Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Geometric Butterflies for Sew a Softie Day

We were so delighted to join in with Trixi from colouredbuttons.com and her international 'Sew a Softie' event. Trip is a sewing teacher, has a superb blog filled with easy projects and has been huge advocate for encouraging children to learn how to sew and giving them simple beginner sewing projects that they can feel good about making their own things.

My girls have tried many of the projects from her wonderful 'Sew Together Grow Together' downloadable book and love them all. They are always so happy when they work through to complete something all by themselves and can't wait to show it off. So when she asked us if we could come up with a simple sew a softie project for kids we jumped at the chance.

Our inspiration for this project came from the many butterflies we have currently been enjoying in our summer garden. We like to avoid pesticides and try to encourage lots of bee and butterfly friendly flowering plants to the yard so our outdoors is buzzing. Even our goats are helping the insects as they've left us a huge milkweed patch in the field that the butterflies love. Its so peaceful to sit and watch the many colors and patterns that nature provides.

We recently registered our lot as a Monarch Safe Spot on the website www.monarchwatch.org its a great source for information on how you can help the beneficial insects and encourage more to your yard.

Above is a Butterfly enjoying our field milkweed.

So if you'd like to make your own butterfly softie here is what you will need:

Various colors of felt
Embroidery thread
Butterly template - draw your own or print an online template there are lots to choose from

Step 1
Once you have a printed template cut it out and use it to trace the shape onto a piece of felt.

Then pin two pieces of felt together, the one with the butterfly shape drawn on top and cut out the butterfly shape. You will be left with 2 identical pieces.

Step 2
Using other colors of felt cut out shapes to decorate your butterfly, we went for simple geometric shapes, circles, stars and triangles. 

Step 3
Begin sewing your shapes onto one piece of felt, this will be the front of your butterfly. You can either sew the shapes to the felt in a single point through the center as you see here (this is much quicker for young children with shorter attention spans). 

Or you can sew around the outside of the shape, in and out as shown below, this will hold the shape on more securely and flush but does take longer and may prove more difficult for first time sewers.

Step 4
You can also use the embroidery thread to decorate your butterfly without any extra felt. Here my daughter used a simple running stitch - a stick that just goes in and out) to create the body of the butterfly.

Step 5
Once you are happy with how you have decorated your butterfly it is time to sew the front piece to the back piece of felt.

Take the front piece and line it up with the second (back) piece of felt. Now take a long piece of thread, tie a knot in one end and begin sewing the two pieces together. We chose to use a blanket stitch to seal the sides but a running stitch will also work just fine. 

Remember to leave a small space to stuff the butterfly.

Once you have sewn almost all the way around stuff the butterfly, we used a poly fiber stuffing but you know you could use anything from old t-shirts to plastic bags. Once stuffed close up the space and tie off the thread.

And there you have it one geometric shape butterfly ready to flutter around your.

And a happy summer camper thats made something special.

Make sure you check out colouredbuttons.com, her sew a softie campaign and all the other wonderful sewing projects offered up this July.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Giant Flowers

Spring has sprung early this year at the Barn. The snow is gone, the birds are singing and the first signs of new life are peeking through the soil. As we jump into art projects we are inspired by all that is around us, this week we made some beautiful giant flowers. I love this project because it brings together a few different fun processes for kids to explore creatively before tying it all together into these beautiful sunny flowers.

You will need:

Sheets of white tissue paper
Oven bake white clay (or make this recipe)
Clay tools - or objects that have a nice print
Paint roller
Kids glue
Hot glue gun
Any old cardboard

Step 1

Taking large sheets of tissue paper (the kind you use for gifts) we had lots of fun experimenting with paint squeezing, cookie cutter prints and symmetry. I had placed out some paint trays, cookie cutters and the paper and the children began this way but this quickly evolved following their lead into squeezing the bottles of paint, because every kid (and adult) loves squeezing paint right?

The tissue paper being thin was going to quickly become too wet so I showed the children how to fold the paper over and these beautiful butterfly prints were born.

As you can see all three activities led to beautiful results sometimes its just fun to see where a child will take you.

Step 2

While we left the painted tissue drying on the line we began making the centers of these flowers. For this we used Sculpey oven bake clay which I love because its so easy for the kids to work with once you've softened it up for them, its waterproof and once baked really difficult for them to brake. If you don't want to buy this clay you can also make you're own oven bake clay, our favorite recipe is here

We rolled out the clay and cut it into circles with a cookie cutter,

Then using various tools the children decorated the centers. I showed them a real flower to demonstrate how many spiral around and have circular patterns to them.

Once the children had created their patterns we baked them in the oven.

 Step 3

Once the centers were baked and cooled the children used a print roller to ink the top surface of their clay centers. This technique allows the clay to be printed on the raised surfaces while highlighting the dips and patterns made in the clay by the children.

We used printing ink for the centers, however an acrylic paint and roller would work just as well. I placed the ink on some wax paper, the children rolled through it to get a flat cover of color.

