with/for/about kids

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I guess they missed me. : )

A few pictures of things we’ve done over the last few months.

For Valentine’s Day we made corner bookmarks like this lighthouse one I made for our dear neighbor E. I cut 2.5 inch corners off of envelopes (red ones left over from Christmas cards were especially useful) and then attached 2 inch triangles of a different color or patterned paper to each side. The kids had fun mixing up colors and decorating with stamps, stickers and cut-outs from magazines and catalogs. We found the nursery/seed catalogs and the quilting fabric catalogs to be gold mines for this activity. You can find instructions for a similar corner page marker here at Tally’s Treasury.

lighthouse collage corner page marker bookmark

Then we stuck the bookmarks into these Valentine cards. I think I made up this sentiment myself, but it’s possible I heard it somewhere. In any case I found some free clip art online and made this card. I printed out enough copies for all the students in both of the kids classes and they colored and decorated as desired, making each one special for the recipient.

all occasion card for readers books world bookmark earth

I’m including links to the printable pdf version here if you’d like to use it, just print on cardstock or regular paper, fold in half and in half again. original Valentine’s Card. And the write-your-own-occasion card pictured above.

knitting a tapered skinny scarf with novelty yarn

I knit several skinny scarves out of novelty yarn. This is the sort of yarn that looks pretty or fun but you really don’t know what to do with, or at least I don’t. But I finally figured something out that is easy to make and looks good. With extra large needles, I knit loose garter stitch scarves about 3″ wide with a single ball of novelty yarn, about 75 yards, for a long accessory scarf that can wrap around the neck and hang down fashionably. These won’t keep you warm at all but they are fun to wear. Rather than making a blunt end I figured out how to increase and decrease to make tapered ends that give a little extra finishing touch. My construction notes are on my project page in Ravelry.

hand knit skinny scarf with tapered ends novelty yarn

rock candy crystals homemade kitchen science

The subject of gems and crystals came up and on the way to explaining how crystals grow, I decided we needed to do an experiment. This falls under the category of what I call kitchen science—real experiments you can do with stuff you already have around the house. Even though I know I’ve done this before, it took two tries to produce a sugar solution that grew several of these rock candy sticks. I used the instructions from About.com. Our crystals did not retain either the flavoring or coloring that we added to the solution. Nobody complained when it came time to eat them.

smashed pansy bookmark flower ink

I cannot remember why we did this but we had fun. The girl and I picked pansies out of the garden to make some smashed flower art. The colored juices from the plant are transferred to soft paper by force. I used some bookmark sized pieces of heavy paper left over from another project. We used a regular hammer, sandwiching the flower face down on the paper between a piece of paper towel on top and wax paper on the bottom, on top of a scrap piece of wood. I cut the green fleshy calyx off the pansy with sharp scissors after positioning it on the paper. You could use this technique to make cards, placecards for a summer meal, or even art to frame. Get more details on how to make prints from botanicals from this great post by Wendy of Build/Craft/Make/Bake. Too bad I read her post after we did this project but there is plenty of summer and plenty of blooms yet to try!

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I realize it has been a long time since I last posted. An obvious reason is my preoccupation with a certain little boy. It’s hard to craft or cook with one hand while bouncing up and down. There have also been times when we have been crafting but I haven’t taken step-by-step pictures because that does take a bit more time. Having two children who really enjoy “making” means that most of my projects are done with their “help”. And sometimes it’s not worth interrupting the rhythm of their creativity just because I might want to post the results to my blog.


This seems like a good time to remember why I keep this blog. This is mainly a personal record of the things I make with my hands. I used to make thing and then give them away without having taken pictures or adequate notes. Because I rarely follow instructions, I found it difficult to reproduce my creations, or even to remember even vaguely what I had done. So now I try to make a record of most projects. I also try to add links to references or pictures I might have found inspirational or helpful. I often refer to my own blog to remind myself how to do something I’ve done before, or to get started on a new project with roots in a previous project.

