Mar 30, 2010

Last post on plastic bag transfers?

Hope you aren't getting too bored of this yet. I swear I'll move on to something else soon ;)

Seeing as this is a blog aimed mainly at stuff for the kids to get elbow deep in, and the last two posts have been really only about things that I have made for them and they have had no hand in, I thought I'd post up another quick idea that you can actually get the kids to do themselves with this.

I've found that if you draw on the surface of a plastic bag with a sharpie pen and then iron it onto your fabric, you can then seal your artwork in place by ironing over another piece of plastic, but this time a clear one, like from a sandwich bag or freezer bag.

I cut out a heart from white plastic bag, for my five year old to decorate with sharpies.

Then because the white bag was quite thin, and the tshirt that it was going to be stuck to was a dark colour (I guess you wouldn't have to do this with a white shirt), I cut out a slightly larger heart in a thicker yellow plastic to go under it. I ironed those two pieces on at the same time.

Then, I cut out a larger clear plastic heart shape from a little freezer bag. I think thinner sandwich bags would be fine for this, probably even better, because the thickness of the three layers of plastic did make the finished decal about as thick as a regular iron on decal.

I ironed this final layer on really well, to make sure there was a good melty fuse with the fabric and that the bottom layers of plastic were also fused into it with the colouring that my daughter had done, safely sealed under the clear plastic.

Here's a pic of the melted plastic layers before I pulled off the parchment paper.

And here is a pic of the parchment paper after it had been used to iron on the top clear plastic layer. You can see that some of the ink has actually melted through into the clear plastic, so I'm betting that's pretty well set and wash proof.

This one hasn't been through the wash yet, so I can't vouch for it's durability, but it seems that there should be no way of the marker pen being washed out from under that final layer of clear plastic.

Obviously grown ups could have loooooads of fun themselves drawing and fusing their own artwork this way, but I thought you'd like to see something that the kids could have a go at themselves.

I still haven't found a way to make big decals with plastic bags. I have to piece them together and insure each piece is smaller than the base of the iron to not get the nasty shrivelly effect. I'll let you know if I do figure something out in the future though.

To answer a few of the questions I've had recently:

Ironing the plastic on does give a faint whiff of melty smell, but I had the kitchen windows open anyway and the bits of plastic were so small that it was minimal. I think if you are doing the full on ironing masses of bags together to make that tyvek type material then kick ass ventilation is advised though. I'll be doing that outside with an extension chord if I get around to it!

I have a few mutilated adult tshirt things that I've made for the kids that I could post about, seeing as a few of you have asked about the skirts. I'll see if I can pull those together and make a coherent post out of them in the coming weeks. In the mean time, the skirts I make are really similar to the one that Maryanne posted about on Mama Smiles here. Only difference is that they are upside down, in that the hem of the original tshirt is where I thread the elastic through, and then I hem the cut end to be the bottom of the skirt. You have to have tshirts without side seams to make that easy though.

Thank you for all the get better soon messages too. I am nearly mended :)

Mar 29, 2010

Plastic bag transfers update

Seems like a few of you are raring to give this plastic bag decals on clothing thing a go, so I thought I'd pop another example up here to give you some inspiration.

Sometimes the plastic can get a little warpy and shrivelly, so why not pick a subject that suits that effect? This is a pink lily that I put on one of my little girl's skirts. The petals are wiggly woggly anyway, so I was able to just freehand cut out and iron on bits of pink, white and green plastic bag until it looked about right, and then add little bits of black and yellow for the stamens in the middle.

It's a good idea if you are planning on adding little details to add them on top of other plastic, because you have a better chance of getting them to fuse properly to more plastic bag than to the textured material.

Lastly I want to emphasize that if in doubt that the plastic has fused well enough to the material then just keep ironing it with lots of heat and pressure. I've yet to ruin one of these by over ironing it. It would be much more frustrating to find that you'd under ironed it and it was peeling off later.

Do let me know if you have a go at this. Hope that it works out for you too :) Seems like a nice cheap easy way of getting a somewhat screenprinted look.

