Tuesday Craft

I was pointed towards a lovely British blog called MiniEco where you find great DIY tutorials and crafts for and with children. Inspired by this we are going to make string-tie envelopes today – a perfect and-of-the-year project, since I want to ask the children to write little thank you notes to their teachers and put them into the envelopes. You will find the template and (very colorful) instructions here, or you can follow my (much less colorful) instructions below.

You need one print-out of the template in either of the two sizes (see above), a piece of string, two small brads (scrapbooking supply stores carry perfect tiny ones), scissors, glue stick. I also added two small circles out of a sturdier cardstock (instead of the paper used for the envelope itself) to make sure nothing rips where it shouldn’t. Punch a small hole in the middle of the small circles.P1140319 Cut out the shape of the envelope.P1140320At the indicated little crosses punch holes with a small puncher, or use a big needle to make a hole.P1140321 Fold all sides up.P1140322 Insert brad on the (future) back of the envelope through one of the circles.P1140323 Add glue to the long edge on the back (where the brad is not) and to the edge of the bottom small flap.P1140324 Glue long edges together, brad side on top, while at the same time glueing the small bottom flap underneath the long flaps.P1140325 Attach second small hole-punched circle to the closure flap with the help of the second  brad.P1140326 Take a piece of string and tie one end to one of the circles. One simple knot is fine.P1140327 Cut end of string.P1140328 Insert note or other sweet surprise.P1140329Wind the string around both circles until all used up. Just let the end of the string hang, it won’t come undone.
P1140330 P1140331 Present mail to happy recipient!P1140332


Tuesday Craft

Kendamas have been a great hit in our school for the last months! A simple wooden toy with lots of possibilities – a bit like a yo-yo, the more you practice the more amazing your tricks are going to be. We have several at our house (including my husband!). I love the counterbalance to the usually omnipresent electronic devices and am amazed how crazy the kids are about this traditional toy.

P1140277 Anyway, one day a boy in the second grade came to school with two versions of his own home-made “kendamas”. He took cups and small plastic balls to assemble them. Very clever. He asked, if we could make them in class and I finally found the practice golf balls that work best for this. You can, of course, use simpler balls for this project – felted balls, paper mache balls, even just bunched up aluminum foil or paper with a string attached. But here is the luxury version:

You need: small cups (5oz.), paper, practice golf balls (in sports shops, mine were $2.99 for 12 of them), string, glue stick, scissors, colored pencils, a hole puncher (optional).P1140278Make a template by cutting apart one of your (probably many) cups.
P1140279 Trace this template onto a piece of paper.P1140280 Draw your very own design and cut it out.P1140281 Stick the made-to-measure paper with your design to the outside of another (whole) cup.P1140282 Punch a hole (or use a big needle, knitting needle, skewer.. to make a hole).P1140283 Cut a length of string (mine was about 20″ long) and, with the help of a crochet hook, pull it through two adjacent holes in the golf ball. Tie some knots.P1140284 Tie the other end of the string to the cup and there you have it: a sweet and simple toy – all home-made!

P1140285(Thank you, Luca, for your inspiration!)

Last week in second grade we made thaumatropes. You might also know them with an elastic or string attached to either side that you twist and release, so the two pictures on either side merge into one picture (at least that’s what your brain will do). I took the idea from this lovely book:
P1140287You will need a piece of paper, something to trace circles from (small glass), Scotch tape, scissors, (colored) pencil(s), and a dowel (I substituted the dowel with a round pencil).P1140286Trace two circles.P1140288 Cut them out.P1140289 Think of an image and take it apart, for example the bird and the birdcage. You could do a fish in a fish bowl, a cat on an armchair, a cherry on top of a muffin, a hat on top of a head…then draw on part of that image on one of the circles and the other on the other circle (in alignment – it helps to hold both circles up to the light or against a window to make sure the bird (for example) will actually sit in the birdcage and not beside it).P1140290 Here are further ideas from the book.P1140291 Next stick one of your circles with the picture facing the right way (up) onto your dowel with some sticky tape.P1140292 Make sticky tape rolls and place them beside the dowel on either side, you can add more rolls all around the dowel (I just ran out of tape…). Stick the second circle to the sticky tape rolls with the picture facing out and – again – in alignment with the picture on the first circle.P1140294This is how you hold the dowel to see the complete picture (for lack of a third hand or a helper I was unable to take a picture of my own two hands doing this!). Rub your hands (with dowel) together as if your hands were cold. Do it fast, and watch the magic!P1140301P1140298 P1140299 And in case you used a pencil as your dowel and you are tired of looking at your picture you have a very charming pencil topper after all this.

