Friday, September 17, 2010

Little paper houses - a long intro and then a tutorial

Sometimes my big fat mouth gets me into trouble. Like when Liv's teacher had a sign-up sheet for parents to come in and do crafts or other fun activities with the kids as a reward for good behavior. "Oooh, this sounds FUN!" That wasn't the bad part. The bad part was when I said "Just let me know what weeks aren't covered by other parents and I'll take care of those."

And then I find out that only ONE PARENT signed up to do ONE WEEK. That means the rest of the weeks are mine, all mine...


And did I tell you that I got this news on a Wednesday, and the first reward activity time was scheduled for that Friday? As in, two days to come up with an activity and prep it.

After the "What heck am I going to do" panic left, I realized that this could be a good opportunity for me. Nothing stretches the creatives muscles better than a little bit of repetitive exercise.

The school that my daughter goes to is one that focuses on the arts, so I wanted the activity to be fairly open ended for the children to express their individuality. And not having met most of these children, I wasn't entirely sure what they'd be capable of doing.

So the first project had to be cheap, easy to prep, open-ended, and fairly simple. No biggy. Heh. Heh. Heh.

I was two steps away from running out to the craft store to buy some cardboards shapes for the kids to glues feathers on to when inspiration struck.

When I was a kid I had an origami book. Most of the projects were too complex for me, but I did remember one that was easy to do. A few simple folds could turn a rectangle into a little house. A square of paper folded in half could make a roof. The cool thing about this little house is that it shows the inside of the house more than the outside. What if I folded up a bunch of little houses and let the kids decorate them? Would that work?

In a word, YES. They LOVED it!! Waaay more than I expected they would. They really got into it, with pictures of beds and tables and couches and TVs. I had kids running up to me and showing me what they drew inside their houses. They were all so proud of their creations! The teacher got out a bucket full of plastic bears that they use for counting, and let the kids put a trio of little bears in each house. Even MORE fun!!

Needless to say, I felt a little bit like a rockstar when I left.

Look at the one that Liv made:

It's a kitty house, of course. With kitty bunk beds...
...a parent's room upstairs, and a playroom downstairs...

...and of course a kitty bathroom.

Liv's teacher had me show her how to make one so she could show the other 1st grade teachers. Which got me to thinking - maybe other people would like to know how to make some little paper houses. Perhaps a tutorial is in order?

I think it is. And so....

This really is a simple folding project. The house itself is made from an 8 1/2" x 11" piece of paper. The roof is just a 6" x 6" piece of paper folded in half. I used cheap-o cardstock from Michael's - the stuff that comes 50 sheets for $2.99 and is so thin that it can hardly be considered cardstock. Not good for making cards, but perfect for this project. Copy paper is too thin, but really thick cardstock would be too hard to fold.

1. Fold your cardstock in half (the short way).

2. Fold both edges to the center and crease. I usually measure to find the center and make a small pencil mark there as a guide.

3. Open up one of the folded sides.

4. And the top down, making a triangle.

Here's another view of the same step. See how the top crease of the folded rectangle is lined up perfectly with the fold at the side of the rectangle?

5. Do the same with the other side.

6. Fold the side flaps back to the other side to create a crease, and then stand up your house.

7. Fold a 6" x 6" piece of cardstock in half and lay it across the top. Easiest roofing job ever!

Here's my stack of 20 that I made for the class. It took about 30 minutes to fold all 20, plus cut and fold the roof pieces.
This was the example I put together to show the kids. Nothin' but a Sharpie and some quick line drawings. I still contend that I don't draw well, but I can say that a Sharpie really is the best way to disguise it. Something about those thick, crisp, black lines...

If you make your own little paper houses, I'd love to see them!


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Yay Goodwill!!

Today I got my first fall paycheck from my teaching gig, and I celebrated it with a whirlwind shopping trip - to the Goodwill. I know that sounds pitiful. I should be celebrating with a trip to the mall or lunch with the girls at a shee-shee bistro. But instead I celebrate the return of bi-weekly paychecks by digging through second-hand clothes.

The truth is, I've made it a rule that my discretionary clothing (clothing I want but don't necessarily need) should either be handmade or purchased secondhand. Even better is when I make them myself using fabric repurposed from secondhand clothes.

And I don't really shop at Goodwill that often. I prefer finding my secondhand clothes at church rummage sales, where they are priced MUCH lower. How sad is it that I think of Goodwill as being "expensive"? When the same shirt you can find at a rummage sale for a dollar costs $3.50, that's more than 3 times the cost. But rummage sales are only here and there and not open for shopping on a random Wednesday morning, so it's off the Goodwill for me today.

