Paper Beads Tutorial

It’s that time of year again: March Break! For the Ontario school board anyway; the Québec schools had theirs last week. My kids were really looking forward to the break, not just because of the days off, but because they loved all of the crafts we did last year. This year we started with a craft that I’m pretty sure I learned in Brownies as a child: paper beads.

Paper Beads

Materials:
– paper (I prefer recycled magazines with glossy photos)
– water-based, non-toxic liquid glue such as Mod Podge or plain white glue
– narrow-width ribbon or cord
– OPTIONAL: coordinating beads

Supplies Needed:
– paper scissors
– bamboo skewers
– ruler
– pencil
– paint brush
– old newspapers (to protect work surface)
– clean, recycled container (to use as glue pot)

1. Spread out your old newspapers to protect your work surface. Remove the piece of paper of your choice from the magazine. (Since we’ve gone paperless for the most part, we bought an old National Geographic magazine for a quarter at a thrift store.)

2. Flip your magazine clipping over so that the back side is showing. Using a ruler and a pencil, draw a long, thin triangle from the base of the paper to the top. The base of our triangles varied from 1cm to 2cm or so; under 1cm they can be a bit too small for little hands, and over 2cm they become very chunky beads.

3. Using the scissors, cut out the triangle.

4. Squirt a small amount of glue into the clean, recycled container. Dab the paint brush lightly in the glue, then spread a thin layer of glue onto the back of the paper, starting about 3cm away from the base. (If you start directly at the base, it will stick to the bamboo skewer.)

5. Starting at the non-glued end of the triangle and working toward the thinnest point, roll the paper tightly around the bamboo skewer. Once the paper is stuck down, apply a thin coat of glue to the outside of the bead, being careful not to get it on the skewer.

6. Allow the glue to dry, then slide the bead off of the skewer.

7. String the paper beads onto the cord, adding commercially-made beads if desired.

My kids really loved making these beads, especially since they can say that they made them from scratch! As a bonus, it introduced them to National Geographic magazines. Thing 1 insisted that we return to the thrift store and buy a whole bunch more, and at a quarter each I couldn’t exactly object. I have very happy memories of paging through these same magazines as a child and I’m glad that my children are getting as much enjoyment out of them as I did.

Socks of Many Colours: Complete!

I’m still trying to adhere to my New Year’s resolutions, so I’ve been knitting away at my socks of many colours. I managed to get through a small pile of yarn scraps, but I haven’t made as big of a dent into my total accumulation as I was hoping.

It seems like I spent more time sewing in ends than I did actually knitting.

But I am rather happy with the final result! These super-warm woolen socks have a stretchy ribbed knit and are very comfortable. I rather like the colours, but I’m sure they’re not to everybody’s tastes. I rarely keep my knit items for myself, so I’ll have to figure out who has feet similar sized to mine who also likes this particular pattern mishmash. My kids would very happily wear them, but the size is much too large.

On to the next scrap project! I’m thinking that I need a new pair of wrist warmers, since my hands have been getting rather chilly when gaming in the evening.

Socks of Many Colours

In an effort to get an early start on the first of my New Year’s resolutions, I spent a good chunk of this weekend knitting socks. Not just any socks, but socks (well, one sock so far) of many colours. I have a bag of yarn odds and sods of sock yarn that I inherited from a crafty friend when she passed away, as well as many years worth of my own leftovers. I thought that it would be nice to use up this bag, but to do so means that I’m going to have to make some very interestingly-coloured socks.

So far this sock has used six different leftover yarns, and I hope to use one or two more before it’s done. I divided the balls in half by weight and pattern, so the second sock should mostly match — although the colour repeat on some of the yarns is so long that it won’t be perfect. In the end, the pair of socks will be completely unique and hopefully a lot of fun!

I still haven’t decided what I’m going to do with the other leftover sock yarn, of which there is quite a bit. I don’t have the patience to turn it into a blanket, but a shawl is not out of the question. Or maybe a scarf; an infinity scarf might be nice. I haven’t knit a scarf in years. I’ve already made a couple dozen mini sweaters as Christmas ornaments over the last few years, and I’ve run out of people to gift them to. Given how cold my hands get at night when I’m on the computer, I may have to knit a new pair of wrist warmers, though. Hmmmmmm…

Happy Birthday, Little Brother

My (rather late) package to my little brother arrived in the mail at his house today, so I can finally write about what I made him. My brother is a technophile, but sadly I can’t afford to buy him the latest and greatest gadgets on the market. Instead, I hope he will be happy with socks.

