Dec 2, 2010

Pocket softie skirts and where we've been (and still are)

Well hello, that was a bit of an unexpected blogging break! November really did a number on me it seems. I managed to half write two blog posts and then not finish them or publish them. We did still manage to get plenty of undocumented larking around done, but nothin' in bloggitty blogland. Sorry about that. December has been just as sparse on the blogging front around here too, because we flew off to Blighty a couple of weeks ago, to see the fam. We'll be back in the US again in the new year, if Heathrow can pull itself together amidst all the snow, and likely things will calm down a bit for more regular happenings on Filth Wizardry :) Hope you all haven't given up and unsubscribed by then!

Thank you to all the nice folk that checked in with me to see if everything was ok over here. We're all ok, in fact things are good. The year that started out hard going with rotten health, pregnancy loss, and visas/greencard stress is happily winding up in the opposite way it seems. We have Green Cards in hand, and have a new family member on the way too. I'm at that point during the human manufacturing process where I'm queen of the chunder fairies and also feel like I've been gunned down by a zoological grade tranquilizer dart though, so don't expect me to rock the awesomometer until after the new year, when I'll be about 16/17 weeks :)

In the mean time, I wanted to post a few ideas of things to make for the kidletts for Christmas. We're currently snowed in up a mountain at a place called Rhosgadfan in North Wales, so I don't have access to all the pics on my home computer, but I'd half written this pocket softie skirt post before we left, so there are a few pics in it already for you.

One of the things I made for the girls last year and totally failed to blog about were these dinky little skirts with soft toys in the pockets. All I used was some nice patterned scrap brushed cotton, a few lengths of ribbon, and the waist band I sewed on was just an "ear warmer" headband thing from the Dollar Tree.

Little sister got the owl fabric skirt, with three little owl softies cut from the same fabric, and big sister got the outer space skirt with a softie rocket ship to go in the pocket.

LiEr has been posting a load of great pocket tutorials on her blog Ikat bag lately and it reminded me of these skirts I'd made and then K posted about some little softies she'd made too on her blog "Made by K" and so I thought you might like to see this pretty simple project from last Christmas.

I just sewed the fabric onto the headband when it was stretched taught, so that the skirt had a bit of fullness to it. The adult sized headband was the perfect size for an elasticated toddler waistband. The softies that I made from the same fabric were attached to the ribbon and sewn into the pockets so that the kids could play with them, but not loose them. They worked out really well for random waiting in line places and that sort of thing. I liked the way the softies were made from the same material as the skirt, so Ffi's little owls could even have conversations with the rest of the non 3D owl community on her clothing, and Carys's rocket ship could visit the planets on her skirt. I really need to make more now that they are a year bigger because these ones are like mini skirts on them now, and can only reasonably be worn with leggings underneath these days!

This time around, when I make new skirts I can try some better pocket sewing techniques, thanks to LiEr's tutorials! Given my current exhaustion levels, I might resort to sewing a few pockets on skirts they already have, and making ribbon pocket softies for them. I love the feel of brushed cotton, and there are so many cute kid prints available in it, that it'd also be nice to make a pillow case with a pocket and a couple of pocket softies to tuck into it at bedtime. I'm hoping to have a bit more get up and go, and a lot less barfing in the new year and that'll result in more knitty/sewy goings on.

Before I sign off and wade through some deep snow to see if the car is still burried, here are a few things from the last few of years that might work for you in the last couple of days before Christmas...

Easy Holiday activities.
Hope those links are useful to a few of you in the last couple of days before Christmas and I hope everyone gets some lovely time with their families over the next few days. I hate to think of all those people sleeping on the floor at the airport in London, just trying to get home :( Fingers crossed that won't be us next week. In the mean time I shall be stuffing my pregnant face with fish and chips, sausage rolls, Ribena, Rusholme Kebabs, Wensleydale cheese, and all manner of other British foods that I can't get my hands on back in California! Om nom nom!!!

Oct 28, 2010

Headband Masks for trick or treating

I wanted to make a bunch of Star Wars masks for my kids and their mates to play around in for my six year old's party and also for trick or treating a week later.

