Archive for the 'kids' art' Category

Brain Dump

In the last few days, I’ve come across an abundance of amazing events, letters and websites. Since my work at the moment is in a pure production phase, I’m going to share other people’s cool stuff instead.


Wet spring weather brings out the godzilla slugs in our garden. Before I go to bed, I walk out in the rain to peel them off my tender new lettuce. Despite my dislike of the creatures, I couldn’t resist this felt snail.

I can’t recall what chain led me here, but Gartenfilz von Frauke is only one of many fantastic pieces in the Filz Galerie, a German gallery of felt pieces created by participants in Feltalong. I really, really wish I read German because I want to know more about the other pieces in the blog.

If you want to participate in the Crafster Feltalong challenges, search for ‘feltalong‘ discussions on the Craftster felting discussion boards.

feltunitedGet on board for the International Day of Felt, October 3.  2009 is the International Year of Natural Fibers, as declared by the United Nations. Sign up, spread the word, plan, organize and participate. More details at FeltUnited.

Future Craft Collective is a very creative group of energetic folks working to make something beautiful in community. Two things melt my heart: seeing people make art together and watching a child bring an idea to life. Some lucky folks in Austin may get to work with them in person; I’ll have to settle for admiring from a distance and then continuing to build art in my community.


The yummy felt bead necklaces made by  Kleas and company for Mother’s Day gifts look good enough to eat. These remind me of the world’s best salt water taffy, but made of wool. What more could a mother want?

Not sure how to describe the next bit, except to say watching this video and getting into the mind of this woman led me to dimensions I had never imagined. See and watch crochet coral as examples of hyperbolic geometry.

paper_boatTime for a slight fiber detour to the world of paper craft. Make some crazy collage, paint some paper, sew some paper together, fold a boat and then mail it to Joanne Kaar. Each piece will  be auctioned in support of Mary-Ann’s Cottage, a living history museum in Scotland. Submission deadline is August 10, 2009.

Stating my intention here,  in the hopes that will make it happen (thank you Future Craft Collective), I plan to embellish paper with the parents and children of Seattle API at the next monthly gathering of the Handcraft Group. Look on theirblog for photos of the oustanding pieces they have received so far.

Collaboration and Recycling

I came across two neat tidbits today from the fiber world to share.

First, my talented friend Shirley sent a link to the wearable art show in Juneau, Altered States. Many of the pieces in the show used reclaimed materials prominently in the garment. The gallery of photographer Seanna O’Sullivan showcases the event on the runway and backstage as the models are prepped for their appearance.

The International Fiber Collaborative is working on building a tree as a way to illustrate the idea of interdependence. “Much like a live tree is interdependent on its leaves and roots for survival, societies are interdependent on the greater whole, family units, communities, and countries. Participants from around the world are invited to create leaves to contribute to the creation of the tree. ”  The submission deadline to have your leaves added to the tree is March 15th. Leaves must be created using fiber, but beyond that, use your imagination. Make sure to look through the gallery to see the submissions they have received so far.


For several years, I’ve wanted to try making silk paper in an effort to reproduce the embossed leaves from this piece by Emily Archer of Milkweed Arts. I found some instructions on Pat Sparks’ website, but I’d love to hear whether anyone has worked through this process. My son wants me to coordinate a project for his K-1 art class, and I’d love to dovetail the two projects. Am I biting off more than I can chew and swallow?


If I can’t carve the time out in the next two weeks, I have a box full of these felt leaves to send.

Hot Rocks

This summer we spent two weeks at my parents’ cabin on Keats Island, a rocky paradise in Howe Sound between Vancouver and Sechelt BC. We played with the children of old friends, made new friends when the old left, discovered hidden paths through the forest, hiked to beaches we’d never seen, jumped off the floating dock, swam off the rocky beaches, and played hours of games.


Many mornings we spent around the cabin reading, writing, and playing cards waiting for the tides to be just right for swimming. One morning when every game failed to entertain, we decided to try an activity I’d read on someone’s blog in the last year: coloring on smooth beach rocks.


Collecting the rocks was half the fun. We had to find just the right buckets, skip down to the beach and scour the entire expanse for rocks that were large enough and smooth enough to become a canvas.

At home we washed off the seaweed grit and marine residue. Next we spread them out on an aluminum tray and put them in the convection oven to heat for ten minutes. While they were warming, we gathered all the small bits of broken crayon we could find behind the futon, on the bookshelf, and under the table. When they were hot enough, we carefully extracted the tray and carried it outside to the patio where we could safely spread out the hot rocks without damaging any surfaces.

