Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Drawing with Kids: Contour Drawing

We checked this book out of the library and have been reading about artist materials and working on all kinds of drawing. Miss Kinder, age 5, particularly enjoyed the section on contour drawing, which happens to be the first exercise in the book. 

Contour drawing, if you aren't familiar with the term, is basically drawing the outline of your picture. (My favorite contour drawing artist/illustrator, as a side note, is the lovely Leanne Shapton.) The exercise in the book is to create a contour montage, which involves tracing the outlines of a few interesting pictures of your choice. 

We taped the magazine pictures she chose to the back of her paper (dancing woman, stack of money with eyes and cat face) and then taped the paper to a window so she could see the outlines most easily. After tracing the images, she spent some time tracing her pencil lines with a black pen and erasing any extra pencil marks she didn't want. Then she used oil crayons to color it in.

One of the rules the book emphasizes is that tracing isn't cheating, which I loved sharing with her. She and her peers seem to think that copying in any form means you are not interesting, or that you are trying to ruin the game or their drawing. She was very excited to see that this exercise specifically required tracing which allowed her to feel that her picture would have more of a resemblance to what she wanted it to look like, yet the end result is very different from the initial image so it's not merely a copy. 

I foresee more of these in our future.

Monday, March 30, 2009

The First Sock

I am trying my hand at knitting a pair of socks. I will keep you posted on my progress, but here is what I did last night:

The tips I've gathered on this type of project have all been really helpful at keeping me from being frustrated or bored. 

* Use self-striping yarn. This will keep things interesting and make the socks beautiful. 

* Cast on the double pointed needles loosely. This will keep you from going nutty when getting started.

* Ignore as best you can all the extra needles you are not using. This gets easier as you go, but is helpful at first when things don't look very sock-like and there are lots of points everywhere.

* If you find yourself sort of lost or confused or annoyed at first, stick with it. After a few rows, it will be ok. Hang in there.

My local knitting shop is filled with beautiful sock yarn choices, and I got tips, encouragement and a free pattern when I bought the yarn. Your store is probably this nice, too! 

Before starting, I looked for some encouragement on the internet. My two favorite and best links for beginning sock knitters are here:

The Sock Knitter's Companion: Step-by-Step Help: This explains what goes into knitting a sock and is helpful as you follow any pattern for clearing up exactly what you are doing. 

Silver's Sock Class: This one uses photos and explanations for beginner knitters and no pattern. It's very helpful if you are not familiar with reading patterns, or just want extra clear help in plain English.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

ATC workshop by Miss Kinder

Friday was Miss Kinder's big day to teach some local kids all about Artist Trading Cards. We arrived for the big event on time, to see we were being welcomed with great enthusiasm!

I had recommended to her that we approach the Starrett Center in Belfast to see if they might be interested in having her come in to share her ATC's and make some with the kids, and they were super excited. She was nervous, but settled in and helped me to explain a little about them and pass out lots of examples from her collection.

Everyone was eager to start. We passed out lots of blank precut cards and they got out the markers and pencils to give it a try. After they got comfortable, we cut out more paper and they brought out the really fun supplies: stickers, dried flowers, gluesticks, ribbon, fabric scraps, origami paper and watercolors. 

We told them all about the Rockport Library and the binder you can swap your card into and take one of your choosing, which generated a lot of happiness. We had participants from age 3 to age 58 -- one of the greatest things of doing ATCs!

This one above is called Duck Village, and I was coveting it. The clever eight-year-old who made it wasn't ready to trade. But one of the teachers, Linda, kindly traded this beautiful ATC with Miss Kinder for one she brought to show everyone of the NYC skyline. Miss Kinder loved Linda's ATC, and was tickled by its name: Eggrise over Fingers.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Sunrise Surprise

Most of the time I don't respond well when my girls bounce out of bed at 5 am. Both parents in this house are certifiable night owls, a fact that matters very little to young persons. Every once in a while, something wonderful happens. My girls wake up early, and I am not grumpy. I get up, get my coffee, and just enjoy the sunrise. Really.

Miss Kinder got out some markers and drew the colors she saw, noting that all of the rainbow except violet was represented. 

I went outside to capture a photo to go with her drawing, but got some video instead. So if you are an early bird, or if you are a city bird, watch a little movie clip of my backyard during sunrise time and listen to what a sunrise sounds like here in Belfast, Maine.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Last Day to Sign Up for Swap--CHOO!

