Thursday, May 31, 2012

Sticky Dot Art Installation

It's no secret that every now and then you stumble across something simple yet breathtaking.  In a wonderful site about art called Colossal, was an article about the 'Obliteration Room', where a studio in the museum is filled with furniture and everything is painted white.  Visitors to the gallery are given a sheet of sticky dots and are allowed to put them wherever they want.  The results are at first simple, perhaps predictable, but as time goes on, people become more inventive, more imaginative, random, and ingenious.  You see lines appear, initials, flowers, then swirls they would take masses of sheets, such that this truly becomes a group art installation, and the artist (Yayoi Kusama) suddenly becomes the curator.

If you have a spare few moments, I highly recommend watching the video clip which I've uploaded onto facebook for you.   It shows the fast-forwarded version of the room filling up with coloured dots, with a narration of the artistic ideologies of the project.

Sadly, we don't have a spare room in our house to convert to an art project, but watching the video did remind me of a project that the girls made earlier this year when we were learning about Chinese New Year.  They made 'cherry-blossoms' out of cupcake liners and sticky dots, and then placed them on sticks, and then somehow... the wall... when I look back, I remember that the initial um-ah moment of watching them pull the flowers (held on with temporary-tack) off the sticks and spin to put them on the wall was short lived, because the girls intuitively made shapes and patterns with the flowers.  Little Lotti made a 'halo' of sorts to stand under, then, after accidentally standing on her cherry blossom stick, she snapped it apart further and put the little sticks in behind each flower, again, arranging them in a pattern, where every flower read 'three o'clock'!

Finding the article reminded me about the importance of self-expression; that it is never too early or too late to let people experiment, rearrange, break the rules, reinvent... and that it is through this playful experimentation that the most spectacular things are made... so go on... find some sticky dots and something (other than the wall!) to stick them on; you might just amaze yourself at what you create!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Paper Quilts

It’s no secret, to those that know me, that long before I was a stay-at-home mum I was dabbling in paper craft.  One experiment that has survived is a paper ‘sampler’.  Onto a piece of A4 black card I used masking tape triangles to stick down several snippets of favourite paper.  In this way, each one is framed and allowed to speak for itself, so to say, and at the same time, all the pieces work well together.  From a distance, the two pieces look almost like paper quilts.  

It’s a shame that not much survives from my ‘younger days’ as a crafter; I often did things quickly, was impatient, and if I didn’t like it, tossed it.  Now, I have children, I’m more forgiving of my failures, partly because I can blog about it, partly because I can give it to my girls and they can use it in their dolls house, and partly because I’ve come to realise that I can set a good example by emphasising the process not the product... afterall, look at what they bring home from preschool each day!  LOL!

When you get a moment to yourself, why don’t you go through your old craft boxes, journals, diaries or memory bank, and see if you can recall any old craft experiments; what worked, what didn’t, what could you try again with the new skills and tools you have today, and what old ideas would your children enjoy?

Go on... get nostalgic. x

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Bling's the Thing

It's no secret that in your crockery cupboard you have many beautiful things.  You may be so used to looking in there that you've forgotten how good your cupboards are.  Go back and really look.  Take out those glasses with the faded gilding.   Reconsider the beauty of an old white plate with its lacy surrounds.  Don't fret that there's an odd number of glasses left of a once-grand set of six.  Why leave pretty ivy-covered cups hidden in the dark until the next time Santa comes calling.  Pull them all out.  Dress them up.  Use them.

If you can't think of an easy way to turn sad into spectacular; add a gem sticker.

You read right.  Nothing ore, nothing less.  Simply stick a gem on it; because bling makes everything better.

Now that you've glammed them up; turn the glasses into a vase and pop in a flower, real or fabric.  Turn an old platter into a picture frame or a birthday display (such as Lotti's 3rd ballet birthday).  Team up an old cup and a mismatched cup for a quirky centerpiece.  Experiment with one of those interesting pinterest ideas, and make a mug into a candle... the possibilities are endless... so go on... go explore your crockery cupboard and go get crafty!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Ransom Note Generator

It's no secret that there's more than one way to teach children how to do things... and of course I'm not a teacher, so I'm not going to pretend I know what the 'right' way to teach is... I prefer to look for the fun way, the crafty way.

Like helping my eldest daughter get the idea of spelling by making ransom letters out of old magazines with her!

Mimi is four and a half, and in Australia, that means she's gearing up to start kindergarten at the beginning of the next calender year.  Her preschool is starting to introduce 'school-readiness' programmes to prepare her.  Many of the key skills involve social aspects, such as anti-bullying, sharing, patience, resilience, respect and so on.  Hygiene, self-help (not the sort parents are seeking), independence, and even safe-scissor-use fall under the heading of 'readiness'.  Common sense goes a long way here to get preschoolers prepare for 'big school'.

Then there's the alphabet; reading it and writing it.  This is where parents start to get a bit wobbly at the knees, red of cheek and loud of voice.  Of course it's important.  Of course I want my daughters to succeed.  Of course I don't want them to get left behind.  But I'm trained to be an Architect not a teacher, so I'm putting my home-time energies into inspiring them to be curious, express themselves, stretch their imaginations, and introduce them to the idea of the alphabet and putting letters together in fun ways.

I cut letters (and pictures) out of old magazines while watching the television the night before.  Mimi's first poster was a bit of a free-for-all, the main objective was to try to get the letters the right way up.  The second one I helped her to find some letters and then together we started to spell out the names of people we knew.  Little Lotti meanwhile was happy to make a 'family' (mum, dad, two girls and a dog (interesting since we have none - guess that's a hint-hint to me!)) and then she tucked that away and only let me photograph her crazy-collage.

