Friday, October 26, 2012

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Friday, March 2, 2012

Gnome-tastic Tutorial and Whimsy Kit Giveaway!

Last week during Maine's schools winter break, I entertained a huge group of children and their parents at our local library. The children came to create their very own gnome, magical creatures perfectly suited to our woodsy landscape. My friend and arborist, Jeff Gillis of Welltree introduced the activity with a fascinating slide show on gnome habitat.

My husband Jon's woodworking talents were used to prepare the wooden gnome bodies. He cut 1 to 1.5" diameter hardwood branches into 4" lengths.  Then he used a belt sander to make a 1"-1.5" long notches in the bark for each gnome's face.

I assembled the rest of the materials, wood glue and wood plugs (used for flooring) from our local hardware store. From my studio stash I pulled out polyester fleece, wool roving, yarn and felt scraps. I pre-cut the fleece into 3" x 7" rectangles for the gnome coats, and cut 9" circles into quarters for the gnome hats. I quickly ran the hats through my sewing machine, and turned them right side out. This eliminated the frustration of the kids gluing fabric hat edges.

The first step was to glue on the nose and draw the eyes with a pencil. A word of caution, If you use a felt tipped marker the ink may run into the wood grain. Next children wrapped fleece around the wood body and secured it with a knotted yarn belt. I suggested trimming the fleece under the nose to shape a coat collar.

Wool roving hair and beards are attached with a dab of wood glue. Check out this little guys long mustache!

photo Sheryl Palese
The pre-sewn hat is simply pulled down over the head, fleece has enough give that it stretches to accommodate thicker branch bodies. Or you can skip the hat all together, check out this artist's original 'Yoda'!

My basket of felt scraps encouraged creativity, the children added feet hands, bedrolls, pompoms, sleeves, hands and feet.

photo Sheryl Palese

If you love gnomes and woodland sewing projects please check out my newest book Stitched Whimsy. In honor of National Craft Month I'm giving away two of my new Whimsy Stitching Kits. They include everything you need to make your very own stitched felt creation.

For a chance to win these kits please leave a comment on this post. I'll select a lucky winner next Saturday, March 10th. Happy Crafting and Good Luck! Heidi

Monday, August 8, 2011

Thai String Dolls Tutorial

I still have so many projects to share with you from my summer workshop series, but I'm skipping this gem to the top of the line up. Our young adult librarian had suggested making Thai String Dolls, and after a little research I realized that it could be an accessible and popular project. I had a blast making these dolls with a half dozen great teens.

Traditionally Thai string dolls are made by looping a thick cord skeleton that is wrapped in thinner cord. I knew that there could be an easier nontraditional way to make the dolls. I immediately pulled out my box of chenille stems (pipe cleaners). Starting with the big head, I spiraled a chenille stem into a ball shape to form the 'skull'.

To add mass I wrapped two more chenille stems around the first one. It doesn't matter what color the chenille stems are, as they will be completely concealed in 'string'.

Fold your fourth chenille stem in half and trap your skull in the fold. Twist the chenille stem ends together under the skull to make the neck. Then fold the remaining lengths in half to form the arms.

Fold a fifth chenille stem into the letter 'W" to make the legs. Hook the center of the 'W' over the shoulder section of the arms. This might feel a little wobbly but the chenille stem will be firmly connected by the yarn wraps.

Thin cotton blend yarn works best for this project. I had a super collection of  Plymouth yarns Wildflower D.K. left over from designing projects for Soft and Simple knits for Little ones. The colors are fabulous and the weight is ideal. Working directly off the skein, place the yarn end against the chenille skull and begin tightly wrapping the yarn around the head. Make sure you constantly change directions, if you make too many rotations in a single direction, the loops may fall off. If that happens simple unwind the dropped loops and rewind tighter in a different direction.

When it comes time to wrap the arms and legs, bring the yarn down to the elbow or foot first. Unfold the chenille stem and tightly wrap the yarn where it was bent. Be careful to completely conceal the chenille stem with your wraps.

Refold the arm or leg and over wrap the folded chenille stems together. Repeat the process with the remaining limbs.

Wrap the top of the legs together to form the base of the torso and make crisscross wraps across the chest. If your doll's head doesn't look big enough bring the yarn back to the top and wrap it some more. Once you're pleased with the proportions cut the yarn off the skein and use a dab of hot glue to anchor the cut end against the body.

I supplied Darice 9mm solid black safety eyes, you won't need the clear anchor piece (although one clever creator used them for the eyes). Simply push the screw end into the head. If you wrapped tightly it will take some effort and wiggling to get the screw end lodged into place.

I had stiffened felt scraps on hand (left over from the monster stuffy project).  Stiff felt is incredibly easy to cut and hot glue in place. If you're ambitious you could thread contrasting yarn colors into a darning needle and stitch a mouth, eyes or other embellishments onto your doll.

Simply over wrapping your doll with other string colors is a simple way to dress them up. I rolled a tiny grey ball of string for this rabbits tail. This open ended craft is ideal, your imagination is the only limit to the characters and animals you can create.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

French Mirrors a la Modge Podge

Teens will always keep you guessing... I knew this mirror project was going to be a hit with my DIY Friday library group. What I didn't realize is how much teens love collage and working with Modge Podge. It was the best project yet, everyone was relaxed, creatively engaged and in the end tremendously proud of their mirrors.

The first step is to locate inexpensive, preferably unfinished, wood frames. The ones we used were from IKEA, very reasonably priced at a few dollars each. It's the very same frame I covered with aluminum cans in my book Craftcyle.

I collected an assortment of black, white, ivory and red scrapbook papers from my stash. Our wonderful young adult librarian supplied photocopied iconic images from France along with an old french novel for tearing apart. I also borrowed a set of themed stamps from a crafty friend.

