Friday, December 19, 2014

Button Flower Wall Hanging (Kid-Made Gift Series)

Have you and your kids been making lots of gifts this holiday seasons?  We have.  I'm a little crafted out, to tell you the truth.  So it's a good thing this is the final post in the kid-made gift series :)

Today's project is brought to you courtesy of Ruth, who made two of these lovely wall hangings this morning!

What you'll need:

embroidery hoop
 large piece of craft felt or other fabric
scraps of colored craft felt
needle, craft thread

Set up embroidery hoop with background felt or fabric.
Cut flower and leaf shapes from colored craft felt

Sew the buttons on, randomly spaced and placed.

Ruth used nine buttons on a 6 inch hoop.

Fold the flowers in half and make a small snip in the middle.

Fold the bottoms of the leaves and snip. 

"Button" three leaves onto the project.

Then add the flowers.

And... she's done!!  It's so colorful and cheery!!  I just think she did such a great job!

Trim the edges and add a ribbon to hang.

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I hope you've enjoyed this kid-made gift series!  I loved writing it and was so grateful to the other lovely bloggers who contributed also!
I love encouraging my children to make gifts for family and friends, to teach them new handicrafts and skills, and to encourage sharing their talents with others while emphasizing generosity during the Christmas season! 
Thanks for joining me for this series.  Maybe I'll plan on another one next November/December :)

check out all the kid-made gifts in the series...

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Tips for Painting Peg Dolls for Beginners By a Beginner

Tips for Painting Peg Dolls for Beginners By a Beginner 
 - or "The Things I Learned the Hard Way" -

Last December I got my first lessons in peg-doll painting from a friend who had been doing it for a while and was generous enough to share with me her supplies and the wisdom that comes from experience.  A year later, I still think of many of the tips she gave me when I sit down to paint.  And I've painted enough dolls now to have started my own mini store of experience-based wisdom.  

I'm still a beginner myself.  Painting dolls for me is a crafty hobby, not a form of high art or a money-making endeavor.  I know my designs will always stay simple.  My techniques are rudimentary.  But I've certainly learned a lot from just digging in and doing it.   I thought it would be fun to share some of the tips I picked up from my friend and from my own experience as a year-old peg doll enthusiast.  Maybe they'll help you avoid some of the mistakes I made and get you set to start strong!    

(ps - If I reference JoAnn's craft store it's because I think they have them everywhere, so there's probably one near you, and also because they're the only craft store I know of so far that takes unlimited coupons.  Can't beat it.  Any links in this post are affiliate links to products you can order off of Amazon.  Amazon, sadly, does not take unlimited coupons.) 

(1) Use good paint.  When I first started painting dolls I bought several bottles of 79 cent JoAnn's brand paint.  After painting a few dolls I learned that cheap paint stinks.  It can take 5 to 6 coats of cheap paint to cover an area evenly!  That's ridiculous.  Now when I need new colors, I buy Americana brand acrylic paint.  It's more like $1.75 for a small bottle but it. is. worth. it.  (plus... unlimited coupons.)

(2) Use good brushes.  Learned this the hard way too :(  Cheap brushes will shed their hairs on your dolls.  I'm not even talking super duper expensive brushes, just not dollar store brushes.  The ones I've used the most are the Loew-Cornell brand.  I've bought some multi-packs and some individual brushes and have been happy with most of them.  Brushes that shed on my dolls, I promptly returned to the store.   Here's a set I've been using for a while and they're holding up well...

(3) Store paint upside down.   I got this great tip from my friend!  Not only does it make your paint box look pretty, but it makes it easy to see and choose colors.  Also, it keeps your paint near (and in) the cap ready to use.

(4) Work from the cap whenever possible.  This is one of the reasons it's beneficial to store the paint upside down.  When you're painting peg dolls, you hardly ever need a great deal of paint for any portion of the project.  You can almost always get what you need right out of the cap.  This prevents waste.  Any time I've tried to squirt a tiny amount of paint onto a plate it always ends up being 10x more than I needed and it's wasted.  So, choose your color from your upside down stash, shake it well, and then use what's in the cap or right at the top of the bottle.