Learning is a marathon not a sprint... and it should be fun... that's why I'd happily advocate you sacrifice an old magazine and an hour of your time, for the sake of some poster-rific alphabet fun!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Party Craft Table Ideas

It's no secret that I love the idea of crafting at parties, and that I believe that there's nothing faster, funner, and more fullfilling than seeing children make something all for themselves... okay, so funner is not a real word... but it fits.

If you're not convinced, here's a few ideas on how to introduce craft into your next party:
  • create a 'zone' - this is a messy area where you can expect a little chaos, so consider a spot outside.
  • have a craft table - cover it with a plastic cover if the table is precious... cover it anyway; it's going to get messy.
  • decide on one or two craft projects that suit the theme and age of your guests - crowns & masks are easy and obvious and there are plenty or ready made templates you can buy.  Cruise your local dollar-store and craft-store for other templates.  Decorating paper cone party hats is another idea that can suit most ages and themes.  Read this blog for even more inspiration.
  • On the table lay out enough templates for one project per guest with a couple spare.
  • Also lay out plenty of items for embellishments; glue, glitter, stickers, crayons and so on.  Stay away from scissors and other items that could be dangerous for little ones, as a craft table will never be 100% supervised, no matter how well intended you are.
  • Let the kids at it!

  • try to be age appropriate in your expectations; both in terms of the projects you are proposing and the tools and items you leave out.
  • If in doubt; buy more rather than less; your children can always use teh extras later.
  • Make sure your guests take their craft home as keepsakes.

Go on - get crafty at your next party! Have a look through all the party craft ebooks  available on the net for lots more printpable projects and ideas to get you inspired!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Is there such a thing as too much chocolate?

It's no secret that there is always a risk that the difference between what you read in a menu and what you will be served will be too big a divide to conquer... especially when you’re little.  We’ve all read a product description that is ever so tantalising, only to be served up something that’s not even close, or conversely, you go for the ‘big breakfast’ only to be reduced to near-tears when the waitress staggers to the table with a plate load of food that could feed a family, knowing even before you pink up your fork that you’re not even going to make it to the half way point of a ‘respectable attempt’ on the plate.

Recently while having a special morning tea with my parents, up from the farm, Mimi was very excited to hear that there was such a thing as chocolate-chip pancakes.  When Grandma revealed that they came with ice cream and chocolate syrup the deal was sealed.  I was of course a little reticent; “Mummy’s going to share the lemon pancake with Lotti, would you like to just share something with Grandma?”  “No,” she said, “I’m a big girl, I’ll eat it all by myself.”

To her credit, she did a pretty good job, and she probably would have eaten it all if I didn’t say ‘enough already!’  Even the waitress raised her eyebrows and nodded in appreciation when she came back to the table.  (The photograph is taken as she was nearing the end of her eat-a-thon, and doesn't really do her justice, because it focuses on what's left to go, not on the big blank space on the other side, of all that she's already finished off!)

“I’m worried about the car trip home,” I whispered to the waitress as we left.  “You should be,” the waitress whispered back.

Thankfully, there was no choc-chip vomit on the car seat, but she did moan and groan on and off all afternoon and told me she didn't think she’d ever eat chocolate again... needless to say that idea lasted as long as her stomach ache!  Like mother like daughter... here’s cheers to chocolate... too much and all!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Making Paper Plate Pizzas

It’s no secret that sometimes the idea of making pizzas is more appealing than eating them... especially if you’re a preschooler.  I can’t count the number of times my daughters have literally leapt up onto their chairs at the chance of helping Happy Husband or I assemble pizzas on the kitchen bench only to have them served up and promptly pick them to pieces again.  ‘I thought you said you wanted that on there,’ we say.  ‘I did,’ they reply; ‘to look at, to cook, but not to eat!’

Enough’s enough I decided one day when I had a handful of paper scraps – make a pizza you’ll never have to eat!

I gave the girls a paper plate each, a handful of pink and yellow paper and plenty of sticky dots (I aimed to get colours that looked like the sorts of things you’d find on a pizza, but I didn’t take it too seriously – it was their pizza after all!)

The girls took great pleasure in lathering their pizza pies with texta and pen ‘sauce’ or a variety I thankfully never had to taste (I don’t even know how to print the way my 3 year old tried to say mayonnaise, nor do I know why she would want to bake it on a pizza.).  They then glued on their toppings, and added their sticker seasoning.

I found it highly amusing, although I have no idea what it means, that one daughter applied stickers around the edge and glued paper in the middle, and the other daughter did the exact opposite.

After they had finished creating, they took their paper pizza pies to to the (crockery cupboard) ‘oven’ where they gently pushed it onto a plate and shut the door to bake, and then a few minutes later took them back to the dinner table to eat.

For more craft-food, real and not so edible, take a tour around some of the themed craft ebooks, you’re sure to find one with an idea to suit...!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Jellyfish In a Bottle - CRAFT FAIL

It's no secret that craft fails happen, sometimes they're little glitches, sometimes they're buckle at the knees failures.  My craft fail on Monday afternoon was more of a blush beetroot red, go to hide all the evidence, then change my mind, photograph it, alter it, come up with a new craft and squeamishly admit I was altogether too impatient...

Here's what happened:

While surfing the web for some inspirational images for things that might prompt some Summer-time toddler imagination, I found a project on a Thai-mummy-blog called 'jellyfish in a bottle'.  The result looked fabulous, and the tutorial images looked straight forward enough, so I scanned through the pictures, and became so excited, I checked my clock, decided I had enough time to knock up a couple of bottled lovelies before I had to pick up my daughters from their play date.  I turned off my computer, raced to the kitchen and commenced to make my craft.