Firstly I want to let you know about the great mask print outs that we got from here and here. So lovely and retro and hand drawn/painted, just like the original artwork for the movie posters. Love it! I printed out some of the masks and then glued them to some Dollar Tree poster board to make them a bit more sturdy. Then it was Paul that did the cutting and covering with a layer of sticky back plastic, also from the Dollar Tree (the sticky back plastic, not Paul). He cut holes for the eyes and little doors for the noses to poke out a bit. We covered them with the sticky back plastic because the print outs were inkjet and so not water resistant. I figured there would be party beverages flying around, so the plastic covering would give the masks a better chance of lasting longer than just one night.

I originally planned to do the usual stick a couple of holes in either side and put elastic on to hold them on the kid's heads, but we had kids ranging from four up to eight years old and so one size wasn't going to fit all. It was a moot point anyway, because as it turned out I had no elastic. Bah. What I did have though were three packs of Dollar Tree kid's hair bands. They came in packs of three, so I had nine in total, which was perfect. They are just kid sized ridgid plastic hairbands that are covered with a woven fabric layer to make them prettier. All I had to do was get the hot glue gun out and glue them onto the backs of the masks at the right height.

The thing I really like about this result is that for trick or treating they can be flipped up to be worn like a real headband whilst walking about, so that you can see properly to cross roads etc, but it's easy to flip them down into a mask after you've knocked on the door. No more face planting on people's doorsteps because you can't see where you're putting your feet! (or is that just me?)

Ooh and one last one. I was one hair band short, so I glued an old pair of the 3D movie glasses to the back of the R2-D2 mask. That worked really well too, even though they were adult sized glasses.

So, just a quick post really, and more of an idea than a project, but I thought it might be useful to a few trick or treater last minute preparations.

Total cost for ten star wars masks was $5

$1 poster board
$1 roll of sticky back plastic (The Dollar Tree called it "self adhesive shelf liner")
$3 three packs of three Dollar Tree headbands.

The other good thing is that they have been worn a lot this week by a lot of different kids and none have broken so far. In other Halloweenish news... The 4th July tree has now become the Halloween tree. You don't need to tell me how weird this is ;)

No real projects to blog about from my older daughter's 6th birthday party really. We had to go for a pretty small party this year, with only four families, because we'd been ill and when we were finally well enough to have the party, the weather was terrible and with a party limited to the livingroom and kitchen, it had to be small. I used the same aproach with the cake this year as I did with the superhero cake from last year, only this time it was an Empire cake with storm trooper and vader party rings squished in the sides for decoration. We made balloon torch light sabers and had a death star pinata to abuse. I think my favourite bit was the party food at the "Ackbar Snackbar" in the kitchen :) She wants to be Darth Vader for halloween. Do you think it has anything to do with her feeling an affiliation to the entire crew of the death star, who just happen to all be British?
Hope you all have fun trick or treating on Sunday! Seems like October was the Star Wars month for us. I think we're maxed out with it now after back to back birthday and Halloween. I wonder what new obsessions November will hold for us.

Oct 3, 2010

Milk Jug Storm Trooper Helmet

Well, you know how we go with phases of obsession here. It was fairies a while back and now it's Star Wars. I thought it was worth putting this post up right away because with it being Halloween soon, there must be a few of you that are looking for budget Storm Trooper costume solutions (especially if you have more than one kid that wants to dress up as a storm trooper!). All you need for this are a couple of gallon size milk jugs (with their lids/caps), some hot glue and something you can cut them up with (I used an exacto knife, but it would probably be doable with a good pair of scissors because the plastic is quite thin).

I thought of this while I was making the Fimo storm trouper helmet for our Star Wars peg doll set. As I was modelling the helmet I started thinking it could be approximated with strategically cut portions of milk jugs. I had to wait a couple of days until we finished our second gallon of milk and also had to be fairly confident of what shapes I wanted to cut, because I only had the two containers to work with and I knew I needed both. Here are the containers I used (still with a bit of dish soap water in them!)