I’ve made this journal public because sometimes people ask me how I made something or when or why and it’s nice to have all my notes in one place to refer to or even pass on a link to a post. Because the blog is mainly for my own use, my pictures are not perfect, descriptions may be sketchy on one project, lengthier on another. Some projects may include patterns or tutorials, others may just be a photo reminder. Please feel free to e-mail me if you have questions about something in particular. I do try to answer all e-mails and I do like to provide more information when I have the time and know there is interest. I am constantly surprised and touched that people are interested in my creative process. And I am always happy to hear that you are motivated by a blog post to try something new yourself. Thank you all for reading and thanks especially to those who take the time to leave me a note!

Some pictures of the yard in spring bloom—the perfect sprig of lilac flowers, a chive blossom complete with spider silk lines, Solomon’s seal bending over the hostas on the north wall.

lilac in bloom chive flower edible

Solomons seal and variegated hosta foundation planting

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Sing, sing a song
Sing out loud
Sing out strong
Sing of good things not bad
Sing of happy not sad.

Sing, sing a song
Make it simple to last
Your whole life long
Don’t worry that it’s not
Good enough for anyone
Else to hear
Just sing, sing a song.

Sing, sing a song
Let the world sing along
Sing of love there could be
Sing for you and for me.

Sing, sing a song
Make it simple to last
Your whole life long
Don’t worry that it’s not
Good enough for anyone else to hear
Just sing, sing a song

This song was originally written c. 1971 by Joe Raposo for Sesame Street, and sung many times since by muppets and humans. I grew up hearing the Karen Carpenter version sung to me by my mother.

It was, in a way, my private anthem. I was too shy and unconfident as a child to make it public. Today I sat at the piano with my little one on my lap and softly played through the piano accompaniment to this deceptively simple piece of music. And I thought that perhaps, in my old age, it’s time to sing out loud.


I’ve been trying to write this post for two weeks. For some reason I don’t know what to say. So, I suppose, without further ado . . .

May I introduce Gareth Warren, born November 29th at 10:05pm.

Day 1 here.

And at two weeks, just after rolling over for the first time. Obviously that is hard work!



scrunch painted paper washable markers

This is a super easy project for rainy or sunny days. This can be done by any kid old enough to grab a washable marker! (And not immediately stick it in the mouth.) It’s fast so you can work with several kids at the same time and each can do several pieces and experiment with different techniques and colors.

First scrunch a piece of tissue paper into a ball. (You can experiment with other kinds of white paper, we actually used exam table paper in these pictures. Tracing paper works well too especially for younger kids, because it doesn’t tear as easily as tissue paper.)

Pick out a few colors of washable marker and scribble all over the ball, getting as much color on the outside and in the cracks as possible.

scrunch painting tissue paper

Carefully open your wadded paper ball and smooth it out with your hands. See how the color is now randomly distributed all over the paper? Scrunch it up again and color again using the same colors.

tie dye paper

Open, scrunch and color again. About three times gives a good amount of color. (You can also color the whole ball with one color per scrunching.)

wadded paper dyed with washable markers

You can stop at this point and use a warm iron to flatten out your paper. A smaller piece can simply be glued to a little larger piece of contrast color paper and hung as art. A larger piece can be used as wrapping paper or cut up for other projects. Laminate it and cover a book or a journal.

spray water on scrunch painted paper washable markers

If you want to go one step further . . . take your flattened out paper outside. If it’s raining you can experiment with holding it flat on a cookie sheet for a few seconds or holding it vertically and see what happens to the colors! Don’t keep it out too long or your colors will run away in the rain! Bring it inside to dry. If it’s a sunny day, use a spray bottle filled with plain water to squirt your paper, put some rocks in the corners and let it dry in the sun. This project even works in the snow! Lay your artwork on a cookie sheet and let fat flakes fall on it for a few minutes or throw a loosely packed snow ball and then shake off the excess snow. Water softens the colors for a different look, as seen in the first photo above taken before ironing flat.


