Monday, July 21, 2014

Bunny Party: Bunnies

A Bunny birthday party has to have bunnies.

Now, you wouldn't believe the number of people who suggested that we rent/hire/somehow obtain live bunnies for the children to play with.

Nothing against live bunnies (unless they eat the plants in our yard) but I thought that surely, surely, we could do more with a Bunny party theme than go the petting zoo direction.

So fake bunnies, then. I'd considered the sewn version - you know, fabric bunny softies. After all, I know at least one somewhat cute version. But mass-sewing softies is a lot of work, and besides, we already have eight of those baby bunnies at home.

So I picked the no-sew, yarn pompom alternative.

And here I feel a Nostalgia Attack coming on.
Let me tell you a Story-From-My-Crafting-Childhood, okay? Not like you have a choice, anyway.

So, you all know about my illustrious grandmother who was a professional tailor, right? And how, as a consequence of her instruction and mentoring, all the women in our family in the generation after hers are accomplished garment seamstresses? Now, Grandma lived with us for many years before she moved to a nursing home. I was in elementary school then, and too young to be interested in drafting and tailoring, which was a shame. Fortunately, Grandma also loved crafts of all kinds, some of which were kid-appropriate. Her closets were full of fun craft supplies that I spent many afternoons digging in, just to see what I could find. Sometimes, she would take me to a store called Golden Dragon, which was the Singapore equivalent of Michaels, the craft store we have in the US. And, like Michaels, this store offered classes. The one I remember most vividly was on making pompom animals - you'd buy their pompom tool kit, yarn, glue and scissors and they'd teach you for free. When I was about 8 or 9, Grandma brought me there, sat me down at the tables, made the necessary purchases and we spent that afternoon making a chick and a rabbit. When we left for home, she bought more yarn for me so I could continue the happy making on my own.

Which I did. I made a chick family and a rabbit family, plus felt food befitting the needs of their species. Not very adventurous, I know. But wait - here it gets interesting. The chick family was frighteningly improper. I constructed, by using the same pompom templates in different sizes (what people in fabric circles refer to as "grading"), gigantic chick parents and a bunch of small children chicks. My mother, bless her scientifically-precise brain, gently suggested that the parental form of this particular avian species was the "chicken". Which was not the same as "chick". Her theory was that chickens were anatomically different and that chicks, no matter how volumetrically superior, could never be parents, and would always remain in their juvenile capacity. I pooh-poohed her; everyone knew, I maintained, that the large version of any animal was the parent and the small, the offspring. End of story. My mother eventually surrendered, as I knew she would, and I happily played with my genetically-bizarre chick family.

I am happy to report that, thanks to years of Biology lessons and appropriate children's literature, I am no longer a devotee of the Large Parent Small Child belief. Which is fortunate; otherwise, my Chicken sewing pattern, beloved by my children and blog readers everywhere, would have turned out quite differently. Looking back, I also marvel that my children now subscribe to exactly the same Large Parent Small Child theory that I did as a kid, with the exception that they generalize it to inanimate objects as well e.g. "The big pancake is the mother pancake, and the small one is the baby pancake." The scientist part of me thinks that it is how children make sense of their world and the relationships between the millions of random things around them. The mother part of me, however, just laughs at how crazy-funny it all is, and mourns the day when my kids outgrow their whimsical beliefs and become the dead-boring logical realists that adults are.

Back to rabbits now. The rabbit family I'd made suffered none of the criticism endured by the poor beleaguered chick family. This was because -and my logical mother would be relieved- baby bunnies were exactly the same as their parents, only smaller, and could therefore be safely made with the same templates graded down a couple sizes, without breaking any laws of nature. I remember that story while making the bunnies for Kate's party because they are almost a replica of that rabbit family I made years ago. I modified their faces, inspired by this delightful tutorial, but otherwise, they are the same pompom bunnies from my childhood.

Here's how we made ours. We used the thickest yarn we could find. Thick yarn is best for pompoms because they fill the forms quickly, which is especially important when you are mass-producing dozens of them. 

We wound our forms (in two sizes), tied their middles, cut them out and trimmed them to shape. 

We tied a large and small pompom together to make the bunny's body and head, respectively.

This is how big ours was.

We made bunnies in different colors.

For the ears, we cut shapes in wool felt and pinch-glued their bottom ends

before inserting them into the heads.

Then we glued on the tails. Ours were ready-made white pompoms. Kate, who knows more about bunnies than I do, explained that cottontails are white

regardless of the color of the bunny.

The bunny is now ready for its face.

We used black beads for the eyes. If you have small children at home, you might prefer the more secure sewing method of attaching the eyes, 

but we glued ours on.

We made the whiskers by winding invisible thread around a card,

sliding it off, tying the whole bunch in a knot around its middle, slipping that bunch through the hole of a pony bead,

and stuffing the hole with a tiny bit of felt (and glue) to hold everything in place. Then we cut open the loops,

and glued it in place on the bunny's face.

Finished bunny -

different colors

and angles.

Kate loved watching the bunnies come together as we made them. Here she is getting to know them before the big day. 

Next up: Hutches!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Little One Yard Wonders Book Winner!

