Valentine’s Day

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Mia’s Valentine Fairy Gourd House

Posted by on 24 Feb 2009 | Tagged as: tutorial, Valentine's Day, wooden toys

Whew, so I’ve been gone a while! We’ve been sick at our house (I’m just getting it, so I figured I’d better post before I’m out of commission. I also thought, I’d better paint the front hall and clean the house. Front hall is painted. House is not so clean.). This is really the first time we’ve had more than a cold since Mia started preschool in September, so I guess we should count ourselves lucky, even if we’re not feeling so lucky at the moment.

But you’re not here to listen to me whine. Here’s Mia’s fairy gourd house:

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She really does seem to love it (which is unfortunately rare for many of my creations — not that it stops me)! And the Mitten animals also took up residence in it right away. Lucas obviously made the connection between the book and the mitten full of critters (by pointing from one to the other and grunting — his typical mode of communication), but found them a bit creepy. He’ll look at them, but won’t touch them. Luckily, his sister is getting some enjoyment out of them:

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I got the idea and initial instructions from this great tutorial over at Bitter Betty Blogs. I’d been planning on making one of these since I first saw it in September, but time and other projects sort of slipped up on me. I borrowed a fancy Dremel tool from Lynn (thanks, Lynn!), and spent one night carving gourds by our front door light. It was messy, especially scraping the inside. And I had a hard time getting the curves to look anywhere as clean as Betty’s, but they were okay.

Then, I let them sit around. For months. Until Mia and Lucas discovered them and immediately turned them into playthings. It wasn’t long before one was shattered. I realized I’d have to make the finished one a little more sturdy. So I made up a trusty old flour/water/salt mixture and put one layer of Papier-mâché on the gourd. This had the added bonus of hiding my somewhat jagged edges that sanding had not managed to soften much. I let it dry for about a day and a half (half of it hanging in the wind outside because it was drying so slowly inside) and then painted it inside and out:

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I then found a piece of wood about a foot square in the laundry room. I’m not sure of it’s source, just that it was real wood, not plywood. I sanded the edges a little, and then painted it green:

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Then I used the brush to sort of sponge some darker green on it to give some texture and depth and a more grass-like feel:

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I gathered some little wooden hearts, four small wooden spools and one bigger spool, and a wooden disk for the table top. I painted the hearts pink, saving four for little fairy stools. With a hot glue gun, I added one heart above the doorway and laid a little heart path up to the front door of the gourd. I also added fake rose petal curtains to the windows:

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I then painted the large wooden disk to be the table top, the large wooden spool as the table base, and each of the smaller four spools to be the fairy chairs, matching them in color to the outfits of the fairies:

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I secured them all with hot glue when I realized how easily they tipped with a fairy on them, wanting to avoid the inevitable frustration of falling dinner guests. I had also hot-glued the gourd onto the base, but it has since come off, peeling some of the paint off the bottom of the gourd in the process. So I’m going to have to figure out another (pretty non-toxic/child-safe) way to attach it. I’m not sure I could get a drill in there to screw it to the wood, and I also worry about splitting the gourd, but I may try it if I can’t think of anything else. Any suggestions?

For now, here’s a shot of the sweet little fairies, sitting at their table:

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I’m working on another bigger project, though I have to admit I’ve been delayed a bit, first by sickness, and then by Mia’s proud announcement that she had cut out a bunch of little houses today. A bunch of little houses out of the only-piece-of-that-color-I-have wool felt that I had already cut to size. I think it may all be her father’s fault. He’s the one who suggested at lunch that she needed her own craft blog since she’s been so crafty lately. And I do love to see the creative urge rubbing off on my little one! I’ll hopefully be back in a couple of days with something new! Thanks for reading and happy crafting!

Little Bear Valentines for kids by kids (well, mostly)

Posted by on 09 Feb 2009 | Tagged as: animal crafts, kids' crafts, tutorial, Valentine's Day, wool felt

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I could have just gotten the Tinkerbell valentines at the drugstore. It would have been quick and easy, and Mia would have been over the moon about them. But I couldn’t resist making handmade valentines, and figured out a simple way to not only make them, but have Mia do some of the work (an older child could do ALL of the work).