I'm a fairly humble person generally, but left me now grovel and scrape and say the biggest apology to the authoress of the original blog post - "I was arrogant and rude; I am so sorry that I did not take the time to do your blog post the courtesy it deserved; I have no doubt it is a simple exercise, if you read your tutorial before attempting this craft."

I didn't put air in the belly of my jellyfish, so it didn't really float.  I overfilled the belly before putting it in the bottle, and was swearing and cursing as I tried to figure out how to push the swollen water belly through the small bottle's neck-hole.  I put way too much blue-food colouring in to the water bottle so I couldn't even see the first jelly fish I made.  The tentacles I made were thick and wide, and extremely ugly, but hey, this was just a trial run anyway.  The string I used was dark blue, because again, I was in a hurry by now, I could use something 'invisible' later, I just wanted to confirm this craft project would work... And the embarrassing list goes on as I tried to convince myself it was all going to be ok...

If all that's not bad enough, I decided to have another go.  No.  I did not pack it away, wait until later, turn the computer on for some more research and try again tomorrow.  Oh no.  I just went ahead and made another one.  It was slightly better, but not much.  The photo should give you an idea; it's less a jellyfish in a bottle, and more like, well I can't really say... plenty of things come to mind about messages in bottles, but it's all rather yukky... like my craft fail.

I did go back to the blog post and read it more carefully, and she did use the phrase "With some trials and errors, my little jellyfish comes alive" so it's not as simple as it seems - if you're having a go, don't despair - but DO read the instructions more carefully than I did... I'm sure the results will be worth it!

PS - here's how I salvaged my failure: I carefully pulled the ridiculous wanna-be-jellyfish out of the bottle, topped it up with some more water and threw in some sparkly love heart 'confetti' as well as some big silver beads, when the bottle was turned up and down, the contents shifted, I photographed what was inside, and the photographs of  hearts and beads in the pale blue bubbly 'ocean' will be used to make a "I love Summer" card to go with some Monsta Surf printpaper.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Decorate with Paper Party Streamers

It's no secret that streamers seem like yesterday's decoration; you tend to think of multicolored masses, clumped on floor corners, or draped higgledy piggedly over everything (and perhaps everyone if Granddad falls asleep for too long!)... With a little careful purchasing however, the humble streamer can be great fun.  Here's some hints on how to decorate with paper party streamers;

Take Colour Care; Only buy shades to match your theme or colour scheme, or streamers in only one or two matching shades.  For example, if you're having a watery theme stick with blue and green.  If there's no theme but pink's the birthday girl's favourite colour, buy pink; be it hot, candy or rosey pink.  (You can also read more about How To Choose Colour and get yourself a colour scheme!)

Hang them in groups; if you're having a jungle party, hang streamers over the front door to enhance the grand entrance, suspend them in one corner to create a hidden den effect, or drape a stair balustrade to recreate over grown ivy.  Alternatively, create a sea-like effect as pictured, by placing several strips of each colour at equal intervals over the buffet table.  For a princess create garlands of streamers over the windows, and so on.

Watch the length; long and over-the-floor-drapey looks great if they won't be a trip hazard, otherwise, stick to shorter lengths.  For Mimi's 4th birthday (pictured) we cut three different lengths and stuck them over the table as a grid (it's hard to photograph); Mimi helped me cut 3 pieces of each colour about 3-floor-tiles long, and 3 of each were 4-tiles long, and the last 3 of each shade were 5-tiles long, this way there was a cascading effect, with the streamers being longer at the back, it made the effect more dramatic, and we could still fit food underneath.

Twist it up a little; experiment with keeping the streamers straight, twisting them in a sort of spiral effect (works best when both ends are fixed), or tight-twist them every now and then to create a seaweed sort of texture.  Go for one type per area, or have a few different textures side by side.

Create a canopy; if you look at Little Lotti's ballet party photos (the tabs at the top of the blog), you'll see how by pinning the streamers at each end we were able to make a 'ceiling' over the lounge room floor, and the girls were able to dance underneath.  This instantly created a room, or a world, and they called it their 'dance studio'.  the same 'room' effect can be created for any party or theme.

Keep them dry; the worst thing about streamers, is that they are rarely colourfast; as soon as they get damp (think rain, spilt drinks or even yucky fingers), the  streamers start to pucker and lose their shape, the dye gets on everything, and it all starts to look a little sad.   

Don't be scared of streamers; they're cheap and cheerful in my opinion; simply follow the tips above and have a go - you'll be fine.

So go on... think of an excuse to celebrate, buy some streamers and throw a party!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Bring the Inside Art Out with DIY Stencils

It’s no secret that the media is full of ideas about how to bring the outdoors in.  Well I’m an advocate for taking the inside out.  When the weather is warm, there is nothing nicer than picking up some of your inside furniture and taking it into the garden with you.  Nestle a nice chair comfortably under a tree beside a timber table with a real coffee mug resting on top, it's so much nicer than placing your plastic cup on your knee while perched on a picnic rug.

Of course there's nothing wrong with having a picnic in your own back yard, and of course you're all civilised people and are bound to have some sort of outdoor furniture, but you know what I mean; plenty of things can’t be left outside because they fade, get mouldy, and so on.

There are other ways that you can create more permanent reminders of the inside outside – and DIY stencil art is an obvious one.  After five years of living at our house, Happy-Husband and I finally found an artwork we both liked and felt was the right one to hang over our dining room credenza.  Its strong black and white motif works well on the black wall above the white built in furniture.  Not long ago, when our rear garden wall was renovated, we installed a small window in the nib wall that was created.  The girls call it their ‘castle’ and when it was painted, I kept thinking it needed something... well, more specifically, I thought it was crying out to be stenciled!

