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

 

Hello, etsy store!

two tea towels bottle branch blog

Maybe I left you hanging in my last post. I showed you a silkscreen tea towel I made this summer, but I didn’t tell you what I’m going to do with it. Well, guess what?!  I finally got around to opening an Etsy store. I’ve stocked it with these seaweed towels and some new tea towels printed with an old silkscreen of wild grasses. I’ve also added a couple handprinted children’s T-shirts I made a few years ago – extras from a project I did for my children. (I even had to bribe my children to get them to model the shirts for me — photos on etsy, but not of the bribing, just the shirts.)

viking and cowboy t shirts

I hope you will go take a visit. Maybe even ‘like’ some items, ‘like’ my store, and share anything that seems exciting or interesting. I can’t promise it’s going to be a thriving hub of commerce, since my output is quite erratic. But I’m excited to have taken the step, and hope to add new and different printed items, now and again.

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.

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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.

DIY reversible play tent

I have always wanted an excuse to buy something from the adorable Ikea Torva series and last week I finally found one.

tent.materials

With a niece turning two, I decided to make her an A-frame play tent, one of the many projects I’ve pinned and been hankering to try. The Torva Blad duvet cover would be the tent material.

finished.tent.detail

Last summer, I made an similar tent for my children, using a twin bed sheet and doing absolutely no sewing. By cutting, tying and scrunching, we made the sheet fit a frame copied from this helpful tutorial. Without sewing the sheet to fit, though, the resulting tent was not particularly present-worthy, photo-worthy, ikea-textile worthy. This time, I wanted to make a playful and pretty tent to thrill and delight my niece and her big sister.

finished.tent4

Of course, it turned out to be a little more than the few quick seams I’d imagined, and at one point, I did have to stop and run out to the store for more ribbon. But it was worth the effort.

The resulting tent is sturdy and sweet and managed to shelter 6 children at once when we celebrated my niece’s birthday. It reverses to green and white gingham, breaks down quickly and can be rolled up and stored in a matching bag (made from the pillow cases that came with the duvets). Yes, this tent is present-worthy.

If you are reading this because you are a friend, family member, or because you are my mother, thank you for reading, you’ve probably seen enough of this project. If you think you might have the time/energy/love of Ikea textiles to want to try this, or are just curious about the nitty grittiy details, read on!

I’m not really much of a tutorial maker, but in this case, I feel the need to present the details in the (unlikely) event that I want to attempt this project again, or someone else does. Plus, I have a hankering to try out the wordpress slide show feature. Enjoy!

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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.