Start by covering the center of the mirror with a scrap of paper to prevent it from getting gunked up with glue. The teens launched straight into selecting papers and arranging them over the four sides of the frame.
Once they were sure of the placement they used gluesticks to anchor the paper pieces in place.

Hands at work stamping images to collage onto their frame.

I brought my paper cutter along and it was passed between tables. It's the fastest and easiest way to cut a perfect straight edge.

Before long the tables were covered in a sea of paper scraps. The conversation was lively and fun, they were really happy working on this project. I have to mention that the teen in this picture designed and stitched her lovely shirt!

I encouraged all the teens to just cover the top surface of the frame. Bending the paper around edges can be problematic, causing bumps and uneven edges. I love the tissue tearing technique that this artist used, it gives texture to the sides of the piece.

Despite the fact that everyone was sharing the same materials and wooden frames there was terrific diversity in the way they approached the project and their finished frames.

It was fascinating to watch this frame come together, beautiful balance and design.

The final step was to apply a coat of Modge Podge over the surface. In a few cases we had trouble with the paper wrinkling. When that happened we simply lifted up the offending piece and applied a layer of Modge Podge under it and then repositioned it, instant fix.


Friday, July 15, 2011

Playing with Shadow Puppets

I'll admit it, my job is the best. I play with art materials all the time for publication and then I get to take a break and share creative fun with kids in our community. This week our One World, Many Stories theme inspired my Bali Shadow puppet workshop. This ancient art has been practiced for centuries, as a way to honor religious beliefs and share folklore stories.

We didn't use the traditional materials of hide and bamboo rods, instead each child was given a quarter sheet of black poster board. We also passed out two to three dowel rods that were 1/8" in diameter and cut to twelve inch lengths. We had hole punches, brad fasteners and clear packing tape on hand to connect the pieces together.

My sample puppets were loosely based on traditional puppet images. The male puppet is wearing a horn shaped crown, and a decorated loin cloth. The female puppet is also royalty, she's wearing a traditional skirt and has a stylish hair do. I always encourage children to create their own patterns, the head should touch the top of the poster board and the feet the bottom. The four unconnected arm pieces, two upper arms and two lower arms,  fit on either side of the body. All the pieces need to be thick enough to accommodate the hole punch. When I'm working with groups of fifty children or more I often bring templates for those who aren't comfortable creating their own design.

After the body and arms are sketched onto the poster board the cutting begins.

Holes need to be punched through the shoulder of the body piece and the shoulder of the top arm piece. Brad fasteners join the pieces together while allowing movement.

The elbow connection also requires two punches, one in the base of the upper arm and another in the top of the lower arm. Once you've fastened them together repeat on the other side.

This is a great parent and child project, love to see big and little hands creating together!

Turn the puppet over and use a strip of packing tape to adhere one dowel rod to the bottom of the body and the other to the lower arm.

Decorative hole punching along the top of the puppet lets more light through and makes the shadow more interesting.

The moment we were all waiting for, the puppets worked! The kids had so much fun playing with them I wish I was able to record video. We had arranged the tables in front of the window bays to take advantage of the natural light. Translucent (inexpensive) plastic table cloths were taped to the table top and carpeting to make a stable screen.

Here's a happy puppeteer with her very own puppet design!

This wolf puppet casts a foreboding shadow.

So glad I got a shot of the creative action behind the screens.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Don't worry, be happy! How to make your own Guatemalan worry doll.

I've been excited to share this project for weeks. Worry dolls are an ingenious Guatemalan craft that help ease troubles of parents and children who are working together to cope with stress associated with sickness and poverty . The idea is to make a likeness of the child and place it under their pillow at night. The belief is that the doll will take away the worry or sickness as they sleep. Like a dream catcher the act of making the craft is soothing. The project fits in perfectly with the library's summer theme - One World, Many Voices. I began the workshop by retelling the folklore story about how the craft of making worry dolls began, I found a great resource at this site

With a group of almost a hundred preregistered children we set up supplies in separate stations around the room to fully utilize the space and avoid congestion.

To stop heads from rolling four 10 mm beads are separated into cups. The multicultural chenille stems are a must, we ordered them from Dick Blick.

This is the clothing table, fabric is cut to 2 1/4" x 4" strips, colorful yard for tying and scissors. We had another table filled with an array of hair choices that included: yarn, embroidery floss, and wool roving in an assortment of colors. The last stop was lidded jewelry boxes with colored paper tape and adhesive dots.

After collecting all the materials the first step is to wrap the hair of choice five times around your fingertips.
Slip the hair off your fingertips and trap it in the crook of a folded chenille stem.

This sample shows a pinch of roving caught in the fold. Slide the bead head up over chenille stem ends so that it rests under the hair.

Here are three dolls ready with embroidery floss hair and heads.

To form the legs and arms, fold up the length of the chenille ends so they extend above the hair. The folded ends will become the feet and the ends will fold down at the neck to become the arms. Fold over the very end of the arms to shorten their length and shape hands.

 Every child was encouraged to make a set of four dolls to showcase a variety of skin tones and hair color.

To clothe your doll wrap the fabric scrap under the dolls arms use a length of brightly colored yarn to wrap and tie it in place.

This young artist was using the yarn to make the clothing, he just kept on wrapping.

To make pants cut the fabric piece in half wrap and tie them around each leg. With a fold and a snip this doll ended up with a nifty felt shirt.

Fancy braided hair is held in place with yarn bows.

This doll was being tucked into bed, shhhh....

Decorating the boxes, was almost as fun as making the dolls. I was so pleased that the boys enjoyed this project almost as much as the girls. Wishing you all worry free days of happy crafting!

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