crafts


I’m pretty sure I’m in love with this new blog.
He’s a stay-at-home dad/artist who posts simple toys he’s made for his kids.
Here’s two of his youtube videos so you can see what I mean.
But my FAVORITE thing so far is his modern dollhouse.


Christian woefully wishing he had a crown as nice as his friend's...or maybe he wishes he had a poncho.

Making a crown out of felt is laughably easy; the entire thing can be handstitched in a sitting while watching your kids play.

The trick is to put together a decent pattern – one that is crown-like. A crown that is too tall or pointy turns jester-like very quickly. Best is to cut out a simple crown out of paper and try it on your kid until it feels right and then to use it as a pattern. Our pattern was sketched by hand and consisted on two pieces: the front pointy bit and the back strap.

We made crowns for one of our Waldorf in the Woods crafts.

You will need

1/3 yard of felt in a color of your choice (we like to wet the felt and put it in the dryer for more texture)

1/3 yard coordinating ribbon

1/3 yard elastic, about an inch thick

embroidery floss and needle

1. Cut the crown pattern out so that the bottom is on the fold. You’ll be cutting two pieces of felt: one is the three crown points in the front, the other is a basic rectangle folded for the back. Both are cut on the fold.

2. Cut the back piece of felt slightly longer than you need, so there is growing room. The elastic will cinch it up.

3. Using regular thread and needle, sew on the ribbon at the bottom of the crown. Make sure to fold the ends of the ribbon under and in between the two pieces of crown. You can tape the ribbon ends if they are tending to fray. The tape will be hidden.

4. Sew the front top of the crown closed along the top using a blanket stitch and embroidery floss.

5. Blanket stitch along the top of the crown back too.

6. Then, with the elastic inserted inside the back strip, put the whole thing slightly inside the front crown piece and pin. Sew together firmly.

7. Then stretch the elastic and cinch up the back piece of felt and repeat on the other side.

Finished!

These are great for everyday play and make terrific gifts as well. Last year I machined-stitched a half dozen crowns as birthday favors for Christian’s first birthday. I vastly prefer the handstitched ones I’ve made since.

The spring crown I'm making for my neice, Noi naa.

My basket after one week.

Once you’ve grown your own grass, you’ll never go back to the plastic stuff. Or even the paper stuff – you’ll quickly discover that they are poor substitutes for the vibrancy of real living wheatgrass sprouting before your eyes. And real grass makes such a beautiful backdrop for frolicking spring animals like handsewn bunnies and felted chicks.

If you start your basket today, you’ll have an inch or so of growth by the weekend.

You’ll need:

plastic to line your basket

soil (I used an organic garden soil from Home Depot)

wheatberries (This had me stumped for a few days as I searched high and low for “wheat grass seeds” – that nobody had. Then I was informed that plain old wheatberries from the bulk bins at Henry’s works well – and of course it does!)

crumpled newspapers if your basket is deep

1. Add crumpled newspapers to your basket so you will only need to add a couple inches of soil.

2. Line your basket with plastic.

3. Add soil and press down.

4. Add seeds.

5. Add another inch of soil.

6. Water and keep damp for a couple days until you see sprouts!

SO EASY – I CAN’T BELIEVE THIS IS THE FIRST GRASS I’VE EVER SPROUTED!

I hosted a meetup and a dozen moms made their spring baskets with me.

The kids playing while the mamas are crafting. (Remember, one mama is always watching the kidlets.)

I’d like to post all the crafts we did for our cycle 4 of the Waldorf in the Woods playgroup, but this particular craft deserves a post of its own.

With Devana‘s directions (she’s our friend who happens to be a Waldorf teacher), we made adorable chicks for our Easter/Spring baskets.

We used less than an ounce of well-carded chick-colored wool roving and TWO cardboard circles with the centers cut out. Yarn will work too. You'll also need a piece of string.

Wrap the wool roving (or yarn) tightly around BOTH circles until you can't squeeze through the center anymore for maximum fluffiness.

Using a sharp pair of scissors, cut the wool roving BETWEEN the two circles.

Tie the piece of string around the whole thing between the two cardboard circles. TIE TIGHTLY. DOUBLE TIE. Trim ends.

Slip off the cardboard circles. If you don't need to use them again, you can cut them off carefully.

You'll have a shaggy, soft pompom. Trim into a proper chick shape with sharp scissors.

Finished chick has a tiny felt beak and bead eyes glued on. We wet-felted an egg (around a wooden egg) as our project the following week. These will be great in our candy-free baskets!

However painful it is, my projects do sometimes reach a conclusion.

I like beginnings better.

Here are two endings from this week.

Birthday socks for Caryn. Note: the second one came out differently than its mate - sorry! Pattern is Classic Socks for the Family by Yankee Knitter. (Great pattern)

This is the spiral crocheted ball I made for Oliver's first birthday - the picture is a link that will take you to the pattern at withatangledskein.blogspot.com, but *warning* the pattern needs to be corrected. There's a bell inside.

Now to tackle Christian’s woolen vest that I started last winter. Just need to do the neck and arm ribbing and put the sucker together!