I’ll go ahead and do a little tutorial here (though you hardly need one!), and leave my going on and on about us for the more skippable bottom of the post.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • this easy little pattern for tracing
  • dark brown felt for the bear bodies (I think I got about six to a sheet)
  • tan felt for the bear muzzles
  • red and pink felt for the belly hearts
  • 7 mm black pompoms for bear noses
  • 7 mm googly eyes
  • blank cards (I used a value pack of blank ivory cards that measure 6 1/2 x 5 inches when folded)
  • Scrapbook paper (I love the gingham pink and blue!) — by putting a horizontal, then a vertical and then vice versa, you can get four cards out of one 12×12 sheet
  • scissors
  • glue stick
  • school glue

First, trace the bear, heart and muzzle patterns onto the corresponding pieces of felt. Cut out the shapes.

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Next, cut the folding cards along the fold (optional, keep them whole if you want cards that open). You can go ahead and write your greeting on the other side now if you wish. Especially if you have little people doing the writing who you know will long be in bed by the time the cards dry!

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Cut the scrapbook paper to cover the cards and glue on with a glue stick.

Glue bears onto the cards, the muzzles onto the bears, the noses onto the muzzles, the eyes onto the bear faces and the hearts onto the belly.

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look at those dirty digging in the dirt at the park fingernails! I guess tonight should have been bath night!

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Give to someone special!

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I think we both would have enjoyed the process a little more if it hadn’t been such beautiful weather today. So beautiful that we we had no choice but to go to the park with friends instead of staying home to make the 17 Valentines for Mia’s class, which are to be turned in tomorrow.

We probably would have finished them by bedtime, but Mia wrote each child and teacher’s name. She did a beautiful job, and I was really surprised how few letters I had to show her. She has trouble with drawing an “s,” and she likes to add five horizontal lines to her “E,” but wow, she’s got many of the others down pat. I can’t believe she had the patience to get through all 17 of them. Though that may explain why the joy of gluing, which she had been looking forward to all day, had worn off by about card number five.

I’m proud of my girl and her pride in our handmade valentines. I hope her friends at preschool like them!

A sneak peek: little Valentine Fairies

Posted by on 08 Feb 2009 | Tagged as: Valentine's Day, wooden toys, wool felt

Oh, it’s been a long time since I posted! I’ve been busy working on Mia’s Valentine’s Day present, and there’s still an awful lot to do and not much time. This is further complicated by the fact that I have two other non-crafty projects that are requiring a bit of time, and although very worthy expenditures of time, they are not quite as enjoyable as sitting on the couch with my sweetie, watching a movie and stitching away.

And then there’s of course the additional complication of completely winging this little present, having to rethink and redo and restitch and replan as I go, knowing all the while that it needs to be something she will like at least as much as she likes The Mitten I made for Lucas.

Here’s what I have so far. These little Valentine’s Day fairies have been painted (which is stressful, but I’m mostly pleased with them), and clothed (after much restitching, removing extra embellishments, worrying about colors):

Felt Valentine's Fairies

I painted the little hairclips without thinking about the colors much. But then when I got to making their little dresses and wings, and picturing them all together, I realized the pink and the red would clash pretty horribly. But then Tony reminded me, our girl, she’s all about the clashing:

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So, I went with it, even sewing a little pink heart onto the red fairy. It is for Valentine’s Day after all. Though I confess I sent Tony off to photograph them with instructions not to put the red and pink fairies next to each other.

The rest of the project doesn’t just involve sewing, I’m afraid. There will be paper mache, there will be paint, there will be a great deal of hoping I pull this off in time!

Thanks for visiting and happy crafting!

Felt Valentine Cookies

Posted by on 01 Feb 2009 | Tagged as: Valentine's Day, wool felt

Wow! I am completely blown away by the overwhelming response to my Mitten critters! Thank you all for taking the time to visit and leave comments!

