Archive for the ‘Crafts for Kids’ Category

Remembering the Art and Craft in What You Make

January 24, 2013

The fast-paced world has changed forever the way we communicate, access entertainment, travel (I still insist my kids know how to read a paper map and train schedule), work, and the list goes on and on. For many of us who quilt and sew, our tool kits now include glue guns, Steam-a-Seam interfacing, and other items aimed at making light work out of our craft. I admit while I own a roll of Steam-a-Seam for certain types of projects, one primary reason I make is to slow down. I rush through enough aspects of my day – like shelving the idea of making a from scratch pizza and instead stopping by the local grocers to pick up a “hand-made” one a few nights ago – that when it comes time for making, I want to take my time, think it through, play “what-if” with my ideas, and then decide how to best tell my visual story. I do all of this to get the most out of my craft, to get to that point where even though I may have spent way more time than I budgeted, stayed up much later into the night than I intended, I sink back into my chair satisfied with my output – what is now before me on the design wall. I know when I wake up the next morning, I may be tired, but I will also be energized by my “creating time” and am ready to pour that energy into helping my business clients develop their ideas and tell their stories all with the intention of growing their businesses.

In preparing for a presentation later this week on Ansel Adams to my daughter’s 6th grade class, a class that collectively probably snaps more pictures in one year than Ansel Adams could ever imagine, I want them to learn a bit more about this great artist certainly, but also about the art and craft that goes into taking a photo that draws you in, makes you want to learn more about the situation, makes you stop and think, or just makes you feel differently.

Here are some great video clips from interviews with Ansel Adams on the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art site. One of my favorites:  “Ansel Adams on Photography and Visualization.”  Gina, a friend and one of the Partners-in-Art co-directors, sent me the links to these interviews but there is much more to explore on this website so beware that you may get lost here for a couple of hours!

Enjoy the links but why not grab a camera of your own (or your phone) and head outdoors to capture some images of a favorite tree, an icy pond, an old building, or something else that helps define where you live. Slow down, though, and really think about what you want to convey in that image and how – maybe you want to head out in early morning light or at dusk; maybe you want to shoot it up close to show off a favorite branch; maybe you want to print it in black and white rather than color … you get the idea, take your time, put some thought into the project. Other considerations: do the project solo, with a friend, or with your kids; share your work with a neighbor who may not get out to walk around as much as they once did.  And remember, you can always order the pizza or have cereal for dinner  if you get caught up in the process!

Creative Habits: Illustrating a Favorite Book a Page at a Time

January 15, 2013


In 2011, Moby Dick in Pictures: One Drawing for Every Page by Matt Kish was published. If you missed it, go to your local library or bookstore today and pick up a copy.  Why? Because if you are looking to establish a creative habit, this is so inspirational on many levels …

  • Matt Kish is a self-taught artist (day job – English teacher).
  • In 2009, he began producing one drawing every day for each page in the Signet Classics paperback edition of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick.  That’s 552 pieces of art.
  • He uses a variety of materials and techniques, including pen and ink on found paper,  ballpoint pen on found paper, watercolors on paper … In other words, he did not go out on a buying spree to get all the materials he needed (at least I don’t think he did) and instead looked around at what was on hand for the most part and got onto creating art and experimenting with techniques. I have to believe he felt like a kid again, especially as he got into the flow of the project.

The end result is a wonderful, captivating book that is exciting to look at – I finally stopped counting which illustrations were my “absolute favorite” in the book! If you’ve been trying to get a family member or student to read Moby Dick, this might be the way to entice them to pick up Melville’s classic. They will get a taste of the story from the illustrations and the quote included with each drawing that inspired the art.



So this book got me thinking, what book would I most like to illustrate? My choice, The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, one of the first books I fell in love with as a kid (besides Nancy Drew).

What book would you like to illustrate? Well, get going!

To read more about Matt Kish and see what else he is up to, visit his blog here.

A side note: If you are a fan of Moby Dick and like to be read to here is another very interesting link to check out – The Moby Dick Big Read Project. Unfortunately, you may have to put everything aside and just listen because this ends around January 29th or so.


Slowing Down to Make

November 25, 2012

My kids will likely never know the days when stores are closed all day and night on Thanksgiving but we managed to keep the shopping frenzy at bay for the most part during this long holiday break beginning with participating in the Bonfield Express Thursday morning, playing games and catching a movie. (The Bonfield is a 5k named in memory of Jim Bonfield a favorite teacher, coach, and counselor; it has become a Thanksgiving tradition for many in our community with the proceeds funding college scholarships for area seniors.)

