Cardboard Robots

Schuhe London cardboard robots-001

My friend Laurel, who is visiting London, sent me this photo. Aren’t the robots great? I love how the cardboard is rolled for the arms. This is the window of a shoe store called Schuh on Oxford Street.

In case you missed my earlier post about our own cardboard adventures, it’s here.

Meanwhile, I am still deep in research mode on my nonfiction book. It’s keeping me quite engrossed.

I’m looking forward to the Carolinas SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) conference here in Charlotte this weekend. Say “hi” if you’ll be there!

Hobby Horses

Hobby Horses

Hobby Horses

Stick horses like these were a favorite at my son’s kindergarten when we lived in Germany, and since the kids are so into horses these days, I thought they’d like some for Christmas.

There’s a great tutorial for making your own here, but I’m finally doing a slightly better job of estimating just how much crafty-juice I’ve got in me for one Christmas season. So the horses you see here are courtesy of Mimi’s Whimsey, an etsy shop. Aren’t they cute?

One of the great things about these is that you can order them sans sticks, then put them together yourself, which kind of made me feel crafty even though I can’t take much credit.

As expected, they’ve been useful for horse racing and imaginary trips of all kinds.

Hope you have a great weekend! We got a tiny bit of snow here last night, but it wasn’t cold enough to stick around and keep the kids home from school. They took the news on the chin. And now, another writing morning for me!

Handmade Stuffed Felt Horses

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These friends arrived in stockings on Christmas morning, and I have it on good authority that Santa’s elves used the German pattern book mentioned in this post.

Also, the elves had a brainflash—thrifted wool slacks + washer/ dryer = luxe crafting felt! Though they’d done it many a time with sweaters, this was a first with wovens, and it worked like a charm.

The front legs are a little funny, but the kids don’t seem to notice so I won’t tell. Horses were a theme this year, with both kids being addicted to the Secretariat movie, among other horsey things.

More gifted crafts to follow, and also, I’d love to see you at my book signing on Saturday, January 26 at Park Road Books here in Charlotte. There will be snacks! I’ll be signing copies of my early reader titled Slowpoke. More info about the book here.

Magical Mystery Beasts

My love affair with all things Waldorfy continues. I’ve been smitten for a long time with these animals in my son’s classroom. Unfortunately, replicas are not for sale at the spring bazaar. I wonder how they were made and if I could learn to make them, because I think they’d look awesome in the living room. And oh yeah, the kids might like to play with them, too.

The kids in the kindergarten love to tie up the animals into a team and then tie them to chairs, creating a kind of buggy.

When I asked the teacher who made them, she said, laughing, “Your grandfather, probably!”

Here’s what they tie up the beasts with:

It’s called a schneckenband (snail band), and they have a whole basketful in the classroom. They are hand-crocheted. When my kids received one as a gift, at first I thought, what on earth?

But then I saw them in action. As usual, the simple, open-ended toys are the best. The kids use them as animal harnesses, belts, fire hoses, and even to wrap “wounds” like this:

Here are some other beasts (wildschweine, or wild hogs) from the playground in the forest near our house:

Oh, and here’s some homemade jelly I bought at the Waldorf playground the other day. I think it’s student-made. The students have a little cart with various seasonal items they bring out once or twice a week. Most of the stuff seems to be from the school’s large garden in the back.

The label reads, in English, “Grape Jelly with Mint.” It’s got this lovely pink color, which I thought was kind of strange until I stopped to think about it. Is it really natural for grape jelly to be as purple as a crayon? In this case, anyway, no. Germany, believe it or not, does not approve of artificial colors or flavors. I think they’re actually outlawed.

It’s been a slow few weeks creatively. I had planned to get a lot done but sicknesses have intervened. Thankfully we’re all feeling better now.

Waldorf Crafts

My son goes to a special kind of German kindergarten called a Waldorf kindergarten. It’s about the sweetest, earthiest place you could find. They’re very into natural materials and foods and learning through play, fostering imagination. The kids also garden, bake, knit, and weave. Waldorf schools and kindergartens exist in the U.S. but are not all that common, so we feel lucky for the chance to have our son in one.

Part of having your kids at the Waldorf kindergarten means you agree to help out the school in various ways. I’m signed up for the handbarbeitsgruppe, which is the handcrafts group making items for the bazaars. You can imagine what a struggle this is for me. Haha! It’s a lot of fun.

Waldorf-inspired toys are the best in the universe: handmade from natural materials and all about encouraging imaginative play. It’s good for my German, too, although I have to say I prefer it when the group is small because I can follow along a lot better.

I’m really impressed with the quality of the other parents’ work. There is all sorts of intricate needle-felting and doll-making going on. Thankfully, they gave me a beginner’s project: making handfuls of these teeny little Waldorfy dolls (these caps are a Waldorf motif). I can sew just fine but am not really great at detail work. These babies are really simple but start to look special when you do the blanket stitching around the edges (also a very Waldorf motif). The best part is their secret superpower: inside you put pipe cleaners so that they become little action figures when you bend their arms and legs, like so:

Drop and give me twenty!

Washcloth Puppets

 

More Christmas gifts. These started out as terry velour Boppy covers I had hand-dyed (I did a little gel-glue batik on the fabric as well). I did something wrong with the sewing pattern, and the covers never fit the Boppy all that well. Once my son was crawling I knew we’d never use them again. I hated to part with the fabric, though, so I thought I’d make some washcloth puppets out of them for all the kids in the family.  I used my husband’s hand as a guide for the pattern.

I probably could’ve done something simpler for the eyes, but since some of the recipients are under two, I worried that  plastic googly eyes might become a choking hazard. I ended up hand-sewing on eyes I made out of  t-shirt fabric (I colored the pupils with a fabric marker).

The noses were my first attempt at machine applique. This tutorial at Sew, Mama, Sew was really helpful. I wouldn’t recommend appliqueing terry on top of terry, at least on your first try. I found flannel applique on top was much easier.

Easy Baby Doll Dress

DSC_0043Recently I used some scraps to make little baby doll dresses based on this pattern by Susan Kramer. They made great gifts for those little mamas in my life. Many more doll clothing patterns by Susan can be found here.

The original pattern calls for sleeves and lace, but I just used the bodice part and folded and hemmed the edges, then added the bottom ruffle. It was easy to make the sleeveless version, and I think sleeveless is also easier for a toddler to put on her/his doll. For the closure I used a tiny bit of Touch Tape, which is an awesome Velcro-like-but-stronger-better fastener. You can purchase it from cloth diaper materials suppliers.

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Here’s another version of the dress, made from a recycled men’s shirt: