Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Rapunzel II

Forgot to post about this till now. It's been on my dashboard for 6 weeks. Oops. The release of the new Tangled DVD reminded me. So here's this costume I made er.... two months ago:

Same old style as many of the other Halloween costumes here and here I've made the girls. Fleece from neck to toe, because of the weather here. Semi-circular skirt, fitted bodice, puff sleeves layered over inner fitted sleeves,

invisible zipper in the back.

This one was for Jenna. 

Here she is, all demure 

and here she is again, morphed into Old Bug Fingers (those are black olives):

Kate got to wear it, too,

in spite of it being too big.

I made two - one was a birthday present for Jenna's same-size cousin. So for a while, there were two dresses in the house, and the girls were very happy to model them for photos

and get distracted partway by bugs or something.

More recently (not that my punctuality in posting is any indication), I made even more costumes. Will share this week. I seem to only make costumes nowadays - why don't I sew normal clothes anymore? And then I mass-produce them, even. I think I must secretly enjoy making costumes more than normal clothes. Is it because my kids wear costumes more than normal clothes? Wait - I've got it! My kids think costumes are normal clothes! Ah. 

Sunday, March 27, 2011


How I see my life sometimes.

Saturday, March 26, 2011


Yes, you could say I like donuts (or doughnuts, as I grew up spelling them).  

These are different from those felt ones, though. For one, they're tiny

and for another, they're made of wood. 


They're actually little wooden wheels! Who says wheels have to be stuck on vehicles? 

I bought mine here, where I buy all my wooden craft parts, including the blanks for my peg dolls and clothespin people. I buy them in bulk because I don't know how to buy just one of anything. 

The husband was away for the week, so we indulged in a craft that we knew would take that long.  

We had a lot going on that week, including chauffeuring various children to various educational institutions, playdates and recreational activities. So we did just a little each day, with plenty of drying time in between.

Day #1
We painted the little wheels in shades of dough. We used acrylic paint. Notice the kids are dressed in very bright colors - they were instructed to choose their most lurid clothes to camouflage paint stains.

Two coats later, the wheels were left to dry overnight.

Day #2
We painted on frosting - also two layers.

Day #3
We added sprinkles. 

This we did with toothpicks. Notice that we didn't actually use a palette. Instead, we used a sheet of wax paper over a padding of paper towels. The wax paper is a good non-stick surface for the almost-dry bottoms of our painted items, and when the painting session is done for the day, everything gets crushed up and thrown away. Almost zero cleanup.

These have nonpareils (or hundreds and thousands as I grew up calling them). Kate, Jenna and Momma did these in collaboration. 

And these have sprinkles and drizzles. Momma did these by herself when no one was watching:

Day #4
We varnished the donuts. This is what I used - you can get it at Michaels. Again, we did two coats.

Drying tip: I mounted the wheels on the ends of chopsticks (first wrapping their tips in wax paper strips) and then stuck them in a bucket of rice. They dried beautifully and evenly

and we had a charming table centerpiece during the week.

Day #5
We made cardboard tiered serving trays.

Here's how:

We cut two circles, one larger than the other. We also used a skinny cardboard tube, and a strip of cardboard for the handle. The dimensions are not important - it all depends on the size of the cardboard pieces you have available.

We cut a central hole in the smaller circle, and made it slightly smaller than the diameter of the tube. Short radial lines (left) were added to make a snug collar (right)

so that when the tube was inserted (left), the little tabbed collar could be glued on (right) to hug the cardboard tube.

We bent the cardboard strip into shape for a handle and glued that into the top end of the tube. 

When everything was dry, we had a mini-tea party for dolls. 

I love these donuts. I am glad we bought a bag of 100 wheels because I think I am going to make more. And guess what - these come in a bigger size, too. And what about these for spice jars for a toy kitchen? And toadstools for fairyland? And trees for advent? And I must tell you how absolutely therapeutic it is to paint wooden things. Very calming to just sit, me and my toothpicks, and go dot, dot, dot. So much better than seam-ripping.

Cardboard and wood .......... is it any wonder that I'm not sewing anymore? 

P.S. Of course I'm still sewing, silly! Did you panic for a second? Hee. 

Monday, March 21, 2011

I Think I Am Stuck In The '70s

One of the most annoying things that can happen during a movie is realizing that I am being distracted by the costumes. Fortunately, this doesn't happen often - either the costumes are hideous or they are gorgeous but I would never wear them because they scream Maid Marian/Queen Guinevere or they are superhero-esque or are simply too couture for everyday wear.