When I couldn’t find a stencil I liked well enough to buy, I decided to make my own.  Using a piece of thick acrylic (such as the sort you find on the cover of business reports) I traced one small section of the dining room art work, cut it out, and then painted it onto the wall.  It works a treat, and looks great on it’s own, and for those who know our home well, the connection between inside and outside is a nice one.  For those who are new to the house, you can see one artwork from the other, so it’s fun to see who picks up that there’s a connection. 

I’m looking forward to using the stencil shortly to put the same motif on a plain cushion cover to throw on the outdoor lounge.  Be bold, be brave... have a look around your house and see if there is a favourite graphic you could trace and make into a stencil!

(If you're unsure how to make your own stencil, I'll outline how in the next Monthly Newsletter!)

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Make Your Own Printpaper

It's no secret that I'm passionate about paper; printpapers in particular.  If you don't know what prinpaper is, pop across to read the HELP and HowTo Guides on my other site for more information, but essentially, they are graphic designs you can print onto A4 or A3 paper and craft with, similar to wrapping paper and other decorative paper, but with the benefit of being able to print out exactly the right amount of pages as you need.

If you're yet to find a printpaper design to your liking, on my site, or other locations, then why not make your own.

Here's the fastest way I know to make your own printpaper:

  • Take your favourite piece of fabric - such as a pretty skirt or large blouse - be sure to use something with a 'full' design (not too much open space) and preferably one with a coloured background.
  • Take it to your local copy centre (or home office) - lay it on the colour photocopier - press COPY.
  • Experiment with contrast and brightness and get the look you like (this works best if you already have an idea of what craft project you will use the printpaper for.)
  • Go home and get crafty!

For more ideas on how to use printpaper, look through this blog, read the Partycraft Website, or surf the net... go on... grab your favourite blouse and go photocopy it... but as a warning... when you photocopy that favourite blouse at the local photocopier shop - don't you know, lie on the photocopier, you can't be wearing it when you photocopy it, okay?  And when I say that... make sure you carried it there in a bag, definitely don't whip it off and stand  there in the print shop half nude or anything okay?!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Make Water-Proof Cards

It’s no secret that giving 'thank you' cards is a nice thing to do, for so many reasons.  We give them to say thanks for coming to my party, thanks for being my teacher, thanks for lending a hand.  What about swim teachers?  Of course they deserve cards at the end of the swim-term, but how do you keep them dry?  Plastic bags of course!

My girls were passionate about making cards for their swimming teachers, so I found 2 zip-lock lunch-bags, cut some watery-blue cardboard to fit and let them collage the cards.  They used some mermaid printpapers, ‘bubble’ stickers, blue and green colouring in, and pieces of blue paper to complete the cards, and then on the back they told me the message they wanted to write.

(You can of course substitute all of the above for whatever colour, designs, papers, and decals you wish to suit the thank-you theme you're aiming for).  

When they were finished, we popped the cards into the bags, sealed them shut, and off we went.  The teachers laughed when the girls handed them the cards while they were still in the pool; no worries about the splishing and splashing, and the teachers didn’t have to jump out to put the cards in their bags, they simply put them on the side of the pool and collected them later.

Maybe the teachers would have preferred water-proof-chocolate better, but then they’d just have to swim more laps to work it off... right?!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Tell A Story (when you crop photos)

It's no secret that I love playing with photos - especially cropping them into squares to suit my postcard-stamp styled blog layout!

We all trim photos all the time, be it on our computers, to fit them into a frame, snipping them to suit a scrapbooking page, mounting them on a book cover, or slicing and dicing them for the front of a birthday card.  There are plenty of reasons we might chop up a photo, and whatever reason motivates us:

the number one thing to remember when you crop photos is to TELL A STORY.

Here's 3 examples of what I mean and 3 things you can try next time you, well, have time!

Going clockwise from top left (you can click on the image to enlarge it to see what I mean);

1. "I'm getting bigger" - be inspired by the moment in Alice in Wonderland when she took a bite of the 'eat me' cake, and cut elements out of two or three 'standing tall' photos, then put them back together again, leaving space between them.  Whilst you may get too many hands or feet, you will get a crazy elongated version of your little person 'growing up' in an abstract way that exaggerates the point.

2. "The two of us" - of course there's nothing nicer than seeing two lovely faces in a double frame, but why not experiment.  Put a couple (husband and wife, or brothers and sisters etc) looking from one frame into the other, back at each other, or as I did (as they were doing in the photo) have one looking out, and the other staring up at big sister.  Now, perhaps I should have put little Lotti lower in her frame to accentuate her being smaller and shorter than her sister, but her frame was starting to look a little too empty, so I left her just slightly off centre - you can be the judge whether that worked or not - remember it's all about having fun, and that means personal taste not perfection.

2. "Focus on the little things" - the girls were being photographed before a 'big event', and were very excited, and a little nervous and to me, the feet rolling about impatiently in brand new little shoes says it all.

For more ideas to get you inspired about photography, have a quick look at the HowTo guides, or search the Photography Labels on this blog, or sign up for my monthly newsletters... no go on... get photo-crafty! x

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Make a ReWritable Memo Board Tutorial

It’s no secret that sometimes the only thing between me and disaster is a list.  Sometimes I have several, and I confess this approach is a mistake.  Trying to have one on the fridge, one on my phone, and one on my computer is a) overwhelming, b) confusing, c) time consuming to manage, and d) all of the above!