I did pretty well, even with the inflated Goodwill prices. I walked in to see a sign that the green colored tags were all buy one, get one free. Woohoo!!! I grabbed up a handful of men's polos and long-sleeved tees with exactly that color tag.

And then I took a stroll through the women's clothing. I snagged up a pair of embroidered chambray drawstring lounge pants for $1.55, a pair of stretch khaki cords for $3.75, and a long-sleeved tee in one my most favorite color combinations - gray and yellow.

Total cost for my shopping spree was $13.85. Yay Goodwill and happy paycheck day to me!!

Sorry - no pics of my haul. I had planned to lay it all out and snap some photos, but the pieces have already all migrated to various project stacks and laundry piles.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Shield your eyes...

...because this dress is BRIGHT. I made it for my niece's 5th birthday this Saturday. The nieces all play together at my mother-in-law's house and I'm all the time stopping by to try some dress or another on Liv to check the fit. I thought it would be fun for her cousin to get a dress of her own.

I don't have any illusions that her cousin thinks that I make the greatest dresses ever. But I do know that she really looks up to Liv, and so having something like Liv has will probably be pretty cool.

I gotta tell you, I really struggled with this. For the piles and piles of t-shirts I have stacked ready for a refashion, I wasn't able to come up with a killer color combination that included the all-important bright pink. I played around with color for several days before I resigned myself to the brown and hot pink.

The construction of the dress is really pretty simple. It's a long t-shirt with a ruffle added to the bottom. I like this drop-waist ruffle style because it grows with the child. There's no defined waist, and as long as it fits across the chest then it's wearable. If the dress gets too short to be worn on it's own, just add a pair of jeans and call it a tunic. For cold weather, layer it over a pair of leggings and a long-sleeved shirt.

I had a close-up of the kitty cat applique, but Blogger seems to think that it needs to be rotated. I didn't think a sideways kitty made a good photo, so I'm leaving it at just the one pic.


Saturday, September 11, 2010

My shiny happy iron

Do you know how sometimes seeing someone else's house makes you realize how utterly disgustingly messy your own house is? I had a similar thing happen with my iron.

It started by reading this post at Crafty Gemini, where Vanessa tells how she used a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser to clean the soleplate of her iron. Up until then, cleaning the sole plate was one of those "extras" - you know, like changing the oil in your crappy car when you're in college. Things you figure people who really baby their car do, but you don't baby your car so you don't do it.

Enough about the crappy Datsun 210. We're talking about my iron. I read Vanessa's post and I realized how yucky the bottom of my own iron was. Not just discolored and with bits of old burned on starch, but NASTY. Like, areas of black gunk all burned on.

What was I waiting for? I needed to clean it. NOW. And it needed to look all shiny and happy just like Vanessa's iron.

So I dug around under the kitchen sink and found the remnants of some old, pitiful, thrice used Magic Eraser and get to it. It got off a lot of ugliness, given how little life it had left in it. But the burned on gunky stuff was still there.

And so I broke out the Dritz iron-on cleaner. I squeezed some out and wiped and wiped, and squeezed out more and wiped and wiped. It got it a little bit cleaner, I suppose, but the smoke was starting to hang thick in the studio and I was afraid I'd set off the smoke alarms if I did it any more.

And so I hit the Google - "how to clean an iron" - and came up with a couple of tips. One said to wipe the (unheated) plate with vinegar. It did nothing. Nada. It was like wiping it with water. The stubborn burnt stuff remained. The next tip said that if the stains were "stubborn", to mix warm vinegar with salt before wiping it on the soleplate. Did that, and it achieved absolutely nothing. The gunky stuff was still there.

And then, I came across a how-to at Real Simple telling to make a paste with baking soda and water and wipe that on the unheated sole plate. This, my friends, was the magic bullet. I got a lot off with a simple wipe across the soleplate, but the more stubborn of the stubborn stains required some scrubbing. Like, an HOUR of scrubbing. Scrubbing and wiping and scrubbing and wiping and "man, my arm is sore". At the end, I got every bit of it off and my iron is the shiny happy piece of equipment you see here. YAY!!!


Friday, September 10, 2010

Count me in!

Count me in!! I've joined the Sew 5 Challenge over at Creative Maven!

The point of the challenge is to use the month of September to complete 5 sewing projects and blog about them. Molly, The Creative Maven, came up with the challenge as a way to motivate her to complete some of the many projects on her must-sew list.