Feeling totally inspired from meeting with my quilting group on Saturday morning, today, my daughter and I set aside some time to make a new pair of fleece pajama pants. We used a pattern we had used before from Heather Ross’ book, Weekend Sewing: More Than 40 Projects and Ideas for Inspired Stitching, but added a few inches here and there to accommodate her growing frame. Altogether, we probably spent about one hour on the project. I also made a silent promise to her that in the coming weeks when life can get quite busy with shopping lists, parties, work deadlines, homework, etc., we are going to carve out some time each weekend throughout December to make something.

Making the pattern a bit bigger.

Pieces are cut and ready to sew.

Adding a ribbon loop to hang the pants from on the door hook.

Ready to wear!

Next on the list: a fleece t-shirt for Audrey, our Rhodesian Ridgeback mix. For fun, my daughter put a t-shirt onto Audrey this weekend and she actually really likes it; in fact, she seems a bit sad when it comes time to take it off! We think that she believes that if she wears clothes like ours we will soon invite her to pull up a chair to the dinner table. Stay tuned – if it turns out well, I will post the how-to here next week.

Happy making with your friends and family this holiday season!

Falling Felt Leaves

November 5, 2012

Despite concerns that the fall color show might be compromised by the drought, the colors here in the Chicagoland area were magnificent this fall. The leaves seemed to cling to the trees longer than usual, but with a few rains and windy days, most trees are bare and the show is now over. I’m not quite ready to be done with the fall colors, however, so I decided to bring the color scheme inside with leaves made out of felt scraps.

Here’s how to make the leaves . . .

1. Collect felt scraps in fall colors – oranges, reds, browns, yellows, greens.

2. Download leaf coloring pages from the Internet. If you are feeling a bit too constrained by these, design your own leaf shapes from trees real or imagined.

3. For each leaf, cut out two sizes; the larger one should be about 1/4 inch bigger all around than the smaller one. I played with color here; some leaves are high contrast like shown here, while others are two shades of the same color.

4.  Stitch the two pieces together emphasizing what you want to in the leaf – for example, stitching around the edges to highlight the overall shape or stitching the vein pattern. I changed it up based on the individual leaves. You also have many options here for stitching – hand stitching using a variety of embroidery stitches or just a running stitch; machine stitching that takes advantage of your machine’s capabilities or a simple straight stitch. The bottom line is to make it fun and spend as much time as you want to or have.

Use … enjoy … rearrange often!

P.S. If you have a little person that wants to participate in the fun, they could glue the leaves together and then “make stitches” with a Sharpie.  Or, if old enough, he/she could use a big needle and big stitches to hand sew the leaves together.

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Making for Fun

September 9, 2012


This second week back to school has tested me in several ways: the onslaught of homework and the realization that 6th grade math is now beyond my ability (I am so in trouble if someone in Washington launches a “No Parent Left Behind” initiative); activities and meetings that have added to my to-do list expotentially; and Audrey, our Rhodesian Ridgeback mix, who has suddenly taken a liking to long, leisurely walks and will not stand for any talk about deadlines and schedules (in fact, any attempt to jumpstart the walk ends with all 50 lbs of her firmly planted on the ground).

Combine the school stuff with work deadlines – several consulting projects and a quilt for an upcoming fundraiser (more to be revealed here in the next few weeks) – and the lights don’t seem to go off in our home until about 11 or 12 each night. Last night as I worked away though, I listened to the laughter and busyness in the next room as my daughter and her friend had some creative downtime. For a couple of hours, they crafted items from polymer clay and made silly bands into jewelry.

Here’s what my daughter had to say about crafting:  “I like to make stuff because it is simply fun. One of my favorite You Tube channels is SoCraftastic’s. She [Sarah] has amazing tutorials and crafts ideas! One of my favorites and also the one I recently did this past week is a Silly Bandz bracelet. It’s really easy to make and is really cute looking! :)”

Here’s one of my favorite projects from her creative endeavors, a polymer clay donut, also from SoCraftastic …

Tidying up the Purse with a New Quilted Sunglasses Case

August 21, 2012

My sunglasses case has been in tatters for some time, so with a new pair of sunglasses, I decided it was time to be out with the old and in with the new. This simple case makes use of those small left over fabric pieces from other projects, or if you have just little bits, is small enough that you can piece the dimension you need.

Here’s the how to:

1. If you have a fabric sunglasses case that works for you now, just measure it, adding 1/2″ for each seam allowance. My new sunglasses are curved so they needed a bigger case. I cut two pieces of fabric – one for the lining and one for the outside – measuring 9-1/2″ x 8-3/4″. Cut the batting slightly smaller – I cut a piece measuring 8-3/4″ x 8-1/4″.

2. Make the quilt sandwich in the sequence indicated in the picture below. First lay the lining fabric down, then stack the outside fabric right on top, then center the batting on top of that. Smooth it all out so there are no annoying wrinkles anywhere and pin the layers all together.

