Sunday, August 11, 2013

Kid's Craft Fair Again

We went to Chicago! 
We went to museums! 
We walked! 
We danced! 
We ate! 

And then we came home.
And there is a mountain of laundry, 
plus yardwork and backlogged projects.

The kids had so much fun, though. They devoured the museums - the Field Museum and the MSI in particular. I just wanted to stay there forever, playing with optics and waves and all that delicious Science stuff. Kate was enamored with the dinosaurs and earnestly regurgitated facts that we'd read off the little informational signs to her. All the walking was tough on those little feet, though, because we walked everywhere, and for hours. The girls are accustomed to walking through airports and through the sweltering streets of Singapore but even then, there were moments of wilting and collapsing and being carried on shoulders on this trip. And at least two of us were fighting colds so, all in, it was quite the adventure. 

But now we're in our house again, settling back into normalcy and utterly thankful that it was just Chicago and not Singapore from which we'd returned (imagine wasting the last two weeks of summer recovering from devastating jetlag). Anyway, to ease back into routine, I went to the Home Depot this morning to brainstorm with the lumber guy for my newest project for Emily's birthday party. So helpful, the HD people. Hopefully a tutorial to come soon, yes? 

This post, however, is not that tutorial.  

Two weekends ago was that local annual Kids' Craft Fair to which I introduced you in last year's post here. Earlier in the summer, I'd decided that I had my hands full with all three summer birthday parties happening, and we should give this fair a miss. However, one of Emily's best friends wanted to participate and her mother volunteered to shoulder the necessary responsibilities, so she and Emily ended up running a booth together.

Kate, Jenna and I turned up on the day itself to support their efforts

as well as the efforts of the other kid-vendors. Kate and Jenna went shopping!

Emily and her friend Rena each picked a craft product to sell, then got together to make them together. Rena's idea was the barrettes in the picture above that Jenna is browsing (and buying). Emily wanted to make a gender-neutral toy. She looked through her collection of craft books and found something in this library cast-off:

this race car

in wood.

In the process of making them, Emily learned that one must sometimes adapt the given instructions in order to ensure the workability of a design, or risk utter frustration. Here follows Emily's tutorial, with all the resultant fine-tuning.

To make one car, you need
  • Glue
  • Two twist ties
  • Four buttons, preferably equal in size, and at least 1" in diameter. If you are using two different sizes, pick the larger ones for the back wheels so they are like real race cars.
  • One clothes peg
  • 2 short bits of a not-too-narrow straw, just a little longer than the width of the clothespeg
  • One small button

Thread one twist tie through a pair of buttons and a straw bit, as shown in the series of photos below.

Keep the twist tie relatively loose until both buttons are secured. Then rotate the buttons in opposite directions to tighten the ensemble. Be sure to ensure the twisted twist tie can still freely move inside the straw and that the buttons do not touch the ends of the straw.

Loose                                  Tight

Here's a shot of how to rotate the buttons to tighten the ensemble.

Repeat for the other two buttons, twist tie and straw bit.

Assemble the car - apply glue in the hole of the clothespeg

and clip it over the straw (axle) of the first pair of wheels. Insert the small button between the jaws of the clothespeg

so that the straw is not squashed. This in turn will allow the twist tie to move unimpeded within the straw.

Apply glue between the pinchy arms of the other end of the clothespeg

and insert the other straw-axle. Do not push it in too deeply so as not to squish the straw.

Let the glue dry - this is the completed car. We chose not to decorate ours.

although we did attempt to stick insulation tape on the ends of a couple of them, just to follow the instructions.

Here are the cars made by Emily and Rena.

End of story. Except Emily also decided she needed a ramp for display purposes and to enhance the presentation at her table. So we brainstormed and she sketched this race car track.

Which I built. 

Took about a half hour.