I knit these socks out of, um, well, I lost the ball band so I don’t remember the name of the yarn. They are a lovely hand-dyed merino sock yarn, though! They’re stretchy, comfy, and warm for this incoming winter. The pattern is a toe-up one that I devised years ago that is particularly great for using up absolutely all of a ball of yarn. First, you divide the yarn in half; then, with each ball, knit the foot, and then knit upwards from the ankle until you run out of yarn. I love it, and I keep meaning to write it down for others in a way that is actually readable. Right now, the pattern lives in my head and on the back of a slowly-deteriorating envelope. I know it’s best to get patterns and recipes out there where others can use them, so I’d better write it down soon!

This hilarious F-bomb was most definitely not a pattern of my own devising, though. This pattern was recommended to me by a friend; it’s The F Bomb by Jenifer Spock-Rank, and it’s available for free on Ravelry. I knit it out of leftover scraps of black, red, and cream Dalegarn Baby Ull. I doubled up the yarn and used a 3.0mm needle so it wouldn’t be ridiculously tiny. Those little threads you can see in the picture are actually fibrefill stuffing — that stuff sheds almost as badly as faux fur!

Teacup Pin Cushion Tutorial

My kids are learning to sew, so I thought that it was time that they had pincushions of their own. I’ve seen teacup pin cushions around at flea markets and craft fairs, so I thought we’d make a go of whipping up some of our own. They’re really easy and right up the kids’ alwy, patience-wise.

Teacup Pin Cushion

Materials:
– 1 teacup (saucer optional)
– 1 square of cotton or cotton-blend fabric, about 3X as wide as the teacup’s top
– polyester fiberfill
– thread

Supplies Needed:
– fabric scissors
– needle
– hot glue gun & glue
– pins

1. It all starts with a teacup — but none of Grandma’s fine china! We bought ours for about $2.00 at a local charity thrift shoppe. If you’re not into tea, a coffee or espresso cup works well, or an egg cup, or even a sake glass. We even made one using a miniature terracotta pot (picked up for about $0.75 at a gardening supply store). Basically, it has to be an opaque container that you like the looks of that’s about the size of an old teacup, or smaller. You will also need to pick out a piece of coordinating fabric that’s about three times as wide as the mouth of your vessel.

1.B. OPTIONAL STEP: If you’re very crafty, you can embroider a design on your fabric at this stage.

2. Using a pair of fabric scissors, cut your fabric into a circle about three times as wide as the opening of your teacup. It doesn’t have to be perfect, since this end will be hidden inside the bottom of the cup where nobody will ever see it.

3. Using a running stitch, stitch around the outside edge of the circle, about 1cm from the edge. Use a sturdy thread, but don’t worry about the colour, since this will be hidden as well. Tie a knot at each end of the thread, but do not stitch that knot into the fabric.

4. Making sure that the fabric is inside-right, pull the thread taut to gather the fabric, but do not tie a knot. This will make a little pouch.

5. Stuff the pouch firmly with fiberfill.

6. Draw the thread as taut as possible and tie it off securely. This will create a small cushion.

7. Stuff the cushion into the teacup, making sure that the end with the stitching and the gathering is at the bottom of the cup.

8. Affix the cushion inside the cup using hot glue. I found that I got the neatest results by pushing the fabric down below the edge of the cup, and then running a bead of hot glue quickly about 0.5cm lower than the edge of the cup. Then I carefully released pressure on the cushion until it sat at the height I wanted, holding it in place while the glue dried. Otherwise, the cushion kept trying to puff much too far out of the cup.

9.B. OPTIONAL STEP: Using hot glue or by sewing, decorate the pin cushion. You can add a border of ribbon or trim around the edge of the cup to conceal the glue. Buttons, lace, small pompoms, googly eyes, felt cutouts, silk flowers… If you’re so inclined, this is a great time to be creative.

And that’s really all there is to it!

As for our last March Break craft, Thing 2 went with a more contemporary look.

Whereas I made mine in a little flower pot. I created the floral element by sticking sewing pins through little fabric flowers bought in a confetti-like pack from the dollar store.

And Thing 1 used the fabric flowers slightly differently, pinning them into place with her pincushion’s pins.

String Art Tutorial

I’ve been wanting to try this craft with my girls for a while; it is a great way to learn how to use a hammer and nails! I never did this as a child, but my little brother did, and his string art masterpiece hung in his room for years. The nice thing about this craft is that you can make it simple or complicated, depending on the skill level of the people doing it. We went with really simple, perfect for a busy day’s work!

String Art

Materials:
– 1 piece of 1/2″to 3/4″ thick wood, approx 12″ by 12″ (pine preferred)
– 1 colour of acrylic paint
– 20 (or so) 1″ long common framing nails
– scraps of thin yarn or string
– sawtooth picture hanger & screws

Supplies Needed:
– fine-grain sandpaper
– paintbrush
– hammer
– wooden clothes pin
– screwdriver

1. We started with a 12″ by 12″ piece of 1/2″ pine shelving left over from an old project. Pine is inexpensive and easy to hammer nails into. Such a small piece can be often be found inexpensively (or free) off-cut from a home improvement store. If you’re not handy with a saw, most reno stores will cut wood to size if you ask.

