Fun Family Christmas Crafts

completed winter vignette bottle branch blog

Lest you think that all I do these days is arrange plants and flowers for photographs and promote my etsy store, let me re-assure you that regular old family holiday season is in full swing at my house. In addition to putting up our tree, stuffing an advent wreath full of greens, and un-earthing my boys’ collections of nutcrackers, we have managed to fit in a few family crafty-ish type projects: winter vignettes, gum drop trees, and cranberry garlands.

 

Winter Vignettes

playing winter vignette bottle branch blog

First, we made winter vignettes. The cynic in me feels that this is not much of a craft project, since it was little more than assembling salvaged and bought materials. But it was quite fun, and arranging and re-arranging the trees and houses might have been the best part.

supplies for winter vignette bottle branch blog

I saved a few shallow boxes and bits of styrofoam from packing materials, and then I bought some sparkly blue paper, a package of bottle brush trees, and some fake snow, all items available at your run-of-the-mill craft store .

completed and styled winter vignette bottle branch blog

We lined the boxes with sparkly paper, carved the styrofoam into hills, glued them in, along with some snow, and finally pulled the trees out of their stands and poked them into the styrofoam. As a finishing touch, my youngest went to his box of treasures and trinkets and dug out that tiny little moose. We didn’t glue him in, so now the moose roams free inside his little vignette.

Gumdrop Tree

gum drop tree 2 bottle branch blog

Second, we made a gum drop tree, a project we do every year. Some might see this project as little more than an opportunity to eat those awful spice drops, since it involves only sticking gum drops onto toothpicks and then sticking them into a styrofoam tree.

completed gum drop tree bottle branch blog

But my children love doing this and since they’ve done it many times, it doesn’t really require much supervision. Oddly enough, they don’t even really like those candies. The result is festive and cute, though ours is never nearly so perfect as one you might find on pinterest.

Cranberry Garlandscranberry and popcorn garlands bottle branch blog

The third project was a stand-by of my childhood, which I had forgotten about until I saw this post about cranberry garlands by Laura at Circle of Pine Trees. I was so excited to revisit stringing cranberries! I started stringing plain cranberries on thread and then I dug some popcorn out of the cabinet, took a look at pinterest  and decided to try stringing them together using embroidery needles and floss. These turned out to be much better for little hands.

strining popcorn and cranberries

While on pinterest, I saw a lot about how to preserve your cranberry garlands, but we did what I always did growing up – strung them up on outdoor trees – our present to the birds.

cranberry popcorn garlands bottle branch blog

That’s likely to be all the family crafting we do this year, since the remaining days will be filled with cooking, wrapping, and the excited chatter from my youngest. I probably won’t be blogging until after the new year, but in the mean time, I wish you happy holidays and I look forward to re-connecting in 2016!

P.S. I also made a few of these leafy paper snow flakes, while my children were making their own traditional paper snow flakes. Wow! It was a lot more fun than I would have guessed! If you look here you can see more examples made by others on instagram.

leafy snowflakes bottle branch blog

 

Halloween craft: eeire orbs

yarn ballooons for halloween

With Halloween on the way, its been a crafty time at my house. We’ve been working on costumes, decorating and generally enjoying the season of spookiness.

We also made these orbs out of webbed yarn. Inspired by pinterest, these yarn balloons were super-easy to make. I took cotton yarn, dipped it in paper mache paste made from elmer’s glue, water, and some flour, and wrapped it around balloons. After letting them dry for a few days, I poked holes in the balloons and gently deflated them, while making sure to unstick the yarn from the balloon.

deflating balloon

Thorough instructions can be found on Instructables, but really there’s not much to this project. Only be sure to use 100% cotton yarn, no matter how tempting a sparkly or hairy synthetic yarn might seem. The synthetics just don’t hold the shape once the balloon is deflated. Trust me, I know this from experience.

I liked the simplicity of the orbs on their own, but my children had other ideas. They wanted to add cobwebs, spiders, skeletons. You know, make them spookier, kookier, more eerie. I confess to a few judicious edits of their adornments before hanging them above our kitchen table and taking this final photo. Happy Halloween, my friends in the blogosphere!

yarn.balloons.all

 

August break: painting by bubbles

Every August, we head to the coast north of Boston, to spend a few weeks at the beach.  Since we don’t have much planned, I always troll through pinterest when packing, and plan a few portable crafty projects to do with my children. So far, this year, we’ve only managed to try painting by bubbles, and it was a wild success.