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I don’t know where the boy got this idea but he came to me with this sketch and a promotional toy ball and requested that we cover the ball in yarn and “knit” the body. My kids often come up with ideas they really can’t accomplish on their own and I generally fall for “helping” them make their creations. They do make plenty of their own creations with very little help.

In the advertising world, the production artist is the person who makes the creative or art director’s sketch into reality. Although they are usually at the bottom of the org chart, a good production artist is worth their weight in gold. I am not a good production artist. But I suppose this was good practice. The art director seemed pleased with the results and was even persuaded to help with some of the production.

orange skeleton mohawk dude kid drawing

We have recently acquired a rather large collection of worsted weight acrylic yarn balls in all colors from a neighbor and I have found these quite useful for occasions such as these. He quickly picked out the desired colors and I went to work on crocheting a cover for the toy ball. Yes, I could knit this but I’m better at winging it with crochet and I find it easier to get a firmer fabric with crochet, so better for dolls and animals.


Boring part over we moved on to the body. I started each foot and then had him sit in front of me and helped him through single crocheting the stripes. It’s just a matter of sticking the hook through the right hole and pulling out a loop of yarn. We joined the legs into a body with more stripes, I did the decreases toward the neck and crocheted the arms and the blue eye rounds. He helped me sew on the arms and the details on the face. I did about one row of hair and he did the rest, styling as he went.

amigurumi mohawk skeleton striped dude

He took it to class for share day with a cardboard guitar he made. Rock on, mohawk dude.

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This is actually from a few weeks ago but I hadn’t gotten around to posting it. The girl likes to work with polymer clay on occasion. Usually I’m pretty strict about making a sketch first, otherwise she is apt to just cut it up into pieces and well, it’s not clay-dough. This time I didn’t ask her to sketch but we did discuss what she wanted to make. I helped make sure things were sturdy and fairly well attached but she did most of the work. I was amused to watch her put the legs on her cat just the same way she draws them, in a straight row instead of two by two!

5 year old's drawing of animal with long tail

The pet, as she referred to the cat she made.

polymer clay cat kid art child

And the pet owner, as she referred to the girl with blue hair. I made the feet so she would stand up on her own like the cat.

polymer clay cat and girl by five year old

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Winter in Maine means months of sweaters and snowpants, hot chocolate and mittens. For Christmas, the girl received a beautiful puzzle inspired by Disney’s Snow White with artwork painted by Tim Rogerson in a style subtly reminiscent of Picasso. I know that sounds like a strange combination but click through to see the original artwork, the artist really makes it work. Apparently the artist’s style made quite an impression on the girl because a few days after we worked on the puzzle she created this mitten picture beginning with a tracing of her own hands.

child's drawing of mittens

Later, the boy saw her picture and got an idea. He very carefully explained how we could sew mittens by putting our hands down on fabric instead of paper, tracing and cutting. He went on to describe how he would sew the mittens all around the hand and thumb. He even had some ideas about how to add details such as the hearts in the girl’s picture. I wish I could say we carried out his plan but he lost interest at that point. Sigh.

I did however incorporate his plan into mittens for myself with a little help from the kids. We traced my hand and cut out the pattern. I decided to use the fair isle decorated sleeves of a felted sweater to make my mittens. This lovely wool sweater was sent to me by my sweet friend Amy who thought that I could do something with it. Here’s what we did Amy!

cutting felted fair isle sweater into mittens
partially sewn mitten upcycle recycle refashion wool sweater sleeve

Although I kept the part of the seam that was already sewn, I decided not to sew a standard seam around the thumb and hand. Instead I overlapped the fabric, basted across the overlap and then used my needle felting tool to felt the overlap. My intention was to eliminate a hard seam on the inside, especially at the fingertips. This worked with some success. The sides of the mittens and thumb felted together well leaving almost no visible seam. The fingertip area, unfortunately, did not hold together so well. In fact I’ve been wearing them with the basting stitch holding the ends together which sort of negates the point of wool mittens. But despite the little draftiness at the ends they are still the warmest, softest mittens I have. I do intend to take a minute to work some more on the fingertips and thumbtips to close them up. If I can stop wearing them long enough.

mitten sewn from felted recycled upcycled refashioned wool sweater

P.S. Just in case you want to make your own sewn mittens, I highly recommend sewing in a diamond shaped gusset between the thumb and first finger. If you pin your mitten together and try it on, leaving that spot open, you’ll see why you need just a bit of extra fabric in there.

