Montessori Word Family House

J’s teacher showed me an idea that she got from a blog and asked if I could come up with something similar for their classroom.  Well, how can I say no to such a challenge?  **Update** I finally found the link for the original inspiration for this project at itty bitty love.  She has some examples of word family cards that the children can choose from.  Check out her blog.  Great Montessori ideas!

Word Family House

The purpose of this work is to put a word ending in the top attic window.  So there will be a card with “AT” on it for example.  Then, the child will have more cards with the “AT” ending which the child places down the right-side column of windows, cards with beginning sounds, and then objects that match the words that can be created…”CAT” or “BAT” for instance.  I’ll try to get some pictures of the work in progress once J’s teacher puts it out.

The size of the red house is about 12×12 inches, which was just the size of the pieces of wool-blend red felt that I had (purchased from Felt-o-Rama).  The white windows on the red part of the house are 2×3 inches.  I sewed those on with my machine and a straight-stitch.  So here was my process:

1) Cut out two pieces of tan for the roof.  Attached the window in the center of one piece using white embroidery floss and a whip stitch.  Then, I used a back-stitch and dark gray floss to make the window panes, and to outline the window.  I then put the two tan pieces together, sandwiched in a piece of dark charcoal (a felted sweater scrap) and used a decorative stitch to sew the roof together.

2) Cut out the main house window pieces.  I attached these to the front house piece with Heat-n-Bond Lite in order to get them to stay on securely when I was sewing them on.  I find this works better than just pinning which can cause the pieces to turn out a bit wonky by the time you are done if you aren’t careful.  Then I sewed them in place with my machine, matching thread, and a standard straight stitch.  I hand-stitched the window panes with a back stitch and dark charcoal embroidery floss.  You could put the windows on by hand with a whip-stitch but I was trying to save a bit of time with eight windows!

3) I then embellished the house a bit with the purple coneflower, grass and butterfly.

4) While watching the awesome skating on the Olympics last night, I put together the two red pieces by hand with a blanket stitch.  Stitched all the way around all sides.  I then attached the roof using a whipstitch along the bottom edge of the roof where it meets the front piece of the house.  I didn’t tack it down in the back at all.  I didn’t really feel like it needed it, but I can do that later if it turns out to need some additional support after it’s been used awhile by the children.

Purple coneflower embellishment on the house

Butterfly embellishment

This was a fun project!  I can’t wait to see it in action in the classroom.

Christmas Eve Pajamas

Christmas Eve Pajamas

I put little gifts and things in the Advent calendar each day until the 24th. However, the 24th is always my special gift of handmade pajamas. Last year, I made Yoda pajamas that the boys loved. This year, I went more traditional, and made pajamas out of blue snowmen. I don’t use a commercial pattern. I take a pair of pajama pants that fit well, fold them, and copy them onto a sheet of freezer paper. Add about 1/2 inch for seam allowance, and add about 2.5 inches at the top for the waistband, and another 1.5 inches at the bottom for the hem. About.  As you can maybe see in the picture below, the long straight side of the pattern is where you fold the fabric.  Then you cut around the pattern, and make two of these.

Pajama pants pattern

When you sew up the pants, you put the two unfolded pieces together, right sides facing, and sew just along the line from crotch to waist for the front and back.  I always use a triple stitch in the crotch/bum area to provide reinforcement.  Then you open it up and you sew from the bottom of one leg, up through the crotch area, and down to the bottom of the other leg.  Then, fold over your casing at the top for the elastic, sew around leaving a 2 inch opening to thread through the elastic, and then finish sewing up the waist after you thread through the elastic.  I like to use 3/4 inch underwear/pajama elastic, and try to make the elastic casing so it just fits the elastic.  If the casing is too large, then the elastic will roll within the casing when you wash them.  I measured the boys’ waists, and then deducted about 5 inches and this is the piece of elastic that I cut.  Then finish them off by hemming the legs.

I also added a little tag in the back with the size.  I did this for two reasons, 1) they are exactly the same and this will make it easier to put them away in the drawers, and 2) it tells the boys which side is the back so they don’t put them on backwards.  I used some 1/2 inch twill tape, wrote the size number on it with a fabric marker, and then sewed it on the back.  You can see the stitches through the fabric in the back where I sewed on the tape, but I don’t particularly care.  They are pajamas after all.

I bought long sleeved white t-shirts, and embellished them with the snowmen from the flannel fabric that I used to make the pants. I appliqued these on the front using these steps:
1) Iron a piece of Heat and Bond Lite onto a small square of fabric larger than the picture that you will cut out.
2) Cut around the picture, leaving about a 1/4 inch all the way around.
3) Peel off the backing paper, place on your shirt, and iron onto your shirt using the instructions for the Heat and Bond.
4) Change the needle in your machine to a ball point needle if you are sewing the applique onto a knit fabric.
5) Place a piece of tear-away/wash-away stabilizer behind the applique and begin stitching around the outside of the picture using a tight zig-zag stitch.  The stabilizer helps the fabric from puckering.
6) Tear away the stabilizer when you are done!

Our new pajamas!

We had a fun Christmas Eve!  The hubby made paella for dinner.  Yum!  We like to have lobster for Christmas Eve dinner, but we decide to switch it up with the paella (no worries, there were 2 lobsters in there!).

Then we watched a little NORAD Santa-tracking on the computer, went outside to spread around some reindeer food, and went to bed to wait for Santa.  Another lovely Christmas Eve!

Fabric coasters

I love to make fabric coasters.  So quick and easy, with that element of instant gratification combined with usefulness.  We attended a family wedding last weekend, and purchased the standard “kitchen equipment” sort of present.  Well, not quite standard, but eminently useful and loved here at our household!  In any case, I also wanted to give the bride and groom a little something handmade as well.  We did a big “cousin dinner” thing while we were visiting and went out to the bride and groom’s favorite sushi restaurant.  Yummy.  Even the non-sushi-eating cousins were good sports and tried some things.  (Although the look on cousin Steven’s face when he ate the Philly roll was quite humorous.)

So, I whipped up these little sushi coasters.  On the back is some great fabric from Sandi Henderson’s Ginger Blossom line for Michael Miller (Blossom Buds in Mustard).  I got the sushi fabric at JoAnns, and it’s from Robert Kaufman.  The coasters are super-easy to make.  I cut 4.5″x4.5″ squares out of the two fabrics, and one same-size square of a thin cotton batting.  Sandwich it together, like such….batting on the bottom, backing piece facing up, front piece facing down.  Sew around the square with a 3/8″ seam allowance, leaving a big enough gap for turning it right-side out on one side.  Clip the corners off, although not too close to the stitching.  Turn it, and push out the corners with a chopstick or pencil.  Press.  Then, top-stitch around the outside, close to the edge, which also closes up the gap that you used to turn the little quilt sandwich.  I used a bright green thread for the top-stitching, which actually turned out quite cute and matched better than I thought it would.  Voila, coasters!  Easy-peasy.  And all fabric from my stash – even better!

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Birthday Bunting

Birthday bunting

Birthday bunting

I have been wanting to make a celebration bunting for awhile, and just never got around to it.  Well, I finally made some for J’s birthday party!  They are just triangles that I cut out of some fun fabrics.  I sewed two triangles together, wrong sides facing, and then pinked the edges.  You don’t need to sew the tops because you attach them all together with wide double-fold bias tape.  The only hard part was the pinking shears (almost gave myself a blister! should have bought a pinking rotary cutter blade), and sewing closed the bias tape edge at the ends.  It was trying to get stuck in my machine.  I made my tying ends about 12-14 inches long, and I think they should have been a bit longer.  Because I used two fabrics for each triangle, they are also reversible.

Make your own celebration bunting!

1. Cut out your triangles.  I made a pattern out of cardstock, and then decided that I wanted it to be a little bit bigger, so I just measured an extra half-inch all the way around when I was cutting.  I probably should have just cut a new piece of cardstock, LOL!  This is a lot easier with a rotary cutter and long ruler.

Cut out your triangles

Cut out your triangles

The size of my triangles was around 8.5" by 11"

The size of my triangles was around 8.5" by 11"

2. Take two triangles (I matched the fabrics, but you could mix and match too), put them together, wrong sides facing, and sew from the top corner, down to the tip and back up to the other corner, with a 1/2″ seam allowance.  Backstitch at the start and stop.

3. Don’t even bother cutting your threads, just push the first off, and keep going, sewing the next triangle, etc.  Snip the threads later!

Sew two triangles together

Sew two triangles together

4. Trim the sewn sides with pinking shears.  This helps prevent fraying.  If you feel like you are going to wash them a lot, you might want to sew them together right sides facing, and then turn them inside out, and press.  And skip the pinking shears.  I didn’t really see myself washing them ever, so this was not a concern to me.  You can also buy pinking blades for your rotary cutter which is a lot easier than doing it by hand!

5. Buy a package of double-fold wide bias tape in a coordinating color.  Mark 18″ from the end with a pin.  Sew the bias tape closed up to the pin.  Remove the pin, and place your first triangle inside the fold of the bias tape.  Just keep sewing and enclose the top end of the triangle into the bias tape fold.  Stop about 2 inches from the end of the triangle, and place your next triangle.  I didn’t bother pinning or anything, but you could if that makes you more comfortable.

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6.  The number of triangles that you can fit will depend on how wide your triangles are, how much you overlap them, and how long you make your ends.  My ends are actually about 12″ and I think it’s too small.  It would be better just a little bit longer in terms of being able to tie them securely around objects.  My triangles were 8.5″ wide across the top, I only overlapped by a tiny bit, and had 12″ of end strings.  I was able to fit ten triangles on each length of double-fold bias tape.  You could also sew two packages of bias tape together before you start, giving you two lengths, and an extra long bunting.

7.  When you finish the last triangle, keep sewing the remaining end of the bias tape closed, remembering to backstitch at the end of course.  Without the flags inside the bias tape, my machine was really trying to eat it up and jam, so keep pulling it along if you have to.

Voila!  Celebration bunting!  I see a lot of people who applique words on their bunting (you could either sew the appliqued letters, or even just use Wonder-Under).  Or you could stencil letters with fabric paint.  You could make this as a decoration for your child’s room instead of for a party, applique their name on it.  If you wanted to make it super-quickie, you could just use one triangle, and just sew them into the bias tape.  Of course, you could also make your own bias tape if you wanted!  This is a quick and fun project.

Playsilk Rainbow Canopy

So, I’ve seen these playsilks dyed in rainbow colors. I’ve read various ideas about how to achieve that, and most involved separating like you do with tie-dye, dipping into various colors, etc. Actually, here is a pretty awesome photo tutorial for making one by laying it out and spooning the dye on. It looks great and the tutorial makes it look so easy. I might have to try it.

In any case, since I really like my method with Kool-Aid and the microwave, I was thinking about how could I get a big rainbow playsilk using the microwave/Kool-Aid way. So, I bought three of the 14 x 72 inch silk scarves (Habotai silk, 8mm) from Dharma Trading. My plan was to dye each one separately and then sew them together. It worked marvelously! Woo-hoo! An idea that works! Dyeing takes about 5 active minutes, and sewing the three together took me about 10 minutes.

I only bought three, so I did the “Green, Blue, Indigo/Violet” part of ROY-G-BIV. Since this little experiment has worked, I’m going to be buying some more to do the ROY (Red, Orange, Yellow). I may need to play around with the yellow a bit since last time I used lemonade, it didn’t turn out very yellow, more like cream. Someone suggested adding a few drops of yellow food coloring to the lemonade. Hmmm….might have to buy some little 11 x 11 inch ones to do some test colors on. A lot of people buy acid dyes from Dharma and use those to dye their playsilks. I’m sure I will have to try that one day. The colors are a lot more vibrant. But, for now, I’m happy with my Kool-Aid.

I ran out of Grape Kool-Aid, and J was helping me and wanted to do it right now and not wait for me to go to the store another day, so we created purple using Cherry and Ice Blue Lemonade. Works great! And the boys loved watching the red and blue mix together to make purple! I’ve actually done a side-by-side comparison of a Cherry/Ice Blue mixture compared to just Grape, and they are almost exactly the same color.

I used 3 packets of Lemon-Lime for the Green, 3 packets of Ice Blue Lemonade Twisters for the blue, and 2 packets Cherry/2 packets Ice Blue Lemonade for the purple.

The boys love to turn their bunk beds into a “fort”, which was the impetus for this little project. They were so excited when they got home from school and I had it hanging up! (Ignore J’s unmade bed there…)

Dyeing Playsilks and Making Streamer Wands

So, there is a lot of information out there on how to Kool-Aid dye, but I am going to repeat it anyway, and then tell you how I created the silk streamer wands with the results. They turned out great! It was very easy to do on my own, and I also made up a set of 20 “kits” for the kids to do as a craft project at the boys’ summer camp program (3-8yos). The teachers said the kids had a lot of fun making them, and then playing with them.

1) Silk scarves in either 6″x24″ or 8″x54″. I buy my silk scarf blanks at Dharma Trading. The 6×24 ones were good for the kids to do since they are very small and manageable. However, I prefer the 8×54 ones since they are nice and long, and “streamer-y”. The ones at Dharma already have rolled hems which makes things easier. You can also use this method to dye playsilks, which is a wonderful open-ended play item for young children. Most people use 8mm Habotai silk for playsilks. 35×35″ inches seems like a popular size. I think the 44×44″ ones are a bit more fun, personally, but it depends on the age of the child. 11×11″ can be nice for a small baby.

2) Kool-aid in various flavors. I used Berry Blue, Wild Cherry, Lemon-Lime, Lemonade, Strawberry, Cherry and Grape. I’ve heard that they make flavors for the Latin American market that turn out a brown color, but I’m not sure what flavors those might be. (Okay, I was very curious by what flavor ‘brown’ might be…so since Google is my friend…it’s Cola flavored! Only available in the Mexico market.)

3) White vinegar

4) 5/16″ wooden dowels. Definitely get at least 5/16″ dowels. The thinner dowels snap in half easily (I know this from experience). I bought a pack of 8 at Michael’s for less than $2.

5) “Hooks & Eyes” or screw-in eye hooks. Let’s see, the size #212 were nice and heavy duty, but I had to use pliers to get them fully screwed into the dowel. The size #216 1/2 were tiny and easy to screw in, but I’m a bit worried that they might fall out with some heavy use. I purchased these at our local hardware store.

6) Freezer weight Ziploc bags. Use a quart size for the 8×54 (or for 35×35 or larger playsilks), and a pint size for the 6×24 scarves. You can also skip these and do your dyeing right in a Pyrex dish, but that’s bit messier and will slow you down if you are doing many different colors.

7) Embroidery floss. Just one skein in a basic color like white.

8) Small Pyrex dish, measuring cup, fork to stir, water, hot pad, crochet hook, microwave, sewing machine.

Dyeing Procedure

1) Soak silk scarf in a bowl of hot water for 20 minutes.

2) Meanwhile, mix up your dye. For the small 6×24 inch scarves, you just need about 1/4 cup of liquid. For the 8×54 scarves, or for 35×35 playsilks, you’ll need about 1/2 cup of liquid. For the 6×24 inch scarves, mix in a measuring cup 1/8 cup vinegar, 1/8 cup warm water and 1 packet of Kool-Aid. (See end of tutorial for any color hints that I might have.) For the larger scarves, mix 1/4 cup vinegar, 1/4 cup warm water and 2 packets of Kool-Aid. The more Kool-Aid you use, the darker the color will be. So, if you want a really dark color, you could try 3 or 4 packets. I’ve not experimented to that extent with the color, so just have fun with it! If you are dyeing more than one silk at a time, increase the amount of liquid, but you probably don’t need to double it. You’ll just have to play around with things.

3) After the silk has soaked for 20 minutes, wring out any excess water and place silk in a Ziploc bag which you’ve set in a Pyrex dish (to catch any spills). Pour in your dye, seal the bag, and smoosh the silk around in the dye to get it evenly coated.

4) Repeat with more scarves/colors if you want. I was able to fit about 4 quart sized Ziploc bags comfortably in my 8×8 Pyrex dish.

5) IMPORTANT: Before placing in the microwave, open the Ziploc bags a little bit to vent them. The water will boil in the Ziploc and you want them vented.

6) Place in microwave, and microwave on high for 2 minutes. Let rest 2 more minutes. Using a towel or hot pad, smoosh the silk around in the dye again. (Caution! The bags are hot!) Microwave on high for another 2 minutes. If you are making the small 6×24 ones, you can probably take them out now. If you are making bigger ones, you will want to repeat this one more time: rest 2 minutes, microwave on high 2 more minutes. The key is that you don’t want all the liquid to evaporate. The silk can catch fire in the microwave if you don’t watch them and you ran out of liquid. (Thankfully, do NOT know this from experience.)

7) Take out of microwave, open up the bags and let them cool down slowly to room temperature (or just warm and easy to handle). This slow cool-down process helps set the dye.

8) Once they are cool enough, rinse in water of the same temperature as the silk. Continue to rinse out the dye with cool water until the water runs clear. Now, I sort of felt like the water never ran perfectly clear. So, when it seemed ‘good enough’ to me, I stopped.

9) Hang to dry. They will dry pretty quickly.

10) You can also decide to run them through a rinse cycle on your washing machine (no soap) to get out any remaining dye. This seemed to work well for me. I have a front-loader, so I had to put them in with a few old towels. (The spin cycle doesn’t work right with only a few tiny things in the washer.) None of them bled on the towels/rags, so I take that as a good sign. I sorted them by similar color and ran them through the washer in different loads, just in case. I didn’t want the red silk to bleed onto my yellow one! This will also fade the colors a bit, so it’s up to you if you decide to do this step at all.

11) I also suggest ironing them on a low heat / silk setting since they will be pretty wrinkly.

Making the Silk Streamer Wands

1) Once the silks are dry and ironed, you will need to do a bit of sewing. You can also decide to sew them before dyeing them. It’s up to you. Just fold over the short side of the scarf (the 6″ or 8″ side) about 1/2″. Sew a straight stitch making sure to backstitch at the beginning and end. You are just sewing a little pocket.

2) Screw your eye hooks into your wood dowels. I’ve seen people who decorate the dowels with either paint or by wrapping ribbon around them, which could look very pretty.

3) Cut a length of embroidery floss, about 8″. I tied one end around the tip of a crochet hook, and used the crochet hook to run the floss through the pocket I had sewn in the silk scarf. You can do this some other way, of course, but this seemed to work well for me.

4) Remove the crochet hook, and tie the embroidery floss together to gather the silk. Use the embroidery floss to tie the silk to the eye hook. Try to use a knot that will hold it securely. I used a square knot, I think it’s called, but whatever works for you.

Voila! Wonderful hand-dyed silk streamer wands!

Kool-Aid Color Tips and Other Random Ideas:

* The Lemonade (yellow) isn’t very bright. After running mine through my washing machine, it was really just cream. Maybe I needed more Kool-Aid. I decided to re-dye it, and not run it through the washing machine, and it’s brighter now, but still pretty light colored yellow.

* I made one with ‘Grape’ flavor, and I made another by mixing one ‘Cherry’ and one ‘Berry Blue’. They were almost the exact same shade of purple.

* This can make a fun lesson in color theory for your kids! “What will happen if we mix Berry Blue and Lemonade?”

* If you want to make a striped playsilk, you might try laying it in the Pyrex dish, and using squeeze bottles to apply the dye to specific areas. Not sure how this would turn out, but this is how I’ve heard that people do it.

* Another option instead of Kool-Aid is to use Wilton cake dyes. Just Google that and you’ll get plenty of info! The colors come out brighter and deeper, supposedly.

* Another fun idea would be to dye a silk a deep blue color and then use gold metallic paint to paint stars, comets, etc. on the silk. Wouldn’t that be cool??

Tutorial Teaser

It’s been on my crafty to do list for a really long time: dyeing playsilks with Kool-Aid. I finally did it this weekend and made these awesome silk streamers. Just wanted to give you a teaser, and I’m planning on posting a full tutorial in the next few days.

Remember that idea I posted a few weeks ago from Soulemama? The Note Writing Ensemble. I’ve decided that I’m definitely making some of those. I think they will make wonderful teacher gifts at the holidays! I was perusing linen bias tape at Super Buzzy. Man, that store has cool stuff.

ETA: Just after I posted this, Soulemama posted a pattern and instructions for her Gratitude Wrap on her blog! Hooray! That will make things much easier. And SuperBuzzy just debuted their new blog today as well. They are giving away an awesome gift set to their 10,000th order.