Then they rolled it over the dried clay pieces. We used both pink and blue paint for the centers.

Step 4

To create the petals of the flowers we cut each sheet of tissue paper in half and then folded it like a concertina. Forward - back - forward - back.

Then fold the concertina folded paper in half like a fan and glue center sides together.

Repeat 4 times (so you have used 2 sheets of your printed tissue paper). 

The final part of creating the petals is to glue along all the edges and push them together to create a circle.

Step 5

The final step is to assemble the flowers and this really brings all the separate projects you've been working on together. We began by hot gluing the clay centers to the center of the tissue paper circle. Depending on how you feel about letting the kids use a low temp hot glue gun adults may want to help, I always like to have the kids try if they want to and the low temp hot glue guns are very manageable even for younger hands.

Once you have fixed the center on the top flip the flower over. To give extra support to the flower and to have something to attach a string to for hanging we hot glued a cardboard circle onto the back. This was just a circle cut from a cereal packet.

Your flowers are now complete, 

You can attached string to the back to hang from the wall,

Or as we did on a sunny day, glue a stick to the back of the flower and go on a sunflower parade.

Beautiful, happy spring to all.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Tyvek Monsters

These monsters were inspired from my littlest guy who is obsessed with anything small and fury. He spends half his life pretending to be as he calls it a 'little creature', this little creature can be anything from an Ewok to a puppy dog to a baby yeti. The common theme it seems is it is small and fury and likes to make a snarf snarf noise lots!

Do your kids have imaginary friends or play at being different types of animals? I'm always fascinated with their own imaginary creatures and this project really sprung from trying to get them to describe their animal/monsters/friends to me.

You will need:

Tyvek material - In the US priority mail envelopes are made of this, outside the US you may have to purchase from FEDEx or other carriers.
Needle and embroidery thread
Small hole punch (only needed to make threading easier for younger children)
Stuffing, we used the polyester stuffing sold for soft animals but to really recycle you could use shreadded paper or plastic grocery bags.

Step 1

Have your child draw their monster onto the priority mail envelope using sharpies. I asked the children to ensure the monsters feet were at the bottom of the envelope on the red line. We did this because then when we came to cut them out for the next part we avoided cutting the bottom of the envelope and it kept the front and back of the together nicely making it easier when you come to the sewing stage.

Step 2

This step really is an optional step, if you are working with older kids they can probably be taught to sew directly through the paper layers as you would when sewing fabric. For the younger kids that were joining me I showed them how to use our smallest hole punch to make a line of tiny guide holes around the outside of the monsters. These guide holes really helped them when they came to sew make neat even stitches around the edge of the monster.

Step 3

Once the holes were made we took the embroidery thread, knotted one end and beginning at the base slowly stitched around the monster. Occasionally checking to ensure the thread is not becoming tangled. The older kids needed little help the four year old's needed checking on more frequently to be untangled but most managed to sew their own monsters. 

As you go around the head of the monster and start to close up the final side remember to leave a space in which to stuff the monster. Depending on the stuffing type you may need a bigger or smaller area to fill it. We used a chopstick to push the stuffing into the smaller arms and tails etc.

Step 4

Once you have stuffed your little monster finish up your stitching. The kids all needed help with this part as the stuffing made it harder to match up the holes we had punched through. They also needed help tying the embroidery thread off at the end. 

And there you have it, little creature...

Here are some of the others, so cute and all so different what does your child's imaginary friend look like?

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Wipeable Leaf Art

Do you have lots of fall leaves around you? We are so lucky here in the Northeast at this time of year. The trees are spectacular I love watching the changing of the seasons; it's a beautiful reminder of how quickly time passes and how we are all part of a greater circle of life. It is also a great time to spend outdoors with your kids soaking it all in.

And even if you don'y get the pretty fall colors where you are why not get outside and have your children collect as many different shaped leaves as they can for this project. It's  a great way to get the kids outside and looking at the world around them, identifying different plants and trees around them and learning how to use nature in their art work.

This is one of those awesome projects that should keep the kiddo's occupied for far longer than it takes for you to pull it together. It's one of those great activities to pull out when you need twenty minutes to get dinner but are resisting the urge to switch on the television. I guarantee if you pull these leaves out for your preschooler it wont be long until any older kids you have, are also creating with it. Mine all got off the bus and then my only mistake was that I didn't have more sheets for them to create with.

You will need:
Colorful fall leaves
White board markers and/or chalk pens
Sheets of white or black paper depending if you are using whiteboard makers or chalk pens
Laminating sheets and a laminator (OR if you don't have that you can use contact paper)

Step 1 (And thats it, super easy)

Lay out the freshly collected leaves on the paper. You can choose one leaf per page or several leaves per page. Place the paper and leaves inside the laminating sheets and laminate.

Place laminated sheets and pens out on a table for your children to create. 

Encourage the children to doodle on the leaves, trace them or turn them into something different.

And when they are done they can wipe the sheets clean and start again!