To paint by bubbles, we added a few drops of food coloring to bottles of bubble solution, rolled out some plain paper, weighed the corners of the paper down with rocks, and then blew the colored bubbles onto the paper.

coloring bubbles

bubble painting

When the bubbles pop, they leave a ring of color. And, as the drips and rings of color build up on the paper, it creates an effect similar to marbleized paper.

bubble painting 1

bubble painting 2

More gratifyingly, bubble painting is flexible and open-ended. It engendered free play, experimenting, and creative problem solving. Once we set it up, my children took over, adding colors to the bubble solution, experimenting the direction at techniques for blowing the bubbles, observing wind direction, types of bubbles, effects of layering colors on the paper.

Before we started, I harbored fantasies of saving the resulting bubble-painted paper and using it for wrapping paper or some other crafty project, but it truth, the colors faded after a few days and the results were uneven.  No doubt there is a way to do bubble painting with a beautiful end product in mind, but in this case, we just enjoyed the process. Process over product.

DIY pirate shirts tutorial

DIY pirate shirt tutorial

We’re really into costumes at my house. I have two sons who love dressing up, with pirate costumes being among the most popular. For Christmas, they received a beautiful set of sea captain coat, knee breeches, boots, from H and M Unicef/All for Children.

While these clothes were a hit, the problem of what to wear beneath the coat became a nagging question in the mind of my seven year old. White button down? Wrong. Plain T shirt? Wrong. Striped shirt? Wrong. Like I said, we’re really into costumes. So, we sewed pirate-ish muslin shirts to go with these jaunty sea captain clothes.

I’ve already described my mixed feelings about this project, and since it was a little out of my comfort zone, I’ve just added it to the New to Me Linky at Celtic Thistle Stitches. Click over there to see all kinds of geat projects. If you want to hear more of  the details of how I sewed these shirts, please, read on! I’ll tell you what I did and what I learned.

Before starting I did a little google searching, and found this pirate shirt “unpattern” tutorial on Wee Folk Art to be helpful for thinking the project through, though I did some things differently, notably the cuffs and neckline.

Now, the details in slide show format. Please note that by clicking on the bottom center of a slide you can pause, go forward, or go backwards in the instructions.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Craft Project, or a cry for help?

tulle.tutuI recently made tutus for two of my little nieces. Initially, I did not plan to post about this project because it’s been done so many times before and as a craft project, there’s pretty much nothing to it. One need only to look at this photo and this photo, and how to proceed becomes clear.

DIY.tutu

Proceed, I did, and in the end, I was almost shocked by the finished products. These tutus appear so ridiculously girly, so over the top in their puffy, frothy pink-and-purple-ness, that it occurred to me that these tutus might seem like a cry for help from the mother of four sons.

In truth, I‘ve made my peace with the awkward questions (Gonna keep trying ’til you get a girl?) and unanswerable comments. (Four boys!! How do you DO it?!!) I even try to have a sense of humor and enjoy connecting with other mothers of all boys. I love my children for the wonderful people they are and feel lucky for all I share with them.

Nevertheless, I won’t deny enjoying the novel experience of tutus, barrettes, bows, and extreme girliness I get by having nearby nieces. I guess I better enjoy it now, before the girls get old enough to reject it.

Making monsters

ma.all.together

Cropping up all over pinterest these days, these monster wreaths seemed like a must-do family project, despite their muppet-iness, or perhaps because of it.

So, one cloudy day last week, we decided to take this project on. We followed this tutorial, substituting 10’ wreath forms so they could be used on bedroom doors or as indoor decorations. (And, if you really want to know , this switch meant we used only about 50 yards of tulle per wreath.)

My plan was to allow each child to make a wreath and to make one myself for my sesame-street-loving nieces. This plan was a bit risky, given (1) the large age range of my children (4 through 13) and (2) the miles of tulle to be knotted.

Happily, my oldest son was game to make a monster wreath to give to his younger cousins. We started painting the eyeballs, deviating from the muppet-style black circles for some.

mw.tie.by.myself

Then we got down to cutting the tulle and tying it around the wreath forms. I had assumed my 4 year old wouldn’t contribute much and I would basically be making his wreath myself, but he refused my help for the first hour, determinedly knotting strands of tulle, and exercising those fine motor skills. My 7 year old managed to make his entirely on his own and I resisted mightily the urge to “just touch it up.”

