Friday, May 29, 2009

Princess Pavillion Tent

Woke the kids from their naps today to come see this:

This tent has been in my head for months. I'd wanted to
finish it during the winter so the kids could play with it
during the boring cold weeks indoors. That never happened,
of course. I am relieved to be done with it in time for the
summer, though, for two reasons. First, our deck gets really
hot in the mornings when the girls want to be outside playing.
Now they can hide in the shade of this tent and read or eat
a mid-morning snack, or hold tea parties. Second, it's in
time for garage sale season. If anyone wants to make
this, hit the garage sales for used quilts/duvet covers or
sheets- they are the cheapest way to procure
large pieces of fabric!

But more on the making later.
Back to the kids' newest toy first:

In case you haven't guessed yet, this is a table tent, or a
cubby house, or glorified fitted tablecloth. Essentially, there's
a table underneath all that holding it up. I'd wanted to go the
usual way of table tents and dress up our rectangular dining
table. Unfortunately, it had a post leg right in the middle
of it. This card table languishing in our storage closet,
though, had the requisite four corner (if a round table can
have corners, I mean) legs, so it got picked instead.
No complaints - I love anything round.

I waited till I found the right kind of thrifted bedlinen at a
recent garage sale- a two-toned pink twill comforter for $2.
I ripped the seams apart, threw away the batting, and put
it through the hottest laundry cycle. I already had the dark
blue and pale yellow bedsheets from last year's garage sales,
waiting to be turned into this but they're thin, and
would only be good in supporting roles.

Here's the front of the tent, with a curtain opening, courtesy
of the yellow sheet and some scrap gingham.

The curtains tie back with little straps that fasten
to the inner wall with velcro.

To let in light, there are three domed windows

with more of the same yellow curtains and velcro tie-backs.

Ah, but you all probably want to know about that there roof.

Here's the mass of dowel spines holding it up, teepee-style

with a little pointy jellyfish cap thingy to cover that all up

and some polka-dotted wooden beads knotted on
ribbon tentacle-streamers to give it a little weight.

So yes, to answer your question, the roof is a dud.
The interior of the tent is only as high as the table top.
That seemed to me an awful waste of space just for aesthetics.

So I added a couple of zippers to open the front panel so
the girls could invite their dollies to a party in the attic.

Attics can get dark so I added three flap- down vinyl
windows. We close the windows when there are no dollies
visiting. But today, the dollies were happy to attend
and play peekaboo (silly dollies!)

But here I will show you my favorite part of the princess tent:

Two hanging baskets flanking the door, with hidden slots

for budding gardeners to plant felt flowers in.

No tutorial for this particular tent - too many little details -
but here is a printable instruction sheet for a basic pavillion-
style tent. You could do a roof for a square table, too,
but a round table allows for equal-length dowel spines.

Sorry if it looks like a Math worksheet.
There's Physics in there, too (yay)!

Some notes:
  1. I used 1/4" dowels from craft stores. They were about 60 cents a piece (regular price) and were a standard 36" long. I cut them down to 29" for this project.
  2. I used craft-weight fusible interfacing for the frames and cross-bars of the windows.
  3. Twill or drill is a good weight material to use. Typical bedsheets are too thin.
  4. Embellish before you sew the main pieces together. Otherwise there is a lot of fabric to handle around the sewing machine.
  5. This whole project cost about $20, I'm estimating.
  6. While measuring the table for this, I noticed that the tabletop was screwed on to the circular metal frame. That made me wonder if it might also be unscrewed and removed, leaving only the empty frame and legs. This might allow a person access to the space under the roof. But I decided against it because I suspect (but did not test out) that the circular piece of fabric holding the two halves together provides some useful supporting tension. There's a good chance that I'm wrong so if anyone successfully makes this sans tabletop, tell me, tell me!

Here are some great ideas for rectangular table tents made by some very talented folks:

Speaking of boys, here's a printable idea sheet for a
variation of this pavillion tent - a rocketship. I'd planned
to make this for the girls because too much Cinderella and
not enough NASA makes for a skewed childhood. But I also
want to make them a rectangular playhouse out of our
kitchen table for the winter, with all the fixings, so I'll pass
on the rocketship for now. Still, here on paper are the ideas
from my head for anyone who'd like to try them. If you do,
please let me know - I'd love to see how it turns out!

