Monday, October 3, 2011

How To: Crafting a Waldorf-style Doll from Upcycled Materials

Last week, I posted an entry about a Waldorf-inspired doll that I had made for my newest little addition (due in December). It isn't a full-fledged Waldorf creation because I was trying to craft with materials that I already had on hand. Rather than using natural wool, I used some leftover Poly-fil. Rather than buying organic fabrics, I upcycled old t-shirts.

The results came out pretty cute, so today I would like to share how I did it.

- old t-shirt in a skin tone color (I used peach, but tans or browns would be lovely for this project)
- old t-shirt or onesie (at least 9m size) in another color to make a dress and hat
- stuffing for the head (used some leftover Poly-fil but a nice wool or natural cotton would be much easier to work with)
- embroidery thread for eyes, mouth, and dress
- sewing needle, doll-making needle, pins, scissors
- sewing machine (optional)

 Step One: Get Ready
Once you have all of the materials together, start by prepping your pieces. This doll is completely customizable as far as size goes. The important thing to work on is proportion. For the skin tone fabric, you need to cut out probably an 8" square to cover the head. For the dress and the hat, I just kind of eyeballed sizes. The basic shape of the dress is a square, but I cut out the  long, half-oval shapes at each end to make the corners easier to tie. On this particular doll, I still had some trouble tying-- the tabs could have been longer!

Step Two: Form the Head
Begin constructing the head by creating a small, tight ball of stuffing. This will be the "pit" or "seed" of the center of your head. I used a Poly-fil stuffing (definitely NOT traditional Waldorf), but I really recommend a natural wool or cotton for this. The Poly-fil was extremely slippery, and that made it very difficult to form a nice, rounded head. Aside from being more natural, a cotton or wool stuffing would stick to itself better, resulting in a denser and more nicely-shaped head.

Once you have a good kernel formed for the head, add flat layers of stuffing over top to encase the kernel and build up the head in layers until you have a fairly dense sphere. As you layer the flat squares of stuffing over the head, you will have leftover corners hanging from the bottom of the head to form a neck.

(Sorry if this is not very clear in the picture-- I found it really difficult to show this process of head formation. If you are still confused, look at some other Waldorf sites for clarification or feel free to send me a message!)
When you are happy with the shape and density of the head stuffing, use the flesh-colored square of fabric to wrap it up. Again, the extra corners of fabric will come around to the bottom to form the neck of your doll. Use thread to tie the neck closed, then use needle and thread to stitch back and forth to secure the opening. (If you want to create a doll with a more distinctive, Waldorf-shaped face you would need to wrap the head in stockingette first, shape the face, then add the skin-color fabric. For simplicity, I left my head spherical.)

Step Three: Embroider the Face
I think this is probably the most difficult step of the doll-making process. I recommend that you start by smoothing out as many wrinkled from the face as possible (or, pick a side that has fewer wrinkles to start). Next, pin the location of the eyes and the mouth. Pinning first will help you line everything up before you start sewing. The eye line should be located about midway on the doll's head, with the mouth just a bit lower.

I didn't have any embroidery thread on hand for this project, so I just doubled up the regular thread in my needle. Starting from the back of the head, push your needle all the way through the head to sew the mouth. Do the same for each of the eyes. I used a regular hand-sewing needle, but there are doll maker's needles specifically designed for this task. I am thinking that the doll-maker's needles would be a bit longer, which would help keep the head from getting compressed during the embroidery process.

One of the trickiest things to remember is don't pull your thread tight. I made that mistake with my first doll, and it had everything to do with the face looking all squashed when I was done. Again, I feel like having the right kind of thread and the right kind of needles would have helped make this part of the process go much more smoothly. However, if you are like me and really want to do this without buying a ton of supplies, know that it can be done!

Step Four: Sew the Dress and Hat
Use a sewing machine to sew the right sides of the dress together, leaving at least an inch gap in the top center. (If you are awesome, you could hand sew this part too.) I used a simple straight stitch, but a zigzag stitch or a serger would work here too. Turn the dress right-side out by stuffing everything though the gap at the top. Get your corners straightened out, and tie a knot for each "hand" and "foot" of the dress. Not only do the knots look cute, but they make for good chewing later!

Also sew the edge of the hat together. I cut the one edge of the hat from a seam so that I would have one less piece to sew later. The already-finished edge forms the base of a sizable right triangle-- all your need to sew is the hypotenuse.

