Archive for the ‘Crafts’ Category

The calendar tells us that winter is will not be here for another month and a half, but we have been preparing for it for some weeks now, here in the village, and this week, the snow began to fall.

Two weeks ago, we discussed the new season, and the children wove a new mat for their nature table, where they place treasures that they find outside. We went to the discarded clothing bins and the children chose items that reminded them of winter things like ice, snow, dead grass, and branches without leaves. Then we cut and tore long strips and the children took turns helping to weave them onto the warp. Old t-shirts, leftover yarn, and scraps of fabric, welcome to your new life as a beautiful weaving!


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I love the golden bead material and the kids are likewise drawn to it.  I have seen a lot of people using plastic grids to make the squares, and I may yet resort to this for the big cube but for the squares, I wanted to try doing something with the wires that I was already using so that the construction of the square wouldn’t be visually distracting.  The following is my attempt to share what I did.  Apologies for the low quality pictures; my camera has gone AWOL and I’m using my ipad camera for everything.

To make the 100 bead square you need 100 golden beads, twelve eye pins, and two pieces of thinner wire that are about a third again as long as your eye pins.  Start by making 80 of the beads into ten bars and set these aside.  It will make assembly easier if the ten bars aren’t super tight.  A couple millimeters of play is ideal.


Next, take three eye pins, and ten beads.  Take one eye pin and slide one bead onto it.  Then, thread a second eye pin onto the first.  Follow with eight more beads on the original eye pin, then add the third eye pin to the first and then the final bead.  You should have something that looks like this.


Cut the end of the first eye pin about a bead length away from the last bead and use pliers to roll the end around so that it makes another eye.  Try to leave a little play in the beads, maybe a couple of millimeters, so that you have space to do the next step.

Cut two lengths of wire that are about a thirds again as long as the eye pins.  Ideally they would be the same colour as the eye pins, but I had silver on hand so I used it.



Take one thin wire and wrap it tightly around the original wire at the same place that the second eye pin intersects it.  I wrapped it about three times and then tucked the little poky end in with the pliers.  Bend the thin wire up and to the left slightly and repeat with the other thin wire at the place where the third eye pin joined the original.  You should end up with something like this.


Now grab one of the ten bead bars that you already made and lay it on top of the horizontal eye pins under the thin wire and as close to the first beads as you can manage (which isn’t really the case in the picture below.  I think I was trying to show where all the wires were).


The next step is wrapping the thin wire over the second bead bar and then wrapping it once around the eye pin that it is sitting on.  Pull it tight and it will pull the bars close together.  The horizontal eye pin should slip between the first and second bead.


Repeat this step with the other seven pre assembled bead bars.

Using another bead as measurement, cut the horizontal bead bars with about a bead and a half of length past the last bead bar that you have added.  You may need to make it shorter.



Use your pliers to make an eye loop at the end of each of the horizontal eye pins.  Take your final eye pin, thread one bead on it and slide it through the loop you have just made. Then thread eight more beads onto the last eye pin.



Slide the end of the eye pin through the second loop and put the final bead on it.  Cut the eye pin and make a loop.  Wrap the wires around the final eye pin as you did at the beginning, cut the excess, and tuck in the ends.  Et voila!


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Well I finally took the plunge and decided to make bead material.  For those  of you who aren’t familiar with Montessori, these beads are important to the math curriculum. I found these great wooden beads at Fire Mountain Gems and beads, thanks to Stephanie of ImagineOurLife for the tip. I bought the 6 mm wooden waxed beads and have been threading them onto the gold plated brass eye pins that they sell by the 100 pack. I got one package of each of the short bead stair colours, black, white, light grey, dark grey, and a lot of gold. I bought three packages of eye pins (21 gauge) but I will need to buy another pack to finish the 1000 golden bead cube. They give you two 16 inch strands per package, which works out to about 130 beads. The whole thing, including shipping, cost me about $103. I have enough to make at least: seven complete sets of the short bead stair image the short chains for each colour (my son wants photo and bead arranging credit for this one.) image bead squares for all colours up to and including 6 image three black and white bead stairs image three negative grey bead stairs


all the golden decimal material


(45 ten bead bars, 9 single beads, 9 one hundred bead squares, and 1 thousand bead cube) and a bunch of random extra beads of various colours. So not everything that exists in Montessori bead world but a pretty decent start.

