Thursday, June 30, 2011

3D Popsicle Stick Crafts I - Baskets

In between fighting the Monster, I've been doing some things with the kids. Here's an old, old craft that Dad did with me when I was little - popsicle stick baskets.

It was, apart from being very therapeutic, an extremely kid-friendly craft because it involved harmless old white glue. You can customize them to any size and shape you like, as long as they have an even number of sides.

The alternating layers of popsicle sticks create a pattern of gaps, which accounts for its basket-ness.

To make them, you'll need a base in the shape you want (we used corrugated cardboard), popsicle sticks, and white glue.

Here's how to make the octagonal basket.

First cut out an octagon out of corrugated cardboard, so that each side is about the same length or a little shorter (not longer!) than the popsicle sticks you are using.

Next, glue popsicle sticks on alternate sides of the octagon to form the first layer.
Then apply glue on the very ends of the popsicle sticks of the first layer, and press a second layer of popsicle sticks over the gaps in the first layer.

Continue gluing and laying alternate layers in a pattern as shown

until you attain the desired height. Allow sufficient time to dry firm.

This is Kate's basket - she used the mini sticks on a hexagon base. 

Jenna made hers in rainbow-ish colors.

The alternating of colors really appealed to the part of her nature that loves order, patterns and organizing.

She used the regular popsicle sticks on a hexagon base. 

So same shape, two sizes.

Easy! The girls easily found uses for them in their play kitchen/shop. You could turn yours into vases and pencil holders if you made them narrow and tall. Or make different sizes and layer them within each other. Or (as the girls begged me, but we were too lazy) punch holes in the base and twist wires to make handles. Or weave ribbons vertically through the gaps.  

One more popsicle craft and then we're away for the weekend. See you tomorrow!

Monster Update

If this is your first time hearing about the Monster, read this. 

Yes, I've been working almost around the clock on it. Every night, till about 1 am. No movies. Single-minded concentration. Sometimes snacking on leftover supper fruit (no nutella - too distracting). When I retire for the night, my mind is still turning it over, processing, sequencing the next steps so I can attack it the next day. I usually have to wait till the next night, though, because our days are packed. And so it goes. I'm close to the end, but it will still be another week at least, and another trip to the hardware store. The machine sewing part is done!!!!!!! Now the woodworking, and some hand-stitching, and oh, I have to take part of it apart first in order to keep going. 

Here's a random photo from its progress:

Beautiful, isn't it? Not. It's rubbish-looking, but it's extremely useful. As will be the entire project, assuming I finish it. Sooner rather than later. 

Going to post two more crafts before the holiday weekend. Both involving the humble popsicle stick. No fabric. No 4th of July dresses or shorts or skirts or anything time-wasting like that. The girls can dress in reindeer or Easter bunny print (serves them right for not choosing solids) outfits. I am on a mission.   

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Cardboard not-really-Vernier Callipers

I'm working on that Monster Project! I promise! This is not a distractor post!
Yesterday, while working a little more on the project, I realized I needed a new way of measuring some of its dimensions. An accurate way, I mean; I'd been using guesstimation up till then. Remembered that when I did Physics at school, we used these things called Vernier callipers. Very useful for measuring outer dimensions of things that wouldn't lay flat against a ruler. Someday I shall add one to my amazon wish list, because it is a very useful tool to have in the house. Also the girls must learn to use one, along with the equally nifty micrometer screw gauge, but let's get back to the point.

I needed one that was very large. So last night I took a break from working on the actual project to make cardboard callipers:

Super easy. For those unfamiliar with it, it's essentially a pair of sliding jaws (one fixed and one movable) whose distance apart can be measured on a scale. You can probably make your own just by looking at mine.

The sliding mechanism is just a sleeve of cardboard with a window. I stuck a piece of plastic behind it so I could draw on my reference line.

I used one of those paper measuring tapes they give out at doctor's clinics for measuring head circumferences of babies, but if you don't have a baby to bring in, you can go to Ikea and snag one of their paper measuring tapes. I only had one in the house, or I would have stuck a second one in cm below this one in inches.

Anyway, the first thing to do after making your callipers is to callibrate it. This is just a fancy word for "finding the zero position".  So close the jaws of the callipers, and draw a vertical line on your plastic window, over the zero mark of the measuring scale.

Now when you slide the jaws open, 

that line will fall on the exact measurement of the thing you're measuring. See? 

For accuracy, you might want to callibrate it further by measuring a few flat objects with a regular ruler and checking that against your callipers' readings.

This morning the girls found it and they had some fun measuring various objects. Here are some silly uses for it:

Foot or shoe length

Width of head

The deck furniture.

22 11/16" !!!!!! 
Of course, were these real Vernier callipers, we could measure to precisions as high as fractions of a millimeter, including random errors of estimation. All very useful in cushion-cover sewing, of course. Snort. Or head-size calculations. I suppose this idea wouldn't take off in clinics for baby head measurements - nothing like a giant clamp over a newborn's face to cheer a hormone-deranged mother up, eh?