Very easy. It's a long piece of cardboard, whose sides are folded up to create walls. Another long bit of cardboard was glued on its side to make a middle partition. There's also a back wall made with a broad rectangle of cardboard that wraps around the walls of the track to create a backstop as well to keep the walls upright.

That end bit was also useful for supporting the Start banner

and we taped on a run-off area that supports the Finish line banner.

A triangle was cut out of each wall of the run-off area

to allow the ramp portion to be elevated at different angles.

Here is how to make the shafts for inserting the dowels of the banner. We made the banners detachable so that the entire race track could be easily transported, set up and dismantled. For corner shafts, glue small piece of cardboard to the insides of the corners.

For side shafts, glue small piece of cardboard, with a pocket for the dowel, to the outside of the race track wall.

Here is Emily getting ready to race her cars.

And here is a video of the race in action.

The girls quite enjoyed themselves at the fair, and we had only three cars and four or five barrettes left at the end. Which was encouraging for the girls, even though the point of the fair wasn't necessarily to make a killing. More importantly, there were opportunities for learning to be gracious. 

Here follows an example. The last fifteen minutes of the fair was designated "Swop Time", during which a vendor could take their wares and approach another vendor to propose a trade. While there is no guarantee that the trade offer will be accepted, we try to be gracious because, if one thinks about it,
  • these items were made by kids
  • who obviously think their items are highly valuable
  • and therefore are of comparable value to other vendors' equally-highly- valuable items
  • and really, at the end of the day, about 80% of everyone's goods aren't going to be sold anyway, so why nitpick about exchange rates and relative elegance and stuff like that?

So, during Swop Time, Kate took a couple of Emily's cars (with permission) and ran off to trade them. After much critical analysis, she decided she would trade both for a princess wand at a booth selling random (i.e. not themed) items. The wand-seller, a girl about 12, visibly wrinkled her nose as if our wooden cars were a very bad smell and shook her head in distaste. Poor Kate was so disappointed. I tried not to roll my eyes because, no doubt, the girl indeed felt her wand was far superior to Kate's little wooden cars (never mind that they were priced the same). Our sweet Jenna whispered discreetly to Kate, "It's okay, Kate. Maybe you can try swopping a barrette." So Kate ran back to our booth and asked Emily if she could have a barrette with which to trade for the wand, and then returned to the wand-seller to propose an alternative trade. Again, and unbelievably, we received the Wrinkled Nose Treatment. By this time, I was indeed rolling my eyes and dangerously entertaining a number of somewhat impolite (but logical) thoughts about good parenting and basic etiquette so I hugged Kate and turned her away towards other booths. Biting back my true analysis of what had just happened, I offered Kate an explanation that she could understand -that maybe the girl didn't want to trade her wand because it was simply too precious to her. Kate eventually found another vendor to trade with, who was both gracious and enthusiastic. Hurrah!

When we returned to our booth, we found a little girl clutching one of our wooden cars and who, with wide eyes, extended a framed picture she'd evidently made herself of fabric scraps, yarn and one dried leaf. I stepped back, held my breath and watched to see what Emily would do. I am proud to say that Emily graciously accepted her picture and said what a pretty picture it was. The little girl ran off with our wooden car and I exhaled long and hard. Sometimes I think motherhood is a series of precarious gambles in which I hope my kids have picked up more good stuff from me than bad.

On hindsight, I could analyze that experience through so many different filters. I could also have stepped in at any number of points in time to direct or redirect what happened next. Or offered any number of other (polite) explanations to Kate to help her understand why she was being rejected twice in a row. Or not. But I didn't, because I knew that it would just've been my Overprotective Mother persona getting in the way. Or my All Kids' Handmade Stuff Is Infinitely Valuable craft advocate persona climbing on her soapbox. So maybe Kate had to engage in multiple barter attempts before succeeding. That's life. And even if she'd not ultimately succeeded - that's life, too. Certainly not the end of the world. 