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The kids went back to school today but I’m still recovering. There are now two hats lost in the sea of snow. I guess I know what’s next in the knitting queue.

Dad has created quite the little sledding hill at the end of the drive with the help of the snowblower. And the kids have packed two sides of the slide platform with snow to create a cozy little hideaway. If you aim your sled just right you can shoot all the way into the dooryard of the fort sheltered by the turn in the slide. The “tube” is more likely to take you bouncing down into the deepest snow—maybe two feet including what came down in yesterday’s storm.




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The boy recently told me that he wanted to be a “builder” when he grew up, just like me. He then looked at his dad thoughtfully and said encouragingly, “You can be a builder when you grow up too Dad.” Poor Dad. I explained that Daddy builds things too but you can’t always see them.

A lego steampunk land-airship with boiler in the back.

lego boat with wheels

A collaborative Sculpey white tailed deer mostly done by the girl, with a little help from her brother and me. This was probably inspired by a recent trip to L.L. Bean where they have lots of native-to-Maine animal taxidermy on display. The plastic rhinestone eyes are the really old kind that had to be set with prongs. It didn’t occur to me that they might be heat sensitive, oops. Luckily the time in the oven only caused them to become less shiny and softer looking, a happy accident.

Sculpey deer with blue rhinestone eyes

They make so many things that I don’t always get pictures of everything but these were two things they particularly asked me to photograph. They set the scene themselves with the shiny snowflake papered box which they also made out of leftover Christmas wrapping.

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. . . especially in wool felt. The kids have fallen into ridiculously giggling mushy love with a cute little video game called Sushi Cat. They’ve been playing it on Rich’s iPhone. The game is very simple, sort of like pinball or pachinko. You drop the cat from the top of the screen and he eats any sushi in his way as he rolls and bounces to the bottom. I was already contemplating making the kids a Sushi Cat stuffie when I came across these sushi shaped erasers in the dollar aisle. Who knew? That sealed the deal and I sat up late one night stitching to get a pair of these done. You never see the cat’s tail in the game so I had to make that up myself. I decided it needed to be bouncy and springy!

handmade hand sewn wool felt sushi cat sushi erasers

I’m still hoping that their interest in things Japanese lately will eventually lead to eating more Japanese foods besides Ramen noodles.

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I have to say that the men in the house pulled off the best handmade presents this year. I helped a little but the ideas and much of the execution was theirs. The boy made his sister a monogrammed purse which she adores.

hand sewn felt and leather purse for little girl flowers monogram

We traced and cut an oval from some stiff pink felt left over from another project. The boy used a fabric marker to draw a curly “S” in the middle of the oval and then arranged and sewed on felt flowers all around. I cut a very simple pattern out for a curvy purse with a large front flap, reminiscent of styles from the ’70s. I cut the pieces from some scrap leather I had. (I’m pretty sure it’s bi-cast or laminated but it looks surprisingly nice and I think it will hold up fine to loving use by a little girl.) The boy helped me machine sew the oval onto the front flap. He then used a fabric marker to stencil a sweet message on the inside to his sister. Later I hand-sewed the pieces of the purse together and attached the strap to rings at the sides. It looks great, the boy was quite proud of himself and his sister was over the moon! See the photos below for the play-by-play action.

Oo! Pretty!

Oo! Pretty!



Oh, man, she kissed me!

Oh, man, she kissed me!