These are the shapes I cut out of them to use. Pieces A and B are cut from the first milk jug and then piece C is cut from the second milk jug. This really was a prototype, so next time I think I'd go for a taller piece as section C. I guess it depends on the size of the head you're making it for though. My kids are four and just turned six, so petit was the aim of the game with this helmet.

I used hot hotglue, rather than the low temp stuff, in order to try and secure the pieces together more firmly. As you can see from these photos, piece A was the lower front and sides of the helmet and piece C is the front of the helmet from the nose up. The pouring top part of the milk jug had to be cut off to make piece C, so to cover up that and make the helmet a bit more aesthetically pleasing I cut out the circular indent from the side bit that was left over from first milk jug. This fitted in nicely to fill that hole.

I hole punched the back of the two protruding side panels so that I could put in elastic to hold it on. It's not a "full helmet", but it is significantly more than a mask. I then glued the two lids of the milk jugs on either side of the mouth part.

Once the structure was all glued together I popped it on my daughter to figure out where the eye holes needed to go. It wasn't going to work to have the eye holes cut where the storm trooper's eyes actually are, but with the milk jug being partially see through, it was easy to see where to put them and it worked out that I could hide them pretty well in the decorations afterwards.

I had a can of white spray paint, so I used that on it. You could paint it with acrylic craft paint though, or if you are smart then you could deliberately get the totally opaque white milk jugs to start with!

Here it is painted up with black, white and grey craft paint. I had the paint out already from making the peg dolls, but a grey and black sharpie marker would do the job. I decided at the last minute to put the ear cover things on (they are made from the bottom plastic sections from the containers you get from the 50cent toy dispensers around here). The horizontal black line around the forehead is just a strip of black electrical tape.

As far as clothing went, I just used a back long sleeved top with a white vest over it. I didn't have a poloneck/turtleneck so I just gave them a black dollar store ear warmer band to put on around their neck. I didn't get as far as doing anything for the lower half of this outfit, because the kids are happy to just run around in it as it is (they want to be Darth Vader and Princess Leia for halloween anyway). I hope this is useful for a few of you that have wannabe storm troopers. It's not totally accurate and if I did it again then I'd change a couple of things, like removing the front nossle to make a better version of the mouth area, but it's good enough that most young kids will be happy with it.

If you have the milk jugs, but no one wants to be a storm trooper then you could always use them to make trick or treat pumpkin pots like we did a couple of years ago, here. :)

Oooh, or there are the milk jug batman masks too, here. I'd forgotten how much we mess about with milk jugs!

Another Star Wars related thing that might come in handy for trick or treating is the torch and balloon light saber hack that I posted at the beginning of this year.

Most kids have a torch for trick or treating anyway, so if you have young Jedi then this might be exactly what you need to both light the way and avoid the injuries that the combination of candy high kids and expensive and solid plastic light sabers can result in ;)

Update: A while after this we made some cheap and easy x-wing pilot's helmets for the kids to lark around in. You can see those here.

There is also a post here with a printable x-wing flight suit iron on thingy that I made for the kids to go on some orange hoodies.

Last of all, if you like the Star Wars toys out of stuff from the recycling bin, then you might like the R2-D2 secret storage boxes that we made, here.
Oh, no, wait, one more... There's a bunch of Star Wars peg dolls that I made my daughter for her birthday, and the Millennium Falcon doll house that her dad made to go with them. You can see those here and here.

Oct 2, 2010

DIY Star Wars toys

The kids are wildly into Star Wars at the moment. Have you seen the price of Star Wars toys!?! Good grief! Even second hand they are still mighty pricey unless you get lucky. So, I've been painting peg dolls and we've all been making space ships out of recycling again.

First I'll show you the ones the kids helped to make, then I'll show you the birthday present me and Paul made for our older daughter, who turned six yesterday. Me and the kids made an x-wing and a tie fighter one evening a couple of weeks ago, when I should have been making dinner. Just hot glue and stuff from the recycling bin, plus a bit of paint on top.