Before long, it became clear that there was a magic moment in the lifespan of a hot rock, when it was hot enough to melt the crayon, but not so hot that it turned into wax soup. Letting the rocks cool for a minute or two was key, but we were forced to make several trips back to the oven for reheating as our imaginations churned away.


It was a wonderfully idyllic time spent in a place that holds many fond memories. Thanks Mom and Dad for making it all possible.

Refashioning Corduroy

Sophie and I attended a fun event called Swap-o-Rama-Rama as part of GreenFest at the Washington Trade and Convention Center. Piles and piles of clothes were amassed for the sole purpose of refashioning discarded items into something new. A sewing machine dealer in Bellingham brought six machines, two sergers and an overlock, as well as a needlefelting machine.

The first day, I was signed up as a volunteer, but had so much fun, I brought the whole family back for more sewing. We created our own pile of clothes with appealing fabrics or design features. Before long, Sophie and I decided to tear apart an extra-large women’s corduroy jumper with large front pockets.

Sophie has played with my mother’s hand-me down Kenmore machine enough that she knew was able to work on her own piece independently while I alternated between helping my neighbors and experimenting with the serger. There were also two large embroidery machines hooked up to tablets. I encouraged Sophie to ask for a design early in the afternoon before the masses noticed the spiffy machines. She selected the font, color and flower embellishment on the back of her bag.

I decided to take advantage of the free screenprinting offered by Scott of Mothpress. He patiently explained the silkscreen process over and over to anyone who wandered by, and embellished items with several original designs.

There was so much going on that I was unable to finish more than my single bag, but I took away a nice stash of fabrics and a perfect project bag for my to-go knitting project ‘du jour’.

Felt Geode Pincushions

These pincushions were a suggestion from Diane at Venue in Ballard. She bought something similar at Bumbershoot several years ago, but doesn’t know who made them or where to get more. My apologies to that artist, whoever you are. Please identify yourself if you read this post.

I started the first pincushion with the red center at swimming lessons on Saturday; first I needlefelted a solid ball, and then needlefelted subsequent layers until I ran out of colors. This ball was fairly solid when I was done, which accounts for the smooth outlines of each color layer.

The second and third balls were made by rolling roving into rough a ball shape, needlefelting just a little to hold the roving in place and then adding additional layers. The navel orange was melon-sized by the time I stopped adding roving.

All three balls were wetfelted to varying degress. Some friends suggested I finish them in the washing machine, but that really didn’t squeeze them hard enough. So after going around with a load of towels, I wetfelted them by hand. The red pincushion needed very little work, and is still the most dense of the three pincushions. The green and orange pincushions required a lot of felting because they had to compress so much to create a solid felted core, which resulted in the swirls.

For the sake of scale, the smaller two pincushions measure 2″ in diameter, about the size of a clementine orange. The largest pincushion is about the size of a navel orange. This would be a great kid project, especially if you had a Clover needlefelting tool to keep inattentive fingers safe.

These are now available in my etsy shop.

Little Crafter Curriculum

A friend asked me if I would put together a series of classes for some parents and children under four years. The Crafty Crow has been a terrific source of tried and true projects for families, as has Carrie at CarrieLogic, my unofficial craft aggregator (she who reads lots and piles up ideas).

  • Mom in Madison made nature notebooks with her boys.
  • PinkChalkStudios is covering light switchplates with fabric and mod-podge; taking this down a notch paper collages would make it easier for little fingers
  • Molly Chicken makes papier mache bowls with tissue paper
  • WriteMamaWrite collects natural materials to make textured impressions in sculpey
  • BloesemKids gives new life to fabric scraps with a landscape fabric collage
  • paint recycled t-shirts and fabric, then sew library bags, grocery bags, or child-sized treasure bags (to carry all the treasures children find when they are out)
  • whip-stitch small lavender sachets and pillows
  • make knotted dolls with recycled/painted fabric
  • nature prints on fabric/paper
  • whip-stitch piles of bean bags
  • baked buttons and beads with fimo or sculpey
  • stained-glass crayons

Reaching back into my own archives, I loved making collage boxes with stamps and mod-podge. How can you resist pretty colors stacked up and a shiny finish?

