Yarn Dolls Tutorial

Yarn dolls are something that I used to make all the time as a kid; once again, I believe I learned how to make them in Girl Guides. I realized that I hadn’t made any with my own children yet when Thing 1 came home from Guides the other night with the beginnings of her own yarn doll in the works. Thing 2 hadn’t had a chance to make them yet, so I thought I’d dig out my solid-colour yarns left over from previous projects and let them get at creating.

If you’re not the kind of person who’d have yarn scraps around the house, don’t despair! There are lots of very cheap yarns available, even from the dollar store. But before you head there I might recommend hitting the local thrift shop. There you can usually find orphaned balls of yarn for a fraction of the price of buying new, and it keeps a previously-loved item from going to a landfill.

Yarn Dolls

Materials:

– yarn
– OPTIONAL: googly eyes, beads, buttons, scrap fabric, etc.

Supplies Needed:

– book, binder, folder, or piece of stiff cardboard
– scissors
– OPTIONAL: glue, needle, thread

1. Get your yarn, book, and a pair of scissors. I chose a stack of file folders for 8″x10″ pages because they were about the right size for the size of doll that I wanted to make. However, you can really use any size of book or even a piece of cardboard. Since it’s just going to hold the yarn, you don’t have to worry about damaging it.

2. Wrap the yarn around the book until you have created a thick hank. How much yarn you use depends entirely on how big you want the doll to be and what size of book you use. Feel free to experiment! There really isn’t any “right way” to do it. Then cut the yarn off of the ball.

3. Cut a piece of yarn that is a little bit more than twice as long as the book. Thread the piece of yarn under the hank and tie it tightly with a double knot.

4. Slide the hank off of the book. Pass the piece of yarn that you used in step 3 through the center of the hank again and tie another double knot for reinforcement. Turn the hank inside-out so that the knots are on the inside. Smooth the piece of yarn so that it is now part of the hank.

5. Cut another piece of yarn that is a little bit more than twice as long as the book. Wrap this yarn tightly around where you will want the neck of the doll to be, then tie it tightly with a double knot. Wrap the yarn around one more time and tie it again for reinforcement. Smooth the yarn into the hank.

6. Holding the yarn taut, snip the loops at the bottom of the hank (opposite from the head you have created). Trim the excess yarn so that it is roughly the same length.

7. Separate roughly a third of the yarn to create the arms (1/6 of the yarn per arm). For thicker arms, separate a little bit more.

8. Cut another piece of yarn that is a little bit more than twice as long as the book. Tie that yarn to create the waist, using the same technique as at the neck.

9. Braid the arms, double-tying the wrists tightly with scraps of yarn. Divide the bottom of section of yarn in half and braid it to create the legs. Double-tie the yarn tightly around the ankles.

10. Trim off the excess yarn on the hands and feet.

At this point your yarn doll is technically done, but if you feel that it is too plain, that’s where the optional decorations come in! You can:

– add googly eyes or beads or buttons for eyes,
– tie on more yarn as hair,
– sew scrap fabric for clothing,
– tie on artificial butterfly or dragonfly wings to create fairies
– twist a pipe cleaner into a halo and tie on a big lace bow as “wings” to make an angel
– make tiny yarn dolls to hang from earrings or necklaces
– make small yarn dolls in festive colours to use as Christmas ornaments

Exercise your creativity!

There are a couple of basic variations on this kind of doll that are useful to know. The first is the “dress” version, which basically omits braiding the legs to create a skirt. You may note that the arms of this doll are tied instead of braided, which is a much quicker way to do it; this is great for younger children who may have limited patience or braiding skill. It should be noted that this version requires a shorter length of yarn (i.e. a smaller book) due to the lack of braiding.

Also, for a simple snowman, use white yarn and tie it all together at the bottom to create a “snowball” instead of legs.

A great Halloween version of a yarn doll stops at Step 6, and requires only the addition of googly eyes to become a ghost. This is probably the simplest version possible, which is perfect if you want to make a bunch of them and hang them as decorations.

Have fun!

Paper Beads Tutorial

It’s that time of year again: March Break! For the Ontario school board anyway; the Qu├ębec 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.

Teapot Herbs

A couple of months ago I was in the middle of selling a lovely Sadler “Brown Betty” teapot to a customer. I had already made the sale, had cash in hand, and was just wrapping it up in paper for safe transit. We were chatting while I packaged, and she said, “Oh, I have a teapot just like this at home, but I dropped the lid and smashed it. I just had to get a replacement.” To which I replied, “Oh yes, it’s always the lids that go first.”

