a damp rag to gently wipe any cement smudges off the tops of the tiles and marbles.

STEP 5 ::  Allow to dry several days, remove from the molds and find homes for your beautiful stepping stones in the garden.

7.4.16

re-post :: monarch butterfly peg doll tutorial



All the caterpillars inching around my garden have me thinking about butterflies; so last Friday I re-posted my butterfly brooch tutorial and today I'm re-posting this tutorial for monarch butterfly peg dolls.  I developed the tutorial last summer for a camp where my older son was a counselor and my younger son was participating as a camper.  As you can see from the photos, the butterflies created by the children created were truly delightful.

 

The local monarch butterfly population has recently flown off to areas where they will lay their eggs, and they will return here (to California) in late summer.  Meanwhile, we can enjoy these monarch butterfly peg dolls...


SUPPLIES
-- A blank peg doll base, any size

-- A black Sharpie-marker (I usually paint my
    dolls however, for the purposes of this camp
    project, we decided that a black marker would
    be easier for the younger children to control.
    Feel free to use marker or paint -- whichever
    you prefer.)

-- Thick white acrylic paint

-- Colored pencils - black and red

-- A tiny amount of black felt

-- A millinery flower stamen
    (colored black with a Sharpie)

-- A clip-art image of monarch butterfly wings

 -- PVA or other white craft glue

-- Scissors


STEP 1 :: Whenever I'm doing a project based on specific animal from nature, the first thing I do (or should do, at any rate) is look at photographs.  Going into this project, I knew that monarch butterflies had black bodies, but it somehow escaped my notice that their bodies had white polka dots, too.  It's a good thing I looked at some photos, right? Right.


STEP 2 ::  Using a Sharpie or other black marker, draw a large oval or circle around the "face" of your peg doll.


STEP 3 :: Use your black Sharpie/marker to fill in all the areas on your doll except the face (note: you can use paint on your doll, but for the purposes of this camp project, we used Sharpies).  

Now might also be a good time to paint the white polka dots on the body of your doll. I forgot to do this and so added them later.


STEP 4 ::  Add a face to your doll.  Pencils are easier to control than paint or even markers, and so children will usually have more success drawing a face on their doll when using pencils. You can see in the photo above that I like using pencils to draw faces sometimes, too.

(Oops.  Still forgot to add those white polka dots.  If you haven't already painted the dots, go ahead. Grab that thick white acrylic paint and add them to your doll. Or wait until later.)


STEP 5 ::  If you haven't yet colored your flower stamen with a black Sharpie, go ahead and do this. Then cut a circle of felt, small enough to fit on the back of the head of your peg doll.

Fold your millinery flower stamen in half and place a dab of glue on the felt circle. Put the bend of the stamen into the glue, and then glue the felt circle & stamen to the back of your peg doll's head.


STEP 6 :: Use glue to attach clip-art monarch butterfly wings to the back of your doll.  There are good clip-art wings here and here, or you can use Google to find many others. There are also some good choices for wings at craft shops; I used these die-cut, cardstock butterfly wings which were stashed in my craft cupboard.  Something like this, this or this might work, too.

Another idea would be to draw your own wings and add color with crayon, pencil, markers or paint.


STEP 7 ::  Look!  I finally remembered to paint white polka dots on the body of my butterfly!


This project would make a wonderful addition to lessons about butterfly life cycles, the amazing migration patterns of monarchs and the importance of preserving the habitats of these gorgeous pollinators. You can find lots of information at this website here, and for additional lesson planning, I think this book is particularly lovely. This video on YouTube is also quite wonderful.


1.4.16

re-post :: butterfly brooch tutorial



All the caterpillars inching their way along the leaves in my garden put me in mind of the butterflies into which they will soon transform; and so I thought it might be nice to re-post this tutorial from March 2014.