Iron on decals from plastic shopping bags

I've been playing around with this idea for a while (you can tell from the Christmas tree in the background of a few of the photos). It's quite fun and a good way to cover up stains that can't be removed from well, nearly all the tshirts my kids have.

Ages ago I started collecting interesting coloured plastic bags from friends, thinking that I would make some reusable shopping bags by ironing them together to make a kind of Tyvek material. This has been done a lot in the last few years, and there are a lot of tutorials out there on the internet showing how to fuse plastic shopping bags into a more durable kind of material that can be sewn like fabric. Here's a good one, in case you've not seen or heard of it before. Here are a few lovely examples of fused bags too.

Before I got around to collecting enough to make a fused bag project. I started wondering if I could use the same iron and parchment paper method to iron some of the cute plastic decals to the kid's clothing. Among the bags that my friends saved for me were some cute disney store ones, some party favour bags, some Lego store ones and a whole load of brightly coloured ones and ones with patterns like those from Old Navy.

I decided to start off by trying to iron a disney princess onto an old vest. Just cut out the image from the bag, then places it where I wanted it on the shirt and put some parchment paper over the top before ironing it on.

I had the iron set to cotton setting and found that providing the decal I cut out was smaller than the footprint of the iron, then I could get the bag to fuse really well to the tshirt material by pressing down hard and holding it for about ten seconds. If I wasn't quick enough putting the iron down hard then the bag would shrivel and distort the decal, which is why I stuck to doing ones that were smaller than the iron base. Let it cool a bit before you pull off the parchment paper, so that the plastic is set.

You're basically melting the bag into the surface of the fabric enough that once it has cooled, it won't peel back off. Once you've done the initial quick hard press of the iron and the plastic is adhered to the fabric, then you can go over it again to make sure it it well fused. If there are corners not fused, or it's not melted into the fabric enough then there's a chance that it'll peel off in the wash. That happened with the large decal of cinderella that I tried. It was just a bit too big, and I didn't get it totally fused to the tshirt enough. Still, I'm experimenting with this so that you don't have to right?

Because the plastic bags are so thin, when they bond to the fabric they leave the material still nice and soft feeling, not like the iron on transfers you can buy to print onto, which really seem to bulk up the fabric.

The other interesting thing with this is that you can deliberately iron the decals a little less, so that they *can* be peeled off. The cinderella one stayed well adhered whilst being worn all day, but when it came to machine washing, it just peeled right off and didn't make a mess of the shirt at all. Could be a cool way to change up plain tshirts for special events, so you can peel it all off after and use the tshirt again. All the ones I've done since then have been well ironed on perminent decals though.

Party favour bag butterfly decal on a pair of home made long tshirt shorts worked really well.

Some bags did work better than others, but most bags worked fine with varying amounts of ironing. The only thing that didn't work, which was a shame, was some easter eggs that I cut out of a really thin plastic dollar store table cloth. I'd rescued the table cloth from the bin at a local party thinking it would be great to cut out and iron on the eggs and bunnies to make easter skirts for the girls, but the plastic was just too thin and fragmented when I ironed it.

I ended up cutting out a load of egg shapes from the other bags that I had to make the first easter skirt. Added a load of hand cut flowers too.

I had two large tshirts to make the skirts from, by just threading elastic through the bottom hem. One from Goodwill and one from the Dollar Tree. My kids have a few skirts like these of various lengths, because they are so easy, cheap and fast to make.

Some of the yellow flowers I wasn't quick enough to press down on, so they shrivelled a bit, actually it was more because my ironing board is really lame, so I had to pad the surface to get even contact with the iron, but once I realised that, they worked much better.

Here's a flower laid out before ironing.

Here's one that shrivelled.

And here's one after I sorted out padding the crummy ironing board to get even pressure.

Once I'd done the pink skirt for my older daughter, I thought I'd try putting my own decal together on the blue skirts by cutting shapes out of the coloured bags. I cut out separate shapes for the head, ears, body, feet and tail of the bunny from a white Safeway's bag, and ironed them on one at a time. Then cut out the pink for the ears and face and ironed them on top. Then cut out the yellow basket and ironed that on. I drew over the decal with a perminent marker and ironed that to set it into the plastic.

