Up here in the northeast U.S., the leaves are just starting to turn. And if you or your kids are like me, you can't help but pick up the finest, most beautifully hued specimens. If you want to make projects with your leaves, and you want them to last more than a day, you need to preserve them somehow. I like to preserve leaves by placing them in between the pages of a heavy book, placing another heavy book on top, and semi-purposefully forgetting about them for months. (It only takes about a week until they're ready to be used.) If you are more careful than I, and have nicer books, sandwich the leaves between two pieces of copy paper before inserting them into the book. This link has 6 ways of preserving autumn leaves, and it seems accurate from my experience, although my book-pressed leaves are still pretty colorful. (The letters spelling "LEAF" in the graphic above were cut, via a craft knife, from a leaf I placed in a book two years ago.)
Don't wanna make crafts with your leaves? I love this simple display idea for your finished leaves, from Art Bar Blog. The post I link to is about the Thanksgiving Day craft on the table, but check out the leaves above — they're just affixed to the wall with bits of washi tape.
Anyway, on with the list! Easiest/youngest-age-suitable crafts first, harder/older kid or teen crafts last, all according to me; your mileage, as they say, may vary.
I like a project that forces you to finally print out a picture from your computer, dammit! (Just me?) Jennifer at Teach Them To Fly photographed her students as they pretended they were the wind blowing the leaves through the air. She printed out the portraits, and had them add real leaves to the scene. Cute!
Will you and your family collect leaves this year? Let me know what you end up doing with them! Me, I've got my eye on another book to fill...
Readers, meet Denim Deb, a paper doll from the late 1970's.
She's a young woman who knows what she likes, and what she likes is denim. Even her undershorts are denim.
That doesn't stop her from wearing even more denim, of course. She's got suits:
She's got skirts:
She even has colored denim. (This is Deb's "Mom shopping at supermarket" cosplay outfit. There's definitely a pack of Pall Malls in that purse.)
Occasionally Deb will try out some non-denim looks, like these trendy prairie togs. But you can tell her heart's not in it. (Except when she's able to sneak in a little denim -- see that top on the right?)
(I am 95% sure I received Deb as a birthday gift when I was well into adulthood, but I can't remember who gave her to me. Thanks again, whoever you are!)
Today's craft is a shade made for a battery-operated tealight, which are currently available wherever Halloween frippery is sold (i.e. the drug store, the supermarket, Home Depot, Target, Walmart, etc.). I like hiding the plastic fakeness of the tealight behind the warm texture of tissue paper. Make a bunch of these (they are surprisingly quick and easy to make) and scatter them around the room for your next gathering. They are, of course, well-suited to Halloween set-ups, but I think they add a cozy touch to any occasion.
Start by snipping an inch and a half (or so) from a cardboard toilet-paper tube.
Pull out and unfold your gorgeous multi-color packet of tissue paper (available at craft stores, or online, of course). Trim a folded section from a red, an orange, and a yellow sheet.
Now you're going to cut a length of paper that will match the circumference of your cardboard ring. It's been a while since I took geometry, so instead of using rulers and math, I do this easy trick. Mark the inside of the ring with a pencil, then place it on the paper so the mark lines up with the paper's edge (below, left). Roll the ring along the edge until the pencil mark hits the paper again (below, right) (yes, I went from right to left; that's just how I roll). Make a light pencil mark on the tissue paper, then remove the ring. I cut my strip of paper about a quarter-inch longer than that measurement, so I'd have some overlap.
Trim the other two strips to the same size. Fold a strip in half lengthwise, then in half again, then in half again.
Mark a swooping, sharp angle onto the folded paper, and cut it out.
Unfold the cut paper and admire your handiwork. Then, repeat the folding/marking/cutting steps with the other two colors of paper.
Fold the red paper piece back up, and stack the three cut and folded pieces with the yellow on the bottom, orange in the middle, and red on top. Align the colors so the tips of the flames will be staggered in height, as shown, with the yellow the tallest and the red the shortest. Trim the bottom ends of the three folded papers in a single snip, leaving at least an inch and a half (the height of your cardboard ring) in length below the flame-shaped bits.