Anyway, with this tool, I should be able to keep going with that Monster Project. Although after I'd made it last night, I turned on the telly and watched Jurassic Park on DVD, just to get the adrenaline going. The epic soundtrack, the concept of a great idea gone terribly wrong and the feeling of being chased by man-eating dinosaurs does give a person an appropriate sense of urgency. I will not surrender!!!!!!

Friday, June 24, 2011

One Yard Wonders - the new book


New One Yard Wonders book! 

and look who got her photo taken for it:
 ^  ^  ^
|   |   |

And her piglets!!!!!!!!!!

The book will be out in December. Read more about it here.

P.S. Thank you all for the wonderful comments to the last post. Your sewing journeys are incredible and inspiring - I've tried to reply there to as many as I could in the comments themselves. Please keep sharing your stories! 

P.P.S. That was a clever diversionary tactic from the Monster Project, wasn't it (as is this post)? I am pleased to say, however, that since writing that post, I have
(i) been to the hardware store again to swop some parts and brainstorm again  with the staff
(ii) worked on the cardboard bits, stopping only to go to bed, actually
(iii) taken one photograph of its progress
(iv) poked at it with pins

So yes, I'm working on it! I must focus! I must not read blogs. I must not write posts. I. Must. Work!!!!!!!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

How Do YOU Learn To Sew?

I haven't been sewing much lately. Am working on one monster of a project that's part fabric, part varnish, part wood, part metal and part cardboard that's taken a year at least. Not because it's large or labor-intensive; more because it's conceptually demanding i.e. I must think through every step to make sure I don't foul it up. I started on it last summer but conceptualized it even longer ago than that. I wish I were done with it so I could show you because I think it will be the most useful thing I've ever made. Just last week I finally cleared enough Backlogged Projects to feel ready to tackle it again and what did I do instead? Sewed 22 bibs. As if I needed any of them. I'm nothing if not a master of avoidance. 

I'm telling you all this and making you hate me for being so covert because I need you all to hold me accountable. Don't let me give up and talk about summer dresses and toys and dolls and bags and other feeble, feeble stuff. Don't let me MAKE summer dresses and toys and dolls and bags and other feeble, feeble stuff. Don't let me make make cardboard things. No, that would be OK. Don't let me drag out crafts from my childhood and wax all sentimental. Don't let me introduce new crafts or hobbies, like crochet or tatting or beekeeping. Keep my nose to the grindstone. Call my bluff when you see me cheating and showing off some new useless beanbag or pinafore or felt flower that I made to "relax". 

Thanks, people.

And now, a question for you. Last week I was thinking about how I learn to sew clothes (yes, it was another avoidance tactic). Notice I didn't say "How I learnED to sew clothes". I don't mean how I learned to hold a needle and thread it and poke it in and out of the fabric and make a skirt. I don't mean kinds of skirt fabrics and how to use a sewing machine and what kinds of body types there are. I don't mean pattern drafting or even fit. I mean, when I made my first skirts, how did I learn what shapes the skirt fabric pieces looked like, and which ones get joined to which ones before other ones, and which kinds of seams in which configurations to use to do that joining, and whether I needed zippers rather than buttons or scotch tape, or eyelets with ribbon laces or whatever, and where on those skirt fabric pieces the zippers should be connected, and how low, and how the bottom hem should be finished.  

Some people, I think, learn all that by reading books. Really, they pick up books with titles like, "Sew A Skirt From Scratch" or "Basic Skirt Sewing" and they read every single word and scrutinize every single diagram and photo and at the end of it, they know the answers to all the conundrums I listed above. They consume the theory and they apply it effortlessly to actual fabric and they produce a skirt. 

Some people read tutorials. They search the internet and find blogs, and they collect 100 of their favorite skirt tutorials and piece together their own workable cheat sheet of skirt-making tips. There isn't a lot of foundational theory, but there is a lot of friendly language and self-deprecating humor as fellow bloggers share their own failures at making a skirt. These kinds of people are experimental and experiential; they follow all the advice, avoid all the pitfalls, and produce a skirt.

Some people (we admire their courage) go to a store and buy a pattern. They look at the pictures on the package and decide which skirt they like the look of. They take it home, open it out, read the instructions (we really admire their courage) and follow them. As a result of their obedience and submission to the words of McCalls/Simplicity/Burdastyle/Ottobre/Independent Blog Designer, they produce a skirt. 

Some people attend classes. They sign up for Skirt Making 101 (or homec or Mother-in-Law's free sewing instructions) and they learn by watching another human being assemble a skirt. They take notes, and they copy sequences and techniques. They follow along, ask questions, watch and let the Skirt-Making Guru check their work at regular intervals so they know they're doing it right. At the end of the class/ MIL-DIL bonding session, they produce a skirt.

Some people go to their closet and remove a skirt from its hanger (or from the crushed pile on the floor). They look at it and determine what shape the fabric pieces will be. They turn it inside out and examine its innards. They work out an overview construction sequence in their heads - (1) sew darts; (2) sew pockets; (3) sew zipper placket; (4) sew side seams; (5) sew waistband; (6) attach waistband; (7) sew hem. They apply that flowchart in their head to fabric and they produce a skirt.

