Thursday, May 29, 2014

Lady Bug Softie Tutorial

I made these sweet little flying lady bug softies for my kiddos to play with as I mentioned in my last homeschool update on our second week of the life cycles theme.

I put together this tutorial so you can see how to make your own.

The short story is:

Step One: Cut out the pieces. I used craft felt, so that I didn't have to bother with hems and whatnot, but you could theoretically make them with any fabric you wanted provided you did a few more steps. They would be really cute with quilting fabrics.

Step Two: Arrange your lady bugs with their spots, mostly so that you know how many to cut. If you're using craft felt, this step will also serve to hold your spots in place while you sew them on the wings.

Step Three: Sewing and stuffing. Sew the body together, most of the way around then stuff and finish sewing. Like you would for any softie. Sew the wings across the tops, adding a few stitches down each side to secure the wings when they're in flying position.


Have you made any softies lately? Do you have favorite patterns or tutorials you want to share? I would love to hear about them in the comments.

This post is linked up on the  We Love Weekends linkup.

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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

What I've Been Reading Lately: The Shallows

I recently (okay, well at least in the last month) finished The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr. It’s easily the best nonfiction book I’ve read this year. It’s been life changing.

The main idea is that the kind of thought processes that using the internet as a form of media encourages prevents deep thought, the contemplative kind that leads to the experience of feeling transported by what one reads, the kind that provides a foundation for creative, philosophical, and critical thought. Carr details how our daily thought processes will actually change our neural pathways. The way that we think when we use the internet, specifically reading hypertext, keeps us in a state of decision making and distraction. Will we click that link? Is it time to check twitter again? Facebook? Do I have any new emails?

I’ve actually found myself looking for further distractions even when my intentions for opening up my web browser have been fulfilled. For example, the other day I had just read Oranges by Miranda July and wanted to Google her to find out about other pieces of creative writing she had done. After scanning (not really reading) her Wikipedia article, I went back to my search results to see a link to her Twitter page, which then prompted me to look up other writers I might want to follow. When I couldn’t name any more off the top of my head, I decided to look up the edition of Tin House I had read her story in, rather than walk away from the computer and open up the paper copy in the other room…Next thing I knew I was on a book search and checking for the availability of titles at my local library while cross referencing things on Amazon to see if I’d rather buy them. So of course it was time to check Facebook, Twitter, and Bloglovin’.

Distraction? Yes, that holds true in my experience.

And not just with my  interactions with technology. Over the past few years (in which I have spent 10-20 hours a week online for work, plus whatever time I was putting into personal use probably 2-12 hours a week on top of that) I’ve noticed an increasing sense of feeling overwhelmed by my daily life. I’m always adding one more project that I need to do, before I’ve started the one I just gathered all the supplies for, I’m pulling out another stack of fabric and some picture frames that I’m going to just do something with real quick then reaching for my notebook so I can write down a few more ideas. Before I pick up a sewing needle, the littles are asking for a snack or have gotten frustrated with their game together and need my intervention.

Granted, in these years, I’ve had two kids and have nursed them into toddlerhood. Both pregnancy and lactation are notorious for brain melting.* So I had just attributed my spaciness and distractedness to childbearing and felt like I had to live with it.

Once I read The Shallows, I began paying more attention and I realized that I really am creating a lot of my own distractions from within, even offline and when I am alone. I found the thought of losing access to deep thought and contemplation terrifying. Even the prospect of becoming less adept at deep thought makes me cringe. Tracking my thought processes more consciously, I realized just how much I was being distracted like I was rapidly flitting between tabs in a web browser.

With just this awareness, I’ve reeled in my distraction (errr…maybe roughly 50%). When I’m starting a project I just start one now, even when I want to start more. Sometimes I’ll still multitask, but only when it actually makes sense: like working on another project while the paint is drying on the first one. And when I am online, I force myself to focus, read through an entire article, ignoring hyperlinks until the end of the article then going back to choose the ones I really did want to follow. I’ve tried to pre-identify the things I just want to scan read from things I really want to hear about. I’ll read Miranda July’s Wikipedia article, but just scan her tweets. I feel more focused and put together, even with two adorably distracting little people frolicking through my days.