We've got a healthy crop of swappers, but you can still sign up today if you want to join us and create a hand rolled hem hankie! We'll be organizing the swap pairs tonight and sending email out on Thursday.
This swap honors spring sneezes, the beauty of a handcrafted item, simpler times, romance, allergies and long goodbyes at the train station.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Quilt Making: a Metaphor for Parenting

Over the weekend Miss Kinder, who is nearly six, took a keen interest in the sewing machine. We took out a practice piece of fabric and got the basics down. Raising and lowering the arm, pressing the pedal with different amounts of pressure, and backing up. 

It shouldn't have surprised me that after fifteen minutes of practicing she boldly announced that she was ready to make a quilt. I am the Exact Same Way. Even so, my first response was, "well, that's a big project." I started suggesting to her that we try something small like a pillow or a coaster. She looked at me-- or should I say-- she looked through me. 

I then actually heard what I was saying to her. It sounded a lot like, "I know you'll never finish this project and don't think you can really do it." I wondered what the real harm would be in starting a quilt that never gets finished. I have about five pair of knitting needles with blankets, scarves and other sundries attached and in progress. I won't tell you about the shelves of other starters, in many crafty mediums. If she never finished the quilt, what of it?

It was an energizing feeling to acknowledge that I feel most comfortable when my parenting is focused on encouraging her actual interests and not, as an example, trying to cultivate an appetite for making coasters. And, big projects start the same as little ones. 

I retracted my let's-scale-back-your-thinking comment, and announced, "Hey! I've got precut squares we can use!" And so she began.

In the first session, she completed three strips of five pre-cut squares and sewed them together. Yesterday she did another two strips. She did the work of facing the squares together, putting them in the machine, and feeding the fabric through. My job was to cut additional squares as needed, and cut the thread for her. That is how this 5x5 square came to be.

The next part of the quilt, she informed me, was going to be a larger purple square going around the rim of this patchwork one. She showed me the fabric she wanted. I agreed to cut the squares, but only if she told me how many I had to do. So I drew a grid and she counted and gave me my orders. 

I'm completely impressed by her focus and her assuredness on what she wants this quilt to look like. The ball is in my court, and I'm game!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Signs of Spring

The girls and I went outside today, desperate to find signs of spring. Keep in mind that it is 27 degrees outside, but in our hearts and on our calendars we know it is spring and spring is what we wanted to see. Here is what we found:

I promise to share mud season with you in all its glory. But this is how it starts.

Spring Promise

It may be cold, the ground may be frozen, there may be snow still. But, it's coming. And we'll be ready.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Birthday garland

A friend from my days in Inwood has kindly allowed me to share her lovely birthday tradition with you. In lieu of gifts for her girls, she makes a simple request: bring a flower. She uses these offerings to create a beautiful garland for the birthday girl. 

I love how this simple garland marks the celebration of friends and the birthday girl herself. I loved watching Shannon create the garland while the kids played. Once worn, the garland really makes the photos of the birthday girl shine. The garland can be dried and used as a decorative wreath afterward, which I think is all kinds of terrific. 

Creating a Birthday Garland

Gather your supplies:
*  florist wire
*  wire cutters
*  scissors
*  flowers!
Wind the flowers around the florist wire going in the same direction. Because guests are bringing the flowers, you will be dealing with many stem types. Start with the sturdiest stem (usually the sunflower) by poking the wire into the stem and then wrapping the wire around the next flower stem. Repeat. To connect the beginning stem to the last one, wrap the remaining florist wire to the initial wire at the start of the garland. 

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Pencil and Sketchbook Holder

Miss Kinder and I have been going over ideas for what to make for a certain six-year-old girl's birthday this Saturday. Originally, she was all fired up for some more nesting dolls, but then reconsidered and wanted something different. We looked and looked, and looked some more, and her eyes lit up when she saw this pencil and sketchbook holder

Now, a better person would have carefully followed either the detailed step-by-step tutorial on Skip to my Lou or the one on one red robin. I got antsy, and decided I had the gist of it. I think I should consider matching my thread when I am going to wing it, so that my mistakes don't show up so, well, yellowy.

For the clasp/closure, I borrowed an idea from another great project. It's a coffee cozy from Erin at House on Hill Road who ingeniously uses a button and a ponytail holder. McGyver crafts!

Now we are ready to put on our bowling shoes for the party and fill up on cake!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Power Animal of the Month: Hippopotamus

I know, I know, we're half-way through March, but I had completely forgotten about this regular feature of mine: Power Animal of the Month! You might recall that February was alive with my love of hedgies and all things hedgehog

I dedicate March to the hippopotamus because they are faster than they look and they can walk underwater. I like that in a power animal.


