31 December 2011

{this moment}

Joining Soulemama's {this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.
If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.

30 December 2011

Handmade Holiday: Woodworking

The holidays are over! I have a little time to sit down and relax now. Over the last month and a half or so, every moment I could eek out has been spent on gift making. I swear again, as I do every year, next year I am going to start so much earlier! Time enough to complete projects at an easy pace, possibly even with time enough to find a few moments at the computer here and there. Now I can share the things I have been labouring over.

I had completely different plans for every child on my list up until I suddenly acquired a scroll saw. I am so excited about it! I haven't used one since... well, 6th grade shop? So it was a bit of an adventure, and very much a learning experience.

As a trial, I first cut this little tree you see above. It was 100% an experiment, just to get the hang of the saw and to try out watercolour paint on the poplar wood I was using. It is unsanded, and the entire thing, birds and apples included, I cut free-form with the saw without so much as sketching anything out on the wood. They could definitely be nicer. I used our Dremel to round out the edges, and did quite a hack job, especially around the pop-out objects. Despite all this, the toy was snatched away the moment I finally agreed it was dry, and has been played with since. This gave me hope for the toys I was actually going to try on!

For my next project, which was for my 3 year old niece, I ran with the same tree / puzzle idea and made this owl set. This time, I took the wood burner to it and added more details. I have only a wide, flat edged tip for my wood burning tool and found trying to make small marks, or most especially the circles for the eyes, very difficult. I am definitely going to find myself some different tips, but the stores I tried at didn't carry them, and I didn't have time to order anything online. So I could be happier with this set, but I still felt like it came out okay.

I followed that with a teether for her baby sister, which I made from scrap cherry. My photos do not do the wood justice, it is so, so very smooth and soft, and after I oiled it the wood positively shone.

I sewed a little leash for the teether as well, with velcro closures so that it can be used on other toys.

For one of my four year old nephews I made a space set. By this time I was better understanding how to shape the wood, and starting to have fun going to town with the wood burner. I looked at a handful of astronaut pictures, and tried to make his suit more simplified, but still reflective of the real deal. The alien has got a butt, because... come on, what little kid doesn't love a butt? My apologies for the backdrop in the following pictures, I was in quite a hurry and just grabbed a piece of fabric out of my cloth bin, I did not take the time for lint removal. ;)

My 7 year old niece was a little tricky. I'm not sure how much toy play she does anymore, so I decided to go with something that could be for either play or simply decoration. I made her a set of rainbow gnomes a couple years ago, so a stacking rainbow (I hope) can either be displayed with them, or be played with together.

It was about at this point that I realized I should be using a wood cutting tool on the Dremel to shape my figures, rather than the sanding attachments I had been using to slowly grind things down. How did I not realize this? I have no idea, but I feel rather daft. Things got easier after that, as you can imagine, and I made this unicorn for my other four year old nephew. The cutting tools I picked up made it possible to separate the ears, make a horn, narrow the nose, and give the body itself more shape, things I couldn't really do with the sanding tools.

For the unicorn's mane, I drilled a series of small holes down the back of its neck and used non-toxic wood glue and a toothpick to insert short lengths of yarn nice and deep, two of each colour. Once the glue had set, I combed through the yarn to separate out the individual strands and make it look more like hair.

For my horse loving 13 year old niece, I made a horse as closely resembling hers as I could manage. It is intended to hang on the wall. I burned her horse's name into the side, and made her mane little nubs like my niece likes to do her horse's hair up for shows. To the back, I attached hanging hardware, and two brass chains. I finished a dowel rod and screwed two hooks into it to attach to the chains, so that she would be able to use it to hang things from.

I had fun attempting to add details like hints at muscle structures, and recessing the back legs.

I finished all of the toys in non-toxic paints. For the most part I used watercolours, I love the way the grain of the wood comes through it. There are a few exceptions, such as the astronaut and some small details here and there, which I watered down acrylics for. (I had no safe "white" watercolour paint.) I sealed them all with olive oil, aside from the horse at the end here, which is not a toy and I felt safe using wood stain and sealer on.