Gnomes and Sheep

Next Tuesday, April 8th, I’ll be hosting the monthly Seattle API craft group at my house. Since we have a mixture of small and large hands, I’m going to prepare the materials for pipe cleaner sheep from Toymaking with Children by Freya Jaffke. This simple project involves wrapping roving around pipe cleaners bent into rough animal shapes.


As time allows, we’ll also make some gnomes and fairies, with flower petal skirts and elven hats sewn from flat felt.


This event is open to parents and children of all ages. There is no fee as my craft stash should have plenty of materials. If you would like to contribute to the endeavor, we will use pipe cleaners, roving, wooden beads and large-petal artificial flowers.

I hope to see you next week!

Felted Bird Nests

My daughter’s second grade teacher approached me several months ago wondering if I could help the kids create felt bird nests to go with a math game they were learning. Though I had never attempted a nest, anything is possible with felt, and I never turn down an opportunity to spread the gospel of felt with children.


We started by laying out a couple of small batts in the traditional method with four crisscrossed layers. Since birds love to add soft things to their nests, we also added bits of thread, yarn and fronds of pampas grass. The small bowls were used as both a mold and vehicle to contain the water.


Once the batts were complete, they were placed over the bowl where we squirted a small amount of hot water into the center. The small batts naturally bowed with the weight of the water, creating an indentation.


With soapy hands, we gently worked around the edge of the bowl pressing fingers to the sides to spread the moisture and soap. This was tricky for several children who found the wool sticking to their fingers. An extra set of more experienced hands was enough to get the process underway without tearing the batt to pieces.


When the felt was evenly moistened, we pulled the piece out and placed it on the outside of the bowl as it was easier to work with a convex shape.


We patted and rubbed the bowl for a couple of minutes until the felt started to feel solid.


The last bit of felting was done on our fists because we could work it from the inside and out.


Everyone was delighted with their finished product. There was a lot of variety in size, shape and color, much as you find in the wild. We worked with a mixture of Jacob roving, carded merino roving from Copperpot and a miscellaneous dyed wool blend from New Zealand I bought at my local fiber store.


From the top left: Jacob and Sean work next to Dominic felting over his fist; Zoe finishes her nest on her fist; Madeleine cuts strands of yarn to layer in her batt, Dominic and Sean work with two different sized forms; Sophie pours water on Sophia’s batt, Jacob felts while Sean lays out his batt; Marlene felts her bowl while Madeleine and Sophie work together to moisten a batt; Sophia works around her bowl; Louis finishes his bowl on his fist.

Building a PVC Pipe Loom

When I left Madrona, I knew there was a loom in my future, but with the recent hefty purchase of my rolling machine sitting heavy on my credit card, there wasn’t a lot in the budget for a floor loom, or even a table loom. Since I really, really wanted to try some more weaving, I took Syne’s suggestion that we build a standing pipe loom out of pvc pipe. The detailed instructions are included in Sarah Swett’s book Kids Weaving, whom Syne had just interviewed the previous week (check out Episode 24 of Weavecast).


The components include a 10 ft piece of pvc pipe cut to specific lengths, some elbow and t-joints, 10 craft sticks, some masking tape, cotton cord, nylon strapping and buckles – total cost under $10. Once we had all the pieces under one roof, the assembly took ten minutes, and with the instructions for the simplest warp method, we were able to start weaving before the end of the afternoon.


As is frequently the case with such projects, we had to make two extra trips to the hardware store – once to get a couple of extra pieces of pvc because we lost some on the way home, and then a third trip because we lost one of the elbow joints on our second trip. I wonder if anyone playing in the horn section of our family band knows what happened to those missing pieces?


Sophie didn’t give me much of a chance to weave. She was on the floor before I could say ‘where’d my spot go?’ We didn’t notice the bit about craft sticks in the list of materials, and wouldn’t you know that is the one item I have never picked up for my stash? How did I go this many years without any tongue depressors in my inventory? Lance-to-the-rescue fashioned some dandy substitutes out of leftover wood from the garage, and I used cardboard strips for the spacers at the bottom of the warp.