The Shallows was a life-changing and fascinating read. Carr also gives a positively engaging history of media and its relationship to our thought processes as humans who interact with it. This alone is worth the read, even if you aren’t seeking to cure yourself of the too-many-mental-tabs-open syndrome.  The Shallows also introduced me to common place books, an exciting new addition to my intellectual life that I will be detailing in another post soon.

*Brain melting, which is to say making the beta brain wave state difficult to maintain. Other slower brainwaves (the ones associated with creativity, spiritual experience and even spontaneous healing) are much easier to access during this time so it’s brain melting or brain super powers, depending on how you look at it. I said brain melting here because the mental tasks I was having trouble with were all beta type tasks.

Have you read anything life changing lately? I’d love to hear about it in the comments. I’m always on the prowl for good reading material. 

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Vintage Bee Pics all Framed Up

Remember those sweet thrifting finds I showed off a while back? I found some time to put this together:

I took the bee images from this book…

And arranged them to fit into the frame. 

I was one image short, so I did find something suitable and printed it out to fill the middle circle in the frame. I secured them with a little masking tape.

And, is just so happens that it goes right along with our current homeschool theme, what a co-winky-dink! 

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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Fire Fire Fire!

Welcome to another edition of Pinned it, Did it. 

This time, I made Chobie a little play fire out of felt. Firefighter is one of his favorite make believe games to play. 

So I put together this felt fire, inspired by this camp fire set

We put this on various household items as flames for him to put out. Plus, it’s super snuggly, so I find it really cute too.

Time: 1 hr

I hand sewed the whole thing, so this would certainly go faster on a machine.

Cost: $

Skill Level: Easy

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Monday, May 26, 2014

Life Cycles Theme Week Two

This week for our life cycles theme, we continued to look at butterflies and we talked about how other insects, like bees and ladybugs, also have life cycles.

When we were out on walks or playing in the garden, we took notice of all the bees and butterflies we saw around.

While we did talk about other insects, we focused on bees mostly. We read

The Honey Makers by Gail Gibbons

Which is a very informative book about honey bees. I learned a lot from it in fact. I'm glad that we started with butterflies so that Chobie had a concept of what a life cycle is before we got into bees because they are much more complex, but still have a clear life cycle pattern from egg to pupa to adult. The book explains about the queen bee, drones, and the different kinds of worker bees: nurse bees, house bees, wax making bees, the court, guard bees and forager bees.

One of my favorite things about homeschooling with our kind of hybridized unschool/Waldorf/eclectic approach is seeing Chobie apply what he is learning. Chobie saw a picture of a bee on a tea towel I have and asked me if I thought it was a forager bee.

We also read

The Bumblebee Queen by April Pulley Sayre Illustrated by Patricia J. Wynne

This allowed us to compare and contrast honey bees and bumble bees.

I made some flying lady bugs to play with. This prompted Chobie to ask a lot of questions about lady bugs. Are they beetles? Are all beetles lady bugs?

We also looked at a couple more books about butterflies including

The Butterfly by Anna Milbourne and Cathy Shimmen

Butterflies of the World by Miriam Barum with Photography by Gilles Martin.

This last one is a grown up book, but the photographs are amazing and completely engaging for preschoolers. It shows a huge variety of butterflies from around the world, and also shows pictures of different phases of the lifecycle and touches on migrations too.

During the week we also made our coffee filter butterflies...

 Explored making different texture prints in salt dough...

Played pattern blocks...

Practiced writing letters...

What has your homeschool life been like lately? Have you done any great life cycle activities you want to share? Feel free to link to your posts in the comments, I would love to see them!

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Sunday, May 25, 2014

Coffee Filter Butterflies

Another project that me and the littles have adopted from Pinterest...making this post a part of my Pinned It, Did It feature, in which I attempt projects I find on Pinterest then review them. This project was...

Coffee filter butterflies!  These fit right in with our current life cycles theme.

