Monday, April 30, 2012

Shutting Down

Last Thursday a note came home from school in my son's backpack about Screen Free Week. This is a week during the year (this week, starting today) when participating families pledge to turn off their t.v.'s and electronic devices for a whole week. It is, according to the website, "an annual celebration where children, families, schools and communities turn off screens and turn on life". Turn on life? Talk about throwing down the gauntlet.

Because I feel like our kids don't watch all that much t.v., I've typically ignored these notices in years past. Yesterday though, Henry and I told the kids we'd be participating this year. They each met this news with the kind of look usually reserved for the last guy in line at the methadone clinic five minutes til closing time. And yet, God love 'em, they are brave souls, and said they'd try. The truth is, they're not the only ones who are scared. My kids watch t.v. in the hour between after school activities (be that playground time or a structured class) and dinner. And I love that hour, because it allows me to make dinner in peace. No breaking up fights, no scrambling to divide my attention three ways, no homework to help with. No interaction at all. Just me in the kitchen, and the boys next door with the one eyed babysitter. Life turned off.

But this week I'm going to take a stab at using that unplugged time to engage the kids somehow.
Maybe we'll just play with the blocks, or paint or read books together. Maybe I'll finally teach them to finger knit. Or maybe I'll just let them figure out how to spend that time on their own, even if it means I have to referee an argument, or clean up someone's mess or dry someone's tears. Whatever it is it'll be our lives, together, turned on.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Last Call for Intro to Block Printing Class!

This post is for my local friends only. There are still spaces available in the introductory block printing class I'll be teaching next monday night, April 30th, from 7-9:30 at Hootenanny Art House in Park Slope. Here's the deal:

In this workshop you’ll learn the basics of printing in relief, using linoleum and rubber block. We’ll cover how to transfer an image onto the printing block, and how to use standard block cutting tools. We’ll start by printing on paper, and then move into printing on fabric; each student will then design and print his or her own tote bag. Class fee covers all materials, including a set of linoleum cutting tools and printing block for each student to take home. This class is for suitable for beginners or those with some printmaking experience. Fee of $35 payable to me on the evening of the class.

To register, email Kira at and specify Block Printing in the subject line.
Hope to see you there!

UPDATE: This class is now full, but stay tuned for further classes I'll be teaching in the coming months!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Alphabet Photo Lacing Cards

Any chance you've noticed that some of the best creative mom bloggers out there have oodles of kids? To wit: Amanda Blake Soule of Soule Mama: 5. Gabriel Blair of Design Mom: 6. Georgia Leigh of Georgia Leigh: 6. (6!!) Sometimes I lie awake at night wondering how any of these women can get anything done, because I can barely keep it together with the scant three I have. And one of the main reasons I'm able to get anything done at all is because two of them go to school. Whereas the aforementioned superwomen? They homeschool their kids. Meaning their kids are at home. A lot. Wow. I have spent some time reading up on the philosophy underlying unschooling, which is essentially what these ladies I mention are doing. A couple of years ago I thought long and hard about giving it a go, telling myself it was really the best thing for my children.  But then I got honest with myself and knew that it wouldn't work for me. But-and here's where today's tutorial comes in, I do my best to encourage curiosity and learning at home, too.

I made these ABC lace up cards for my four year old, Charlie, who has been expressing a keen interest in cracking the mysterious code of phonics. These cards help do that, plus, who couldn't use a little extra practice honing those fine motor skills?
Michael had a crack at them too. 

This project was actually born out of a need to find a use for all of those random pieces of cardboard I've been hoarding. I am a hopeless pack rat, so something as useful as a nice rectangle of cardboard usually goes into my kids' arts and crafts cupboard before it goes into the recycling. But we're moving in a few months, so that kind of stuff has to go. Or else get made into something I don't have to throw out. See, hopeless. Pack. Rat. 

