Saturday, December 11, 2010

Kids Christmas Crafts-Beaded Ornaments

Somehow, I always manage to be in charge of my kids' holiday parties at school.  Maybe because I am super controlling and bossy about crafts??  Yes, I am that crafty Mom!!  I like being in charge of the school craft, because I want the kids to be able to bring something home that is memorable and will last for many years.  A few years ago, my Mom came to visit me right before the holidays.  She brought some pipe-cleaners and tri-beads with her and she and my boys sat at the kitchen happily creating ornaments for hours!  (The candy cane with red pipe-cleaner and all clear beads came from that year, I think!).  These simple bead ornaments are easy enough for 4 and 5 year olds to manage.  They will just need help cutting the pipe cleaners and bending the ends over to secure the beads. 

Here are a few versions of candy canes that you can make....go crazy!!
All you need to get started are plastic tri-beads.  Some stores call them propeller beads.  They can be found in most craft stores, but I find that Hobby Lobby usually has the best selection of colors and sizes (and about every second week they go on sale for half price!)  You'll also need some pipe cleaners (chenille stems if you're fancy!) in red or white.

Just cut the pipe cleaners in half (I like to use wire cutters to avoid dulling my scissors).  Then use needle-nose pliers (found in your hubby's tool kit or at Home Depot or in the Jewelry making section of the craft store) to bend over the very end of the pipe cleaner stem.  This will stop the beads from falling off the end of your candy cane.  Then let the kids add the beads in any pattern they want to make their candy cane.  The beads interlock as they go on, making it easy for the kids.  When they are at the end of their stem, use the pliers to turn the last bit of wire into a tight loop to close the end.  Then help them turn over the end of their stem to make a candy cane shape.  I don't bother making a ribbon hanger for these ornaments, I think they look cute just hung over the branches of the tree.

Feel free to add a bow if you like!  So cute.  I literally have about 20 of these on my tree and we add a few more each year.  If you are going to do this with a large group of kids (like at a class party), I would highly recommend making up kits with the pipe cleaners pre-cut with the end already turned under, ready to start putting beads on.  Each candy cane takes about 60 beads total.  When I did these last year, I just used small zip lock bags and counted out beads for each child.  It made the actual craft day go pretty smoothly.  The first grade kids had these done in about 10-15 minutes.

Some other variations on this theme are snowflakes and green trees.  For the snowflakes, I used a half length of pipe cleaner for each arm (so 1 1/2 pipecleaners).  I just twisted the 3 pieces in the middle to create my snowflake form.  Then add plastic beads in the same pattern for each arm (I used some long skinny ones in the middle, then 2 round, then a large paddle/snowflake/ then another round).  You can use any type of beads to make these snowflakes and try different patterns of stringing them.  Don't forget to place a ribbon through the loop you create on one of the ends as you are folding them all under at the end to make a hanger for your ornament!  Another cute variation is to use small green beads on a green pipe-cleaner to make a spiral tree.  Once they are all on, twist the pipe cleaner into a coil and then pull it out a bit at the bottom.  Yay for cute bead ornaments.  These are so fun to make, super easy for parties and easy on the budget.  Enjoy!!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Our Cities Subway Art

So everyone in the craft blog-o-sphere has done their version of Subway Art.  I was first inspired by this super-popular tutorial early this year from Lil Blue Boo.  I kept thinking about how I could make something for my home.  And then, I thought about the HUGE empty space about my 2 story fireplace.  We have a very high vaulted ceiling in our family room and I have never found the right artwork to go over that mantle.  I figured, hmmmm....maybe some Subway Art?  So I hemmed and hawwed and finally got to work on the project.  I mostly followed Lil Blue boo's tutorial BUT I should have paid closer attention to it, so that I could have saved myself a step!  I wanted to make my Subway Art all about the cities my hubby and I have lived in.  So mine has every city that we each lived in before meeting each other, and all the ones since (including our boy's birth cities, even though we technically didn't live in Highland Park!).

I made the lay-out for the design using my plain old Word program on the computer and used the fonts; arial, arial narrow and arial black to get some variety in the thickness of the letters.  I tried to justify the margins, but for letters this big, that didn't work.  So I simply centered the text and kept making the font for each word bigger and bigger until the city name reached the margins of the page.  I'm sure there is an easier way to do this, but that's how I did mine.

Next, I had to choose how big I wanted to blow up the image.  I decided to make my art BIG.  Looking back, I should have realized that sheets of plywood and mdf come pre-cut at Home Depot and are much cheaper this way (I think they are pre-cut as a quarter sheet).  My image was just big enough that I needed to purchase a whole sheet and have it cut (no biggie, it still only wound up being about $25).  Anyway, I took my template over to Staples and had it enlarged on their special printer for about $5.  I then used the huge image to prepare my lettering stencil.

Next, I set about tracing the letters onto contact paper (this is where I messed up!).  Ashley used adhesive to attach her image to the contact paper and just cut it....saving herself a step.  I traced out the whole stinking thing first.  Then I cut out my letters.  UGHHH.  This is not a project for the non-patient.  I'm not going to lie.  This was tedious, boring work.  But finally, I had my letters.  I kept each line in a separate folder until I was ready to apply it to my board. 