All in all, it was a success as a family project. Since there are five of them, I’ve decided to give them names. Kind of like the spice girls, only different. Can you guess which one I made?

Packing Projects and a Pinterest fail

north shore beach

Today, I’m off to spend some time at my mother-in-law’s house near the ocean. It will be fun, yet I’ve been daunted by the packing, schlepping, and general pandemonium of moving the family operation to a new locale.

Aside from the usual clothing and toiletries, we’ll need swim goggles, tennis rackets, rain gear. Possibly a soccer ball, probably bike helmets. The list goes on, but, by far, the packing I am most concerned with is projects. With no day camp planned, we’ll have plenty of time to try out a pinterest project or two.

pinterest sea glass photo

Last year, we tried to make sea glass in a jar. After a few days of rolling around a plastic jar filled with sand, seawater and some broken glass, we had… a jar filled with sand, seawater, and some broken glass. That’s what happens when you don’t click through and read the details: pinterest fail!

 pirate t-shirts

We also made appliqué pirate t-shirts, modeling them on playmobil characters, cutting shapes from quilting fabrics, gluing with fabric glue and then I hand stitched the edges to prevent fraying. Possibly this is sign of my compulsiveness.

For this year, I’m thinking we could try this tutorial on making flashlights, build a play tent, or try a monster wreath. Then again, all of those projects might be a tall order… wish me luck!

*sea glass image from lisaluvz, via pinterest. 

Sidewalk chalk paint and Jackson Pollock

sidewalk.paints

Late last week, we made sidewalk chalk paint, a pinterest inspired project.

We followed a recipe from All things Simple, mixing equal part cornstarch and water and then adding the food coloring. One of my older boys pointed out that this is almost the exact same recipe for Ooobleck, a Dr. Suess inspired concoction pinging around the internet and cropping up in primary school science classes. He also used the phrase “non-Newtonian fluid” – he must have been paying attention when they made it at school.

With much excitement, including some squealing and jumping up and down, we headed outside to paint.

painting2

The results were mixed. Going on, the paint was transparent and it only became opaque and chalky as it dried. Perhaps this says something about my two younger children, but they found this delay a bit unsatisfying. Grumbling ensued.

We were painting on our driveway made of brick-colored pavers and a stone path, and these dark surfaces might have muted the colors initially. The effect might be more immediate, more satisfying on a spanking new white sidewalk.

pollock sidewalk paint

No matter. They found a fun way to play with the paint, splattering it, Jackson Pollock style.

Later, we did a quick internet search on Jackson Pollock and came across jacksonpollock.org this amazing intuitive and fun website which allowed them to “paint” Jackson Pollock style by computer, switching colors with the click of the mouse. Fun indeed.

from jackson pollock org

Keeping busy with Saccachewbaccachew

Image

My ten year old, mentioned in the preceeding post, has been keeping me busy. In addition to the usual duties of motherhood, I have been helping him make a birthday present for his best friend.

To explain the present, I have to back up and say that the two boys have recently formed a rock band, with my son on drums, his friend on guitar and another friend also on guitar. As 5th graders, their practice sessions can get silly and at some point they invented an imaginary band mascot, a supposed relative of Star Wars’ Chewbacca the wookie called Saccachewbaccchew, whose appearance in the original movie was left on the cutting room floor. Mention this white wookie to the bunch and hilarity ensues.

So, as a surprise for his friend, my son asked me to help him make a stuffed animal version of Saccachewbaccachew. He drew a picture and traced the face with a sharpie onto a scrap of old sheet. We cut the body shape of out white faux fur, sewed the face on, sewed the body together, stuffed it, and sewed it closed. Of couse, I helped with a lot of the sewing. My son wrote out a tag for him. We both felt a bit mischevious and fully satisfied.

On Saturday, my son gave his friend the present, and yesterday, Saccachewbaccachew made his first appearance at band practice, sitting stiffly in a chair. This morning, I received a text from his friend’s mother, saying, “taking good care of the band mascot!” and including this photo. That little guy looks happy wherever he is. Good choice for a mascot.

saccachewbaccachew.after