Finally I thought I'd see if I could punch out shapes from the plastic bags with scrapbook shape punches. I have a couple of really small ones that are flowers. I found that if you sandwich the bag between two layers of parchment paper (I guess any paper would do, I just had the parchment paper right there because I was using it already) then you can cut out a really clean shape from the bag to iron on. I ironed on two teeny little flowers to the basket and then cut some green bits of grass to iron on too.

I'm going to ask a mate of mine that is into scrapbooking if I can borrow a few of her shape cutters to get some more shapes cut from the bags I have, as this is much easier and quicker than hand cutting with scissors! If you have some of these punches already then this project will be really really quick and easy for you to try out.

Sorry if you noticed the chaos of accidental posting earlier today. It's been a bit on the looney side here the last two weeks. I've had some unexpected surgery and things are only just getting back to normal. I'm clearly still a couple of cans short of a six pack though, and managed to post this before I added any of the images. Whoops!

As you can see, it is spring break this week, so we are taking it easy and playing twister while the laundry doesn't get folded. NB. don't worry, Twister is a spectator sport for me until I am fully recovered ;)

More info and another example here for you if you want to give this a go.

Another plastic bag decal project that the kids can be involved in this time, here.

Mar 8, 2010

Aluminium foil fairy circle

We're still on a fairy kick here. I saw quite a while ago on Dollar Store Crafts, a link to a guy called Doug Rhodehamel who makes toadstools out of brown paper lunch bags. He makes hundreds and hundreds for outdoor displays. They look like a lot of fun, and I'm sure I'll be able to get the kids involved in making them when the weather improves, but for now, it's just too wet outside for them, so I needed to find an alternative approach if we were going to have a weather proof fairy circle.

For those of you that haven't heard of fairy circles or fairy rings, they are naturally occuring rings of mushrooms or toadstools. There is a lot of Welsh folklaw surrounding them. They are supposedly the places where fairies gather to dance and make music. many magical happenings are attributed to them. Step inside one and you might dissapear or be compelled to dance by the fairy music until you collapse from exhaustion. Rather exciting!

I figured the easiest way to make these resistant to the nasty rain we have at the moment, was to use a combination of plastic easter eggs left over from last year's easter egg hunt, aluminium foil and acrylic craft paint, with wooden BBQ skewers to stick them in the ground.

I think that these plastic eggs that are used for easter egg hunts might just be an American thing. I'd never seen them back in the UK, but they are everywhere at the moment here in the US and I'm sure squillions of them get thrown in the trash each year when easter is over too. Well, now you can re-use them, even if you only have one half of the egg.

Older kids can make the mushrooms themselves, but it was a bit fiddly for my four and five year olds, so I made the mushrooms and they painted them. I took a square of aluminium foil and places the egg in the center then pulled the foil up around it, holding it like a little cup.

Then I held a BBQ skewer in the egg lid as I scrunched the foil around it. All those with dirty minds can now leave this post.

Try to make a loose kind of toadstool stem type shape and as the shape looks like it's coming together, compress the foil to make it as sturdy as you can, but leave the area around the egg opening a little looser.

Once you have shaped the stem, you can slide it up the skewer into the cup of the egg to make a finished toadstool shape.

I had two different sized eggs to use, and I also used a couple of old apple sauce pots for some bigger ones, and a few of the clear plastic dome lids from the quarter machine toys to be teeny tiny mushrooms too.

I'm a very lucky lady, because one of my friends Mona, gave me a whole load of teeny little individual pots of acrylic craft paint. Someone at her workplace was getting rid of them all and she got them for me, knowing that I'd be elated to have so much mess making equipment at my disposal. Thank you Mona!

I let the kids loose with some of those little pots of paint, and they did a lovely job of painting the toadstools all different colours. They aren't realistic, but I think they are very bright and pretty. I like the whole wonderous make believe fairyland colours they plastered on.

I made sure that they had aprons on this time, because once acrylic paint dries, you can't wash it out! We used a load of our old playdough for them to stick the painted toadstools in to dry. The sticks on them made it easy for the kids to hold them to paint too.