Next, I prepared my plywood.  Next time, I'd use MDF.  The plywood was a nightmare to work with.  It wouldn't take an even coat of spray paint no matter what I did!!  So I just wound up rolling on my off-white background color.  I didn't want stark white, so I used some left over cream paint from another project.

Now, here is where my earlier mistake of tracing the letters came in handy.  I still had my original uncut image for reference.  I quickly traced the outlines of the letters on the back with pencil, then I placed the image over my painted wood.  Then I lightly traced over the letters on top (which transferred a light image to the wood).  Sorry, I don't have a picture of this!  Basically, it gave me the exact, straight placement and spacing for each letter in each word.  Since I had already invested so much time in this god forsaken wonderful project, I knew it would make me crazy if it wasn't perfect!

Next, I placed the contact paper stencils I had cut out on the wood board, following the placements that I had traced on with pencil.  I pressed them down pretty firmly.  Next, the black layer.  Since the plywood was crap not smooth, I wound up having to roll on black paint with a small sponge roller.  Spray paint would have been better on the stencils, but that wasn't in the cards for me!  Then, I let it dry and peeled away the letters.  Now, since I had to roll my paint on, I had to do quite a bit of touching up of the edges of the letters.  Not fun.

But once it was done, I was thrilled.  The finished product looked a bit stark for me, so I mixed together a couple of shades of brown craft paint with glossy mod podge and tried out some test antique mixes.  I was a little worried at this point, but I decided to just go for it, and threw some tinted mod-podge on there (it's streaky and un-even and I think that kind of adds to the charm).  I was really happy with the final result.  I was not brave enough to sand the edges, though....I had spent way to many tedious hours to risk not liking that!

and here is the final result!

I am so pleased with how it finally turned out and it is the perfect reflection of our far-flung family and how far we have come.  I love it and my husband is tolerating having homemade art as our main family room display.  win win!!  Also, this whole project wound up costing about $40, not bad for a piece that is about 4 feet tall! 

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Teacher Gifts: Fingerprint Pots

Every year, I somehow wind up being in charge of teacher presents from the class. We usually collect money and purchase a gift card to her favorite store, but I always like to add something personal. Of course, since I am spending everyones money, the personal item also has to be something cheap!

This craft fits the bill: personal, handmade, fairly easy and cheap! I made painted pots for both of my boys teachers this year. One son was in a team-taught class with 30 students and 2 teachers that traded the kids off in two groups....I had to make a pretty big pot to fit all those kids on. My other son was in a smaller class, but they had 4 different assistants that came into the classroom on a daily basis, so I made a pot for each of them as well.

If you have never made finger-print art, you must give it a try! My children love making the fingerprints, and they are now old enough to add all the details themselves. The finger-print art guru is Ed Emberley, you can find several books on making finger print art in bookstores and on-line. You might even luck out and find one at your library. You can tell by the looks of mine, that it has been well-loved and used!

First up, I gathered all my supplies.....There are a couple of brands of ceramic paint that are out there.  This is the one that I have used and love the best.  It is called Porcelaine and I can always find it at Michael's.  It is pricey, though, $4.99 a pot.  You might want to stock up on some of those 40% off coupons.  The paint markers are about $3.99.  If you store them with the lid on tightly, they will last and last (I've had mine for three years now!).  You simply paint on your clean ceramic piece, let it dry and then bake it for 30 minutes in a 300 degree oven.  Then it is microwave and dishwasher safe (although the finish can get scratched, so be careful).  I purchased my white pots at Walmart for $4 for the smaller ones, and $7 for the larger size.

Now for the tricky part, preparing to gather the painted fingerprints of almost 30 children!  I decided to mark their names on the pots first so that everyone's name and print would be nicely spaced out.  But, it's hard to make sure that it all fits without being too crowded or have big blank spaces.  That's where this trick comes in very handy.....use a dry erase marker first!  I simply played around with the placement off all the names using a dry erase maker until I was happy with where everything was.  I left enough room above each name to get the painted finger print later at school.  Once I was happy with the spacing, I just rubbed off each name as I went and replaced it with the procelaine marker pen (of course, being careful to make it neat and cute, too!)

Once I had all the names on with the porcelaine marker, I let it dry overnight before heading in to school to gather the dreaded fingerprints.  I had to be sneaky about getting the fingerprints to keep the pots a surprise for the teachers.  I went in during lunch time, armed with my pots, colored paints, paper towels and baby wipes.  I made up a sample card showing the different animals the kids could choose from for the project (I let them pick from a frog, ladybug, bee, flower, snail, butterfly--all garden themed).  Then I quickly got each child's print onto the pot and helped them clean up.  A few other teachers and parents were wandering around and thought  it was such a cute idea!

I let the paint dry overnight and then painted on the details with the porcelaine marker.  The next day, I cured the pots in the oven according to the directions and they all turned out so darling!  And you can't beat the price---$4 for each of the small pots and $7 for the bigger ones!! 

I added some colored tissue, the group gift card we purchased and dressed it up with some cellophane wrap and a bow.....pretty cute if I do say so myself!!

And that's my version of a cute and thrifty teacher gift!  I hope you enjoyed my first blog post and tutorial!

And almost a year later, I figured out how to link to a party!!