I need to get started on my daughter’s Valentine’s Day present, but needed to recharge my creative energy a bit, so I borrowed some from this great post on a wonderful blog I discovered through Crafty Crow.

Here’s my version, made in chocolate, since I didn’t have any tan felt, and with extra sprinkles because once I get started, I apparently can’t stop:

Felt Valentine's Cookies

These were super easy to make and really rewarding. I’m sure I would have gotten them done even faster if I had followed the tutorial and done a running stitch instead of a blanket stitch, but I still finished them in one (long) crafting evening.

They were very well-received, and when I peeked in at Mia tonight, still looking at books in bed, to ask her where they were so we could take a picture of them, she informed me, ” They are in my fort, right by where I saw the little red dustpan, under my farm.” And there they were!

We had a wonderful day today — it was beautiful, sunny and unseasonably warm. We spent all afternoon at the park with friends, the kids playing in the woods, on the playground and on top of a gigantic mountain of dirt while we parents mostly lay on our backs in the sun. As we drove home, watching the brilliant red sunset, we knew it had been a day well-spent. I hope yours was just as enjoyable.

A sneak peek and a little contest

Posted by on 19 Jan 2009 | Tagged as: animal crafts, contest, needle-felting, Valentine's Day

I’ve been working on a Valentine’s Day present for the little man, who is now 18 months old. There are quite a few parts to it, and I thought I would see how many parts I’ll have to post before someone guesses what I’m up to.  Keep checking back, and when you’re ready to guess, just leave a comment.  The winner will receive a little felted bunny.

I won’t be doing a tutorial for this, since I’m using the instructions from this wonderful book for some of the components.

Here’s the first clue. (Though if you can guess it already, you’re a mind reader!  I’m expecting people to need at least three or four clues.)

Felted Bunny

Valentine’s Countdown Calendar with Tutorial

Posted by on 15 Jan 2009 | Tagged as: calendar, craft-along, needle-felting, tutorial, Valentine's Day, wool felt

The calendar is finally finished and I’m pretty pleased with the result! Here are some pictures of the final product:

Empty calendar

Calendar with everyone on the tree

If you want to recreate one of your own (for personal use only), here’s what you’ll need:

Supplies:

  • Pattern for the Valentine’s Calendar shapes (PDF)
  • Pattern for the Valentine’s Calendar pockets (PDF)
  • a piece of wool or wool-blend felt (I used light pink in size 8″ x11 5/8″)
  • a piece of flannel for the pocket border (I used brown in size 16 3/4″ x 21,” but would probably do 17″ x 21 1/2″ if I were making another one)
  • scraps of wool or wool-blend felt in various colors to cut into animal shapes, decorations, banner birds and pocket numbers
  • a length of wool or wool-blend felt to form the banner, plus felt for making the birds
  • a sheet of wool or wool-blend felt for the pockets
  • wool roving in assorted colors, most importantly brown and black, as well as colors for the tree, grass and animals (In addition to brown, black and green, I used orange, gray, light pink, dark pink, white, red, blue, purple, yellow)
  • a piece of very thick cardboard (so a staple won’t go all the way through), sized a little smaller than your flannel

Tools:

  • felting needles and foam pad, a tool to hold the felting needles is recommended
  • stapler
  • small, sharp scissors for fabric
  • large scissors or blade for cutting cardboard
  • needle
  • pen for tracing patterns on fabric
  • fabric glue

Techniques:

  • needle-felting — If this is your first time needle-felting, don’t be intimidated. I have needle-felted the wool onto my little sheep ornaments and I have a somewhat failed attempt to needle-felt a pumpkin, but that’s my entire needle-felting resume
  • blanket-stitching — there’s a great tutorial here

Step 1. Create the tree
In order to create the tree, first lay a very thin layer of roving in your leaf colors on your background felt on the foam pad. I recommend using at least two shades of the same color for your leaves and really teasing the wool apart to make it thin. Then lay a thick layer of dark brown roving — the more shade variations the better — to form your trunk and main branches. Pull apart the wool as you continue to create forks and more branches. I curved the branches to form a sort of of lower arc beneath the leaves for a rounded look, but you can make your tree into anything you like. Here is what mine looked like at this stage:

Valentine tree before needle-felting

For my browns, I have a wonderful bag of alpaca roving our friends Charlie and Sarah of Pearbudget fame brought me from their alpaca farm neighbors. It’s a great assortment of various browns mixed together, so when I formed the tree, it happened by accident that the very dark brown followed the curve of the tree and the lowest branch on the right. I remember Michelle teaching me how to draw trees as a child. By drawing the line darker and thicker on one side of the tree and on the lowest branch corresponding to that side, she showed me how to create a shadow, giving my tree more depth and realism. While it happened accidentally this time, I would try to recreate it if I made another one.

The next step is to actually needle felt the tree and leaves onto the background. Try to keep your needle(s) straight so they don’t break. Basically just poke around in the roving, shaping branches and roots as you go. The fibers will be pulled through to the other side and sort of knitted into the felt background. I added more branches in the center, and you can always add more — needle-felting is mostly very forgiving, though the needles are not, so be careful! Here’s what mine looked like after that stage:

Valentine tree after leaf background and tree felting

I then added a couple of layers of leaf colors over the whole tree and needle-felted those, though not as intensely as I did the trunk, to leave a more airy feel to them. Here’s a picture, though I ended up adding a little more roving at the top to give it a rounder feel:

Valentine tree with leaves felted

Finally, I added a little green grass around the roots. Voila! The tree is done!

Step 2. Create the animals and other pocket goodies
Print out the animal pattern, cut out the shapes, trace them onto felt, and cut out the pieces. I chose colors of felt that wouldn’t look odd if edges of them showed around the needle-felting. This is where you will discover how free-form needle-felting is, and how it will sometimes lead to masterpieces and sometimes, well, sometimes not.

For each animal, pick the colors of roving you want. I would usually felt a very thin layer of roving to hide the base felt, and then start adding a little dimension by shaping and needle-felting on additional roving for the tails or ears or faces. By patiently needle-felting repeatedly along the same line, you can create indentations to give your work more form and depth.

Here are the animals and other pocket inhabitants. Just start with the felt base and see where your needling takes you!

mushroom and flower
Mushroom Flower

bird and mouse
Bird 2 Mouse

robin and butterfly
Bird 1 Butterfly

lollipop and owl
Lollipop Owl

heart and squirrel
Heart Squirrel

hedgehog and rabbit
Hedgehog Rabbit

deer and fox
Deer Fox

I made the lollipop by rolling two thin strips of different color roving into skinny snakes, then twisting them together before felting them to the base in a spiral pattern. I loved some of these, felt sort of “meh” about others and really didn’t like the poor squirrel. He was an example of when adding more and more roving to try to fix a mistake just makes things worse. Tony could not identify his species, so I think that qualifies him as a fail. I didn’t have the right color brown for the deer, and the tiny flower was difficult to give much detail, but I love, love, love the fox, all curled up in that bushy, snuggly tail of his. See, I wasn’t just being modest about the squirrel.

Step 3. Create the pockets and numbers
Print out and cut out the pockets and numbers. Before proceeding, check to make sure your needle-felted pocket inhabitants would actually fit in the pockets, in case you’ve added more roving or detail than I did. Add a little allowance if this is the case when you trace the pockets. For the numbers, I found it helpful to trace them backwards so that I didn’t need to worry about pen marks showing up on the fronts.

Cut out the pockets and numbers. I used fabric glue to glue the numbers onto the pockets, being sure to stay far enough away from sides and bottom to allow for stitching the pockets onto the border with large blanket-stitching. You can also stitch them on if you have an extra forty hours or so that you weren’t sure how to spend.