Next, attach the dress and hat by hand. I am not really great at hand sewing, so I used a simple whip stitch (at least, I think that's what it's called). Go as simple or as fancy as you like. I think the stitching adds character-- that's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

And you are done! Now you have a sweet little rag doll to keep for your own child or to give away. This little cutie is going to my nephew, who will be born in February. I am really excited for all of the babies on the way (and a few that just arrived!). I hope you enjoy the opportunity to make something really special for a wonderful, new, little soul!

 Happy Crafting <3

Monday, September 26, 2011

Waldorf-Inspired Doll from Upcycled Materials

When my second daughter was a newborn, her absolute favorite toys were a pair of Kathe Kruse Waldorf Gugguli dolls. She still plays with them sometimes, so I am hesitant to simply hand them down to my next little one. However, the price on the dolls has nearly doubled (!!!) since I bought the first two.

What's a budget-conscious, crafty mama to do? Well, make her own of course.

My upcycled t-shirt rag doll. She has kind of a squished face, but otherwise I am really happy with the results!

I have been scouring the interwebs for awhile, looking at various tutorials on doll making-- particularly these Waldorf-style, soft dolls. I thought about getting a kit, but even those tend to get pricey. I decided to deviate from a strict Waldorf composition (natural wool, organic fibers, etc.) since I wanted to make this on a budget.  I raided my fabric stash and came up with a peach colored t-shirt and a magenta t-shirt what were beautiful colors and huggably soft. Upcycling still counts as eco-friendly, right?! Plus, nothing soothes a baby faster than the smell of mama's t-shirt.
I love you, squishy face!

Unfortunately, I do not have the steps for a tutorial to post right now. I wasn't very confident that this would come out resembling an actual baby doll, so I didn't take any pictures while I was piecing it together. But, fear not! I found out today that I will be getting another little nephew in February (yay, babies!), and I think he totally needs one of these. I will take pictures and post a tutorial once it's done.

I should also note that I deviated from the traditional Waldorf style of head formation. This is partly due to laziness and also partly due to intimidation. However, I have seen rag dolls and towel dolls in the Waldorf style with spherical heads, so I am not completely out in left field here. Since I don't have a lot of detailed instructions available at the moment, I will post links to a few of the amazing pages I used for inspiration and technical advice:

Well, folks, that's all for now. I am heading full tilt into nesting and crafting mode (new baby! Christmas holdiays!) so I hope to sustain enough energy to put some really fun projects up here over the next few months. I plan on starting my next soft baby doll here soon, so keep checking back for the tutorial!

Peace, Love, and Crafting!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Child's Apron Sewing Tutorial

My 3-year-old daughter has been interested in cooking for awhile, but lately, she has been asking to help prepare every meal. Over the weekend, she helped my husband make a pancake breakfast, and when he posted a picture to Facebook, a friend commented that she needed an apron.

Crafty mom signal! Time to swoop in and start sewing!

So, I rummaged through my fabric stash and came up with this combination of materials to make a fun, kid-friendly apron for my little chef. If you want to sew along at home, here's what you need:

- 1/2 yard of primary fabric (you will use this for the backing as well)
- 1/4 yard of secondary fabric (for pocket and straps)
- two buttons
- thread, notions, etc.

Step 1
Cut out your fabric. You will need and apron front and back from the primary fabric, a rectangular pocket, and material for two straps. Honestly, I just held the fabric up to my daughter and eyeballed it. Once I had the basic rectangular shape, I folded the primary fabric in half length-wise to make sure the arm indents were the same size. Using the dotted fabric was extremely helpful because I used the dots to help line everything up evenly.

Once I had the main fabric in shape, I cut a rectangular pocket from the secondary fabric. The straps were also cut from the secondary fabric. They were 2" wide and 22" long. In retrospect, I would have liked the straps a bit wider. When I make this apron again, I would cut the fabric for straps 4" wide and only about 20" long. The extra width will not only look better, but it will provide a more stable field for the button holes.

Step 2
Prepare your pocket for the apron's front. This part has a few sub-steps:

a. I folded the top edge over and sewed it first.

b. Then, I folded and pressed the sides and bottom of the pocket (see photo, top left).

c. Next, I pinned the pocket to the front of the apron. This way there is only one seam showing on the outside of the pocket, but all of the edges still remain neatly tucked in (see photo, bottom left).

d. Sew the pocket down along the sides and bottom.

Step 3
Press the raw edges of the straps to the inside and press. Then fold in half (with raw edges tucked in) and press again. If you want to pin the straps at this point, it's optional. I tried it both ways, and I felt that pressing was sufficient to hold the shape of the straps while sewing.