The x-wing was made from a small cardboard box for the body, a cereal box cut out for the wings, four corks for the engines, with pen lids on the tips of the wings and on the back of the engines. The guns coming out of the ends of the wing tip pen lids are snipped off electrical ties like the ones I used to make the insect antennae. The nose of the x-wing was made from strategically cutting a mac and cheese box and then glueing a bit of an egg carton to the end. The cork engines had a plastic lid stuck on the front of each (from a quarter machine toy container). Lastly the cockpit cover was made from a clear plastic wood screw box.

The tie fighter was made from a toilet roll tube, two cut out bits of plastic from the bottom of a black plastic Trader Joes chana masala tray (mmmmm curry!) and the middle is just a left over plastic baseball from when we did the vuvuzela craft a while back. I love the wonky little cockpit window that my four year old drew on it.

These have been a huge hit with the kids. My older daughter was particularly excited about the x-wing because the pilot actually went inside it. They were so into them that I was on the verge of helping them to turn a couple of old frisbies into the Millenium Falcon, but Carys's birthday was a week away and so me and Paul decided to secretly make her a more robust Falcon dollhouse for her present. After I made Pixie Hollow for Ffion back in March, I wanted to do something equally home made for Carys and so we decided to spend a few evenings with me painting up peg dolls and Paul screwing various thrift store finds together to make the Falcon for them to go in.

I painted up all the peg dolls over the course of four evenings, after the kids had gone to bed. They are really freaking small! It would have been much easier to use larger peg dolls, but these were the ones we could get cheaply at Michaels (didn't have time to wait for anything by mail), also I needed them to be able to fit into the doll house we were making for them. I used two sizes. Darth Vader and Chewy are made from larger 2-3/8" blank peg dolls (they came in a packet of two) All the others were made from the little 1-5/8" peg dolls that came in packets of three. Some of them had bits chopped off and glued back together in weird ways to get the right sizes and shapes. Here's the only in progress photo I took (about half way through).

The cute little faces were based on a great flikr set by Ty Lettau that I found via laughing squid, at just the right moment!

Vader and the storm trooper's masks were made by covering the peg in clingfilm/clingwrap and then molding Fimo clay into the right shape, then carefully pulling it off and baking it hard. It was fiddly, but I couldn't think of another way to make the helmets be realistic and fit the pegs correctly. Vader's can be taken on and off to reveal his gnarly face when he decides to leave the dark side. I glued on the storm trooper's helmet though.

Leia's hair is a couple of wooden beads glued onto the sides of her head. Han Solo in carbonite is a Jenga block with half of one of the peg doll's heads glued on. C3P0 had his head chopped off and replaced with a random smaller wooden head shaped thing I had handy. R2D2 was the bottom bit that we chopped off to make Yoda with another half a head glued on the top. He's teeny (only 3/4" tall). They are all painted with acrylic craft paint and have a couple of coats of satin finish Mod Podge to varnish them (Darth and the storm trouper's helmet are varnished with gloss Mod Podge) I superglued felt to Chewy's head and little felt ears to Yoda, which went rock hard once I painted and varnished it.

I still want to make Boba Fett and Jabba, maybe even a couple of Ewoks, oooh and Admiral Ackbar! There are so many characters we could keep going with, so if the kids are still into it I might make more as stocking fillers for Christmas. Anyway, here are the pics...

Han Solo

Han in carbonite
Obi Wan Kenobi

Luke Skywalker in his X-wing flight suit.

Princess Leia.

Lando Calrissian Yoda.

Storm Trooper. It was very late when I painted this little dude and I now realise that the way I painted his boby armour makes it look like he's wearing a thong. Nice.

Darth Vader

With his mask off.
Chewbacca. R2D2 Then you can arrange them into groups for sinister family portraits :)

Paul has written a post on his blog "Fangletronics" showing how we put together the Millenium Falcon dollhouse from random thrift store finds and recycling. So if you want to see all the bits that went into making the ship below then pop over to his post here.
It's been played with almost constantly since the kids got it yesterday. It's always a relief when something you have spent a lot of time on is well received! Phew! I think Paul did a good job making the falcon sturdy, so hopefully it'll last for a long time.