Thought of more variations on the round table shape.
For instance, Mushroom: make a padded puffy roof in
red fabric with white spots and have the kids dress
up as smurfs. Or Barn: use all-silver vinyl, omit doors
and windows and pretend it's full of grain.
Or Circus Tent: Make a gaudy paneled roof, add colorful
triangular bunting all round and paint the kids' noses
red. Or make a floor with a round hole, wedge it in a
sturdy tree, elect one child to be Moon-Face and
play Faraway Tree (sigh........) all day.
* Edited to add new insane idea: Dress tent up as a
birthday cake and use it as a birthday party prop!
Worse, make it out of flannel (cheaper than felt) and cut
giant felt fondant shapes and let the birthday guests
decorate their own oversize cake, then take pictures
beside it for thank-you notes!
Must stop now. Must stop now. Must stop now.
Must find chocolate. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.
Round tents = endless possibilities.
Round = happiness.

The kids rather liked their new princess tent. And I like
it because it is finished. But also because it can be folded
away into a small neat package when not in use (dowels
removed). After exploring it thoroughly and profusely
thanking me (she was extra-polite in her post-nap
disorientation) Emily asked, "where is the mailbox?" I let
her in on the secret that we'd be making a serious
playhouse for the winter for which we'd be sure to include
a mailbox-with-slot, along with interior embellishments.
Emily has been informed that she needs to contribute ideas
since it will be hers, Jenna's and Kate's, so she's very excited.

Yawn! Off to bed now. On to some quicker projects in the
coming days. No, no more bags for a while- there are so
many things more exciting than those to tackle! But I will
come back to the bags eventually, I promise!

*Edited AGAIN (sorry) to correct something in the Rocketship
printable instructions. A night or two after I'd posted this, my
brain said to me, "Hey you, I think you meant grommets."Now,
I seldom know what my brain is saying, so this was not
surprising. My brain continued, "You wrote "rivets". You meant
"grommets"." Now this I understood. Blast. I sat up in bed
(I was at that moment before I slipped into blissful
unconsciousness) and knew I had to change it.
My brain, though, has a wicked streak sometimes, and
that night it gleefully said, (Snigger) "You can't change it
now. You have to sleep now. Ha ha ha ha! It will have to
wait till the morning! And you'll be busy then too! It will
be months before it will get done! Ha ha ha!"
Vile thing.

Anyway it hasn't been months - but it's been a while. Those
of you familiar enough with those little metal things will
know a person can't thread a cord through rivets. I've
reuploaded the corrected instructions now, so all is well.
But apologies to those compliant fans who actually did
try to and had to drink heavily after.
It wasn't you - it was me.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Reversible Tote Bag Giveaway!

Jumping on the bandwagon

this reversible shoulder tote bag is going to a new home!

For the long version, see this earlier link  for more 
pictures, bag dimensions and a printable pattern if 
you want to make it yourself. See also this link for a 
short-handled variation.

Here is the brief version:

One side is natural canvas duck cloth with a pocket for 
artwork. The other side is blue-and-green-on-ivory squares. 
This is a roomy bag, and robust enough to cart around 
books and possibly even a small anvil. I personally have not 
tried the anvil, though, but it is heavy-duty and stiff enough 
to stand up all on its own.

Here's a close-up of the pocket detail.

And here's an example of how the pocket can be dressed 
up at the hands of a small family member. My daughter 
contributed the artwork for the bag on the right, which 
now lives with her grandmother.

For a chance to win this tote bag, leave a comment on 
this post by midnight Sunday 31 May and I'll do a random 
drawing on Monday to pick the winner. I'm happy to ship 
internationally so all non-USA dwelling friends are welcome 
to enter, too. However, you MUST leave an email address

  • on your profile site (if you use blogger)
  • somewhere in your public-access blog
  • in the comments                                          or 
  • in an email to me (my email is in the sidebar) 
so I can contact you when you win. 