Have you ever thought about how YOU learned to sew clothes? Or a bag? Or anything? Yes, I know you're going to say it's a combination of all those ways. But there has to be one primary method you use, without realizing it. It's your learning style- the way that, across the board, produces the highest rate of success in whatever your learn. It may even be a totally new method (e.g. stuffing a skirt in an IV drip, adding water, stirring, and letting it drain into your skull) that I didn't mention in my list above. You go first, and I'll tell you my answer later!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

I'm Yabbering On About Myself on Ohdeedoh

He he he!

Someone interviewed me on Ohdeedoh today. My first interview! It made me smile in a deliriously giddy sort of way. It also made me realize I've been low on nutella a while already. No wonder I haven't been sewing. 

This is vacation week for me - all three girls are at Bible Camp in the mornings - what have I planned? (Not sewing, ptoooi. Not even cardboard crafts.) Swimming. Running. Haircut. Notice that only one of three involves sitting. Mum always tells me I need to rest more. What does that mean? It means time away from the kids so I can welcome them back with open arm (the other cradling craft supplies for  popsicle stick baskets) as if I haven't seen them for years.  

Garden Center How To - Seed Packets


Welcome to the tutorial on How To Make Seed Packets! See the full Garden Center here.

Our girls have used this idea to make all kinds of packets and sachets for their pretend play. Their most repeated version is pet food, which you can see in this post.

For the garden center, we wanted to mass-produce these seed packets, so I drew them out and scanned them. This way I could print out multiple copies for all three girls to color. Again, coloring and cutting along the dotted lines kept them very happy while I worked on other parts of the project.

Like real seed packets, these show the type of seed in the front

and instructions on the back. You are welcome to print out the templates here.

Emily made some plant food packets along the same lines.

When the kids are done coloring, they might need some help to fold and glue the sides of the packet closed. Leave the top open so the packets can be filled. We used a paper cone funnel - it kept frustration at bay.

We filled ours with rice and beans, because that's what we had sitting around in the kitchen. You could also fill them with cut up bits of paper, or paper beads like we did in the vet clinic. Or real beads. If you were going for the more authentic sort of garden center (e.g. in an actual school module), you could even use real seeds. Sunflower seeds, for example, are bountiful and easy to harvest from last year's sunflowers.

Emily was all excited and wanted to make a rotating display stand for the seed packets like she'd seen in actual garden centers, but that would have been a project for another day. She was finally happy to just arrange them on a tray.

I hope you enjoyed the garden center! We had more ideas but decided that after two days, it was time to move on. I'll update the mail Garden Center post to include links to all four tutorials. We're going to make popsicle stick baskets, sun paper prints and papier mache bowls in the coming days. On the sewing front, I'm planning to make the girls neoprene daypacks so they can carry around their sunglasses and small treats and maybe a small bottle of water when we are at the park. Lots to keep us busy! 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Garden Center How To: Pests

Warning: This post contains gross photos of fake caterpillars!!!!!

Urgh, I am not crazy about caterpillars. But they are a part of gardening life, aren't they? So we made some.

You know how they are made, yes? String buttons together, separated by seed beads. Good way to use up surplus buttons. The seed beads make the caterpillars realistically wiggly. Ick.

I won't do a tutorial here, because you can find a similar one using felt circles here in the archives.

Speaking of realistic, you can pick natural colors - see?

Scream!!!!!!!!!!! Monarch caterpillar!!!!!!!!!!!! ICK!!!!!!!!!!!

The girls then started to put in requests:

Wait, it gets more ridiculous:

We decided this Rainbow Caterpillar was the Queen of them all - evil beyond description, fatally poisonous and totally merciless to plants and other living things. 

Now, what was the point of making caterpillars? 

Why, so that we could make pesticide sprays, of course!

Although, as Emily pointed out to me, "Caterpillars aren't worms, Mum." To which I muttered, "To you, they're not. I don't discriminate between particular types of wiggly nightmares."

Making these spray cans is very easy. Print out the labels here,

color them, wrap and glue them around toilet paper tubes. We had only one toilet paper tube in the house (I couldn't believe it) so we cut a wrapping paper tube into short lengths. We also glued a circle of paper over the top before sticking the labels on.

Since we didn't want to be prejudiced against animal pests, we also made weed killer so we could persecute the plant pests as well.

Again, these were made the same way as the pesticide cans, except the weed killer was a sprinkling powder and the pesticide was a spray. For the former, we dotted the top and for the latter, we stuck on a circular sticker for a spray button, and made a big dot for the spray outlet. 

Remember, the point of our garden center was to mass-produce stock so we could fill the shelves, so go ahead and make multiples of these! 

Incidentally, our little Kate adored the caterpiggles, as she called them. She lovingly collected them as I finished each one and hoarded them in a small tupperware, away from her sisters. She was traumatized when her sisters tried to exterminate them and screamed, "Don't spray them! Don't spray them!"  and then cried. I didn't know whether to laugh or rescue her. 

P.S. Oh alright, I did rescue her. But when she wasn't looking, I let Emily and Jenna spray them again. 

Next up: Seed packets!