Obviously, if you have a bias tape maker, you can just use that to form the straps rather than pressing and pinning by hand. (And I will be completely jealous.)

Once the straps are folded, sew them together.

Step 4
Pin the front and back of the apron together, insides out. Pin the straps in between the layers of fabric at the top.

Sew the sides and the top of the apron together, but leave the bottom OPEN. Once you are done, you will flip the fabric right-side out through the bottom, bringing the straps out to the top.

Step 5
Almost there! This thing is actually starting to look like an apron now. With your apron flipped right-side out, press the apron to make the edges stiff. Tuck the raw edges on the bottom inside and press or pin.

Then, sew the edges of apron along the bottom, sides, and top with a 3/8"-1/2" seam allowance. This gives the apron a little extra support and helps to ensure that that top ties are securely fastened.

Step 6
I didn't get a good, close up picture of this, but sew a button into each corner of the apron underneath the arm indents.

Next, make at least one button hole at the bottom of each apron strap. Since my straps were a bit long, I made three button holes on each strap so that the apron can grow with my daughter.

Put the apron on with the straps criss-crossed in the back, and button. Now your little guy or gal has an adorable, custom apron to wear while making a mess in the kitchen!

Happy crafting (and cooking)!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

There Be a Pirate Party (Part 2)... And Treasure Map Cake!

Ahoy, mateys! (Sorry, can't help myself...)

To quickly recap the first post of this series, my 3-year-old daughter just got potty trained and wanted to celebrate with a pirate party. I didn't have an opportunity to make a lot of things myself because the party planning all kind of happened at the last minute. One of the things that I did make was an awesome, candy-covered Treasure Map Cake. I am not a cake decorating person usually, but this was fun and easy to do. I thought I would go ahead and share the basic steps with my readers so that you all could do something similar for a child's birthday party or even Talk Like a Pirate Day.

- A cake (boxed or homemade... I used a box of strawberry cake and filled the center with strawberry jam at my daughter's request)
- Vanilla frosting (again, I used store-bought, but you could totally do homemade if you are awesome like that)
- Wilson's Royal Blue Icing Color or something similar
- Icing spatula
- 1 tube of Wilson's Lemon Yellow Decorator Icing (or yellow icing color)
- 1 coupler and decorator tip for the tube of icing (if you dye your own icing yellow, then you'll need a bag for piping as well)
- Dr. Pepper Jelly Belly candies
- Tropical or Sour Mix Jelly Belly candies
- Twizzlers or Red Vines
- Chocolate Twizzlers or Root beer flavor licorice
- Spearmint leaves
- Swedish fish or gummi fish (and/ or gummi sharks)
- Root beer barrels
- Pirate candles or decorations (these are optional, but definitely added some pizzazz to the cake... if you want everything to be edible, you could probably make these out of fondant)

Step 1: 
Once the cake is cooled, filled, and pulled together, mix a few drops of the Royal Blue Icing Color into the vanilla frosting. I used the icing spatula to cover the entire cake with blue frosting. Since it is supposed to look like water, the icing does not need to be completely smooth. I actually went back and added some texture to create "waves" in the icing.

Step 2: 
Pipe yellow icing onto the cake into the shape of an island. Fill in and smooth out to your desire.

Step 3:
Decorate with copious amounts of candy!

- Use the chocolate or root beer licorice for palm trees and cut spearmint leaves to make the tree tops.
- Root beer barrels look like kegs of ... ummm... root beer (rum for grownups).
- Dr. Pepper Jelly Belly candies make great footprints.
- Twizzlers or Red Vines make an "X" to mark the spot.
- Use the gummi fish and sharks to decorate the water and add to the nautical feel of the cake.
- Decorate the bottom rim with the colorful Jelly Belly candies to look like pretty rocks

This is your chance to get really creative with the cake! I got most of my ideas just by going to the bulk candy aisle of the supermarket and looking around. It is pretty amazing to see all of the cool candies available now!

Step 4: (optional)
Add the candles or fondant decorations. I placed the pirate ship candle in the island's harbor, and I used the rest of the candles to decorate along the side of the cake. This can be left out or done to your taste. I found my candles at Party City though, if you are looking.

Step 5:
Enjoy that beautiful cake! This is an overall view of my finished product so that you can see how I laid out the candy decorations and candles. The overall effect is bright and whimsical, which is perfect for kids (or fun-loving adults).

