Friday, April 11, 2014

British Royal Guard Jumping Jack

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 They're changing guard at Buckingham Palace -
Christopher Robin went down with Alice.
"Do you think the King knows all about me?"
"Sure to, dear, but it's time for tea,"
                                                                    Says Alice.

Did you ever run across the A.A. Milne poetry collection  When we Were Very Young? If you like Winnie the Pooh you will find his favorite boy featured in many of the poems.  Anyway that was just one stanza but it is a nice poem, and brings me to today's project: my Brtish Royal Guard Jumping Jack!

I think little kids are always really intrigued by the Royal Guard and their impressive outfits. At least I always was. Plus, I am a pretty huge Anglophile so I have always wanted to make a little soldier for our house. (See the bottom of this post for our many projects inspired by our love of English culture.)
I have some really incredible German craft books that my mom bought in the Sixties in Europe. This one is called "Tiere, Puppen, Hampelmanner" and is by Ilse Strobl-Wohlschlager. It contains some really fantastic jumping jacks that inspired me to make my own. Unbelievably, I did an internet search and this book is available at Amazon! In English! For like $5! So I did not know this when I started and I could not actually read the instructions, but I think I came up with a working jumping jack using her photos for inspiration.
First I cut out the body parts from card stock. There are lots of templates for jumping jacks floating around the internet to inspire you. The German book had a very stylized doll, with a pinched waist and pointy feet, which I totally copied.
You will note that I punched small holes at the shoulders, top and bottom of thigh piece and top of arm and foot pieces. These holes will hold the brads. So, check out how large your brads are and make sure your hole is the right size. The big brass fasteners you get at office supply stores don't work very well with this as they stick out all over the place. I used smaller brads from a craft store.
 I then punched an even tinier second hole at the top of the two arm pieces and the top of the legs. This second hole will be for the string. It should not be too close to the edge as it could tear if people get too rowdy with the jumping jack.

I glued tissue paper onto my body parts. The leg and feet pieces are black and the body is red. I also cut out a hat piece and covered it with black tissue paper. The chin strap is white paper colored black, cut to frame the face. I used Mod Podge to apply the tssue and put a few coats on top to make it a little sturdier.

I drew the face using a black Sharpie. (Pencil first.) After I colored the face I glued on the hair and chin strap. I also used black marker on the cuffs and collar and added a white tissue belt and gold accents using a paint pen.
 I attached the arms and legs loosely with brads so the limbs can dangle freely. Then I took a needle and some embroidery floss and rigged up the back. I tied a straight string between the arm holes. This needs to be tight but not tight enough that it causes the arms to pull up. Don't worry about the ends of the string until later. Tie a straight string between the top of the legs. Then Tie a string from he middle of the top string to the bottom string and have it hang down. I added a bead to the bottom. I don't really care what the back of this guy looks like so I trimmed the edges of the string and taped them down. You could probably do this neater if you are so inclined. My kids LOVE the jumping jack. I am going to make some more blank body part pieces and let them design their own. My daughter wants to make a princess and my son probably has some incredibly complicated design of his own.
Other projects inspired by our love of England:
What is in Dr. Watson's Desk?

Ms. Marple's Desk

Sherlock Holmes Stenciled Pillow

The Parlor from Longbourn House

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Easter Shadow Box

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I bought my daughter the Melissa and Doug Pasture Pals toy many years ago. I still find the horses floating around the house on occasion but she never spent too much time playing with this toy. I have been looking at the box, which is wooden and has 12 compartments, thinking it would make a great shadow box. I finally decided to make a shadow box for Easter. The idea is that this is the place the bunnies live and work on the eggs. I used a combination of dollhouse accessories and hand made items to make up the house.  I have to say that every child who has walked into my house in the past week has been absolutely thrilled by this box and immediately demand that they be allowed to make their own diorama. 
I will go room by room and tell you what I included in my little workshop.

Here is what the box looked like originally. We painted the wood green and attached shingles across the top. I used dollhouse shingles and glued them on in layers. It is a little tricky at the corners because when you cut the shingles with scissors they splinter but I thought a rustic look was OK for the bunny house. 
I used strips of balsa wood to cover the edges of the walls. I just snipped them to the right length and glued them on with craft glue. The green paint shows underneath sometimes but I think it looks good.

I picked 4 different decorative papers that I think go well together and wallpapered the rooms with squares of paper.
Some rooms are carpeted with felt. The workshops have newsprint on the floor, and the first floor has burlap.
Top left corner room:
Dining room
This has a table I made out of a thimble and square of cardboard. The seats are two tiny wooden blocks from the Dollar Store. I purchased the cake at a dollhouse store.
Top row, second from left:
Reading room.
I made a simple bench using a Popsicle stick and wooden blocks and glued some little books on top of it.

Top row, second from right:
Game room
  I made a simple table using spools and plywood. I set up a card house using cards from a dollhouse store, glued on with tweezers to arrange the cards. I thought it was funny to imagine the bunnies making card houses in their spare time.

Top row, right corner:
I made a simple bunk bed out of craft sticks and painted it.
The key to cutting craft sticks without good tools is to score it a lot with an x-acto knife, then hold it in pliers when you snap it, The pliers seem to keep it from splintering. I made some pretty nice clean cuts for this project using this technique.