And then I dropped the lid.

Of course, it fell straight down onto the concrete floor and smashed into tiny little pieces. The customer and I stared at each other mutely for a moment, and then I asked her, “So… Do you want the brown and green one instead?”

So I returned home that day with a pretty little teapot with lots of life left in it, but that is unsalable because of a lack of lid. “What am I going to do with this?” I thought. But then it occurred to me that Mother’s Day was coming up, and that my mother loves tea, so maybe I could make her something? I ended up using the teapot as a little herb planter. I planted basil inside, two different varieties.

Mom liked the gift so much that I’ve started hunting down lidless teapots to use as planters for different herbs. So far I’ve found her a metal one that obviously used to be used on an open fire, and one of those vibrantly-painted ones that’s a tea-for-one set with a pot on the top and a matching cup on the bottom. I think that after a while we’ll have a full-fledged herb garden, possibly even branching out to flowers or seasonal arrangements after a while. It really pleases me that we now have a use for these otherwise-unusable items — and now the hunt is on for more teapots to rescue. This should be fun!

Shabby Chic Tea Light Holders

At Russell Flea this past Saturday, I was able to debut my latest work with upcycled items: shabby chic tea light holders made with vintage spoons.

They look pretty simple, but I honestly didn’t think I’d get them done in time. It turns out that drilling through stainless steel — some of which was 4mm thick depending on the design — with my old hand drill was very, very difficult. I snapped two bits, dulled at least three more, and almost burned out my drill’s motor. At no point was the work ever quick; it seemed to take forever to make a single hole.

Despite the difficulties, in the end I was quite satisfied with how the first pale pink ones turned out, so I made two more in pale green. My favourite is the one made from the intricate little sauce ladle (which of course was the one with the thickest handle and gave me the most difficulty).

In addition to adding these new pieces to my lineup, I also remembered to purchase some lovely dark maple syrup from McCannell Craftwork. Laurie McCannell and I had stalls that abutted each other this week, so it was hard to forget! We had a chance to chat about yarn and a whole host of other subjects between customers while she spun yarn at her wheel and I knit. It was lovely.

I also got some great news this weekend! I’ve been accepted to 613flea for Saturday, April 21st. For those not familiar, 613flea is a monthly market held at Aberdeen Pavilion in Lansdowne Park. There’s always so much to see there, and so many fantastic finds and delicious food. So feel free to pop by between 10:00am to 4:00pm in two weeks — as always, admission is free!

Russell Flea on Saturday

It’s my second flea market at Russell Flea this coming Saturday (9:00am to 3:00pm), and I am super excited. I think I’m starting to get the hang of this booth set-up and tear-down thing. I’m really looking forward to meeting all kinds of new people and hopefully chatting about cooking, collecting, and handicrafts.

This Saturday my booth will be in the cafetorium — that’s essentially the cafeteria with a stage at the back that’s to the left of the main entrance. You should be able to see me off to your left as soon as you go through the cafetorium doors. (Am I the only one who thinks that the word “cafetorium” is kind of silly? I mean, it’s no worse than the “gymatorium” in the elementary school that I grew up with, which is an even sillier word, if you ask me. All of these combos just mean that the sports groups and performing arts groups have to compete for time and space, anyway.)

This very much not-to-scale map shows you where you should be able to find me. I combined two layouts that were done to different scales so that I could draw that red arrow. But I hope it’s clear enough.

One of the items I’ll be bringing back this week is the footstool/table that I upcycled from a vintage suitcase. It hasn’t found a home yet, so this might be your chance to snap it up.

I did hope to make a few more items in time for Saturday, but I’ve been experiencing technical difficulties, namely that I keep snapping drill bits. I’ll hit the hardware store tomorrow and try to pick up a stronger bit. If all goes well, some all-new upcycled items (if that’s the proper term) will be ready for the weekend.

I’ve also added a bunch of items to my vintage kitchenware lineup — I wish that I could keep them all, but I just don’t have the space! These sweet 1980’s Pyrex mixing bowls have a clear bottom. With the practicality that one expects from this brand, the colour is on the outside of the bowl, with clear glass inside so the colour shines through. This means that you can use a hand mixer or similar tool without having to worry that you’ll scratch the finish off. These things are definitely built to last.

Hope to see you there!