Last weekend I watched Secretariat, and oh! Penny Chenery's (played by Diane Lane) wardrobe!  I could hardly concentrate on the movie, I was so busy swooning and coveting. The famous Belmont Stakes dress aside, her other outfits were so, so fabulous. Every single one. I forsee a copy of this in my sewing room before the year is up:
Mayhap a pair of frog buttons instead of that gold clasp - instant ethnic twist.

Her ball gown:

and what divine loveliness is being hidden by that coat? Argh, the agony of only being allowed a peek!

That's my post-weekend update. On the sewing front, I've been wrestling almost an entire week with a zipper. Yes, not all zippers are friendly. And you all know I don't scare easily. My seam rippers have gotten a year's worth of a workout. I was working on something that I foolishly thought I might do a tutorial or a pattern for. Changed my mind verrrrry quickly. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

How To Make A Catapult

Did you miss the previous post on How To Work With Cardboard? I've been having some trouble getting my feeds out recently. New posts are published on the blog itself but aren't being picked up by the aggregators. Often, I find that I need to send out a new post before the old one gets picked up in tandem. Anyone having a similar problem? 

Anyway, today we're going to build a cardboard catapult. This is one of those weapons commonly seen in, say, medieval times, whenever there was a siege on a fortress or castle. The original design was from an out-of-print book on papercraft I have at home.

What you need:

  • Sturdy box (does not need to have a lid)
  • Thick, strong rubberband
  • Pencil or short dowel
  • Matchbox, or small shallow box
  • Toothpicks

in addition to the usual tools and things for working with cardboard: masking tape, scissors, craft knife.

Step 1
Make the basket. You can use a matchbox, or make your own basket out of a piece of cardboard as shown:

Step 2
Tape the basket onto one end of the pencil. This is the lever/arm of the catapult. Set aside.

Step 3
If the box has a lid, remove it.
Stand it up tall as shown.
Make two cuts in the top of the box, beginning with the open face, and cutting half way to the other side (this will be clearer in the next step).

Step 4
Fold down the flap released by the two cuts you made in Step 3. You may need to score the cardboard first if it is thick.

Step 5
Make a hole in the side of the box, about half-way down, and just under the fold you made in Step 4.
Repeat on the other side of the box to make a second hole.

Step 6
From the inside of the box, thread the rubber band through one of the holes 

and push a bunch of toothpicks through the loop. Pull on the rubber band from the inside of the box to secure the toothpicks in place.

Step 7
Pull the rubber band through the other hole and secure externally with toothpicks. Note that the rubber band needs to be extremely taut for the catapult to work. This means that if you managed to do Step 7 without struggling, your rubber band is too loose. My rubber band was too short to even reach the other hole (which is how I knew it was a good one), so I looped some string through it, and pulled that through the hole from the outside, to draw the rubber band out with it.

Step 8
Begin twisting the middle of the rubber band in the direction that's opposite to how the arm of the catapult will swing to launch its load.

Step 9
Separate the two strands of the rubber band (still twisted) and push the other end of the pencil through it. 

Release the lever/arm and it should swing up and hit the top of the box. 

Troubleshooting for the lever/arm:
  • If it swings downwards, your rubber band was twisted in the wrong direction. Remove the pencil and retwist the rubber band before re-inserting the pencil.
  • If it swings too slowly or not at all, your rubber band was too loose/feeble/thin/long. Replace it a thicker, shorter one.
  • If the lever/arm is stuck, readjust the depth of insertion of the pencil through the rubber band. It might be hitting the inside of the box.

To launch, load the basket

and release!

With a really good rubber band, the force of the launch may tip the entire base over. So hold on to it!

For older kids, this is a useful visual aid for a Physics lesson in kinematics and energy. For instance:
  • Demonstrate projectile motion - change the angle of the arm/lever at the launch moment by using different depth cuts in Step 3. Discuss the resultant range, angle, height and force of impact of the projectile.
  • Demonstrate energy transformation - elastic and gravitational potential energy (PE) to kinetic energy (KE) to sound energy.
  • Build the catapult in different sizes, or with different rubber bands, or pencils of different length - discuss the changes each variable makes to the resultant motion of the projectile. 
  • Demonstrate circular motion and rotational KE.
  • Based on the relevant principles, have the kids design and build other working models of catapults. Here are some ideas.

With younger kids, though, it's just a fun toy. Build a cardboard castle, load up the battlements with Playmobil, Legomen or Princesses and re-enact your favorite stories. Enjoy!