Apply glue stick to the outside of your cardboard ring, then smooth the unfolded yellow piece around it, lining up their bottom edges. Repeat with the orange and the red. Place a battery-operated tealight inside, and you're ready to go.
It looks cool when it's light out, and extra cool when it's nice and dark. Have fun!
Have you met Jay Mohler? Saying he makes God's eyes is like saying Michelangelo painted ceilings. They are incredible, intricate works of art.
Jay sells finished yarn mandalas (as he calls them) on his etsy shop. They range in size from about 18 to 24 inches, though you can also special-order a huge four-footer. He also sells kits with everything you need, or just the special notched sticks, or just the secrets of the universe (i.e. directions for making your own ojo de dios mandala). Seems like a great craft to get into with an older child!
It's my sweetie's birthday today! I made him a special card, and I want to share the how-to with you.
First, use a round object —not too huge, or it won't fit inside a card — to trace a semi-circle onto a sheet of regular-weight paper. I used a sheet from a plain ol' sketchpad. Then, cut out the shape.
Fold the semi-circle in half, draw a small inner curve, and cut it out. No need to be fussy.
With a pencil, lightly draw an arced line for your lettering to follow. I tried to keep my line parallel with the outer edge of the circle. Then, figure out the middle of your top word. HAPPY has five letters, so a P should go in the very center of the arc. From there, add the other letters so they're spaced evenly on the arc; use pencil so you can erase and re-do as needed.
BIRTHDAY has an even 8 letters, so write a T and an H on either side of the center fold, then fill in the rest of the letters.
Now for the fun part! Go over your pencil letters with bright markers, and erase the pencil with a good, clean eraser. I did block letter outlines, then erased the pencil before filling them in with little loopy scribbles.
Now for the folding. Fold the arc in half, then fold it in half again, as shown at left. Fold it in half once more, as shown at right.
Now unfold the whole shebang.
Fold up quarter-inch-wide flaps at each end of the arc. (You'll be gluing those to the inside of the card.)
The paper needs to be folded like an accordian, and right now, only one half of it is. (In the photo above, the left side — the "PPY HDAY!" half — is correct.) Working from the middle, reverse and re-fold any of the folds that don't follow the in-out-in-out pattern. It should end up looking like a paper fan. (At some point in this process, I realized my gluing flaps were going the wrong direction. No biggie, just refold!)
Now you'll need a card! You can use a pre-made blank card, or just fold a half-sheet of card stock in half. Fold up your paper arc tightly, and make sure everything is even. Use a rolled-up piece of painter's tape to attach the left flap to the card. Place another tape roll on the right flap, then close the card onto it. Open the card to see how well it pops up and folds closed. Using painter's tape will allow you to peel up the flaps and move them around slightly as needed. I found that putting the two flaps closer together seemed to work better for the folding-closed movement.
Make a couple of tiny, light pencil marks on the card to show where the corners of the flaps should be glued. Peel off the tape, spread a thin layer of tacky glue on the flaps, and press them back in place. If there's no glue overflow, fold everything up and set a heavy book on top of the closed card for at least half an hour. If there is some glue seepage, let it dry before doing the folding/closing and book-pressing, or you'll get everything stuck together.
Now write a message on the outside, like, "Just wanted to wish you a..." or "Hey you!," or draw something cute or silly, or glue-stick on some decorative paper. And write a personal message to the birthday person inside, below the pop-up part.
Today's "I Love Stuff" is another stuffed animal seller. I admit, I have stuffed animals on the brain; I'm currently working on a sewn plush project, not for the blog, which I will share with you in the coming weeks.
Anyway: Etsy seller Wish With Me offers these miniature stuffed felt animals that are simply the cutest. Here's a sloth that can hang from your finger!
A teeny bunny with a carrot-shaped bed!
An itsy black kitten playing with yarn!
She also has these detailed, miniature mint-tin playsets that are just as squee-dorable. I particularly like the dog edition:
...Though, the hamster set is also precious:
So tiny. So cute. Such good stuff. Check out Wish With Me's shop now!
I spent Monday afternoon at the local fair, at which I ate pierogis and ice cream, watched a steam-powered corn-sheller, and saw many farm animals, including a selection of adorable and unusual chickens. Unless it's near Easter time, chickens get short shrift in the crafting world. But there's no need to save up your chicken-making ideas for March. I hereby give you permission to create a beautiful or funny or even fierce chicken, any time of the year.