Last fall, we made some autumn "leaves" by using water colors on leaf shapes cut from coffee filters, so I was already familiar with the pleasing effect of applying water color to coffee filters. Somehow, it even makes toddler painting look pretty. Well, not that I don't enjoy Bee's paintings, I guess what I'm trying to say is that it makes it look pretty in a more grown-up kind of way.

Bee painting...

Chobie painting...

He chose a darker palette for many of his butterflies. Maybe he was going for moths?

When the filters dried, I just twisted on some pipe cleaner.

Overall, this was a really satisfying project.
Time: 2 hrs. (including drying time)

It took us about 30 minutes, with two kids by the way, to paint, a hour or so to dry then another 15-20 minutes to do the pipe cleaner step. We made about a dozen, so it would also be less time if you made fewer.

Cost: $

Skill Level: Easy, even for kids. My 19-month-old did it with grown-up help, but he was able to have a satisfying crafting experience.

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Saturday, May 24, 2014

Potato Update

A while back, I planted some potatoes in space-saving urban-eco-groovy wire cylinders. In fact, I've been such a dork about this project that I actually posted photos of the seed potatoes right after I got them before I planted them.

They're growing up quick and it's time to add more soil.

Hooray for potatoes and urban gardening! I can't wait for this fall when we harvest and I can see how many potatoes we end up with.

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Friday, May 23, 2014

Spring Fairies have Arrived

If you see a fairy ring

In a field of grass,
Very lightly step around,
Tip-Toe as you pass,
Last night Fairies frolicked there
And they're sleeping somewhere near.
If you see a tiny fairy
Lying fast asleep
Shut your eyes
And run away,
Do not stay to peek!
Do not tell
Or you'll break a fairy spell
-Author Unknown

Over the last week or so I've been working on a batch of hand-stitched fairies.

Detail on the fairy wing...

This is the first one finished. It's an original pattern, so I may be brewing up a tutorial soon...

I made her from craft felt and an old peasant style skirt (upcycled!) in the Waldorf style. I used knit fabric for her head and wool roving from Wisteria wool.

There are a few more to come. I love making Waldorf dolls. I've made a few in the past, but this is the first one I've shared on this blog. There is something about doll making that is uniquely gratifying among all of the crafts that I like tinker around with.

According to the bits and pieces of fairy lore I have gathered, the Fairies come out and about in the earthen realms at Beltane (May Day) and leave this world again at Halloween, so these Spring/Summer fairies are right on time. I modeled these in the contemporary popular tradition of lady fairies with flowing hair and butterfly wings, but as my knowledge of fairy lore grows (in other words: as I become an even bigger nerd) its becoming evident that these little people are much more varied and even fearsome than the risque little things flitting about the onscreen flower gardens of Fantasia.

This poem, originally from the Book of Leinster (ca 1160, Ireland) translated by Kuno Meyer shows something of the fairy folk's warrior-like nature:

White shields they carry in their hands,
With emblems of pale silver;
With glittering blue swords,
With mighty stout horns.

In well-devised battle array,
Ahead of their fair chieftain
They march amid blue spears,
Pal-visaged, curly-headed bands.

They scatter the battalions of the foe,
They ravage every land they attack,
Splendidly they march to combat,
A swift distinguished, avenging host!

No wonder though their strength be great:
Songs of queens and kings are one and all;
On their heads are
Golden-yellow manes.

With smooth comely bodies,
With bright blue-starred eyes,
With pure crystal teeth,
With thin red lips.

Good they are at man-slaying,
Melodious in the ale-house,
Masterly at making songs,
Skilled at playing fiddle

With a line like "Good they are at man-slaying" it's not an obvious pick for the littlest kiddos, but I do think I will share this with Chobie at some point. I just came across some commentary on the Horror literary genre that discusses how horror writing allows adults to explore fear in a safe context, and I think that that applies to telling the darker fairy tales for children too.

The other aspect of this that I like is that is shows a more masculine side to the little folk. Being the mama of two little boys, even though we are not big into enforcing gender roles, the idea of making little fairy warriors or hunters appeals to me. 

More fairy dolls to come.

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