P1140300My lovely second graders came up with ideas like this: a tongue licking an ice-cream cone, a boy playing with a soccer ball, a butterfly on a flower, a dollop of cream on top of an ice-cream sundae, a mermaid on a rock…as usual they were full of ideas and wonderful enthusiasm to go with it. Oh, I will miss them over the summer…

Ceramics class

My son has taken ceramics as an elective in his junior year in high school this past school year. Here is a little selection of his works:

Mask I.P1140257 Rain Stick (with small bits of pre-dried clay inside).P1140258 P1140259 Two Exercises in Hollow Forms.P1140261 Mask II.P1140262 Fish (was part of an exhibition).P1140263 P1140264 Relief Tile (with stand).P1140275P1140276I know I am somewhat biased, but I think this is good work. He works with precision, has a vivid imagination and sound aesthetics – a winning combination.

I returned on Sunday evening from the felting workshop, filled with exciting new techniques and lots of inspiration, eager to try out and experiment. I met seven wonderful fellow-felters and, of course, Lisa herself in all her energetic liveliness. She is such a professional, it is unbelievable!!! To see her unique (and I mean most unique) work “live” was just amazing.

She asked to not post any pictures of her or the participants, but I can show you what I worked on, although her teachings are less about how to produce and reproduce one item, but rather how to get to what you want to make. Very technique-driven, a lot of algebra, the perfectionism of which really appealed to me. I love working small and precise. My son rightly compared my experience to the old parable of learning how to fish rather than being given the fish. This is how I feel – the empowered felter…

We did some color grading by blending/carding it in different percentages,

P1130943 laid out wool to prepare partial felts in different weights,P1130945 three different weights here,P1130948 four different weights here,P1130952 an example of the kind of math that is required to reach your goal,P1130953based on her little bell pendantsP1130968I color-blended and laid out wool at 0.4 grams per square inch,
P1130963and arrived here together with the others (mine is the one in the middle),
P1130971 another preparation using the partial felts from the beginning and 0.2 grams of wool per square inch,P1130975 which turned into this little pendant (like I said, all experiments…),P1130987 here we used the heavier of the partial felts to experience the effect,P1130990 P1130991 P1130993 and all of this in a beautiful spot on the coast…P1130980 it was perfectly magical!P1130982P.S. Check out Lisa’s Strongfelt page to find a workshop – if you are interested in some serious felting, it is really worth it.

My box (with materials) and my little suitcase (with clothes and toothbrush) and my bag (with a selection of about 15 books and magazines) are all packed, as I am off early tomorrow morning to attend a three-day workshop with felting artist Lisa Klakulak. I can’t believe I’m going!!! I can’t wait to meet her in person and to learn fabulous new things. I have admired her wonderful work for quite a while now and am so thrilled to be part of this workshop!

The theme of the workshop? “Resist-based Pendants: hollow forms, found object inclusion and dimensional surfaces (intermediate, advanced)” – music to my ears. Can you hear it?


All the following objects are pictures taken from the book “1000 Artisan Textiles”  – not to be confused with anything I ever made, as I bow in awe of her craftmanship and artistic talent (actually any book on felting and textile arts has images of  STRONGFELT’s works in them).P1130941

P1130936 P1130937 P1130938 P1130939 P1130940

Apart from the various bags and boxes (see above) I will also bring my still unfinished embroidery piece and after 6 hours of felting I will sit down in my cosy Bed & Breakfast and do some stitching. I am not quite sure how realistic this is…but, the occasions when I go away by myself for such a treat of a week-end are very rare. Very rare, indeed, and I am determined to enjoy every minute of it.P1130942

I’m still here…

Nothing had changed for the Tuesday craft this past week. We were still working on the mother’s day gift, i.e. rolling paper beads, while the kids were being entertained by me reading some books to them (among others my all-time-favorite “The Gruffalo”…, but this is beside the point).

Other than that I am busy with more visitors from Germany who I want to show around hoping they’ll have an interesting stay here with us. This leaves not a lot of time for crafty things. One thing I started, though, was the April assignment for my embroidery class. This month the subject is raised stitches and three-dimensional work. First I prepared my surface by attaching felt circles, buttons, small pompoms and plastic gold coins to the pink felt square. This was all covered with a piece of silk organza and now I am busy stitching….in reality I am further than the photograph below (and in reality I have only two days left to finish!). As anticipated I thoroughly enjoy this type of work, seeing where it takes me as I go along with no fixed ideas about stitches and arrangement of stitches. All in all I will make 6 panels of the same dimensions and in the end assemble them into one wall hanging.

But let’s stay in the present moment and finish the first one first.