I decided to turn a picture frame into a single to do list for my desk.  
Here’s how to make your own rewritable memo board in mere minutes:
  • Take a picture a dollar-store picture frame which is as close to A4 as you can find, and has an acrylic rather than glass front.
  • Say goodbye to the pretty picture that you had inside (sorry Little Lotti).
  • Trim a piece of stripy paper to fit (I used one of the click-and-print templates from the Christmas Partycraft Printpaper package).
  • Push the acrylic back into place and start writing your list with one of those ‘rewritable’ pens that come with magnetic boards, kids toys, or you can get a new one at your local stationary store.

PS – for a bit of a laugh; the photo on the desk is from my wedding.  My three year old daughter Lotti recently pointed to the lady and asked me; ‘who’s that?’ If that wasn’t funny enough, when I told her it was me, she asked (in her own, round about, often inarticulate, pacifier in mouth way, which I'll paraphrase here), “is that a towel you're wearing or is your dress falling off?”  Until that very moment, it had never occurred to me that anyone who had not seen me on my wedding day in my beautiful ball gown could indeed look at this photo and assume me naked and wrapped in a bath towel or experiencing a wardrobe malfunction moment... darn it... I’ll never look at that picture the same way again!  Funny how your quirky kids can give you gifts when you least expect them... sigh... perhaps it's her revenge for replacing her photo with a to do list!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Laundry Marker Canvas Shoes

It’s no secret that children’s feet seem to grow in strange ways; not at all and then all of a sudden.  We have shoes that seem to last forever, and I mean foooooorever, and then others that no sooner have you opened your wallet and walked out the store than the silly things are already too small.  Inevitably, in our house it’s the most expensive shoes that seem to have the shortest shelf life, and the cheap ones that refuse to go away.

Time to get crafty.  I’m so sick of looking at one particular pair of pink lace-less slip-ons, that used to belong to Mimi, and are now worn by Lotti, stains and all, that I decided to experiment... ok it’s not rocket science, nor is it going to save lives... well maybe my sanity in the smallest of ways... but here it is:

Take a laundry marker and draw on old sandshoes.

Ok, there it is; most of you will have done this before, but for me, this deliberate act to graffiti clothes, was a big step for me, not creatively, nor financially, but philosophically.  To vandalise property, even my own, even my own which was destined soon (if only) for the bin, was a big thing.

Being crafty is a different journey for each of us; there are hurdles we each have to overcome, this was one of mine.  Taking great wads of colour-chips from the hardware store with the sole intention of crafting with them is another I have not yet been able to overcome... Feel free to share your moral crafting dilemmas in the comments section below... if you dare!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Parent Submission: Ballet Party Craft: Dancing Ribbons

It’s no secret that little kids love to dance, and dance they do.  They dance on their way to breakfast, they dance as they get dressed for preschool, they even dance while strapped in their car-boosters in a way which allows them to kick you in the back of your seat to the beat.  Yes kids love to dance.  They don’t need music playing in the background, they don’t need instruments to strum or toot, they don’t need special dresses, pom poms or battons... but... when they do have these added extras... wow!  Look out; those little rockers, prima ballerinas and funk n’ groovers really know how to knock it up a notch.

This month’s parent submission comes from an Australian mother of two girls who has made a very nifty (thankfully silent) dance aid – ‘the dancing ribbon twirler.’  This is a perfect ballerina party craft; quick, affordable and classy.  Simply leave pre-painted curtain rings, and pre-cut ribbons on the table for the guests, explain what they need to do, and with minimal assistance, they should be able to fashion their own dancing ribbon.  Once everyone is finished, put the music on and let everyone get up and dance!

Here’s what you’ll need for the ballet party craft project:
  • One or two timber curtain rings per child (remove any metal eyelets or hooks that might be attached and sand any rough holes that are left behind).
  • Several rolls of ribbon in at least 3 colours (choose complimentary shades – such as all pastels, all neons, or all rainbow brights).

Now, here’s how to make ribbon twirlers:
  • Optional - Paint the curtain rings whatever colour you like – or leave them as they were purchased, either stained or in their natural timber colour.
  • Cut a series of ribbons at least the length of your arm (say 1.2 m / 4’).
  • Loop a ribbon around the ring and at its half way point tie it off in a knot (it might slip around the ring but the ribbon won’t fall off the ring.)
  • Trim the end of the ribbon to make it neat (you can heat seal with a lighter if you prefer, but this is an acquired habit, so take care).
  • Now repeat 4 or 5 more times with other coloured ribbons.

Even if you’re not having a ballet party, this is the perfect activity to do with a large group of friends at any party, as a class activity, or a rainy day get together... so go on... get crafty and dance!

(PS – there’s plenty more ballet craft ideas on my other site!)

(PPS - a special thank you to my new friend Roudi over at C is for Craft who has awarded me the Leibster Award - YAY - I love a bit of blog lovin' so thank you Roudi, and if you're up for a bit of blog hoppin' pop over and say hi!)

Saturday, May 12, 2012

DIY Play Time Makeup

It’s no secret that little girls love to play dressup, and that includes experimenting with makeup.  I’m not a fashionista myself, so there is not alot for them to experiment with round here.  Nail polish however is one thing we do seem to have a plentiful supply of; it’s cheap, bright, easy to do and makes them feel like big girls in an instant.  Somewhere, a very long time ago, I read about an idea where you could make your own play-makeup using nail polish.  As I was holding a plastic Easter Egg tray in my hands, I suddenly remembered the idea and finally got around to trying it.