Step 4. Create the bird banner border
Print out the banner, bird and small banner heart patterns, cut them out and trace them onto felt. Carefully plan out the spacing for Happy Valentine’s Day. I’d recommend using a very thin pen or pencil because I free-handed it and ended up having to cut off a bit of the end of the banner, which meant I also had to reshape my birds a bit. It wasn’t a big deal, but the letter stitching was not very enjoyable since I kept wondering where it would end and I also started to make the letters in different sizes and had to backtrack a few times. I used 6-ply embroidery floss for the letter-stitching. After I had stitched the letters, I added a heart at each end of the banner, blanket-stitching them on with one-ply floss.

For the birds, I needle-felted a bit of roving onto their bellies, and also needle-felted their beaks and eyes, but chose to leave the rest of them as just wool felt.

Step 5. Create the pocket border
Now you have your finished tree picture, your animals, your pockets and your banner, but you still need a border. Take your piece of flannel and center the tree picture on it. Spend as much time as you need to lay out the pockets around the picture and the bird banner along the top. You can tuck the raw end of the birds’ wings a little under the banner. Be patient while planning the layout. Remember to leave enough room along the edges to wrap it around the cardboard for stapling and make sure there’s enough space between the pockets that little fingers can reach in and pick out the inhabitant.

Once you have your layout just the way you want it, use just enough fabric glue to hold everything on until you can stitch it. Make sure not to glue the middle of the pockets, since they will need to be open. Just add a thin layer of glue along the edge, preferably so close to the edge that you won’t be stitching through it with your blanket stitch, which can be rough when the glue has dried hard. For the center tree picture, you can put the glue a little further in to miss the stitches, but it should be close enough to the edge that you’ll be able to stitch evenly without bunching the flannel.

The stitching is pretty time-consuming, but can be done snuggled on the couch under a blanket watching a movie, which is my favorite kind of crafting! I used fairly deep blanket stitches to hold the pockets on, since I figured they’d get a little wear and tear with little fingers reaching in for their treasures. Just be sure they aren’t so deep that the treasures no longer fit in the pockets! I used medium-length stitches for the tree picture, and tiny stitches for the banner and birds.

Finally, place the entire calendar over your piece of cardboard, cutting the cardboard so that it is large enough to form a background for the pockets and banner, with a little flannel along the edges, but small enough that you can wrap some flannel around it and staple it to the back. My piece of cardboard ended up being about 15″ x 19 1/4″ for my 16 3/4″ x 21″ piece of flannel. When I said in the supply list that I would have used a slightly larger piece of flannel, that was just to I would have a little bit more to wrap around and staple. Though it may hold just fine with the size I have. Here’s what the back looks like:

Back of calendar

Step 6. Fill the pockets and enjoy

The pocket inhabitants *should* stick to the wool, but mine aren’t doing it terribly reliably.  If I sort of rub them against the picture, they stick a little better.  That’s why I decided to make a cardboard back, so that I could lean it back a little, instead of having a wall hanging, which was my original intention.

Here is a picture of the calendar with full pockets:

Full calendar

And here is one with everyone peeking out of the pockets:
Calendar with everyone peeking

I have to thank my sweet husband, who spent hours scanning and reconfiguring pdfs, programming code, photographing the steps and keeping the kids busy while I worked.  I couldn’t have done it without him!

Enjoy, and please leave a comment if you decide to make one — I’d love to see them!

Happy Crafting!

Announcing our first craft-along: A Valentine’s Day countdown calendar

Posted by on 03 Jan 2009 | Tagged as: craft-along, Valentine's Day

We’re ready to start on our first craft-along and we’ve chosen to make a Valentine’s Day Countdown calendar.  The only guidelines are to have some sort of countdown to Valentine’s Day for the first fourteen days in February and to have it completed by January 14th.  It can be two-dimensional, three-dimensional, out of paper, fabric, wood — anything you like!  We’ll post our calendars with tutorials on January 14th, giving anyone who wants to make one enough time to do so before February.  Feel free to link to your own calendars in the comments and remember to photograph the process if you’d like to post a tutorial.  We will definitely feature our favorites!!  Stay tuned in the meantime for other crafty goodness.  Happy crafting!