3. Stitch around the edges using a 1/2″ seam and leaving a gap of about 4″ along one edge for turning. If you have a walking foot, use that for best results. When finished stitching, clip the corners; turn and press. Stitch the opening closed using your sewing machine and stitching close to the edge. (Under normal conditions, I would stitch this opening closed using a slip stitch, but since the case will take a beating in my purse, the machine stitch will just be more durable in the long run.)

4. Quilt using a favorite stitch or try something new – this is an ideal project to experiment a bit to see what looks best with your fabrics. If you don’t like the end result, you have maybe lost 45 minutes, not hours. When finished with the quilting, I found I had to make a decision: While I intended to make a sunglasses case, I kind of liked the finished result at this point and toyed with the idea of stopping here and enjoying the piece as a hot pad. However, my need for a new case won out, so I finished it up …

5. Fold the quilted piece in half lengthwise and stitch the bottom and side seam using a 1/4″ seam allowance. Turn and press.

Enjoy and happy sewing!

P.S. This is a great kids sewing project – for themselves, a teacher or friend.

Fold Over Elastic Hair Ties – Quick to Make, Fun to Wear

August 5, 2012

Over the last few years, we’ve gone through a few tween trends – Japanese erasers, rubberbands, and scented pencils – but none as affordable or useful as fold over elastic (FOE) hair ties. In recent weeks, they have been appearing in a lot of the shops in our area, usually around $4 for 2 or 3. The hardest part of making the hair ties is selecting the FOE colors – and at about 50 cents a yard, you can actually afford not to be selective! The best part, they take about one minute to make. Here’s the how-to:

1. Gather the supplies: 5/8″ FOE, scissors, 12″ ruler. FOE is available at most fabric shops; we purchased it at The Needle Shop in Chicago.

2. Cut a 10 to 12 inch length, angling the ends. This will allow you to loop the tie over your hair two to three times. My daughter has been wearing her ties a lot and we have not had a problem with fraying. If your’s don’t cooperate, try a bit of Fray Check on the ends.

3. Tie a knot and, if necessary, trim the ends a bit to shorten.

4. Wear!

Some girls are making FOE headbands – just experiment with the length to cut or measure the circumference of an existing favorite stretchy headband and add a couple of inches to tie it off. And, Sew Can Do has instructions for making shoelaces … who knew!

On a side note, I’ve used FOE for pajama waistbands and it is a bit trickier to work with than I would have thought. One of the best tutorials on the topic is here at Angry Chicken.

Happy making!

A Perfect Pairing: Lotta Jansdotter Moira Fabric and New Look Top Pattern

April 5, 2012

Since buying Lotta Jansdotter’s Moira fabric in the Deep Indigo colorway back in November, I have been looking for the perfect project to highlight the simplicity of the fabric design. Cleaning up my studio a few days ago, I found this misplaced pattern, New Look pattern number 6784. The scale of the motif is perfect for the pattern and there are not many seams to break up the design. The line of the finished top complements the skinny, cropped jeans I bought last summer. (Why does it seem to take a season or two to fully pull an outfit together?!)

The pattern directions were clear and the top (View D) went together fairly quickly. My only regret is that I didn’t cut the neckline a bit higher in the front – it seemed fine when I held the pattern up but when I finished the bodice and slipped it on, it was a bit too low and wide. Thus, I will now be buying a camisole to wear under the shirt. If I make this top again, I will play with the neckline some and then make the bodice first in muslin to test it out. The only other change I made was rather than topstitching the bodice lining down, I hand stitched it in place.

As an aside, I bought this fabric at The French Seam in Indianapolis last November. I’m not sure if they still have it, but it does look like it is available direct from Lotta Jansdotter’s site.

Since I feel a bit emboldened by my sewing success here, next up is a blouse in Cal Patch’s Design-It-Yourself Clothes.

What are you sewing for your spring/summer wardrobe?

Playing with Duct Tape

February 4, 2012

I’ve not been playing with fabric very much this past week due to a rotator cuff injury – a side effect of my daily 1+ mile walks with Audrey who understands the concept of “heel” about 70% of the time. My daughter, on the other hand, has been playing with the medium of her choice, duct tape, which I have to admit looks a lot like fabric these days. We first made these great flower pens at a recent Girl Scout meeting and the girls are all hooked. Here are the directions for this simple craft over at the Seven Sisters blog.

Saying Goodbye to a Favorite Quilt

March 21, 2011

Over the past couple of months, I have had the pleasure of working with my daughter’s fourth grade class on a quilt for the school’s annual fund raiser. On Saturday, I had to bid farewell to this favorite quilt which the students aptly named A Colorful Paradise.

While I am happy to report that the quilt raised a nice amount in the auction and I am moving onto some other wonderful projects, I am missing its splash of color in my studio on this overcast day.