Good luck, all!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Back to Baby

This has been a week of slightly frantic sewing. The funny thing
is that it's for no one in particular. It's to replenish my stash
of baby gifts that I've been dipping into for people having
spring and summer babies. So I whittled down my fabric
stash to make a gift stash. Good reorganizing, eh?
This way my closet looks just as overstuffed as before
so I don't feel like I need to go and buy new fabric. The
sewing table looks awful with all the production, but at
least I'm saving money. Right? Mwuahahahahaha!
Oh you've got to love desperate logic.

Finished 5 more nursing covers. Not very exciting,
but it was fun sewing straight lines on big
rectangles superfast, production-line style.

Speaking of mass producing, I've succumbed to the old
bibs obsession. Spent the past few evenings cutting out
105 bibs. That's not obsessive. What's obsessive is me
. Too ashamed to take photos. We're going to the
in-laws' for the weekend so I'll have some time to cut (and
trim the corners off and count) oh, 210 small squares of velcro.

So that was the making.

I've also been dabbling in a bit of creating. Not the same
as making. Making is comfort.
Creating is hare-brained,
seat-of-my-pants thrilling. But very time-consuming.
And evocative of comments like "bonkers", "needs to see
a shrink", "how are the poor children coping?" or "my, my,
what might the state of her laundry be?". Would've liked
to have finished by now but
that seldom happens.
So here's a WIP picture:

Yes, there's pink in it. Grrrr.
So you can tell it's not for me, eh?

Back after the weekend. Have a restful one, all!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Felt Alphabet

More felt board stuff yesterday. Felt suddenly guilty that I'd 
not done more conscious formal educating of the kids. 
I mean, I think my kids are educated: they know where 
all the fabric stores are, they manipulate cookie cutters 
without injury, they can name all the smurfs, they 
recognize Enid Blyton books as superior reading material 
and they can sing the theme songs of influential programs 
like Maisy, Sesame Street (jazz - check!) and 
Richard Scarry's Busy People.

But perhaps they should also know their ABCs, I thought. 

Emily recently cut her name out of paper, so at least we 
know she is familiar with 5 of the 26 letters anyway.  

But she inspired me to do some letter-cutting myself. 

It was good to finally finish this project, which has been 
on my to-do list for a number of months. What's shocking 
is that I actually have 26 different colors of felt. I like toys, 
and I like education, but sometimes I am not crazy about 
toys that try too hard to educate. Incidental learning is 
valuable, too, so for this alphabet set, I cut the upper- 
and lower-case of each letter out of the same color. 

This is what Jenna spelt when she first played with it - 
her first palindrome!

What amused me even more, though, was that 
our brown microfiber sofa turned out to be 
a rather good felt board too!

Cardboard Aquarium

This week we made a cardboard aquarium to replace 
the one that fell apart months ago. 

We used a big diaper box and cut windows out of the 
two biggest sides and stuck clear cellophane on the 
inside of the box. We used what we had in the house, 
but if I were making this again, I would make two changes. 
One, I would not use irridescent cellophane. Or any 
cellophane, which rips at the slightest touch by infants. 
But especially not irridescent, which gives one a headache 
just peering through the "glass". I'd use thin, clear vinyl, 
or at least the clear plastic used to wrap schoolbooks. 
Two, I'd open up the box and lay it flat to stick on 
the vinyl/plastic panes. Much easier.

At the top of the box, we attached a handle for carrying 
the aquarium around. For feeding access, we also cut a 
trapdoor with a little hole in it, so little fingers could 
easily open it and provide sustenance for fishy friends.

Some little fingers, however, preferred to 
share fish food with the outdoor rug

and spy on the fish through the trapdoor instead

while other little fingers (and their owners) thought 
any hole in the box qualified as feeding access.
Oh well, sometimes adult-initiated design fails.

For the fish, we consulted one of our 
scuba reference books: 

and drew up some two-sided creatures on 
construction paper, which the girls decorated

along with generic seaweed and shells. The bottom-
rooted living things were glued to the floor of 
the aquarium and the free-swimming fish were suspended 
from the roof with invisible thread/beading microfilament/
fishing line/regular white sewing thread and masking tape. 
We stuck starfish directly onto the "glass" panes with 
dabs of glue. The top of the box was then taped down 
with masking tape and scrap paper was cut up into 
small pieces to be fish food. We chose not to hot-glue 
the top shut to give us the option of reopening the box 
to add more fish when we felt up to drawing more. 
When the box gets too full of fish food, we tip the 
box on its side so the food comes out of the 
side handle-holes and reuse the food.