Middle Row, far left room
Egg storage room
 I made a crate by stacking and gluing balsa wood strips and used actual Easter candy to represent the unpainted eggs. It would have been better to make some out of polymer clay but the eggs I made looked really bad and the small jelly beans and chocolate eggs look good. You can just replace them each year. I tacked mine down using craft dots which hold stuff in place enough to keep everything from falling out, but are easily removable.
Middle row, second from left
Egg decorating room
This room was the most fun. I had some tiny glass apothecary jars which I filled with glitter. I made a table using a glass slide glued onto thimbles. If you are wondering where I find all these tiny thimbles, the Dollar Stores usually have bags of them in their sewing kit area. They are colorful and inexpensive and useful.
I made the paintbrushes by snipping a pointy toothpick in half and painting most of it brown. The tip is black and there is a band of silver around it.
The colored pencils are also made from pointy toothpicks, I painted them various colors and tried to emulate the zigzag created by a pencil sharpener. I put a glass bead on the table to show that they have a work-in-progress.
Middle row, second from right
Egg drying room
I made a shelf using yet another craft stick and arranged some foil-wrapped eggs and some colorful egg-shaped beads to show their work is drying and nearly ready to be packed up in baskets.
Middle row, far right side
I made baskets by wrapping soda pop lids with felt and trim and put some Easter grass and eggs inside.
Bottom row, far left side
Croquet set. I bought this. I think of the ground floor as their play and outdoors area.
Bottom row, second from left
Dollhouse chair
Bottom row, second from right
Teeter totter. I made this with a craft stick and some strips of plywood and have it balanced on a chocolate egg.
Bottom row, far right side
Gardening room
I have here some garden tools hung on the wall and a basket of fruit and veggies from the bunny's garden. 
I would say the ground floor could stand some improvement, upon writing up this post. But overall it is a pretty cute Easter decoration and best of all can be packed up for next year without taking up a ton of space.
If you want to make some cute clay bunnies to go in the house, here is a tutorial from last week.


Saturday, March 29, 2014

Easy Nancy Drew Lampshade

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I am still having fun with my cutting machine. Last week I made a Sherlock Holmes pillow using freezer paper. I had to follow up with my other favorite detective! To make this I used my Silhouette cutting machine but you absolutely can do it with scissors if you are a careful cutter. I printed out multiple copies of Nancy Drew's silhouette on black craft paper and cut them out. Then I took a Dollar Store lampshade and glued them on using matte Mod Podge. I added trim and pom poms and the shade was ready.  The base was clear glass and I covered with with black tissue paper and Mod Podge. I think the texture looks pretty good but it would be easy to find a base that doesn't need to be altered or to alter it in a different way like by painting it.
I actually was in such a hurry I didn't do a very good job placing the figures. It would be worth your time to use a ruler and mark off where you will put the cut outs. I also should have marked where the pom pom and trim would be placed as I will confess these are a little haphazard as well. However I am still pretty pleased with this cute little lamp and am already thinking about other shades I can make people like a Virginia Woolf shade for my mom or a Beethoven shade for Annabelle's music teacher. You can pick any image and see how easy it is!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Freezer Paper Silhouette Stencil

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I recently bought myself a Silhouette Portrait machine. I am usually the last person to find out about anything cool and I think in this case I once again have missed years of fun I could have been having using this amazing electronic cutting machine. I thought it was for scrap booking and never really paid attention to the other things it is good for. Anyway, one thing it does really, really well is cut intricate designs onto paper. This is good news for me because I like to make fabric stencils using freezer paper and it is pretty hard for me to cut freezer paper with a lot of accuracy using an x-acto knife because it tends to tear. Having said that, you can do this project without a machine if you have a lot of patience and are a careful cutter. I decided to have my first project be the man very close to my heart: Sherlock Holmes. You could pick any favorite silhouette or outline to stencil. It would also be really cute to make stencils of your children's silhouettes. For an easy way to get a good silhouette from a photograph see our old Christmas post Tiny Silhouettes.

  • Freezer paper
  • iron
  • Cricut or Silhouette machine or tiny sharp scissors and x-acto knife
  • fabric paint
  • fabric to apply the silhouette to. I used a square of cotton.
  •  image that you want to use
  1. Trace your image onto freezer paper and cut it out or use a cutting machine. The shiny side will be facing down when you iron it on but up when you print it out so you may need to reverse your design.
  2. Iron the freezer paper stencil onto the fabric. It tends to be curly so I tack down edges and work slowly, making sure it is totally flat. After it is on then I go over it a bunch of times to make sure it is totally adhered at every edge.
  3. Fill in the stencil with fabric paint. 
  4. Let it dry according to the instructions that come with the fabric paint. Mine had to stay untouched overnight, then I heat set it with an iron.
  5. Now you may use your stencil. I made a patchwork pillow with mine.You probably have all sorts of other fun ideas!