I am a day late in announcing the winner of the Little One Yard Wonders book giveaway. I am sorry! We had a bit of a manic weekend. Anyway, we have a winner! She is Katrina Whitley,

who left the following comment:

Congratulations, Katrina! Look for an email from me in your inbox tonight. And thank you, everyone, for leaving comments and participating in the giveaway. I enjoyed reading about the children in your lives and your plans to sew for them! 

We resume Bunny Party Behind-the-Scenes tomorrow!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Giveaway Deadline Reminder

Just a reminder: the Little One Yard Wonders Giveaway closes tonight, so if you want to enter but haven't yet, you have until 11: 59 pm CST tonight!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Bunny Party: Games

We had several games for Kate's Bunny Party. The challenge for an outdoor party is to design games that can be executed in both good and awful outdoor weather. So, for instance, "Jumping On The Backyard Trampoline For 30 Minutes" is an extremely naive choice. So is "Water Balloon War". Unless, of course, you live in Texas or California on a 100-acre farm which has several empty barns, one of which houses a gigantic bouncy pad and the other has tarp-lined walls and a rubber-tiled skid-proof floor for hosting one dozen children armed with wet grenades.

I don't.

So I planned alternative games.

Game #1 is called Build-A-Bunny.

It is a Team Game, and it works like this: 

You buy two cheap poster boards (or, for my Singaporean friends, vanguard sheets), in two different colors, one for each team. Mine were white and yellow. If you have a lot of kids (like if you were doing this for a camp game), you might have more teams, in which case you would buy ONE color for EACH team.

You draw identical bunny body parts on each, and cut them out.

(and no, I do not have a template. It's not difficult. You buy a thick marker, visualize the size, proportion and shape you want, and just draw, bearing in mind that your audience is the kids who love you, not some faceless art snobs).

You punch holes at appropriate spots on each part in order to connect them together to form a complete body. You reinforce those holes with the little plastic sticker things, so they won't rip during the game and render everything useless.

Then you divide all the body parts among the number of expected guests, and put each share into a cheap newspaper envelope.  We were expecting 11 guests, so we made 12 envelopes and invited an adult to make up the difference.

Obtain some twist ties,

which the kids would use to join the body parts together. Our kids (6 years and up) knew how to work with twist ties, but if you think yours are unfamiliar with twist ties, use something else. I considered paper fasteners, too, but twist ties were less pokey.

Then you run the game. You make up rules, like
  • We will be building bunnies today! There will be two teams! One team is yellow and the other is white! Each of you will get to be on one of those teams but you don't get to choose! That's part of the fun!
  • I will give you kids each a newspaper envelope - open it and find out which team you're in!
  • Get together with your other team members and build a bunny! Here are twist ties. Do whatever you need to to make a bunny. 
  • Hang it from a hanger. Hang the hanger on the the door (tape a loop of string from the door for shorter kids). 
  • The team that finishes first wins! The team that finishes second also wins! This is not a race!

Our guest did wonderfully. 

I love team games at birthday parties. They run astonishingly well, much better than solo games, actually. Which initially surprised me, considering that some of these kids are strangers to each other. 

Sesame Street was right, after all - cooperation really rocks.

Game #2 was our low-adrenaline alternative to a pinata (which Kate cannot bear because it stresses her out to dash for candy). We call it The Carrot Patch.

It's ridiculously easy. First, buy candy (or plastic trinkets or whatever). 

Get a deep box and fill it with rice or beans or something food-safe. Add a sign with instructions. Bury the candy in the rice and invite the kids to excavate. Provide ziploc bags with a Sharpie to write their names on. 

It might be helpful to appoint a station manager of sorts, to enforce the correct number and combination of treats claimed and smooth out the rice between diggers. We delegated this job to Jenna, who loved it.

Game #3 was called Steal The Vegetables. It involved a vast number of balloons.

First we blew up red balloons and stuck green streamer bits on their ends. These were tomatoes (or radishes, if you prefer). 

Make enough for each guest to have one.

We did the same with long orange balloons - these were carrots -

and long green balloons, which were cucumbers.

The idea was that the kids were bunnies, and they were going to steal vegetables - one carrot, one cucumber and one tomato - from a farmer's yard without the farmer tagging them. They would only be allowed to use their feet. If the farmer tagged them, they'd have to return their vegetables to the farmer's yard and start again. And if they left their vegetables unattended, other bunnies could steal them (this last rule was invented by the kids themselves).

We made a sign for each kid - poster board scraps taped onto stems of florist's wire,

which were stuck in the lawn to create individual Home Stations.

Remember what I saying about Good Weather vs. Bad Weather? This would've been the scenario had we had the sort of Good Summer Weather that typically characterizes weekends in June: the balloon vegetables would've been piled on the lawn on one side of the driveway, the signs would've been staked on the lawn on the other side of the driveway, the kids would've been kicking and hopping all over the lawn in the sunshine and blue sky and the photographs would've been glorious.

Reality check: it poured with a vengeance that day. We played this game indoors, from one room to the next. The signs were taped to furniture. The kids still had fun, laughing and hopping, but no sky, blue or otherwise. Hence, no photos. 

Game #4, which we prepared as a filler activity, was Bunny-Bunny-Fox, which is our version of Duck-Duck-Goose. We never needed to employ it, because the kids spent so much time decorating their Bunny Houses (coming up!). Hurrah!