As always, I've listed these ten in order from roughly easiest/youngest kid level, to hardest/oldest kid (or teen, or adult) level. Your mileage may vary.
First off is a kindergarden-friendly craft from Kids Artists. I like that these hens get their own nesting boxes, and that their wings are made of the children's hand tracings. Super simple and cute.
Do you have a chicken craft you love? Share in the comments!
This weekend, I made my own little mushrooms to brighten up my oft-neglected houseplants.
I've definitely had mushrooms on the mind. The woods where I live are full of all sizes, shapes, and colors of them. I love how they emerge so quickly from below the ground, pushing aside leaves and pine needles as they grow.
I took these three photos just in the last week:
Today's project was inspired by these beautiful discoveries, and by the acorns which have been falling from the oaks the last few weeks. Pick up a few caps the next time you're walking in the woods or a park, and you're on your way to making these sweet mini-mushrooms. They're meant to be inserted into the soil of a houseplant, but if you'd rather have them sit on their own, keep reading for alternate directions.
First, collect a few brown acorn caps. (If the caps are fresh and green, they'll shrink and possibly crack.) If the cap has any kind of a stem at the top, use a pair of scissors to lop it off.
Then, choose a modeling material. I made this craft with both white Sculpey (though any bake-able polymer clay will do) and plain Paperclay. The main benefit to the Sculpey is that you can paint your mushroom soon after you bake it. Paperclay is a bit easier and softer to handle and sculpt, but you'll have to wait at least 24 hours (and sometimes longer) for the clay to dry before painting, and waiting is difficult for antsy kids or impatient grown-ups.
Using either modeling clay, start by pinching off a blob and pressing it into the underside of a clean, dry acorn cap.
Next, sculpt the stem. Roll a piece of clay into a fat log shape. Insert a toothpick through the stem piece. Leave about a quarter inch of the pick sticking out from the top of the stem. Gently press the sides of the stem so the toothpick is gripped tightly inside.
Next, simply insert the stem into the cap. This is a Paperclay mushroom, FYI:
[Alternate, free-standing mushroom version: Use strong scissors to trim the toothpick at the base of the stem so it's flush with the clay. Smooth clay over the toothpick end. Set the mushroom upright, and adjust the position of the cap and stem so it can sit without help. If using Paperclay, let it dry as it sits. If using Sculpey, carefully lay it on its side to bake. Don't move it again until it's cool; the clay softens when baking.]
Here are two mushrooms I sculpted out of Sculpey. To bake them, lay them on their sides on a foil-covered baking pan. Don't worry: the temperature at which the clay bakes isn't high enough to scorch the toothpicks or acorn caps.
Once your mushrooms are baked and/or dry, paint them as you wish with acrylic craft paint. [A tip: You may end up covering the entire mushroom with paint, only to realize you have no safe way to set it down to dry. Not that I would ever do such a thing. *ahem.* Try taping the toothpick end of the mushroom to the side of a coffee mug, with the mushroom jutting above the mug's rim.]
Here's another tip, though feel free to ignore it, especially if you're making stuff with kids: For the nicest, most even, and brightest results, paint the entire thing with white paint first. Let it dry, then paint on the color.
Here's another angle that better shows how I painted the undersides of mine. Again, I went fancy, because sometimes I do that.
If you make acorn-cap mushrooms, I'd love to see how they turned out!
Have you met Cyrus Kabiru? He's a painter and sculptor living in Nairobi who works largely with recycled materials — trash, in other words. He's become known for his C-Stunners, non-functional but wearable "glasses."
Watch a short video of Cyrus talking about his work, here. His work is so inspiring and inventive, and it has an environmental message, too. You could use his glasses as inspiration for an afternoon of crafting with children. Use less sharp, not-so-pointy materials, of course: egg cartons, plastic forks and spoons, pipe cleaners, lace scraps, doilies, wired ribbon, paper cups... Keep an eye on what's heading to the trash can, and what you might be able to rescue from the landfill.
I'm Debbie Way, an artist and writer who enjoys making things.