You may want to check out another silhouette project featuring another detective.
Easy Nancy Drew Lampshade

Friday, March 21, 2014

Little Fimo Chocolate Bunnies

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Easter always brings to mind the images of chocolate bunnies!
I have to admit, I rarely find any of the giant chocolate bunnies to taste very good, but I feel they
need to be included every Easter for some strange reason. 

Well these little bunnies look cute and chocolatey but are not edible, they are for play!

 They are very easy and quick to make too!

Here is what you will need;
  • +Fimo clay in shades of brown and dark brown, white, and pink
  • +a toothpick
  • +small knife (like pearing knife) or sharp clay tools

 So first, you see all the shapes you will need to make. The final bunny is just over 2" tall.
Roll your clay into the following shapes, just molding with your hands
  • Brown oval shape for body, about 1" tall
  • 2 brown flat circles for legs, about 3/4" tall
  • 2 brown small rolled ovals for feet
  • 1 brown perfectly rolled ball for head, about 1/2"
  • 2 brown 1" flat ovals for ears
  • 2  lighter brown/white flat ovals for inside ear
  • 1 lighter brown/white 1/2" long flat oval for belly
  • 1 pink tiny little triangle for nose
  • 1 pink rolled ball for tale, about the size of a pea
When the pieces are ready, take the two brown flat circles and attach to sides of the main body shape.Position the feet on bottom, facing front.

 Using the knife or flat tool, smooth the edges across the back of bunny, so they look like one surface. Leave edges on sides and front, to make legs.

Next, position the lighter brown/white pieces on the ears and belly. Flatten them a bit so they become more flush with the surface.
 Get the head and attach the ears side by side to the back. Use the same technique with the knife, so flatten the edges smooth on the back of the head.
 Then get the head ready to attach to the body. Rough up the "neck" area and the bottom of the head, so they  attach better.
I curled one ear slightly, just because it is cuter.
 Again, smooth out edges in back of head, so it becomes one surface.
Add the pink triangle nose to center of face.
Use toothpick to poke an eye on either side of nose.
Roughen up the areas where the tail will attach to bunny, then attach. I gave the tail a little more texture just using my finger nail, so it was not a perfect ball. 
Use the knife again to lightly add "hairlike" texture over surface of bunny. 
Also, the toothpick along the paws, for toenails.

Then bake in the over, following directions on the clay.

Now they just need somewhere to live! 
Bunny house coming soon!

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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Fable of the Day Refrigerator Magnets

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Do you like to regale the people in your life with useful advice? I do, whether they want to hear it or not! I love this project because it allows me to combine my love of Aesop's Fables with my interest in discussing morals and ethical dilemnas with my children. What you do is use the spinner to find the Fable of the Day. (or week, or whenever.) Then you can use the magnets to set up the fable on the refrigerator or on a magnet board. Then if you want, you can talk about the moral. I picked 7 fables that happened to appeal to me. Some have straightforward proverbs, like "don't count your chickens before they hatch." Others are more equivocal like "a tree that is unbending is easily broken." I am looking forward to springing this project on my family as soon as Corinne finishes taking pictures for me. (The poorly composed, badly lit photos are mine and the good ones are hers.)
You might find the 7 fables I picked to be not to your taste but fortunately there are over a hundred fables to choose from. Here is a convenient list of morals at the angelfire site. After you find a moral you like you can search for the fable and find it pretty easily online by typing the moral into Google with the word "fable" attached. Then there are numerous sites that feature fables. Of course, you may have a book of fables to read and mull over, which would be even better.
Here are the 7 that I chose.

The Farmer and the Stork
Moral: Birds of a feather flock together                                                The Olive Tree and the Reed
Moral: A tree that is unbending is easily broken.

The Hare and the Frog
There is always someone worse off than yourself 
The Serpent and the Eagle
One good turn deserves another

The Tortoise and the Hare   Slow and steady wins the race                                                      

The Milkmaid and her Pail
Don't count your chickens before they hatch.

The Lion and the Mouse
   No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted.

To make your own magnetic fables you have to decide which fables you want to use and how you want to make the characters. I cut mine out of felt. You could draw them onto paper and laminate it, use clip art from the internet, or come up with your own original way to illustrate the fables. You also need to write or type the name of each fable and the proverb that goes with it.

  • Artwork to accompany each fable ie animals, props, title of fable, moral
  • Magnetic printer paper
  • Craft glue
  • scissors (It would be good to have both big and sharp and tiny and sharp.) 
  1. Take each fable and decide what you will need to execute it. I tried to keep things simple. For The Lion and the Mouse I only have the animals and a net. This is the same net that is used for The Farmer and the Stork. Many items like trees and roads can be used for multiples stories.
  2. After you have your list make the items and glue them onto magnet paper.
  3. You can hand write or type the title of each fable and the accompanying moral.
  4. I made my spinner out of blank shrinky dink paper. I punched a hole in it before baking so that I could insert a brass fastener. If you have any old board games laying around with spinners it would be really convenient to just repurpose an existing spinner, or at least dismantle one and use the arrows.
  5. The bag that holds everything is just a piece of felt folded in half and sewn up the sides. I bought two magnetic clips so it can hang on the refrigerator too.  
  6. Now, spin the dial and discover some words of wisdom to guide your day!