2. Using fine-grain sandpaper, give the piece of wood a quick once-over to remove any splinters.

3. You can leave the wood unfinished (in fact, a lot of string art is done on gorgeous, rustic barn board), but my girls opted to paint theirs. Two coats of crafting acrylic turned Thing 2’s board an eye-searing pink, while Thing 1 chose a more muted lavender. Don’t forget to cover your work surfaces with paper or plastic if you care at all if it gets stained! (Graffito from the kids is optional.)

4. Nail in the nails in the pattern of your choice. My kids went for an abstract creation of their own design. However, any number of designs and shapes can be downloaded off of the Internet, printed out, and then taped onto the top of the wood. You can then nail along the edges of the design, and rip the paper away when you’re done. Alternately, you can freehand a design in pencil and then paint over the marks before you add the string.

Since the kids hadn’t done much hammering with full-sized hammers before, we used wooden clothes pins to hold the nails upright while they got them started. This keeps their fingers away from the hammer, at least until they have a little bit more precision! (It stunned Thing 1 that I could hold a nail while hammering without smashing my fingers.)

Thing 1 went with a free-form design.

Thing 2 went with a more geometric plan.

5. Tie a few knots around one of the nails, and then go to town wrapping the string around the nails!

6. If you’re planning on hanging the string art on the wall, using a screwdriver, attach a sawtooth picture hanger with screws to the top back of the piece. Alternately, it can be propped on shelf, or held up by a mini easel.

Salt Dough Creations

A friend of mine bought me a copy of the Better Homes and Gardens Treasury of Christmas Crafts & Foods for Christmas, and leafing through the project ideas therein brought back many memories of the kinds of crafts that I did when I was growing up. One of the ones that stood out the most was the salt dough Christmas ornaments. Although I never made any in the patterns suggested by this book, I did make some simple ones through Brownies and Guides, and I had a lovely little girl in a red dress as part of my ornament collection until she eventually fell apart. I thought that my kids might enjoy playing with dough that becomes a permanent creation for a change. (If your kids would basically like to do the same exercise but come away with something that they can eat, I would highly recommend Cookie Monster’s Famous Cookie Dough instead.)


Rolling out the dough and cutting it out with cookie cutters and Play Doh cutters.

I did my due Googling, and I discovered that although the style of ornament that people make has changed a bit over the years (especially when it comes to the choice of colours used), the actual technique remains the same. Multiple books and many sources on the Net stick to the basic recipe of:

– 2 cups flour
– 1 cup salt
– 1 cup water

Which you then knead together to create a stiff dough. You then cut out/shape your designs and lay them on parchment paper on a cooking tray. Advanced creations can take a long time, a lot of skill, and a great attention to detail. However, when you’re making crafts with younger children, quick and easy cookie cut-outs are the name of the game! As a bonus, since the dough is so cheap to make and is 100% biodegradable, if the kids proclaim themselves done after having made very few cutouts, it’s not too big of a deal.

Salt Dough 2//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

After shaping, you put the salt dough creations in the oven at 200°F (93°C) for… Well, that’s where directions vary. I think it all really depends on the thickness of the final pieces. I’ve seen it anywhere from two to eight hours, so I kind of guessed at three, which worked out okay. I think that what everyone agrees on is that you don’t want to bake or brown the dough, you just want to remove all the moisture.

Then the cut-outs need to be cooled on a cooling rack, which doesn’t take all that long, really, since they weren’t terribly hot in the first place. We left them overnight to hopefully remove the last of the moisture. It’s not like you have to worry about them going stale, after all.

Then it was time for paint! I have what seems like a million colours of acrylic and many different paint brushes, all from the dollar store. If you don’t have a stash of paint and want to keep costs low, stick with red, yellow, blue, black, and white. The kids can mix any colours they want with the primary ones, and it’s a good lesson in colour theory.

To be honest, my girls ran out of patience with the fiddly details, so the painting will have to be completed another day. Since I had to make dinner, I didn’t get a chance to finish painting the ones that I made either, so we’ll have to sit down and do them all together tomorrow. I really liked how the ones with the impressions turned out, though. The girls used rubber stamps, carved rolling pins, and even leaves of plants to create textures.

Of the ones that I painted, I am particularly happy some of the simplest: the Easter bunnies, made using a cookie cutter and a little ball of dough for the tails.

The next step is to seal salt dough, which I’d prefer to do with spray-on acrylic, so that will probably have to be done out in the garage once it warms up a bit. I’m told it can also be done with Mod Podge or PVA glue, both of which I own, but I’d like to test them first to see how badly they smudge. Then the ones with holes will become ornaments, and the ones without holes will have a magnet (also from the dollar store) glued on the back to become fridge magnets.