Using the tray and an assortment of colours, I tipped a small amount into every second circle and left it overnight to dry.  The results weren’t too bad.

Warning – as nailpolish dries it seems to shrink, and as it does so it will try to pull the surrounding plastic with it.  You can’t see it in the photo but the tray underneath became all puckered and distorted.  It wasn’t enough to stop using the play-makeup but it had me worried for a while.

My biggest recommendation is to pick something more solid as your base; perhaps an old face powder compact, eye shadow tray or some other old makeup container that won’t pucker and twist as the light weight plastic tray did.

The girls love dipping their finger into the ‘makeup’ and putting the red on their lips and the other colours around their eyes, they do each other in a beauty parlour and even dressed me up with an imaginary rainbow on my forehead... nice.

(PS-If your little girls are princess-wanna-be’s, be sure to look at our Princess Craft EBook, there’s plenty of other DIY craft activities for children to try on a rainy day, or just because!)

Friday, May 11, 2012

Wrap Presents in Tea Towels

It’s no secret that mothers spend a lot of time in the kitchen; and that’s not always a bad thing; there are some really lovely and affordable tea towels on the market at the moment... yes you read right... me... a non-kitchen person coveting something in the kitchen.  

But wait.  

Don’t be mistaken, I certainly don't enjoy doing the dishes, although there can be a Zen-quality to having your hands in hot water if the children are playing outside and there is calming music on in the background... who am I kidding; dishes are usually done with them wrapped around my knees complaining about whatever, with minutes to go before I end up throwing them shoeless in the car for the dash to get to preschool... and then as you race to the gate you ask yourself; “preschool?  Why am I racing to preschool?  Are my children truly going to miss a life-changing learning experience if they arrive ten minutes late?  Will other (mostly equally time-challenged) parents really think any less of me if I saunter rather than rush through the door?  Could I truly loose my grip on reality if I lose ten minutes of me-time?” 

I think the answer to the last question is possibly yes, given that this blog has so easily lost it’s plot!

Back to Parties - Craft – tea towels – they make lovely presents, but they also make lovely wrapping 'paper' for presents.  It’s not a new idea but it’s a pretty one, and perfect for Mother's Day.  Make the idea you-nique and top your linen wrapping with several suitable ribbons and a fabric flower topper... now... about those dishes...

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Sticky Tape Transfer Tutorial

It's no secret that simple stationary items have some extra-ordinary uses.  Take packing tape... bet you didn't know it's one of the best ever mediums to make quick and classy transfers - here's how - and don't forget you can click on the image to enlarge it.

What you'll need;

  • Packing tape - it's sticky tape which is wide & clear 
  • Scissors
  • A favourite image from an old magazine (the nicer the image the nicer the end result - but practice on other images first - words, crosswords, and black and whites all work well for this project) - I used a vase of flowers for Mothers Day.

To make your sticky tape transfer you need to:

  1. Cut your image out of the magazine.  Be sure to over cut  (that is - leave lots of room around the image) and then carefully lay the sticky tape over the image, remembering the end result can be as long as you like (sticky tape is pretty long!) but will always be the width of the tape so centre it as best you can, and then cut the top and bottom of the tape so that it is a straight line, in line with your image.
  2. Lay the sticky-tape-picture in water for a few seconds (you can even just run it under the tap).  Almost straight away any excess paper on either side of the tape can be torn off.
  3. Now turn the sticky-tape-picture over and slowly start to rub the paper off the back of the tape.  The front will be a shiny surface, with the image showing through.  The more you rub, the more of the papered back you will rub off, so go slow, to be sure you get the look you want.

Once you have your transfer you can a) stick it on decorative paper and turn it into a card, b) put it on the window as a mini stained glass showcase, c) use it as a glossy piece of mini-wrap to decorate a gift box and use other transfers on (Valentines Day) printpapers, patterned papers and plain to make an assortment of bookmarks, gift tags mini art works and so on.

HINTS for each step:

  1. Pick strong images - small detail will literally get rubbed off.
  2. Less is more here - poor quality paper will fall apart under the water faster than good quality, so go slow.
  3. Experiment - if you look closely in picture 'c' you'll see that there are parts of the transfers that are transparent and the coloured paper behind is very visible, and then there are other sections which are 'cloudy' with the original white paper - be sure to include at least some transparent parts, otherwise the end result will look too much like the original magazine clipping.

If you haven't got something for Mum this Mother's Day, why not send her the link to PartyCraft Secrets... it's never to late to help someone find their crafty side - ha ha - now go on you lot... go get crafty! x

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Partycraft Secrets Now Does Tshirts

It's no secret that in the first week of each month Partycraft Secrets sends out a subscription newsletter with detailed craft tutorials, additional tips and tricks, as well as highlights of blog posts, links to other sites, and free printables.  Each month, one member of the Royal Family (as I like to call the Loyal Followers) consistently sends me a thank you.  Her name is Susan.  Well Susan.  In honour of all your nice emails, I've named a t-shirt after you!  It uses one of the Poppy Pearl printpapers that went out with the last newsletter and I've called it "Poppies for Susan."

Red Bubble is a site which allows artists to upload their graphic designs onto cards, posters and tshirts, and then make them available for the world to buy.  I've thought long and hard about it, and I've decided, what better way to get in the party mood, than to match the designs you're using with your partycraft printpaper invitations, pennant-buntings and food flags and put them on your t-shirt!

If you pop across to the Red Bubble Partycraft section you'll find tshirt and card designs from each of the party party themes to choose from (Mermaid, Pirate, Jungle, Circus, Oriental, Fairy, Princess... and so on.)

