The theme of this month’s Aquila magazine is predators. My contribution is clearly the deadliest of beasts.
The theme of this month’s Aquila magazine is predators. My contribution is clearly the deadliest of beasts.
Carving your own stamps from household erasers is much easier than you might think. It’s a slightly more sophisticated take on the classic classroom art of potato-stamping. But unlike potatoes (which are a lot trickier to cut smoothly in half than most children’s craft books will admit) erasers offer a completely flat surface which is perfect for creating stamped impressions. You can use them to carve all sorts of designs, from simple solid shapes to more detailed pictures, words and line-drawings. The fact that erasers – without wanting to cast even more aspersions on les spuds - won’t shrivel up and start to rot after a day or two means your stamps will last much longer, too.
Tools of the trade
:: Large, flat plain erasers
:: A fine marker pen or sharp pencil
:: A craft knife
:: Inkpads or acrylic paint
:: A surface to stamp on (e.g. paper, card or fabric)
Step by step
1. Decide on a simple design and draw it on the surface of your eraser with a pencil or fine marker pen. (If you’re not confident drawing freehand or just want some extra inspiration, try printing out clip-art shapes or images from a picture font.)
5. hen you’ve finished, your design should be raised above the remaining part of the eraser. Don’t worry if the cut-away pieces around the edges look messy – as long as your design has a good, smooth outline, it will stamp perfectly.
Shaped erasers are a quick and super-easy alternative to carving your own. There are all sorts of cute designs available, and you can stamp with them just as you would with a hand-carved version.
Once you get a little more confident at carving your own designs, you might want to try adding more detail. To do this, you’ll ideally need to invest in a lino-cutting tool. I found mine at a local art shop for just a few pounds, but a quick Google search gives you plenty of online options, too.
Using the finest tip on the tool, it’s quite simple to trace over the outline of a drawing to create something like this:
NB. Don’t forget words will appear as a mirror image when you stamp. To avoid a carving disaster, write them onto plain paper first, flip it over and then trace onto the surface of your eraser.
You can also use the lino-cutter to carve away the inner parts of a design (i.e. areas you wouldn’t be able to trim with a craft knife), again creating a slightly more complicated image.
Obviously, craft knives are very sharp, and the same is true of lino-cutting tools. If you’re not happy for your children to use them, it doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy an activity like this – you’ll just need to work on it together. They can draw out the shapes and designs, you can take care of the tricky cutting and carving part, and they can take over again when it comes to creating inky impressions with the finished stamps.
It's been a while since I've done one of these, so I thought a little revisit of a favourite project from last year was in order. As much as I enjoyed making these easy appliqué t-shirts, I loved seeing my nephew wearing the pirate version even more, especially as he's super-fussy about his clothes. When it comes to job satisfaction, there's nothing quite as good the approval of a discerning 5-year-old.
These simple appliqué t-shirts can be made for children of any age, using either a new, inexpensive tee or an older one in need of a quick makeover. The details are made from scraps of fabric and felt in colours of your choice, and the very basic stitches make it a perfect project for beginners. Older children should be able to give it a go with minimum supervision (and maybe have fun adding their own extra details) while younger ones will need a little more help, but will hopefully learn some great new skills.
The idea can also be adapted to work on other items, e.g. jeans, jackets, bags, hats, cushions, etc.. and if you have something in your own wardrobe that needs a quick update, there's no reason you can't join in with the stitching, too.
YOU WILL NEED:
Scraps of fabric and/or felt
Fusible webbing (e.g. BondaWeb, Heat'n'Bond, WonderUnder)
Iron and ironing board
Erasable fabric pen (optional)
Buttons (for flower appliqué only)
STEP-BY-STEP | Pirate t-shirt
:: Print out the pirate templates (skull, bones and eyepatch) and then trace onto the paper side of fusible webbing. Roughly cut out each piece of webbing, leaving a small border outside your drawn outlines.
:: Iron the three pieces onto the reverse of your chosen fabrics. I used a different print for each one, but you might prefer to have matching skull and crossbones with just the eyepatch in a contrasting print or colour.
:: Cut out the three pieces, snipping through fabric and webbing, and this time following the drawn outlines precisely. (Don't worry if 'precise' is tricky for little hands - neatness isn't the primary objective here, and the templates are pretty forgiving).