I like that they are wooden, and the paint is non toxic. They are waxed, and so they are shiny once you start handling them. They are not all exactly the same size, but I like the slight variation. If you are adamant that the square be a real square, though, these are not the beads for you.

The eye pins made my life much easier. They are stiff enough to hold the bars straight. I used the 3 inch ones and saved the pieces I cut off to make the shorter bars and to make jump rings for the chains. I also used them to stabilize the squares and the cubes. I know that a lot of people have had good success using plastic grids for that, but I don’t love how they look. I will do another tutorial post of how to make the 100 squares without the grids.

We aren’t completely done yet, but my seven year old has been really helpful with making the eye loops with jewelry pliers on the bead bars once they are done, and the little ones have been having a good time counting the beads onto the eye pins for me. I was sort of dreading this project but it is actually going quite quickly.

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But rather, your dad’s!  Allow me to explain.  This year, for father’s day, we made silkscreened  t-shirts for the resident dad using a process that is significantly different from any silkscreening I have ever done.  I remember cutting out stencils and such, but this time, my sister introduced me to the mysteries of using a photosensitive emulsion.

I started by getting my five year old to draw a picture of our family.  For the other design, I painted my kids’ soles with non toxic watercolour paint and made footprints on paper.

We then photocopied the images onto a transparency using an inkjet printer.  Some lines didn’t come through as boldly as we wanted them to, so we touched them up with a sharpie.

When the images looked good to all involved, we laid them on a prepared silk screen saturated with the emulsion and exposed it to the light.  The instructions called for a 500 W bulb and exposing for 6 minutes, but we only had a 20 W bulb (go efficient bulbs!), so we left it for a couple of hours to be safe.  Once it was exposed, we rinsed it under cold water, which revealed the designs.

To get more out of our materials, we actually put the two different designs on the same screen and just taped over them (alternately) with packing tape when it came time to actually print the shirts.

There were some goofs on the screen, mostly because of the edges of the glass that we laid on top of the prints to keep them from moving during the exposure process.  We fixed these by painting the spots with clear nail polish.

When the time came to print, we got our MEC organic cotton t-shirts (which we pre-washed so the shrinkage wouldn’t ruin our designs)  and some water based screen paint and a squeegee.  We put some poster board in the shirt to stop the ink from bleeding through to the other side of the t-shirt, and used our screen to print the shirt.  There are already a million tutorials out there on how to actually do this, but I thought that I would post what we did because even very small kids can participate in this and produce a much more complex design than they would be able to do with a traditional stencil cutting process, and it was all really easy to do at home.

Oce the paint was dry, we ironed the shirts inside out to set the ink (again with a blocker between layers of shirt (this time we used parchment paper) and here are the finished shirts!

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Pinata. There are different ways to make a pinata, the most traditional involving a clay pot. I used a balloon as my paper mache base because the only place I have ever seen the special pots for sale was in Mexico. Paper mache couldn’t be easier, and if you have a reasonable tolerance for mess, or you can take it outside, it is really fun to do with kids.
Mix up flour and water into a smooth batter the consistency of thick pancake batter (roughly one to one ratio).  Some people like to cook the paste, but I find it it unnecessary.   Next, cut a section of newspaper in half widthwise, so you end up with two squares that open, and then rip it lengthwise into strips a couple centimeters wide (about an inch). You’ll know if you are ripping it the wrong way because it won’t tear in straight lines.
Blow up a balloon and tie a string on it tightly. Hang it from something strong like a broomstick. Until the pinata dries, it will be kind of heavy, so check your knots!
Dip your newspaper strips into the water/ flour goop one at a time, wipe off the excess, drape it over the balloon and smooth it on.