For a full-size aquarium idea, check out Filth Wizardry's 
coral reef post and her incredible line art aquatic 
creatures templates. My computer (Bad Computer! 
Bad Computer!) refused to size her templates properly, 
or I would have had my kids color those instead!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Origami Part 1

Yesterday morning, I found this wonderful post on 
origami on one of my favorite blogs, Filth Wizardry
At the end of the post was an invitation to share origami 
ideas, so this post is in response to that. While the kids 
were suitably occupied this afternoon, I sat in the sunshine 
on our deck and folded away. The result: two posts full 
of an excessive number of photos taken in glaring 
sunshine - my apologies. To make peace, at the end of 
Part 2, I promise you a link to a site that will take your 
breath away, not the least because the 
photos there will not be blinding.

Something very simple first:

1 Paper Cup
Which, if made very large (like with newspaper) and turned upside down, also is a soldier's hat.

Start with a square and fold once 
in half to form a triangle.

Fold one corner across to meet the other side of 
the triangle. Ensure the top edge of this fold is 
horizontal - it will form the rim of the cup.

Repeat with the other corner of the triangle.

Separate the layers of the top corner of the 
triangle and fold one layer down.

Fold the other layer back behind the cup 
and open up the cup.

It might hold water if you use wax paper but it won't 
stand by itself. These little cups are useful when 
sharing out snacks from a larger container (like popcorn 
bought at a fair), provided my kids are willing to hold 
them throughout the eating process and not set them down.

2 Classic sailing boat
Does this bring back memories from your childhood? I have children's story books (like Enid Blytons) whose illustrations feature this very same boat!

Start with a square and fold once to form a rectangle

and over a second time to form a smaller square, 
with the four corners of the original big square in a stack.

Separate one of these corners and fold it down to meet 
the opposite bottom corner. Take the other three corners
-in-a-stack and similarly fold them down towards 
the back of the structure.

Turn upside down and stick your fingers 
(thumb, for my picture) in the pocket

and pull it apart in the opposite direction to the 
seams to form a new square (note how the seams 
now have become the middle diagonal of the square)

Separate the two halves of the square, beginning 
at the top corner and open up

Pull sides outwards and downwards and pop open 
the middle pointy sail part from the bottom for stability.

3 Boat with Sun Shades
A spin-off from Filth Wizardry's paper boat - we made both versions as children, too. This one was popular because it is sweltering in Singapore - we have 95 -98% humidity all year round, so sunshades on anything was hip. 

Start with a rectangular piece of paper and fold the 
short sides in about a quarter to a fifth way in. The 
exact ratio is not important, but don't have 
the folds meet in the middle.

Turn over and fold the sides to meet at the midline.

From this point, the process is exactly like that for 
the boat at Filth Wizardry, which you should head to 
anyway because her photos are much better than 
these here. But I'll give my own pedestrian 
running commentary anyway.

So working with the lower half of the structure, 
fold the corners up to meet the midline.

Then fold the folded corners up to 
meet the midline one more time.

Then fold the pointy middle part up to meet the midline.

Repeat for the upper half of the structure.

Open up carefully from the midline, turn boat 
inside out and pop up the sun shades.

4 Box

Start with a rectangle. I used regular 8.5" x 11" paper. 
Fold in half

and half again.

Separate the first layer and open out, 
so the top forms a triangle as shown.

Turn over and repeat to form a triangle 
on the back side as well.

Turn over one layer (like a page of a book).

Fold in the sides of the triangle to meet the mid-line.

Turn over and repeat for the back side.

Fold up the inner corners as shown.

Separate the bottom layers and fold one layer up.

Behind this rectangular are the little folded corners, 
which you can tuck into the upper triangles to secure 
the rectangular flap.
Turn structure over and repeat for the other side.

Pull open the box and fill with stuff. Or make a second box 
of the same size and fit them together for a base and lid.

Part 2 continues here.