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!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Upcycled T-shirt Throw Pillows

A little more than two weeks ago, my husband says to me "we need to buy some throw pillows for the couch." I say, "Bump that-- I'll just make some. I have some old t-shirts I want to use for a project, so I don't even have to buy fabric. This will be easy."

And it started off easy. I went through the t-shirts and picked out a few colors that would look nice in our living room (left). Initially, my plan was just to cut, stuff and sew. But then, I decided that making covers would be better so they could be easily washed. After I made that change, I got to looking at the one shirt with a design on it, and I thought, "Wouldn't it be neat if I could make the other pillows coordinate with this design?" The wheels of creativity were set in motion, and my project got considerably cooler-- and a heck of a lot more involved.
- T-shirts (at least one for each pillow you plan to make... avoid spandex blends as much as possible)
- double-sided fusible interfacing for appliquéd pieces
- single-sided fusible interfacing for backing the base fabric
- Velcro (if you want to make removable casings... I used iron-on but sew on would work just fine)
- fabric for inner pillows (amount varies based on number of pillows)
- stuffing (I prefer the silky Poly-fil)
- an iron
- sewing machine
- thread and notions 

I began by cutting the shirts off under the armpit to create roughly rectangular shapes with one raw, open side and one finished, open side. I designed my appliqué patterns using the scraps left from cutting the t-shirts (right). I know from experience that sewing with t-shirt material would be kind of a pain. It's stretchy, so it tends to bunch and move when sewing appliqué. Stitched t-shirt to t-shirt doubles the bunchy factor. So, I ended up breaking down and trying some fusible interfacing. By accident, I only got one-sided fusible, but even that helped the stretching on my designs tremendously. If were ever to do this again, I would also get some interfacing for the back of my base fabric to get some more stability there as well. You live and you learn, right?

 Here I am sewing on my appliqué designs (left). As you can see, I normally straight stitch around the edges before finishing with my zig-zag stitch. Had I gotten double-sided fusible interfacing, I probably could have avoided that. This is normally how I do all of my appliqué since I am too lazy (cheap? set in my ways?) to buy interfacing. Although the appliqué was the most time consuming part of this project, it also gives a lot of character to the pillows. If you don't have the patience to do this, it is very optional-- do what works for you!

Next, I sewed up the raw edges on the pillow casing from where I cut the shirt under the armpits. On the finished edges, I ironed on some Velcro designed for bonding to fabric (right). This creates an outer, washable casing for the pillows.

With the casing all ready to go, it was time to work on the stuffing. I cut the fabric for lining materials to match the casing, thinking that this would leave enough seam allowance (below, left). In reality, I should've cut the lining with an extra half inch around the edges. This would've helped to fill out the final product more.


 With the lining sewn and stuffed (above, right) I was able to finally complete my throw pillows. Here are the final products in all their glory (left)! My 3 year old has already claimed them for herself. They are comfy and super soft because of the t-shirt fabric. You can more easily see here where I tried to play off the one t-shirt design with my appliqué.

Overall, I am really happy with my final product, but as always, there are things I would change if I were to do it all over again. I hope this helps you find some inspiration in your closet now!