The next day when they were dry, we put them out in the garden in a fairy circle and what do you know! A fairy came to play! (Thank you Jennifer, for that very appropriate birthday present!)

Here's my youngest in her fairy garb. Those wings she is wearing are way older than she is. I think I bought them back in 1999, when I dressed as a fairy for a university event I was volunteering at. They are a bit bedraggled, but have survived well!

I'll let you know how long these shrooms last for. I'm hoping a long time given the materials used. We can always repaint them. The other good thing about using the plastic egg parts is that even if a kid treads on one of these mushrooms with bare feet, then they won't get a BBQ skewer in the foot!

If you want to play with them indoors then just leave out the skewer and squish out the shape of the foil at the bottom to stand them up.

Mar 7, 2010

Some thank you notes, tinkering, and The Amazing Dr B.

Thank you notes.

I need to say thank you to a few people first off, because since the new year three people have added me to their blog award lists. Thank you to all three of you, and sorry for being so tardy in saying my thank you too!

Now seems like a good time to link to some lovely crafty people, that have given some of the projects on this blog a go and blogged about how it went for them. If you do try out the projects that I put on this blog and want to share them with us, then please do add a comment to this post, because hearing that others are giving this stuff a go with their kids is a huge encouragement to keep blogging and I'm sure gives other readers more encouragement to try these projects too.

  • Kami from "Nurturing the Tender Years" tried out our balloon and torch lightsaber project and posted about it here.

  • Melissa from "Darwin and Melissa" also tried the balloon and torch light saber project. You can find her post about it here.

  • You can find a photo of Shadygrove's version of our Playdough Dinosaur Island here.

  • Dongdong from "The adventures of J and Prime" blogged about her kids making our heart necklaces from toilet roll tubes here.

  • More lovely toilet roll tube heart necklaces from "Singing Three Little Birds" here.


I need to pass on some posetive blog karma, so in case any of you reading happen to be in the vicinity of Austin, I'm pointing you towards one of the blogs I really like, called "Get You Mess On". It's written by Kami, and she's got a great attitude and enthusiasm for kids getting involved and elbow deep in making stuff themselves.

Kami has been working with Gever Tulley (of Tinkering School, which I have blogged about before here) and others in her area to organise events in Austin at the end of this month promoting Gever's new book "Fifty Dangerous Things (you should let your children do)", plus talks, a book signing, a documentary screening, and a special day long tinkering school experience for fifteen kids. To find out more about this event, visit her post on it here.

The Amazing Dr B.

Lastly, I want to share with you a project that I got to work on with my partener in crime, Dr Boardman. He's been fangling with electronics and microcontroller programming for about a year now and is really getting to grips with creating toys for the kids. This latest one I got to design and paint up the display case for. It's called "The Amazing Dr Boardman's Color Conundrum"

One ping pong ball lights up a random colour (RGB led), and your job is to use the three dials to control Red, Green and Blue values to match the second ping pong ball's colour. When you get it spot on, both lights flash. I guess it's a good way to explain mixing light colour rather than paint colour (additive vs subtractive colour mixing). My kids may be a bit young to get that aspect of the game's purpose just yet, but they are enjoying playing with it none the less and think it's very cool that Dad mad it for them. I'm trying to persuade him to collaborate on making a set of various little carnival themed electronic games now.

To find out exactly how Dr B made and programmed the inards, pop over to his blog Fangletronics for a full description. If my five year old's crepe paper rose tutorial gave you a giggle, then you might enjoy the demonstration of the Color Conundrum that she was in charge of videoing too. I think she's going to have a future in making documentaries or something, because we can't get the camera away from her!

Mar 4, 2010

DIY Pixie Hollow from aluminium foil and salt dough

Today is my younger daughter's fourth birthday. If you've been visiting this blog for a while then you'll know that my kids, especially my youngest love fairies. We've done fairy crafts before, like making fairy houses and wings for their polly pocket dolls a while back, but for her birthday I wanted to make her something really special, but on a budget. This is our DIY version of Pixie Hollow, home of the legendary Tinkerbell.
I've let my girls watch the Disney Tinkerbell movie recently, because to my surprise I found it to be the only girly Disney movie with what I considered to be a decent message.