Aside from baking time, I would say the cake took about 30 minutes to decorate. I only have two warnings about making this cake: 1) It is more difficult to cut than a cake decorated entirely with icing because you have to kind of maneuver around some of the candy and remove the candles before serving; 2) It is extremely sweet-- cut small pieces! But personally, I thought it was worthwhile to see my daughter's excitement at her "cool pirate cake."

I hope you found some interesting ideas here for the next time you want to have a pirate-themed party. This Treasure Map Cake is sure to be pleasin' to the eye!

(Please Note: I bought and paid for all of the ingredients myself. I know I mention a lot of brand names in this post, but this is just to give my readers and idea of what worked for me! There is no intention of endorsement here.)

Monday, July 11, 2011

There be a Pirate Party (Part 1)... Arr!

My 3-year-old was not interested in the potty (the link with pirates will be clear in a moment here... bear with me). She has the dexterity to dress and undress herself. She has the ability to communicate the need to go. She is perfectly capable of staying dry for extended periods of time. But whenever I tried to sit her on the potty, she would refuse to go and inevitably wet herself within the next 10 minutes.

We tried bribing her with dance lessons.

We tried bribing her with getting her ears pierced.

Then one day she announced that she needs to have a pirate party. I said, "You can have a pirate party when you start using the potty like a big girl." She said, "Okay." We made a "treasure map" with a path of potties leading to the promise of said Pirate Party. Each day she used the potty for the whole day, she could earn a check mark on the treasure map. Once all the potties had a check mark, then she got her party.

The first two days went okay with the exception of a few accidents. This was okay... at least she was trying! Then she decided to take a day or two off. I kept reminding her about the super awesome Pirate Party. She started trying again. After some more accidents and a few small breaks (usually a day or less), she finally started going to the bathroom. All. By. Herself. (If you have ever potty trained a particularly stubborn child, you can relate to my barely contained excitement at this point.)

The check marks were adding up. She was wearing underwear all day. If she did wear a diaper on a long car trip, it stayed dry. Finally, we reached our goal... Party Time!!!

So in the space of about three days, I threw together a Pirate Party. Very few things were handmade because of the time factor, but I was still really happy with how it turned out. We had a bunch of family in town from Florida, so the timing was perfect to make a REALLY BIG DEAL about my little girl's major milestone.

One thing I did get to make was this custom banner. I used my computer to print out the letters and pirate clipart. Then, I pasted the letters onto colorful scrapbooking paper and cardstock. I decided to go with the triangle shape this time to make them look like flags. The color theme was just kind of generic, tropical brights. If you thought pink dinosaurs were hard to come by, pink pirates are even worse!
(Obviously the banner is longer, but it included my daughter's name, and I want to give her some anonymity here.)

Since my 7-year-old nephew was in town to celebrate with us, I decided to set up an arts and crafts table for the kids. They had construction paper, markers, and stickers to make their own treasure maps. They could also use the paper towel tubes to customize their own telescopes. I found the wooden pirate and sea creature masks at the local JoAnn Fabrics for a dollar each. I was a little miffed that I could not find girl pirates anywhere. Really, people?!? This is 2011. Girls don't have to be princesses anymore!

 Anyway, I will get back off of my soap box now. To the left is a photo of the treat baskets I whipped up. They aren't terribly original, but I thought the little buckets were cute. The older kids got skull-and-cross bones bandanas, an eye patch, a ring pop, and some candy necklaces. My 15-month old got the cockatoo Beanie Baby since I didn't think she was big enough for the candy. All of the kids got some chocolate gold coins, play coins, a little harmonica, and a little spying scope. One handy hint my husband discovered: pick up medical eye patches from the pharmacy. They are much sturdier and less expensive than the cheesy, plastic, party patches!

I got a combination of solid-colored and pirate-themed tableware for the party. My daughter especially liked the pirate map plates. As you can see, I grabbed random Beanie Babies and shells to decorate the buffet station and the craft table. The floral patterned fabric is just a 1-yard by 1-yard drop cloth that I use under my daughters' chairs. I thought it looked fitting to the tropical/ pirate thing and used it to decorate here.

Most of the party was outside so we could play in the kiddie pool and the sprinkler. The water was a tad chilly for the Floridians, but my kids loved it anyway. We just set up a bunch of folding chairs and a picnic blanket under the shade tree in our back yard and let the breezes keep us cool. We even enjoyed our pirate-themed dinner (fish sticks, french fries, and "golden coin" carrots... daughter's choice!) outside.