:: Peel the paper backing off each shape and position on your t-shirt. Once you're happy with the way they look, carefully iron to fix in place.
:: Take a length of embroidery thread in a shade to match the skull fabric, and separate it so you're only stitching with 2 or 3 of the six strands (this makes it much easier for beginners to handle and also gives a smoother, flatter finish). Knot the end and start sewing simple running stitches around the outside edge of the skull. They can be as neat or as messy as you like (or can manage!). If you run out of thread, secure the end at the back of your work, and carry on stitching with a new piece.
:: Sew around the outside of the eye socket, the nose, the crossed bones and the curved part of the eye patch in the same way.
:: Using pencil (which will wash out later) or an erasable fabric marker, draw a line diagonally across the head to mark a 'strap' for the eye patch. Draw a curved line at the bottom of the skull to mark the mouth.
:: Sew along the strap line, using backstitch. (I used the full six strands of thread for this to create a slightly thicker line, but it would work just as well with 2 or 3 if you find that easier).
:: Sew along the mouth line, again using backstitch. Add some big single stitches going across the mouth line at random intervals.
:: Run the iron over your finished applique one more time, and it's then ready to wear.
:: Print out the flower templates (petals, centres and leaves) and then trace onto the paper side of fusible webbing. Roughly cut out each piece of webbing, leaving a small border outside your drawn outlines.
:: Iron the pieces onto the reverse of your chosen fabrics. I made two totally different flowers, but you might prefer to go for a matching pair.
:: Cut out all pieces, snipping through fabric and webbing, and this time following the drawn outlines precisely. (Don't worry if 'precise' is tricky for little hands - neatness isn't the primary objective here, and the templates are pretty forgiving).
:: Peel the paper backing off the petal and centre pieces and position on your t-shirt (set the leaves aside for now). Once you're happy with the way they look, carefully iron to fix in place.
:: Take a length of embroidery thread in a contrasting colour, and separate it so you're only stitching with 2 or 3 of the six strands (this makes it much easier for beginners to handle and also gives a smoother, flatter finish). Knot the end and start sewing simple running stitches across the flower petals and in towards the centre. The stitches can be as neat or as messy as you like (or can manage!). If you run out of thread, secure the end at the back of your work, and carry on stitching with a new piece.
:: When you've stitched across all of the petals, sew a button in the centre of each flower.
:: Using pencil (which will wash out later) or an erasable fabric marker, draw a a straight line beneath each flower as a stem.
:: Sew along each stem, using backstitch. (I used four strands of thread for this to create a slightly thicker line, but it would work just as well with 2 or 3, as before).
:: Peel the paper backing off the leaf pieces you cut out earlier and position them along the stem. You can add as many or as few leaves as you like. Iron into place, and then sew along the centre of each one, using running stitch again.
:: Iron your finished applique one more time, and it's ready to wear.
If you're a parent, you know how this goes, but please obviously ensure children are supervised and very careful when using sharp scissors, needles and most especially a hot iron. If in any doubt, you might prefer to do the cutting out and ironing stages yourself.
:: Appliqué is the perfect way to cover up stains or marks on clothing which no amount of washing will get rid of (marker-pen, bleach, etc..), and can also be used to disguise small holes or rips.
:: Don't forget, girls can be pirates, too! Choose pretty floral patterns or softer colours to give the template a more feminine look, and try stitching a bow to the top of the skull as a cute finishing touch. Similarly, fabric and stitching projects aren't just for girls - basic sewing skills are useful for boys too, and a fun pirate-themed project like this could be just the thing to change their mind about what is often perceived as a girls-only activity.
:: If you're not an especially confident stitcher yourself, or need to refresh your skills, you can find a step-by-step guide to the basics over at one of my favourite blogs, Wild Olive. The post on starting/strands and this one on running/backstitch will probably be the most useful, and the guide also includes alternative instructions for left-handers.
:: The templates and ideas here are really just a starting point. You can apply the same basic principles to all sorts of different pictures and shapes. Start by sketching out your idea, trying to keep details relatively simple, and then break it down into component parts. Trace each one onto fusible webbing, and apply as described above. If you're not confident about drawing your own designs, search online for suitable clip-art images or find simple, traceable pictures in your child's favourite colouring book.
I could launch into the post with all kinds of smart-arsery and obscure references to Doctor Who, but I'm not going to. Instead, let's just settle on 'my job is awesome'. Because seriously, how many people get to make things like this and call it work?
It's a Compost Dalek.
Lift off the top half, drop your kitchen scraps inside and when it's full, transport to the compost bin outside. It's mostly made from household items and leftovers, including plastic cartons, cardboard, cocktail sticks and toothpaste lids, which makes it even more eco-friendly, and probably on a budgetary par with the original BBC-built Daleks.
The full project is featured in the current issue of Aquila magazine, as well as on my personal list of Things I Have Made Which Might Be Useful In The Quest For World Domination (Always Assuming People Are Prepared To Overlook The Fact It's Less Than A Foot Tall).
When it comes to plagiarising, there's nothing quite like ripping off your own projects. I say 'ripping off', but it's probably more like following one of my own tutorials. I don't very often do this - new stuff is good, right? - but sometimes lazy needs must.
Very pretty but slightly plain cardigan + templates from this tutorial = happy present for a friend's little girl.
Our sofa is just the right side of thirty to get away with it.
Quite a few are already heading for Christmas stockings in various parts of the world which makes me very happy. In case you'd like a little extra proof of their general sturdiness, I offer up the following.
In my experience, little girls like to tip them upside down and pretend their legs are hair, while boys mostly like to throw them. At things, off things, and with as much force as their sticky mitts can muster. Older owners so far have been slightly more restrained, at least in my company. What they do when I'm not there is anyone's guess.
Along with everything else in the shop, you can order soctopuses for Christmas up until the end of this coming Sunday (18th December) if you're in the UK. Last Christmas posting dates for international mail have now passed, but there are still a handful of downloadables you can order, shipping-free to anywhere in the world.
I have a handful of new things to add to my Etsy shop this week, starting with a downloadable tutorial which shows you how to make Supergirl and her pals, Pirate, Sweet Japanese Girl, Music Fan, Ms Beehive and Wizard Who May Or May Not Be Harry Potter.
You can find the tutorial - all super-detailed 15 pages of it - right here, should you be on the lookout for such a thing.
The remaining updates will happen throughout this week, and to celebrate I'm hosting a giveaway. Comment numbers here on the blog are nearing a thousand, and although I'm going to be cagey about exactly how many more it'll take to get there (random is more fun), the 1000th commenter will win a $25 gift certificate to spend in the shop. You can comment on any post - old or new - and if you want to enter more than once, well that's ok, too. Just please don't leave multiple, spammy comments on any single blog post (although I know you wouldn't, because you're awesome like that).
NB. If you buy something in the shop this week and then turn out to be Lucky Commenter No.1000, you can choose whether to spend your gift certificate on something else, have your earlier purchase refunded or a combination of the two, depending on the amounts in question.
Robin, that is.
If you found your way here via a Google search and were hoping for something cooler and more street, I'm sorry. We're all about the finger puppets round here.
Made for the summer issue of Aquila magazine, I think they're kind of hilarious. Here at Casa G+G, we've decided Robin looks a little keener on Will than he does on Marian, and that Friar Tuck's cheeks suggest he might well need to visit an entirely different kind of Priory.
Should you (or your favourite child) feel inclined to make up a set (straight, sober or otherwise) the magazine includes all the templates and instructions you'll need, plus plenty of other holiday features and activities. They're the nicest of clients, and if you like the idea of a children's magazine which features something other than celebrity culture, TV shows, plastic covermounts and brands galore, it's well worth a look.
This week, I'm working on a couple of little shop updates, the first of which is a new version of an existing product.
Yep, the animal finger puppets are now available as a digital pattern, as well as in kit form. If you already have plenty of felt and fabric scraps at home, this is a great way to use them up and it's also a pretty economical option for making children's birthday presents (I love the whole 'buy once, use as many times as you like' option digital offers). Similarly, if you're looking for Easter projects, they'd be great fun to make along with kidlets - yours or anyone else's - during the holidays.
You can find both the original kit and the new digi-version in le shop right now.
Happy Wednesday, chicas!