I can sooo relate to the ever-growing project list and the need to mark some items off of it. This is why I'm going to join her for the month and finish 5 of my own projects and blog about them here. It's like a classier way of saying "Git 'er done!"

My own must-sew list grows every day. I'm sure it has a little bit of something to do with my gig at Craft Gossip and the hundreds (literally) of sewing blogs that I follow. I see someone doing something cool and I think, "Ooooh, I need to make one of those, too!" And then I see another cool project, and another, and another...

And then there are the donations to my project pile from friends and family members. Those stretched or stained t-shirts than can be made into something fabulous with a little bit of recutting or applique. The must-sew list grows...

First on my must-sew-in-September list is a t-shirt dress for my nieces 5th birthday. She wears the same size as my daughter, so this should be fairly straightforward. I'll post pictures as soon as I git'er done.


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Lookie what Livvie made for her Grandan!

I have no idea why it is that I am perpetually unprepared for people's birthdays. It's not that I don't know ahead of time that they're coming up, that I should make a card, or get a gift or do something -anything- in preparation, but somehow I'm all the time rushing around at the last minute.

Yesterday was no exception as we prepared for my father's birthday. I had asked Liv the week before what she wanted to give her Grandan. Her response was a handmade t-shirt with a rocket and saturn painted on it.

This was my first time I used freezer paper stenciling and I am sooo hooked! It was easy to trace through so I was able to reproduce the exact shapes that Liv drew in her concept picture. The waxy back of the freezer paper ironed down to seal the edges of the stencil so we got nice, crisp lines (for the most part).
It turned out reall pretty awesome if I say so myself. I am lovin' that funky rocket and the wonky Saturn rings!

And like any post-crafting analysis, I'll follow my bragging with a list of all the things that didn't go quite so well.

1. Timing. Last minute crafting with a child is sooo stressful! I should learn not to do this to myself? We didn't even have time to wrap it. We took it to my sister's house still wet and let it dry during dinner.

2. Stingy with the freezer paper. Because freezer paper is so expensive??? I have no idea what I was thinking. I left enough a deep enough margin if I were doing the painting, but children don't have the concentration or fine motor control to keep things in the lines as well. There were several places with paint drips or brush slips that could have been prevented if I had left more freezer paper around the images.

3. Dark t-shirt. The navy made an awesome background for the space scene, but it also showed off alllll of those paint drips.

4. Melty freezer paper. Somehow I transfered some of the waxy stuff from the back of the freezer paper to the plate of my iron, which then burned and transferred to the t-shirt. The navy blue shirt. So it looks like someone wiped their snot above the sun. Luckily it seemed to chip off pretty easily - it should wash out.

5. Cheapy paint. Back in the day when stenciling was all the 1980's rage, we used cheapy craft paint on t-shirts all the time with great results. But it seems that the manufacturers have been watering down the paints since then. My textile paints worked great, but I only had two or three colors of them. The others were watery and runny. They seeped under edge of the freezer paper on the Saturn rings, and they took coats and coats and coats and still didn't cover. I finally gave up and put a base coat of white textile paint, and then covered it with a second coat of cheapy craft paint in the color I wanted.

And yet, in spite of all the self-wrought challenges, it DIDN'T turn out to be a craft fail. Quite the opposite. I'm proud of how Liv and I worked together to create her design on a shirt for her Grandan.

Oh, and in case you were wondering... My father LOVED his shirt!


Monday, September 6, 2010

This is what's holding me up

Thank you for the well wishes! The headache finally lifted on the fifth day when the front came through. And oh, what a huge weather change it was - one day it was in the 90s, and the next morning when I went to go get the paper it was actually chilly. No wonder I hurt so badly during the build-up.

Before the headache began I brought out a bunch of photos and pretty papers and made a huge mess of things getting some scrapbook pages put together. And then I started hurting and so everything stopped. Now that I'm feeling better I'm out of scrapbook mode and have a pile of sewing projects demanding my attention. But my craft table looks like this:

Bonus shot of the pile of knit scraps:

And my kitchen table looks like this:

Must get this finished! Little girl clothes and Barbie clothes and birthday gifts and more are calling my name.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Nothing crafty to show today...

...thanks to my headache that is now reaching into its fourth day. Yes, FOURTH day. I am so ready for it to be gone now.

So instead I give you a picture of my assistant, who makes the mornings I spend on the couch with the laptop doing school work and blogging (and lately, a sinus headache to boot) a little bit sweeter.