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wool felt ball eyeball toy

I admit that I shamelessly copied this oogly eyeball from a picture on the internet. Unfortunately I cannot find the original source now to give credit but I see it’s not as unique as I first thought. I did make my own pattern and chose my own colors and my version is likely smaller than the picture that I looked at but it’s pretty much identical. I rarely if ever do that. Mostly because I’m not good at copying when I want to and moreso because I always have my own ideas on what and how I want to do things. The boy had wanted to make some monster stuffies and knowing how popular those are I thought we’d look around on the internet for images that we liked and then combine our favorite features into our own monster stuffie pattern. Along the way we saw these fabric eye balls that were just perfect the way they were. So we made wool felt eyeballs. This was the first and unfortunately I didn’t get a picture of the second which the boy did most of the sewing on because he wrapped it up and gave it away about as fast we got it finished. Made with wool and rayon felt and a little embroidery, and filled with wool stuffing and poly pellets. I still want to make the monsters but these were more fun than I would have guessed. Sewing a sphere is never an easy proposition but felt makes it fairly painless.

pouch style baby carrier for doll

Here’s the girl carrying a baby doll in a pouch style baby carrier that I made for her cousin. Don’t worry, I made the girl one too. Now I’ve made so many baby pouches I could practically cut one out without a pattern and that’s exactly what I did here. But the style that came to mind as particularly appropriate for a doll carrier, was inspired by a real pouch style baby carrier idea from my friend Jen. I traced the finished pouch so that I’d have the pattern for keeps. I may post the pattern here after I try it out on a few more kids and different sized baby dolls/stuffies. I’m also going to “stick a pin” here to remind myself to tell you a little trick I thought up regarding handmade presents.

groovy girl doll and handknit doll sweater

Just last week my neighbor shared with me several bags of yarn she’d received from someone else. The girl had seized on a small ball of pink and white novelty yarn which I decided to turn into a sweater for her favorite doll. (Don’t ask about the “dress” she has on.) My first top-down raglan sweater, ha ha. Maybe I’ll feel better about starting on a person-sized sweater now. I accidentally left the little sweater out and the girl saw it. I thought the surprise was ruined because of course she asked who it was for. But I answered with the name of her doll. The girl replied very seriously that she would wrap it up so that said doll would not see it before Christmas!

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I am so proud of the girl. She has been making a list of all her favorite people and making gifts for them. Some of her choices have been interesting but I’ve done my best to help her carry out her plans. This faux leather wallet is for one of her boy friend/heroes. Though he is nearly 6 years older, he has always been kind to her and she looks up to him like another brother.

pleather faux leather wallet with contrast stitching hand made

I was a bit dismayed when she said that she wanted to make him a wallet but after a bit of thought I pulled out this remnant of black vinyl. She sat on my lap at the sewing machine and chose one of his favorite colors, red, for the thread. We then turned the dials of my simple machine through the different stitch patterns and sewed parallel lines of red stitching against the black. I folded the rectangle wrong side out and sewed; her eyes danced as we turned it right side back out revealing the simple pouch shape. She chose a matching red resin snap to close the wallet.

hand sewn pleather vinyl snap wallet pouch

It didn’t photograph so well, and it’s a bit on the bold side, but I think he will actually like it. She seemed matter-of-factly pleased with the finished project and immediately wrapped it and wrote the label. I had to retrieve it after she went to bed and carefully unwrap it to photograph it!

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Coming soon to a dinner table near you . . .

The boy has been studying geometric solids in school and brought home a tetrahedron pattern (like a pyramid with a triangle base). We glued it to cardstock and then glued it together. He colored one, two and three dots on three of the sides and a set of scary teeth on the last side.

grabbermouth tetrahedron die

Then he made up a game, Grabbermouth, to play with his pyramid shaped die. Simple and surprisingly fun! Each player rolls the die in turn hoping to be the first to add dots to equal six. If the “grabbermouth” lands face down you lose all your points. This was easier for the girl using tokens so she didn’t forget how many points she had. He then set to making a similar die with a cardstock cube.

cardstock paper cube and tetrahedron pyramid

The rules for Double Grabbermouth got a bit more complicated. I was impressed with his creative use of the shapes and his ability to create the rules to a new game that probably owed a bit of inspiration to the dreidel game but certainly has its own character.

Links are included to templates from Zoomschool so you can make your own geometric solid shapes from paper.

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