I'm excited to announce my first collaborative swap for all of you with a scrap of pretty fabric, a needle and spool of thread and an hour to make something beautiful. The first ever Hankie Swap, Swap-CHOO!, presented to you by me (Peggy) and Iris at Creative Endeavors in a Busy Life

This swap honors spring sneezes, the beauty of a handcrafted item, simpler times, romance, allergies and long goodbyes at the train station. 

Hand rolled hems are not hard, though they are somewhat time consuming as compared to running them through the machine. But they turn out beautifully and whether you've tried this technique before, or are terrified of the pressure of a swap I hope you'll give it a whirl.

As a bonus, April is  National Poetry Month, and for this we've added some extra fun. We'd love you to include with your hankie a poem, handwritten by you for added loveliness. This does not need to be one of your own making. A old favorite, or a new one would be really dandy.

We'll match you with a partner, and you'll have three weeks to make a hankie and write out a poem of your choice and get them in the mail. Anything else you choose to send is up to you and is by no means required. Simply post a comment here or on Iris' blog with your email so we can add to to the list. 

Feel free to use the swap button on your blog if you like, and we have also set up a flickr group for the hankies to be uploaded to, so we can all see the amazing results.

Easy, well-photographed and clear step-by-steps can be found at Purl Bee. You can also check out Iris' post on her first attempt, and mine, for more tips and inspiration. 
  • For some poetry inspiration here are some links here, here and here.
  • For some hankie'spiration, beauties to be found here, here and here.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Lemony Goodness

I am finally getting around to blogging a thank you to Lisa at 5 Orange Potatoes for the sweet Lemonade Award, which she nominated me for in February. This is especially great because I find her blog such an inspiration as a crafter and mother of two girls. I mean that in the most modern, carefree, hipster-hippie coolest way!

The "official" rules look like this: 

1. Put the logo on your blog or post.
2. Nominate blogs which show great Attitude and/or Gratitude
3. Link to your nominees within your post.
4. Let them know they have received this award by commenting on their blog.
5. Share the love and link this post to the person from whom you received your award.

Thusly and herein I further nominate some other fine bloggers!

Creative Endeavors in a Busy Life: Most inspiring and knowledgeable on matters of knitting, cooking, chicken-raising, child-rearing, and all things Artist Trading Card. Gorgeous photos in every post as a bonus.

Handmade Homeschool: A new blog in my must-reads, terrific posts about relaxing your inner perfectionist streak and just being real

Way Up High in the Monkey Bread Tree: Sometimes when reading posts on this blog, I think, did I write that? The more I read, the more I want to have her over for coffee.

The Toby Show: I enjoy when anyone blogs about life where there is more snow than we have here. I also have a few things in common like living in NYC pre and post 9/11, adjusting to life in the countryside and loving the name Huckleberry with fierceness.

Wintery Lix

At least a foot of snow has melted in the last week, and there is no doubt that we are headed away from winter and right toward spring. This year, despite all the snow and cold, I've really never had that feeling that winter just won't quit, or that I need spring and summer to get here. I think this has more to do with being well outside the grip of PPD and finally, firmly rooted into my own skin again. 

Just before the warmer temperatures took over, we made this lovely, lick-able sun catcher as seen on Way up High in the Monkey Bread Tree. The beads, elephant, and painted Buddha got plunked down in a cake tin and then we filled it with water and left it overnight on the porch, resulting in this icy magical delight. It was amazing how magical they found it, staring at each object through the ice with new eyes, waiting for the ice to melt away.

In other news, much crafting has been happening behind the blog curtain. Much of it is for the purposes of gifting or swapping, so no pictures just yet. Also, last night I finished the honkin' biography of Charles Schulz, Shultz and Peanuts, which was incredible. (image from the Charles Schulz Museum)

In particular, I was really drawn to the parts focused on his lifelong immersion in anxiety and sadness and how resistant he was to treatment for fear of losing his talents. In my daughters' lives, this is one myth I'd love to see shattered

Thursday, March 12, 2009


The Kids ATC Swap was very exciting and was my first foray into swappy craft blog land. The biggest issue with it was that in the end I realized that I actually wanted to be the swapper and swappee. Lucky for me there are tons of these around, and I have gotten myself hooked in a way that keeps me making things (which I love) and getting mail (which I love almost just as much.)