SUPPLIES

Small scraps of felt in at least three colors

Embroidery floss and a needle

Fabric scissors

Safety pins


To start, I cut the larger circles approx. 33 mm (1 1/4 inches) wide and the smaller circles approx. 27 mm (1 1/8 inches) wide.  The butterfly wings are 40 mm (1 1/2 inches) across.  Depending on your preference, you could cut your pieces slightly larger.


The butterflies are attached to the smaller felt circles by the stitches which form their bodies.  To embroider the bodies, I made one long stitch down the center of each butterfly, and then, on either side of the long stitches, I made stitches which were half the length (see photo above).

The heads are large French knots, and the antennae are stitched using a single strand separated from a piece of 6-strand embroidery floss.


After the heads & bodies were embroidered, I used an applique stitch to sew the smaller circles to the larger circles.



The final step is to carefully sew a safety pin to the back of the brooch; or if you are thinking ahead, you could sew the pin to the larger felt circle before you sew together the larger and smaller circles.


And that's it... you're done! 

24.3.16

purim



Today is the Jewish holiday of Purim so I baked hamentashen using a basic sugar cookie recipe (like this one) plus whatever jam I happened to have in the refrigerator (this week, Four Fruits Preserves from Bonne Maman).  However, Deb Perelman of the blog Smitten Kitchen posted this amazing recipe for apricot hazelnut brown butter hamentaschen, and next year I might have to try it.

Happy Purim!

21.3.16

tutorial :: dream catcher


My sons attend a Charter School where families are invited to volunteer as much as they wish (or are able), which adds a richness to the educational community; I volunteer by co-facilitating a series of hand-craft seminars for the kindergarten and first grade classes.  In our seminars, the children decorate peg dolls, construct peg doll houses from boxes, and learn to use a French knitting machine, but the favorite craft this year has been making dream catchers.

I start off by explaining to the classes that dream catchers were woven by the grandfathers and grandmothers of the Ojibwa, Chippewa and Lakota Native American Indian Tribes for their grandchildren.  The dream catchers were hung above beds, and children would be comforted by the idea that bad dreams could be caught in the spider's web at the center of the dream catcher, while good & peaceful dreams would filter down through the feathers fluttering at the bottom.


SUPPLIES
Hemp, jute or paper wrapped 18 gauge floral wire (we use THIS)

Blunt metal tapestry needles

Yarn of various colors

A wire cutter

Scissors

Feathers

Beads


STEP 1 :: Use a wire cutter to cut your hemp or jute wrapped floral wire into 36 inch (1 meter) lengths and then twist the lengths into circles approx. 5 inches (13 cm) in diameter. Once your circle is formed, twist the remaining ends around the circle (see photos above).

STEP 2 :: Cut 4 ft. lengths of yarn, and thread onto needles (if you are making one dream catcher, you will need only one piece of yarn and one needle, however, for a class of children, you will, of course, need yarn and needles for all the children!).

This is a great opportunity to teach children to tie knots.  Have the children knot the ends of their yarn to a spot on the dream catcher, and then show them how to find a loop between the wires at the opposite sides of their circles, and pull their needle through the small loop of wire (see photo above).

If the children would like to add beads, show them how to thread a bead over their needle before they run the needle through a loop on the opposite side of their dream catcher circle.

After each child has finished weaving a spider web inside their dream catcher, you will have to help them secure the end of their yarn with a knot (leaving enough yarn at the end to tie a loop for hanging).  Once the end of the yarn is secured, the children can slide the beads around in an arrangement which pleases them.


STEP 3 :: Cut 3 lengths of yarn per dream catcher, approx. 8 inches (20 cm) each, and tie a feather to one end. Then tie the yarn to the bottoms of the dream catchers (a great opportunity for the children to practice their knot-tying skills).


STEP 4 :: After the children have admired their fine work, it's fun to ask them questions about their dreams and also have them draw pictures of their dreams.  Then the children can take their dream catchers home and hang them above their own beds.