As well as 'girlie' tshirts the designs also come in guys tops, hoodies, kids tshirts, stickers and best of all, the cutest little baby onesies!

I've only just finished uploading most of the products, so I'm yet to buy a tshirt myself, but from others who have purchased from the site, the tshirts and print quality are both meant to be excellent.

Don't forget - when you do buy a tshirt, from here, or anywhere - make it YOU-nique; add buttons, bows, use permanent markers or puffy-paint... if you're gonna wear it... wear it your way!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Digital Flowers For Mother's Day

It’s no secret that pink and yellow flowers grow faster for Mother’s Day.  They have to.  No one gives them a second glance through February when it’s all red, red, red, and the white ones know they get the wedding-gigs, but for Mother's Day, the sunny golds, blushy-dusks, and sweet peaches and creams all get their turn.

If your mother is too far away for you to hand deliver flowers, and the thought of another set dropped off by a man in a van doesn't appeal, there's still time to send her some digital ones.  I don’t doubt there are websites galore that will do it for you, but try making your own.  

Find some flowers from your garden or local store, and pop them in a favourite old vase.  The arrangement in my photo shows flowers from my Mum’s farm-garden in a jug we gave her many, many Mother’s Days ago.

Take a photo of your creation, then experiment on free photography websites (you can search ‘photography’ on the side of this blog for a variety of sites).  I used Picasa and the ‘vignette’ and then the ‘HDR-ish’ filters to try to give my photo a dreamy, old-fashioned feel.

Save the photo and print it as you would your normal photos.  Attach it to a blank card and write a special memo to Mum inside.

Go on - you'll never know unless you try... and if it doesn't work out - call that man in the van! x

Monday, May 7, 2012

Floral Sphere Table Centrepiece Tutorial

It’s no secret that I'm all about faking it at the moment - and I mean that in a work-friendly way thank you very much!  Fake kisses, fake quilling, and fake flowers in particular are all great for Mother's Day.  There are lots of lovely floral balls bouncing around the internet.  Always one to try my hand at other peoples' ideas, I made my own super-fast, slightly quirky version of everyone’s favourite fake-flower table decoration. 

First I took down the fabric flowers that have been on my curtains for a while now (the room used to be the nursery and I figure Happy-Husband can do without pink roses now we’re in the room).  The best sort of flowers to use and the ones that literally pop-off their fake stalks.  You’ll know when you’re in your local dollar store as soon as you give the flowers a gentle tug; remembering of course that you’re being video-taped as you do so; so look casual!  If the flowers don’t come off easily, you can still use them, however you’ll need to cut / plier them off, which is an added step I can do without!

Here’s what you’ll need;

  • Fabric flowers (leaves optional) with their plastic base still attached.
  • Foam ball (the bigger you go the more flowers you’ll need).
  • Bamboo kebab-skewer.
  • Pom-poms.
  • A pot to put it in (I used a ready-made pot of fake grass.)

Here’s how to make a floral centrepiece (don't forget you can click on the picture to enlarge it);

  1. Decide where the ‘bottom’ of the ball is going to be and mark it by gently pushing the kebab-stick into the ball, now take it out and set it aside.
  2. Push the flowers into the round ball at even intervals (mine are still in their on their own, but a touch of glue is probably a good idea).
  3. Push the kebab-skewer back into place (with leaves looks good).
  4. Using temporary-tac or permanent adhesive, fix the base of the kebab-skewer into the centre of the pot.
  5. Now gently go round all your flowers and add a pom-pom to the centre of each.
  6. Give it a quick spritz with your favourite floral-scented perfume & you’re done!

Whether you're making this for Mother's Day, or for those of my friends in the U.K. who had your turn last March might be making one just because, there's plenty more ideas like this under the 'Spectaculars' label on the right hand side of the blog.   Off to do the vacuuming... such is life!  x

Saturday, May 5, 2012

(Not So) Naughty Girl

It’s no secret that drawing on walls is something that all youngsters do at some stage in their life.  I of course never did.  At least, not that I remember.  But my youngest sister did.  I clearly remember her tracing a circle around the ice-cream container lid onto the wall in our bedroom and telling me she’d made a steering wheel, would I like to come in her car.  I thought it was a clever idea and said ‘sure’.  Needless to say when Mum said; “who did this?” I was amongst the first to scamper!

Mimi, my nearly 5 year old daughter, only had a couple of crayon moments.  One was in the kitchen and sadly I recall going crazy at this ‘first offence,’ but you live and learn, and re prioritise.  The only other offence I remember, was on the garage cupboard door.  It was left there for awhile to remind her what ‘naughty’ looks like, and strangely, the black scribble has become part of our home, and no one seems quite prepared to rub it off.

Now it’s Lott’s turn.  She turned 3 recently (secret party photos & craft projects will be coming soon I promise), and discovered she wants to be a decorator... at least that’s what I’m hoping is the motivation behind her decision to cover the cubby house (that I painted) with chalk.  But, hey; it’s chalk.  Like I said; live and learn.  This time I didn’t even use ‘cranky voice’, simply shot her a ‘not impressed’ look, took the chalk off her and waited for it to rain...  

If you have a budding Michelangelo; try some craft-down-under-the-table!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Quilling Time

It’s no secret that several years ago most people had never heard of the word ‘quilling.’  To me it sounds like some strange ancient custom where you sew a bed cover using a fountain pen.  But no.  Whilst my computer’s spell check remains bamboozled by the word, most crafty people know that quilling is the arty craft of fashioning all sorts of ornate designs from thin strips of rolled paper.  Truly, quilling creates some of the most incredible works of art created by the most patient people on earth.  You can see some examples (such as the H) on the Crafty Monograms Pinterest page; it’s gorgeous!