For last year’s party, we did the traditional smashing kind of pinata.  Later, I learned about a gentler kind, more suited to the under waist height crowd.  When the pinata is all dry, you pop and remove the balloon.  Then carefully cut off the bottom quarter of the dried shape.  Take the “lid” part and poke holes about an inch from the edge, one for each child.  Then take narrow ribbons about three feet long and tie one in each hole.

Fill the pinata, and put it open side up.  Place the lid on top and paper mache it back together with a single layer of tissue paper.  When the hole thing is completely dry and hard, poke holes near the  top, and tie strong string through them to hang the pinata.  Decorate the outside;  little tissue paper florets are fun and easy.

When the time comes, each child grabs a ribbon, and on a count of three, they all pull and the bottom comes off.  As a bonus, the bottom makes a great party hat for the birthday child!

Cake. Make your own and let your imagination run wild!  Your child won’t care that you aren’t Martha.  This year, the request was for a sea turtle.

Comet balls. These little guys work as party game and a take home treat.  I bought a long silk skirt at Goodwill for $3 and cut it into long triangular strips the length of the skirt.  I sewed two strips together like a really weird shaped pillow case (right sides together) leaving a two inch gap to turn it inside out.  Turn it so that the seams are hidden and the right sides are out, pop a little bouncy ball (5 for $1 at Toys’r’us) in the end and sew the whole thing shut.  It helps to sew a seam across so that the ball stays in the big end.  You’re done!

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Happiness is a Warm Hat

It occurred to me, as winter drags on and the drifted snows persist, that I am the only person in the house without a hat. When I stumbled upon a yarn sale, I decided that a new hat was definitely in my future.

I bought some “Inca Gold” , a beautiful silk/ merino blend (20/ 80) by Berroco. I got two 50 g balls of a shade called “vino”, but ended up using only about 1 1/3. I found a great little pattern on knittinghelp.com (a strangely useful site for knitting…), borrowed some needles from the lady of the house, and I was away to the races!

disclaimer: I know this is supposed to be a blog about creative stuff with kids, but this little venture was sort of finished in spite of kids. Toddlers are about ten million times worse than any cat I have ever encountered for needing to play with the ball of yarn or discover the mysteries of knitting by unraveling my work!  Also, there was raspberry yogurt on the hat before it was even halfway done, but I’ve decided that perhaps the stage where I graduate from ugly, utilitarian nursing bras will maybe coincide with the point where my outfit no longer includes someone else’s food on a daily basis.

Despite the best efforts of my children, I am happy to report that knitting with kids around is possible and that cables are actually easy! I think it helped that it was a smallish project. I wore a hoodie with pockets and kept the ball of yarn in one, and stuffed the needles/ hat in the other whenever I had to wrangle a child.

If you end up trying the pattern, do a swatch first, of course.  My head measures 42 cm (16.5 inches) from earlobe to earlobe over the top, and I did the cabling body of the hat for 16 cm (6.25 inches) before I started decreasing.  I used just a regular double pointed needle to do the cables.  Also, the pattern says that you have to use an even multiple of 11, but those seemed too big and too small for me.  You do need to use a multiple of 11 or the cables won’t work, but it only has to be an even number for the purposes of the ribbing at the beginning.  If you can live with the last of the purled strips of the ribbing being 3 stitches instead of two, you can do an odd  multiple of 11; 121 in my case.

Happy head!

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In some circles, St. Valentine got celebrated yesterday.  At our house, it was “love day”, complete with super sweet cupcakes and some home made cards and jewelry.  The big people all got hearts cut out of felted wool and sewn on a safety pin.

Our littlest sweetie was deemed too small for any kind of pin, safety or otherwise, and so we made her a bracelet.  First we rolled little balls of wool into felted beads.

Then Micah carefully strung them on some elastic thread while I needle felted a little heart for the middle.  The finished product was immediately latched onto by the intended recipient.

Leave it to a three year old to help me finally understand that they only way to really enjoy February 14th*is to pass out as many hugs, cards, cupcakes, and hearts to all you may encounter.

*except this year, when it happened to be Chinese New Year, but that is another post!

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