Using handpainted yarn Syne provided at her workshop, Sophie illustrated the beautiful striping that can be created when it is used for the weft. Unfortunately, we didn’t read the instruction to cinch up the warp before beginning, so as her weaving became tighter the further she progressed, Sophie’s piece changed from broad and flat showing only thin stripes of colored weft to a very narrow band showing wide stripes of warp and weft. After eight inches, we tied it off and cut the warp.

green_warp.jpg Later that same evening, I warped the loom while a movie was playing in the background. Admittedly, I’m not a great multitasker, especially when I’m trying to do something as complex as warping a loom for the second time, but this was really tough. It took me well over an hour to warp 30 ends of yarn, (down and under cloth bar, up the back and over the top, down and under the warp, back and up over the top, down the back and under the cloth bar…where was I?) and then another half an hour to tighten it all up. The author stated that this second warp method was more complex than the first, but it is supposed to provide more flexibility for weaving a variety of projects. Once the warp made the satisfying ‘sproing’ sound of a well strung guitar, I wove in the spacers at the bottom and set up the heddle. This when a feeling of dread started to creep in and settle around my shoulders.


Lance came over to watch me tie the last of the heddles in place and then move the heddle bar up and down. ‘Where are you supposed to put the shuttle?’ he asked. In the space that opens up ‘right there’, I said to myself . When the heddle bar is down, the shed opens near the top and you pass the shuttle through; then the heddle bar is moved to the ‘up’ position and the shed opens up…hmm.

See that neat little ‘x’ in the middle of my wide open shed? Yeah, I did too. I made a mistake. A big mistake. An unforgiveable mistake. It all needs to come apart, though it looks so lovely, and it feels so tight that I can’t bear to take it apart, yet. Besides, I haven’t finished spinning all of my handpainted roving yet, so I’m not really ready to weave, yet.

Rub a Dub Dub; Six Kids and Some Felted Eggs

Monday afternoon: Tera, mother of three and veteran homeschool goddess sends me an e-mail asking whether I had plans for our monthly AP craftgroup meeting on Tuesday. Could we felt Easter eggs? Sure! I love it when other people come up with the ideas. Providing the materials is the easy part.

Monday evening: I share with Lance my checklist of things I need to do the next day. First on my list, before picking up all the teensy toys with small parts, is a stop at the drugstore to get some plastic eggs. After a moment’s hesitation, he said ‘I guess I don’t need to hold on to this surprise any longer’ and plunged head first into his closet, emerging a couple of minutes later with a box of styrofoam eggs he’d picked up on clearance in May 2007, intending to surprise me this year with a set of felted eggs. I gulped and gushed simultaneously, apologizing for all the times I’d complained about his habit of hording and stashing seemingly useless ephemera.


Tuesday morning: clean, tidy and organize the house in preparation for curious children and watchful (though forgiving) parents. Bring wool, towels, styrofoam eggs, nylon stockings, liquid soap, squeeze bottles, ribbon, scissors and needles upstairs.


In the interest of time, I decided it was better to use solid forms for the eggs, rather than try to create an entirely wool egg. A couple mothers brought plastic eggs, which we wrapped with masking tape to give the wool some purchase; the rest of us used the colored styrofoam eggs.

We drafted small amounts of wool roving and then wrapped it around the eggs. It is challenging to get a round form evenly covered with drafted roving. The little hands needed help with drafting and wrapping their eggs to ensure there was enough wool and thorough coverage.

Once wrapped, we carefully stretched a nylon stocking to create a large enough opening for the egg, trying not to disturb the roving as we placed the egg at the toe. Once in place, we tied a knot as close as we could get it to the egg, then squirted hot water over the little package. Dipping our hands in liquid olive oil soap, we started to rub a dub dub.


This is where the fun began and the tedium set in. Lots of kids like to dip their hands in the soap and love the suds they create, but after 30 seconds of rubbing, they start to wonder how soon the egg will be done. Realistically, it takes five to ten minutes of rubbing before the process is completed. I made one egg as a demonstration, and finished four eggs begun by the children.


I found it more effective to remove the stocking after a minute or two of rubbing, once the wool was no longer slipping around on the egg so I could felt it on my hand, rolling around the shape, applying equal pressure to the entire surface. Both times I left my egg in the stocking, they grew little spikes on the top, which I cut off and then felted the cut edge.

The pink egg was my favorite. This mother was pulled away from her task repeatedly by her children, forgetting when she returned to it how long she had already spent rubbing, effectively felting it much longer than the rest of us. I’m always amazed at just how good felt looks when it is really worked for a long time (note to self: hang in there longer than you think necessary). Check out Carrie’s post for her description of the morning.

Tune in next week for the follow-up installment: felted bird nests with my daughter’s second grade class.

Flickr Photos

Likke felt collar

Gunnel Felt Collar

Gunnel Felt Collar

More Photos



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