Here's what you'll need for this project:
Cardboard pieces (my finished cards were about 5 x 7)
Decorative paper like origami paper, nice wrapping paper that you saved because you KNEW you'd find a good use for it eventually, or lightweight card stock. 
4" letter stencils
Glue stick or glue
Images to represent your letters (such as apple for A). Google royalty free or stock images to get them online, or find pictures from secondhand books. 
You'll also need a hole punch-preferably a craft screw hole punch that can reach anywhere on the cards and can go easily through cardboard. (The one shown here on the right is a Martha Stewart screw punch)

First cut your image and the background for the letter side down to the size of your cardboard piece.
So here for my letter Q card I have an image of a queen, and I used a coordinating silver glitter cardstock to cover the backside of the lacing card where the letter Q will go. Glue the image onto one side of the cardboard.
On the back of a coordinating piece of paper or cardstock, trace the letter using the template. Make sure you trace the letter backwards so when you cut it out the right side will be the right way around. 
Glue the letter onto the paper backing, then glue that piece onto the back of the cardboard so the image is on one side and the letter is on the other. Put the whole thing under a few heavy books and let it dry thoroughly.
When the card is dry, mark with a pencil where you'll punch your holes. 
Punch the holes out. 
And lace away!
A set of these cards spelling out the child's name would make a most excellent gift for the wonderkinder in your life. Chances are, he'll want to take them to school for show and tell. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

Earth Day Crafting

Earth Day is this weekend, so in the event that you're looking for a good green craft project (that only takes an hour or so to complete), be sure to check out my recent tutorial on the Etsy New York blog. These reusable sandwich bags are made from old shirting, but you can use just about any upcycled fabric to make yours. Hope you enjoy it, and happy earth day!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Customized Iron-On Baby Bodysuits

Because I'm so lazy, I mean, busy, I'm cutting and pasting a post I did last week for the Etsy New York team blog. Hope you enjoy it. Now, back to being lazy.

This past weekend I went to a good friend's baby shower. In the weeks leading up to the party, I had it in the back of my mind to make a meaningful gift for the baby, whose gender remains a mystery. Alas, time ran away from me, and with just a few days left before the shower it was clear I wasn't going to be making any hand stitched quilts or fabric alphabet baby books. But I'm a firm believer in hand made gifts whenever possible (and its always possible, if you ask me), so I settled on something that was quick and easy to make, and also very practical.

I customized these bodysuits by making iron-on labels with images of vintage album covers that I found online. The easiest way to do this is to print your images onto inkjet fabric transfer paper which then irons right onto fabric. (Make sure you reverse any images that include text in photo editing software before you print!) I opted instead for printing onto sew-on printable fabric sheets, because the "paper" is actually fabric and has, in my opinion, a nicer look and feel than the iron on transfer paper. Its also got better longevity through multiple washings, and baby clothes get washed a lot! Printed Treasures is a brand that makes printable fabric, and they have both sew-in and iron-on versions. I happened to already have a pack of the former in my studio, but I wanted to iron the album art on. So I attached a sheet of fusible web onto the back of my images and turned them into iron-ons. Here's what I did, step by step:

First, I selected six vintage album cover images, scaled them each down to about three by three inches in Photoshop and fit them all onto a single page, making sure to leave room for a thin white border around each one. Next I printed it out onto a sheet of sewable inkjet photo paper. The instructions suggest rinsing the paper in cold water for a couple of minutes and letting it air dry before use, to wash out any remaining ink on the top layer of the fabric.

When the fabric was dry I ironed a sheet of double sided fusible web onto the back. There are several brands of fusible web available; I am partial to Steam A Seam 2 for making iron-ons.

Using a straight edge ruler and rotary cutter, I cut out all six images.

I used double sided fusible web, so before ironing the applique onto the romper I peeled away the backing.

Then I ironed on my homemade applique following the manufacturer's instructions for the fusible web.

When I was finished I rolled each of the bodysuits up and tied it with a pretty ribbon, then wrapped the whole lot of them in tissue paper.

As a finishing touch I made a final applique with this vintage image of mother, father and baby with a caption that reads "Now We Are Three", and put it onto a cloth drawstring bag. I put all of the rompers inside the bag, which my friend can reuse to store blocks, dolls or Lego later on down the road.