Two new swaps are on my to-do list, and I promise there will be exciting photos forthcoming!

One is We Wilson's tea towel swap, which has been fun. I am swapping one recipe and two tea towels with one person and I've been trying some new things for me, trying to make them really beautiful. I can't say more just now about this because I don't want to spoil it for my partner who might get really bored one day and poke on over to this here blog. 

The other I just signed up for is an Easter Bunny Children's Swap at Wee Pereas. I stumbled on it while adding a comment to 5 orange potatoes. It's an Easter/Spring swap for mamas and their little ones. This is great because I can pretend that I'm excited mostly for Miss Kinder, but really I'm just as eager, if not more so. 

There's still a few days to sign up, so what do you say? 

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

All Dressed Up

LEB has a favorite dress. It was a hand-me-down from big sister, Miss Kinder, who got it from her Grammy three or four years ago. It came from Hanna Anderson, and has been through a million washings, spaghetti massacres, and off season wearings. Though meant to be a summer dress, LEB prefers to wear it year-round, baring her arms all through the Maine winter. The most often heard question in LEB's presence is, "Aren't you cold?" to which she proudly replies, "No! I'm a beautiful princess ballerina!" 

Because she loves to dance and twirl in this dress, as well as go bowling and sleep in it, I knew I couldn't cut it up to make a pattern. Since it was only four pieces, I took my chances by tracing it the best I could onto newspaper in an effort to recreate it in a new fabric. 

Once again, Alewives to the rescue with a lovely peacock-like print in a 
light corduroy. I used some light blue bias tape for the hem and took my time, knowing that my beginner sewing skills would be tested. And, ta da! --

She decided that the Camper shoes were the best accessory for this outfit, and has worn them more in the last 48 hours than I have since we left NYC for Maine. It's hard to think of where I might wear these shoes here in Belfast. Perhaps to the theatre?

Lessons learned: I think the seams aren't super strong, and I need to look up how to make them stronger. Also, the dress I used as a template had two buttons in the back and I have no idea how to do that, so I cut a simple V in the back and BARELY got it over her head. I should probably think about how to do some type of closure, or my dresses are going to be pretty limited. Considering that LEB can wear a dress for three days straight, including sleeping in it, what if she has a growth spurt and her head grows so much that the dress won't come off!?

Monday, March 9, 2009

Lunch Sack for Miss Kinder

This weekend it all started when I went poking around downtown and saw some very cute reusable sandwich bags at the Green Store in Belfast. I took a long look at them and thought, I can do this! I decided to use some of the oilcloth I had bought over a year ago from Yo Mammas Home.

I drew a template on a manilla folder, and stitched up two of the bags just like the ones I saw. By this time, Miss Kinder had some ideas of her own, which included making a bag for them to go inside as well as another shape. Her ideas were either a heart or a star, but I nixed those figuring they would just store crumbs, so I went with a half circle. But the real victory for me was the owl-looking hard boiled egg holder, since she eats these pretty regularly. This required me to get my spatially thoughtful Other Half to help draw a template that would work, but we did it. 

Miss Kinder also decided she should have a cloth napkin for her lunch sack. She's been coveting the two fabrics I used since I brought them home from Alewives Fabrics and her love of them was reason enough for me to cut into them.

I used this tutorial from Jumilla Stories for the lunch sack, which was really easy. The only advice I'd offer if you try this would be to loosen the tension on your machine a bit so it moves through the oil cloth easily. I learned this the hard way.


Saturday, March 7, 2009

Mouse Soup for me!

Normally I don't post on the weekend, so I can just hang with the family, but I had to share this. 

I won my first blog giveaway, and it's a great one! Jonah Lisa at The Toby Show had a book giveaway for Mouse Soup and Mouse Tales, two books that LEB keeps pointing to in the back flap of our Frog and Toad books and asking for. When I saw the giveaway I immediately thought of LEBs excitement about these books and crossed my fingers. And it worked!

The snow is melting in big drips, too, making me a tiny bit more hopeful about springtime. Have a great weekend!

Friday, March 6, 2009

So Now We're Living Second Lives

I have that Phil Collins song stuck in my head, which I now remember is actually "Separate Lives" but I've been singing "second lives." I've somehow turned a song about infidelity into a song about Buddhism and recycling, isn't that fantastic? 

We can't go on just holding on to time
Now that we're living second lives


from the Second Lives exhibition at Waterfall Arts, by Ethan Andrews

Instructions for assembly:
           1.  Assemble the rack as it was made to be assembled.
           2. Start taking it apart from the top, reattaching the pieces as you go in such a way that it tends to overbalance in one direction.
           3. When it finally falls, leave it.