It makes me so happy to be able to give all the children toys that I made especially for them, and I hope they are enjoyed. I enjoyed making them... At least, aside from the insane amounts of sanding, anyway! I really did warm up to working with wood though, I am so excited to have the scroll saw to use. I feel like I learned so very much in just this batch of toys, and I am really looking forward to making more... At a more leisurely pace!

Next wood project is a doll house for Miss Kaia's birthday... that will be a new experience entirely, as well, so I am keeping my fingers crossed and cutting and taping myself together a big cardboard model. More on that later, though, I still have the rest of my handmade holiday gifts to share, and plenty of time to get a doll house done. Okay, actually I have just over a month, but after everything I have crammed into the last handful of weeks, that seems like a dream! 

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday.

17 December 2011

Acorn Garlands

Okay, I admit it. We did these back in October, when acorns were plentiful. But, we still have ours hanging for the Christmas season, and I still think they are beautiful. I have been thinking of adding a couple strands of cranberry garlands to hang with them. And, if you're anything like me, you very well may have a stash of acorns hanging around still that you collected in the Fall.

I first saw acorn garlands on The Magic Onions, and while I love theirs, we made ours a wee bit differently, for a couple reasons. For one thing, they were making theirs to hang on a tree, and ours we hung free, I wanted the acorns to hang upright and in the same direction. I didn't want big gaps between the acorns, because there would be nothing, like foliage, filling them in. The other reason I went with this method was that we had a lot of acorns, and I did not really fancy gluing all their caps on. In addition to that, many of the acorns were very fresh, and so their little hats were still very secure, but I knew as they dried out they wouldn't be. We made some to give as Christmas gifts, and I didn't want them shedding their fruit on unfortunate giftees. 

And so I drilled my holes through the caps, where they punctured through both the cap, and the nut itself. This way, once strung, the twine holds the acorns together. I can even say now that this actually works, since it is a couple months down the line and many of the acorns are loose in their hats now, but they are held fast. This also places most the weight of the acorn below the twine, so that they stay upright.

I set Kaia to work with a big, blunt embroidery needle, threading acorns with wooden beads between them. Make sure you have a good sturdy yarn if you want to use yarn, the acorns get awful heavy and our first garland snapped in the middle the night after we hung it up. After that, we used kitchen twine, and it has held fine.

At 3 years old, Kaia absolutely loved this activity. She liked that she was "sewing", and she really seemed to enjoy the challenge of getting the needle through the little holes. She put three beads between each of her acorns, and concentrated very hard on getting the right number in the right order each time.

She was so very proud of her work!

Katalin gave it the taste test, (not very good,) and of course the chickens had to come see what we were doing and if we would feed it to them.

Kaia even kept on going, threading away, all through me getting Katalin changed, nursed, and down for her nap. I am thinking that I may need to order some wooden acorns that I can drill holes through. A nice bucket of acorns, big wooden beads, yarn, and "needle" would probably go over very well. :)

We put some strands away for Christmas gifting, and hung one up over my kitchen window. I think they are so lovely!

16 December 2011

{this moment}

Joining Soulemama's {this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.
If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.

13 December 2011

Biding my Time...

Hello! Just dropping in to say, "I am still here!" to any who may have wondered. If that was anyone on this little blog, ha!

 We have been so busy lately, trying to take advantage of the last of the reasonably nice weather...

Getting ready for Christmas, and doing those nice, warm, fuzzy Christmas things, like baking cookies and making a gingerbread house, (which they'd eaten nearly half the candy for before we finished!)



We played in the first snow, and so did all but one of the chickens, who stayed in the door of the coop watching her sisters like they were crazy to go out in this new and strange phenomena, and offering the occasional complaint, or possibly scolding.

The house is all decorated, filling our home with green as the colour drains from the out of doors. (My parents and brother made this sweet nativity set for us.)

And very, very busy I have been with our homemade holiday. Oh, goodness, I have so much yet to do, and so little time left to do it in. I will be back with some of those projects when I am able to carve out the time, but for now, happy holidays to everyone, and I hope you are farther ahead on your projects than I am on mine!