Upcoming: Jenna's birthday party this weekend! I only made one thing for it (cheers for LiEr for avoiding fuss and mania!) and I'll share the tutorial soon. 


  1. I love this story so very much.

  2. What a wonderful idea a kid's craft fair is! Such a great learning experience. I totally get your feelings.... Being a mother is much more challenging than we ever thought it would be, isn't it?!

  3. Your barter story brought happy tears to my eyes. Such lovely children!

  4. I love Emily's reaction to the picture. And I am glad Kate did eventually get to make a happy trade!

    These cars are very neat! Please tell Emily thank you for the tutorial?

  5. Love those little cars. I'm going to go through my buttons and see if we have enough big ones to make some of these tomorrow. My kids will be thrilled. What sweet girls you have!

  6. I love this kids fair idea. Thanks for sharing the stories and the tutorial! Love your blog.

  7. Glad you had a great time in Chicago! I hear ya on the catching up upon return home... and on the colds... still trying to knock mine.

    I think that craft fair idea is so neat for kids. The little car was a fun idea and so cute.

    It sounds like your girls have learned more than just good crafting from their lovely and gracious mom. :)

  8. Chicago! I was there this weekend! Lots of fun stuff happening and so much to see. The museum sounds awesome.

  9. Not only have you raised creative, crafty girls, but girls for whom you don't need to step in to ensure gracious behavior - and that is the best thing you can do for them and the world.

  10. Aww, yay for Emily! Her clothespin cars are super cool, too, and they look really fun to play with!

  11. What a great story and how cool you could witness it. Loved the part where you held your breath waiting to see what she would do. You're raising some great girls there. My daughter would LOVE that craft fair. Hmmm. Maybe should start one here?

  12. "Sometimes I think motherhood is a series of precarious gambles in which I hope my kids have picked up more good stuff from me than bad." I have no stomach for gambling, but yes, I have felt this myself many times. It looks like your girls are doing tremendously well. I love the car idea and am going to try it with my girls. Thanks for sharing with all of us.

  13. Hi! Lovely post! Did you make the wide headbands they are wearing?

    1. Rebecca: yes. Well, Kate's blue one. Emily's was from a store. And at first, I had no idea what you meant and had to scroll through the post to see: oh! THOSE headbands! I never blogged about those headbands, though. They were just one of the many, many projects I've done that I didn't bother to post about.

  14. This post came at the perfect time for me; my middle son's 4th birthday was this weekend and I wanted a craft, and this was the perfect one! I painted the wheels and the clothespins and gave the kids tiny stickers to decorate with. They had a blast. Thank you!

  15. I wanted to let you know that I appreciate so many of your posts on motherhood, sanity, sewing, creating and the littles. Your funny and realistic portrayals of staying at home with small kids are refreshing in the blogosphere. I just wanted to say thank you for your posts!

  16. I want to thank you for your realistic, honest and humorous stories about motherhood. I greatly appreciate how down to earth your posts on parenthood are in a blogosphere saturated in seemingly idealistic estimates of parenting. I am also an avid sewist so I appreciate those posts as well!

  17. thank you very much for the tutorial. I plan to make these with my kindergarten class this year. I think they will enjoy making the cars.

  18. Glad to hear you enjoyed Chicago! We live there and need to remember to be tourists in our own city more often, there is so much to do! We recently made some rolling car toys too and I love the way you made the wheels on yours. I'm going to have to try those out! Found you on the Crafty Crow, so happy I did!

  19. I was just looking for instructions on a clothespin car, and read your lovely story of your day and your girls, it made me smile, thanks :)

  20. Hello! A group of friends and I are making a one-time donation of craft kits to a children's hospital in our area. We would love to use your clothespin car. May we use your tutorial pictures to include in the kits? Thanks in advance!

    1. Anonymous: please email me personally with your request (and name).

  21. I will be doing these for my samaritan purse oCC shoeboxes this year. Thank you Emily for your craft!

  22. do the wheels actually roll?


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