(5) Don't use glossy paint.  In my experience, when using glossy paint it's harder to maintain even strokes and color, it gets gloppy very easily, it builds up in an unsightly way on the dolls, and it's harder than "flat" paint to paint over when adding a new color.  If you like a glossy shine, wait, and use a glossy varnish, which is what I do.  Don't use glossy paint.  Just don't.  

(6) Metallic paint also gets gloppy.  I still use it because some dolls just need a touch of shine, but metallic paints usually don't cover as smoothly and evenly as plain acrylics.  Maybe someone more experienced than I has some tips for painting with metallic paints, or maybe there's a good brand to look for??  Input welcome!

(7) When painting details and fine lines, use long, thin brushes.   Learned this the hard way too.  I thought I'd have more control over a short thin brush, but that's not the case.  For fine lines and details use a long, thin brush.  These pictured here are the Loew-Cornell Golden Taclon brushes in sizes 3/0 and 6/0 and the Loew-Cornell Soft Comfort brush in size 1.  

(8) Don't mix colors.  Even though it sounds fun mixing colors till you get the perfect shade you've always wanted, there are two main reasons for not mixing colors.  The first is cost - you typically waste TONS of paint when you add a little of this and a little of that to get a certain color.  You're left with tons of paint on your plate after you've used the little amount you actually needed.  The other reason is that you'll never be able to create that exact same color again, so if you ever need to make a repair or correction you're out of luck.  You'll save yourself a lot of heartache if you just buy the color you want for $1.79.  If you absolute must mix colors, try to save the extra in a paint container like this so that you have some spare set aside for repairs, etc...

(9) Paint several (well, at least two!) dolls at once - you can still be productive while the others are drying.  For example, I'll paint the facial "skin" of three or four dolls, and by the time I'm done with the last one, the first one is dry and ready for clothes.  

(10) Paint dolls from the skin, up.  In other words, "dress" your doll.  That means, paint the skin of their heads first, then "put on" their first layer of clothing and continue on to all the things that layer outward.  I don't know how to say that more clearly, but you can see what I mean in the photo tutorial at the bottom here.

(11) Use pencil to lightly sketch ideas onto the doll before you paint.  It's not cheating!

(12) Dry brushes well in between colors.  Rinse and dry brushes well before dipping into your next color.  Wet brushes can't apply paint properly or neatly.  Gently squeeze brushes dry in paper towels or old rags.  Don't twist or pull on the bristles.  

(13) Use thin coats of varnish to protect and seal your project.  Thickly applied varnish can drip and dry bumpy.  Ahh!  After all your hard work you don't want that!   Use a thin layer of varnish and if necessary, add an additional coat once the first is completely dry.  Do the head or body first, wait for that to dry and then do the rest of the doll.  I use Americana Dura Clear gloss varnish.  

Hmm... what am I missing?  Those are the best tips I can think of for now.  
Do you love painting peg dolls??  (It's a bit addictive, isn't it?)  What suggestions and tips would you add?  

*   *   *   *   *   *

Finally, to end here, a friend recently asked about a doll painting lesson... so if you can't come over and paint with me here some time (wouldn't that be so fun?!?!) I'm including a quick photo tutorial here.  Nothing elaborate, just a quick visual step by step.  Let me know if you have any questions!  

I painted Ruth from the Old Testament (for my daughter, Ruth) and St. Zita (for myself!).  These two dolls took me three hours total.   I love how Ruth turned out, but I'm already starting to plan when I'll have time to make another St. Zita.  She didn't ending up looking like what I had in my head :(    

Supplies?  Check.

I panted the heads first.

I painted the St. Zita's shirt and Ruth's "under garment."

Then I painted Zita's skirt and Ruth's "over garment."

I started adding some embellishments to Ruth while Zita's skirt dried. 

I drew on Zita's apron.

and outlined it and started painting it

Apron drying.  I drew on Ruth's hair.

Started on Ruth's hair.

Added Ruth's head scarf and started on more details on Zita.

Adding more details - broom and load of bread for Zita, sheaf of wheat for Ruth

Few more details for Zita (flowers, rosary) while Ruth's wheat dries.