I am really really blown away by this plant-dying business.

Check out the colors we got from BLACK BEANS, and RED and YELLOW ONION SKINS, and WALNUT HULLS.

It’s absolutely fantastic. And we did it in the kitchen!

Do you see those two blues sandwiching the silver velour? Those three pieces of velour all came out of the same vat of black bean juice. That silver looks like mink in the sun – you just have to see it, to believe that you can get this kind of range from black bean juice.

I first posted about plant-dying here when Devana showed Sierra and I the plant-dying ropes while our combined five children romped in the mud. That post is worth a re-visit if only to compare the colors we got yesterday. With Devana we used mostly purchased  plant dyes, which makes for a good rainbow spectrum.

In any case, Devana gave Sierra and I a BAD case of plant-dying. Also, since we’ve all been crafting up a storm through the winter holidays, we’ve discovered that we’re going through our felt stash far too quickly – and we’ve been clamoring for more plant-dying.

However, Sierra and I felt badly about how much work had been left on Devana’s plate (and backyard) at the end of the day the last time, so we resolved to be more prepared for our upcoming plant-dying session this Saturday. Hence, we borrowed a pot (a big one), ordered mordant, and started mordanting – so far, NINE POUNDS WORTH. Then we decided we could really do the red and yellow skins and black bean juice in advance too.

I never imagined we would be so wildly successful and productive with our tentative attempts.

Sierra and I went by our single day’s worth experience with Devana, lots of googling, some reference to a dyer’s handbook from the public library, and lots of flying by the seat of our pants.

In case you want to try a stab at it yourself, here are some very general directions.

1. Gather your materials. Our original intention was to dye lots of felt, but as per usual, we got side-tracked… The felt is JoAnn’s white felt by the yard (30%wool, 70% rayon – about $10/yard – buy it using a coupon), cut into 12″x 12″ squares. We ordered more cotton hankies from Dharma Trading (and Sierra ordered more silks and linen handkerchiefs too). The organic bamboo velour held color so surprisingly well last time, that we went in together and bought 10 yards from Celtic Cloths (webstore, which happens to be local in costa mesa).

2. Buy your mordant. I learned that mordant is the substance that binds to the fibre to the color: the proverbial glue. While some colors are self-mordanting (walnut hulls and indigo), we mordant everything regardless. This is a long process. Every pound of wool was simmered for two hours, stirred regularly, in a mordant mixture of one ounce alum and three ounces of cream of tartar. You can get alum and cream of tartar at a specialty dye webstore (earth guild) or through amazon.

I do one pound in a borrowed 18 L pot each evening. It cools overnight. Everything is wrung out and hung out to dry in the morning. Then you start your next pound…Once something is mordanted, it can be used wet or dry, sooner or later. Even, I guess, up to several years later.

3. Extract dye colors. While onion skins produce fantastic color, you need A LOT of onion skins. I buy onions by the bag at Costco, and keep the dry papery skins in a ziplock in the freezer. Once I finish a bag of red, I buy a bag of yellow. Also, I gather skins at the farmer’s market and grocery store. Sometimes if you develop a friendly relationship with the produce guy, you can score big.

FILL a pot with red or yellow skins (not both). Add water and boil. You can strain the skins, but we didn’t. We found it rather simple to just add fabric and swirl it around and let it soak or simmer until we liked the color. The skins were easy enough to brush off.

For black bean juice, Sierra simply soaked the beans overnight, and then poured the blackish water off. THAT’S ALL!! We were first inspired to try black beans by this discussion thread and pictures.

Cracked walnut hulls are also supposed to soak overnight.

4. Dye your stuff. This can get very particular if you are scientific, but because we don’t mind surprises, we just go for it. Supposedly you get different colors from whether the water is heated or not, and obviously from factors like the intensity of the dye, and even from the time of year the onions were harvested. You can color modifiers after the fact – like an acidic wash brightens (that’s just vinegar and water) and an iron modifier saddens (can be made with rusty nails and water – but caution, I’ve read that it can weaken or damage animal fibres, like wool).

We dip and swirl and keep an eye on things. If we think we like it, we pull it out and rinse. If we end up not liking it (rare) we toss it back into the pot or sometimes a different pot. We found we could make some lovely moss greens by combining the yellow from the yellow onion skins with the blue from the black beans.

We did not try things like blueberries or beets, which according to the book we had, are more of “stains” than “dyes,” and not worth the trouble.

So, what are you waiting for?

Start saving your onion skins!

Three halves do not equal any wholes in my case – just three halves: the consequence of my crafting ADHD. I don’t recommend working on more than one or two pairs of socks at a time though, as I’m finding it hard to remember important particulars.

It IS useful to have a couple simultaneous projects of varying degrees of difficulty, for different situations. The middle sock (birthday gift for my friend Caryn) and the one to the right (for Christian) are much easier and faster than the striped one to the left. Worsted wool socks are fast and easy enough to knit while walking around following Christian at the park. Those striped pair require quiet and some concentration, and are perfect for when Christian falls asleep in the car and I’m sitting by myself for a spell.

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