Now as you know, I like to be done and dusted with my craft in 15 minutes or less, so there’s no hope that I can complete a masterpiece in quilling, but rather than give up, I thought to myself;  “what if instead of something tiny and ornate I did a Big Bertha version?” 
And so I did.

What to do : I cut several strips in coloured card, in different lengths, and then rolled and scrolled them, and stapled them together.  

There’s nothing fragile and petite about this craft project, and yet, surprisingly, when used as a present topper, this giant quill was pretty cute. 

My preschooler daughters took off with Big Bertha and turned it into a fan, a crown, a magic wand, and then when it was squashed beyond recognition, agreed to help me make another... which they didn’t.  Stapling and cutting aside, I’m sure that most preschoolers, and certainly ‘big kids’ could do this craft project with ease. 

So let that be a lesson to you; never give up on an idea, or think it’s too hard for you -  simply fake it til you make it!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

A Box of Candy Kisses

It's no secret that betime books for children are as important as they are fun.  My girls love picking out one book each, and then I surprise them with my choice (picked primarily because it's long or short based on available time, but also where possible on a theme that will help consolidate learning from the day's activities.)

Many of the craft projects that my girls make are based on ideas we come across in those bedside books.  This week's favourite is Michael Gay's  Zou and the Box of Kisses.  As the book publisher says; "Zou is spending his first night away from home. He knows he will miss all his daily kisses: morning kisses, bedtime kisses, no-reason-at-all kisses.  He needn't worry. Mum and Dad have a solution - one that works surprisingly well on the train."

*Spoiler Alert* 
Caution - look away if you don't want to know what happens next!.
(He he, I've always wanted to do that!)

The solution that Mum and Dad come up with is to kiss a whole stack of tiny papers and then put them in an old candy box.  When the going gets tough, Zou can rub one of Mum's lipsticky kisses on one cheek, and a 'plain' sided Dad-kiss on the other cheek.

Thrilled by the simple and super sweet idea of candy-kisses, my girls and I made a box of kisses the next day.  They haven't had a need to take them anywhere as yet, but they know that the next sleepover they go on, Mum and Dad can top it up with plenty of love to send them on their way.

What books are you reading with your children?  What craft project can you come up with to try?  What printpaper can you decorate it with!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

One Wonders

It's no secret that 'child-free time' disappears in the blink of an eye.  There's so many 'need to do' things on my list that I rarely get to the 'want to do'.  Not that I'm complaining; life's good.  My youngest daughter started preschool last week, and the extra stimulation seems to be wearing her out.  She even slept through the night a couple of times this week.  For anyone who's been ready my blog for awhile, you'll know that a 10 hour stint by Little Lotti is a big deal; sleep is not on my agenda... sadly.

She went to preschool for 2 days last week and loved it.  Today, day 3, she changed her mind and told me "I wanna stay home with you and watch TV."  That made me sound like a bad mum, but then I made things worse.  I panicked and said (in front of her teacher); "Mummy has to work today so if you stay home I won't be there; you'll have to wait in the garden until Mimi comes home from school."  The teacher looked from Lotti's sad face to me.  All I could do was wink.  It seemed to work and she said; "oh, that doesn't sound like much fun; come on, let's go paint something instead."  Lotti, quite rightly, snubbed me and was off.

Never mind.  Motherhood's a tricky gig, and you can't be great at it all the time!

So then... back to child free time.  While I had a blessedly hot cuppa today, I read the paper.  Now I love books, and of course Jane Austen's 'Pride and Prejudice' was a schoolyard favourite... strangely the local manufacturers of window coverings round here are also fans... but mixed up ones.  If you loved the book as much as I did, then you'll know the censored picture in the clipping is wrong.  Elizabeth Bennet marries Mr Darcy.  Jane Austen wrote the story.  Perhaps they were thinking of Jane Eyre... hmmm... "one wonders."

PS - Did I ever tell you about my dream to write a film script where Mr Darcy, Mr Rochester and Heathcliff all star in a jumbled-up period drama?  Elizabeth, Jane and Cathy all star in the same movie, and the plot is both familiar and surprising tangled... I'll write it one day, but I think I'll need more than one-coffee-cup worth of time!! x

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Breaking the Crockery Rules

It's no secret that eating off plastic is a good idea for toddlers.  Even though my girls are now old enough to go to preschool, we have only just allowed ourselves to put ceramic plates back to the table.... not for them, for Happy-Husband and I.  We quickly learnt as new parents that too many items can go crashing down, even when they're impossibly out-of-reach.

So now that every meal no longer feels like a picnic, we're able to bring back the 'pretty stuff.'  I have a large collection of one-off plates and platters which have been given to me, invested in, inherited, or found at vintage shops.  Each on it's own is a beauty, but when combined with each other, they can be extra special.  If you can find a common motif-theme (leaves for example), or colour-scheme (Autumnal shades, or simply 'warms' or 'cools'), then you'll soon see that disparate items look happy together.

Plastic seems to lift it's game when placed near a piece of fine china, and the 'real' crockery stops taking itself too seriously when it's modern neighbour is nearby.  Food can also step-up or calm-down depending on whether it's placed on a spectacular or a cheapy...  All in all, I find that mixing it up is a very satisfying arrangement for my table!

This Mother's Day, whether your children are seriously all grown up or hilariously childish, why not surprise the family and rather than serving dinner on the usual matching crockery, play with an assortment of plates and dishes instead, and host a Mad Hatter's Tea Party of sorts... it will make you smile, and what better way to bring some fun to the table (especially if you're still cooking on The Big Day). x
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