  1. It's good to be yourself and accept who you are.
  2. Making things from stuff with your hands and your imagination is both cool and useful.
rather than the usual Disney princess message, which seems to be:
  1. One day your prince will come.
  2. Life will pretty much suck until that happens.
Anyway, I decided to try and make a version of Pixie Hollow for them to have a fairy doll house inside (Fairy houses outside are of course the real deal, but the weather is sucky right now and it would be more likely to be a fairy mud pit).

I thought that salt dough would be the most indestructable material to try and sculpt a tree trunk fairy house out of, but was sure that I wouldn't be able to make it the size that I wanted unless I built some kind of underlying structure. I thought aluminium foil might work, because it's very easy to sculpt into the shape I want, and it's pretty sturdy when compressed.

Here's the aluminium structure I fashioned...

Once that was done I mixed up two batches of salt dough. You can find the recipe here (it's just salt, flour and hot water). I rolled out sections and squished them onto the foil structure to cover it completely inside and out. Once that was done I used a cocktail stick to make marks on the surface for a bark like texture. I made a couple of mushrooms out of the left over dough, that I was planning on painting, but I ended up making little modelling clay toadstools instead. I left the salt dough monument to dry, hidden away for about a week, but it's been really damp around here (rainy season), so it wasn't fully dry and time was running out. At this point I managed to fit it in the oven to bake on a very low heat for about three hours to make sure it was bone dry before I painted it. If I'd put it in the oven right away, when the dough was still fresh, then the air pockets in the aluminium foil would have expanded and broken the dough coating or blistered it and ruined it, so it was important that I let it air dry as much as possible before I put it in the oven. Even in air drying, the dough contracted and I ended up with a couple of cracks on it that I just filled with Spackle/Polyfiller.

I marked out a curvy shape on some plywood that we'd lifted from the skip round the back of the local charity shop (you know how classy I am). This was going to be the base for it all to sit on.

Once all that was done, I painted a base coat of light brown acrylic craft paint on the trunk. Then I used a rag to wipe on darker brown, to get a more bark like colour/texture. Painted up the base green and dabbed it with a rag to get rid of brush marks and make it a little bit textured. I wasn't sure how to glue the trunk to the board securely. I didn't think wood glue on it's own would do it, so me and the hubbins ended up squeezing a whole load of hot glue on the base of the trunk with a couple of glue guns. Of course by the time we had finished doing that, most of it had solidified, so I put it back in the oven upsidedown for a few minutes, until the glue had remelted, and then whipped it out, turned it over and plonked it on the board for the glue to set. Worked a treat, and luckily putting it back in the oven didn't affect the paint job. I slathered the whole thing in a coat of matt polyurethane varnish, and left it to dry overnight.

All that was left to dothe next day was decorating it. I used some plastic vines and flowers from the Dollar Tree, and a load of random stuff like twigs and pebbles from outside. I also used some fake grass stuff that had been on mini tree place settings that our friends Pat and Victoria gave us after their wedding (Is this the fourth project we've used them in? Thanks guys!). I also made a couple of little toadstools from modelling clay, and a pond surrounded by some sand glued on from our sand box.

The water from the pond was made by putting a little bit of blue acrylic paint in some of the matt varnish and pouring it into an aluminium lined yoghurt pot lid to dry with a sprinkle of glitter. Once dry I pulled it out and cut it to shape to be glued on.

There are a lot of little things that I can keep making to add to this with the kids, like a rope ladder, a staircase, furniture for the inside, and of course it'll be fun for them to collect bits and bobs from the walks we go on to add to it as well. Pinecones, acorns etc.

Here are a load of photos of our version of Pixie Hollow, with the set of tinkerbell characters that we got to go with it (found in Target). One of our friends back home in the UK must have been on the same wavelength, because she got our daughter a couple of littlest pet shop creatures for her birthday, which go perfectly in this fairyscape! (thank you Marie!). It's been a big hit with the girls, and so far it appears to be as structurally sound as I'd hoped. Cute fairy door for it next maybe?