Lots of items in our home are enjoying second lives these days. This is not limited to glass jars and old clothes, which seem perfect for holding buttons or making handkerchiefs. My Other Half, who reports by day and is a painter and public art maker by night finds the most interesting things to do with items that are lying around

Waterfall Arts here in Belfast has an opening tonight focusing on just this concept. And to boot, my Other Half is prominently featured alongside some of the areas dandy other artists who do similar work. The whole family will shine our shoes and head over tonight for the show's opening and if you are anywhere near us, please stop by and say hello.

Waterfall Arts
Friday March 6, Reception from 6 to 8 pm 
Group Exhibit of artists using re-purposed and recycled materials - artists Ben Potter, Karen MacDonald, Ethan Andrews, Mark Kelly, Beth Henderson and David McLaughlin

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Spring, Ahead

Lisa at 5 orange potatoes had a post the other day about the view from her window. It made me take a look outside and suss up if spring really was on its way. The photo says no, but the truth is that this is how it goes every March. 

Accounts vary on how much snow we've actually had here in Belfast this year. I'd heard we were at 75" before the 10" or so that came this past Monday. My Other Half, who writes for the local paper, was told it might be higher than that. I'm no meteorologist, nor am I a ruler, but I can tell you that we have had so much snow that we no longer shovel it very well. Our pathway to the door has become more and more narrow with each storm. This reflects both laziness on our part and a lack of creative storage places for each shovel-full.  

It's been sunny since Monday's storm though, and warm enough to melt pretty decent piles away. The banked snow against the house is melted, and in the two or three inches of ground that revealed itself I can see hearty little crocus bulbs coming up. I wouldn't agree to arm wrestle them if I were you. They seem pretty tough. 

Belfast is already preparing for the spring and summer. The co-op is chock full of seed packets, and the city council just put funding toward an expanded public art project for the downtown that will feature altered bicycles. We've had some of these in summer's past, but this year we'll see eight more beauties. I can't wait! Even more exciting is a redesigned and thoroughly considered Tot Lot in Belfast City Park, which will be a natural playground. I'd never heard of these before, but they make use of the natural landscape, rolling hills, grass, trees, water, and make a real exploratory place for kids to climb and play in. I look forward to pouring my morning iced coffee and walking the kids over there. They are aiming for a Father's Day grand opening. Hot Damn!

Oh, I almost forgot. The local middle school has a class with a teacher who let the kids design a project that would benefit the city in lieu of the standard research paper. The kids were inspired by hearing about green bicycle programs around other cities and universities, where people have free bicycles available at a centralized location. They approached the City Council for permission to set up a the bikes and bike rack downtown. Not only did they get approval, but they were encouraged by the City Council to consider adding additional bike racks outside of town for alternative pick up/drop off locations. The kids have gotten together all the bikes they'll need and will be painting them bright green and tuning them up in time for the summer season. 

I love when good ideas + kid energy gets respected and supported like this. Have I told you how much I love this place?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Mailbox Euphoria

The Kids ATC Swap is in it's last phase: mailbox watch. On Saturday we mailed the cards that Miss Kinder and her best buddy made to addresses from Kentucky to California to Australia. To date, we have received three of the ten that are coming our way. Each day is Christmas when the mailman approaches. 

This was such a fun project to do with my 5 1/2 year old. We've now got a permanent ATC station in the kitchen with precut cards, pencils, markers, pens and glue sticks. She continues to make these at a great clip. 

For the swap, she tried many techniques including watercolor, collage, pen and marker, colored pencil and even cutting out functional doors, cabinets and mailboxes with tiny letters. I think the size of the cards gives her a feeling of security to be experimental that larger paper doesn't. The same is true of me, too, I think.

The flickr group for this project is chock full of cards from many of the 900+ children who participated. A huge thank you to Erin and Blair for organizing this wonderful swap.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Hidden Treasures

Here's another spin on the scavenger hunt theme. Fill a small jar with sugar, and put little things inside for your young one to find. Screw the lid on tight and give them a checklist they can cross off as they find each thing. This is a good one for a restaurant, a car ride, airport, or any other place where you'd love to have them sit sorta still. And for scientific reasons that continue to elude me, putting a penny inside is fun and impossible to find. I don't quite understand where it goes, but it never comes out of the middle of the sugar for a peek.

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