Almost done!  Just need to varnish :)


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And... here are some others I've  painted in the past...


St. Francis, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Sts. Clare, Kateri, Dominic, and Therese

St. Vincent de Paul

St. Jerome

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Toys They Use and Love and I Don't Mind Storing

I've been talking a lot here about handmade gifts lately so it's time to switch gears and talk about the old fashioned (hehe) store-bought stuff (or in my case, Amazon-Prime-bought stuff... who has time for stores??)

A few friends and I had a night out last weekend (wait - let me say that again - a few friends and I had a night out last weekend!!!!   It was so great!  *I should do stuff like that more often*)  So, we were out at a restaurant having appetizers and drinks like adults do (most more than me...)  and the conversation turned to Christmas gifts and the place of toys in the lives of our kiddos and the places to put toys in our houses.  Seriously, where to put them all?!?!?  We were sharing ideas about what our kids really love and started swapping recommendations of toys that are worth the space they take up. 

I loved Kendra's post last month about the toys they don't regret having and it got me thinking about the things we have that we actually use and love.  For everything listed here there are 3 other toys that we've given away, packed away, or have lying around and should get rid of.   We've bought or received a lot of toys that we really don't use.  And since we've got 7 people in a small-ish house with 1930's-inspired storage (which means, hardly any) we're trying to keep only the things that are worth it :) 

Anyway, I love lists.  I especially love reading lists when bloggers are making recommendations.  And now I've got my own for you!   Here are some of the toys and such that we have that the kids use and love and that I'm happy to hold on to.  Maybe you'll glean some last minute Christmas gift ideas... cause with good ole Amazon Prime, you still have five days of browsing and shopping left!!  (though, warning - the current prices of some of these Amazon goodies are suffering from major holiday inflation :(  You might want to wait... till Easter.)  


Rush Hour Jr. (a favorite with everyone here from 3 to 47)
HABA Animal Upon Animal Balancing Bridge Game (we don't have the bridge version, but I'm sure it's as fun as the original game)
Uno Card Game 
Don't Spill the Beans (one of those games that can span a nice age range!)
Spot It 
Connect 4 
Plan Toys Balancing Cactus (a fun building/balancing game, and pretty looking!)



LEGO's (obviously!)   (trucks mostly) 
Melissa & Doug Standard Unit Blocks (Aaron received these from my parents when he turned one and he was playing with them again today.  They get tons of use.)
HABA Marble Ball Track Building Set  (I give this toy two thumbs WAY up for combining fun, creativity, engineering skills, problem solving, cause and effect experimentation.  And did I mention we just think marble tacks are so fun?!?) 
130 Piece Tegu Magnetic Wooden Blocks (I got this set directly from Tegu for much less.  The wooden blocks with magnets inside are great for adding stability to tall projects and other concepts that traditional blocks can't handle)  


CRAFT SUPPLIES (beyond Dollar Store poms poms and googly eyes!)

Darice Set of 4 Round Plastic Knitting Looms (lots of hats are being knit around here, and not be me ;)  )
Harrisville Designs Potholder Loom and Loops (I recommend the Harrisville loom because it's metal and sturdy and their loops are cotton and look nicer than the nylon ones.)
Perler Beads



Folkmanis Puppets (the box of puppets the kids received three years ago still gets regular use.  These puppets are super cute and have lots of "extra" features - like the owl's head spins all the way around and the hedgehog curls up into itself.)


Schleich Animals (we have a beautiful wooden ark that doesn't get a lot of use, but the animals are always a favorite.  The kids incorporate them into all sorts of games and imaginative play.)

Corolle Mon Premier Calin Baby Doll  (Once was Ruth's, but now is Clare's Sally.  This is one of the only toys we've ever replaced after the original was lost.  It was that important.)


Geomix Pattern Blocks (these get a lot of use - copying the patterns that are on the box, building unique creations, making pictures for guessing games.  And it looks pretty too!)  

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What toys and games are used and loved and are worth the space they take up in your home??  Like I said, I take recommendations from friends very seriously, and I'm always looking for new ideas!!

(Thanks so much if you shop through these affiliate links!)
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