Of course, the center piece of the party was the amazing Treasure Map Cake that I made. Check out There Be a Pirate Party (Part 2)... And Treasure Map Cake! for the tutorial.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Sketching Out Some Scientist Barettes

A few weeks ago, my precious 3 year old requested some Fairy Barrettes. I happily busted out my glue gun and felt scraps and set to work. They came out so cute that I wanted to go buy supplies to make more, but between work and life it just hasn't happened yet.

Fast forward to today when I am getting her dressed for Easter dinner at Nana's house. I thought maybe her fairy barrettes would make her hair look extra special, so I asked her if she wanted me to put them in. (If you have a 3 year old who is finicky about her hair, you will understand why this is necessary. The only thing I insist on is brushing it.) As usual, her response managed to boggle and delight:

"No, Mom. I don't want fairy barrettes. I need some scientist barrettes." (her emphasis)

My first thought: "This is awesome." My second thought: "What the heck is a scientist barrette?"

So I thought about science and what it might mean to my daughter. She watches Sid the Science Kid, which definitely has helped to structure and expand her natural curiosity into something a bit more focused. It has labeled her inquiry as science. My husband and I have also encouraged her by purchasing a mini-greenhouse to sprout vegetables, putting a solar system night-light in her room, and buying scads of dinosaur books. Oh yeah, and we all watch documentaries together. Her favorites are Blue Planet and Walking With Dinosaurs.

Basically at this point, I am thinking, "Almost anything can be science!" which is a realization I have had in the classroom before too. I had to narrow down my scientist barrette ideas to a few key concepts that would be meaningful to her.

I wanted to make the sun, the moon, and the Earth because of her fascination with the aforementioned solar system night light. In her words, "This is my most favorite night-light ever. It is awesome."

I also sketched out some key tools for scientific inquiry-- ones that she would be familiar with from Sid the Science Kid. I figure a magnifying glass, a science journal, and a pencil are iconic "scientist" tools in her mind. (She has already started keeping her own science journal, by the way.)

I decided to draw all these thoughts out his time so I could make sure I bought the right materials at the store. I am not sure how all of the details will work out. I may try my hand at drawing on these a little more, or I may just make the real barrettes a little simpler.

My question to you, dear readers-- what does science mean to you? How does the natural world impact your crafting or your hobbies? What would you create for "scientist barrettes"? Feel free to post your answers and ideas in the comments.

I am really excited to start this project. I will post pictures when they are finished!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Felt Barrettes fit for a Fairy Princess

My 3 year old, like most 3 year olds, is not big on the sleep thing. Her new nap avoidance strategy is coming up with cool things to do so I won't put her to bed. This afternoon she said "Mom, I need some fairy barrettes." I wasn't sure what that meant, but she clarified for me that fairy barrettes "have orange flowers." You learn something new every day!

Unfortunately for my 3 year old, she still had to take her nap, but she fell asleep to the promise of fairy barrettes when she woke up-- I had a project to do. Since this was an unplanned thing, I had to rely on materials that I already had on hand. Luckily I have been collecting some felt to play with in crafty projects, and it turned out to be perfect for creating flowery barrettes fit for a fairy princess.

-  barrettes and/ or ponytail holders
- several colors of felt
- scrap t-shirt fabric (had some leftover from my Upcycled T-shirt Throw Pillow Project)
- buttons (for embellishment)
- paint or glitter pens (for embellishment)
- scissors
- hot glue gun and glue sticks

I started by cutting out flowers from the felt, and layering colors. I found it helpful to double up the fabric on the base piece to add a little extra rigidity. Then, I hot glued all the layers of the design together to make a felt medallion.

In most cases, I just glued the medallion directly to the barrette. On the bendy barrettes, I got the most stability from mounting the flower on one corner, where the barrette is a little thicker. The bar barrette was great for a centered design since it had so much surface available for anchoring the felt. The ponytail holder required an extra piece of felt to help anchor the medallion. A generous layer of hot glue helped to keep this nice and stable-- it worked a lot better than I expected!

After the first few, I decided to deviate a little from the orange flowers request. These came out a lot cuter than I expected, and I wanted to try out some other design ideas that I had. To the left you can see the results of my experimentation. These barrettes were super easy and surprisingly fun to make; I am eager to go buy some more barrettes because the possibilities are endless. Older children could even help by picking out colors, painting designs with a fabric pen or cutting out shapes!

When my daughter woke up from her nap, she was very excited about her barrettes (yay, cool mommy points!). She wore them around for the rest of the afternoon, and they held up well. To the right is a picture of her modeling.

Happy crafting for all those fairy princesses out there!