Guest Series 2011

I am very happy to finish up this wonderful guest blogger series with a fabulous visit from Marcie who has a newish blog mossymossy which I urge you all to go visit!

I have lived as an organic lettuce farmer, a tropical rainforest field technician, an Alaskan tent-dwelling field biologist, and a Manhattan biology teacher. I now have two young girls. After a few years of babywearing, Lego-playing, Play-doh-making, puppet-showing, costume-making, fort-making, worm-digging, goop-making, tadpole rearing, mudpie-making, tomato-growing, and forgetting myself and forgetting just about everything I knew while kid-less, I developed Mossy.

Posts on my blog Mossy include thoughts about child-rearing and family life, as well as craft and gardening tutorials such as how to felt wool, plan a simple family vegetable garden, turn an old sweater into mittens, and make handmade paper. As well, there is a focus on simple natural science projects such as understanding the science behind making oobleck or baking bread.

This is a fantastic project for both kids and grownups since there is really no way to mess up the outcome. In the end, you will have at least one small new friend that you will just love.

For this project, you will need the following:

  • A bowl of hot water and a bowl of cold water
  • Natural liquid dish soap
  • Carded wool
  • Scraps of wool felt
  • Needle and thread
  • A crafty little design team with lots of small fingers

Often called “wool roving,” carded wool can be purchased at local farms, craft stores or online through local or national distributors. To find a local farm or folks who card wool, check the LocalHarvest website, or search Etsy. Remnant wool roving may be purchased online through Halcyon Yarn—check out their “Babooshka Soup”—a random mix of remnant wool batts and pencil roving (also their Peace Fleece which also offers a “Rainbow Felting Pack” that is perfect for this project).

1: With carded wool in hand, pull off (don’t cut with scissors) a small length of wool and divide it into many thin longish strips—multiple thin layers will produce the sturdiest felted material.

Wrap one strip as you would wind a ball of string—in thin layers around your index finger, making sure you cover the fingertip. Wrap the remaining wool strips around the first, adding layers, until you can no longer feel your knuckle. The wool should be snug, but not too tight (about 0.3 cm or 1/8 in thick when pressed).

2. Dip your wooly finger into the bowl of hot, slightly soapy water until it is thoroughly soaked. Remove your wooly finger from the water and gently press and roll the wool with the fingertips of your other hand, squeezing gently.

Continue to re-wet and agitate the fibers, squeezing and lathering the wool until you feel the fibers become entangled and you feel the fabric becoming firmer (you will notice this within a few minutes). Pay attention to the fingertip—it needs attention too. When is it done? When the wool is completely felted, it should form a semi- snug casing around your finger.

This entire process should take about 10 to 15 minutes. When the fabric is very firm, submerge your wooly finger into the bowl of cold (soapless) water to set the fibers and rinse. Remove excess water by gently squeezing your wooly finger. Carefully remove your finger from the wool.

3. After air-drying the wool overnight (radiators are advantageous), you and your starry-eyed design team must envision the outcome— cow, wolf, librarian, martian—the brainstorming starts now. The puppets can be embellished with needle felting (e.g. bumblebee stripes, eyes, nostrils), cut wool sweaters (e.g. lion mane, dragon wings) and embroidery thread.

Note: Don’t attempt perfection. Quirky outcomes should be preferred over conventional.

That said, remind yourself that, in nature, some critters are smaller, some are fatter, some lean to the left, some to the right, and some even have lost fur or scales. Of course, this uniqueness should be celebrated.

These little friends, as seductive as they are, often are central to my operation— with their cheerful banter, they lure my kids into unappealing household tasks such as eating veggies, washing dishes or brushing their teeth. These little friends are known to appreciate clean plates and good attitudes. As well, they provide teeny shoulders to cry on after challenging days.


For more kids craft, creative ideas and activities go to the Action Pack website

In this second to last installment of this guest blogger series – I am very happy to welcome Kellie from the blog Ricebabies. Today Kellie is sharing a tutorial for making these super cute paper animal masks.

My name is Kellie and I teach art to little ones and love making fun things to inspire the imagination. I have three little ones of my own and we often find fun ways to make art together which I share on my blog and I make fun toys for my shop, all inspired by children.  I enjoy simple clean designs. This mask we made over Spring Break and it was lots of fun.

For this mask you will need:

  • Cardstock (or a thicker paper),
  • Scissors
  • Paint
  • Hot glue or staples
  • And twine
  • Template

Think about what animals you want to make, talk and think about how it looks. What are its distinct features? The lovely part about this simple shape is that it could just about become anything you can imagine. We made a dragon, bunny and a fox.

  1. Hand draw or download and print the mask template. Our mask is about 14 inches (about 35 cm) wide and 13 inches (about 33 cm) high. For a large mask, you may want to rescale the pattern. You can always wing it, as long as the shape is there and the cut marks, it should work.
  2. Draw the features on your mask lightly in pencil. Then fold the mask in at the bottom where the cuts marks were previously made so that they overlap. It should start to look like a chin shape. Also fold in the middle to make sure eyeholes will be in the right place. I had my sons try theirs on so I could fit it to their face.
  3. We used hot glue but you could staple the seams (or cuts) in place. Next, paint and let dry.
  4. We added twine to the inside middle of the mask to tie on but they would have worked on a stick as well.


For more kids craft, creative ideas and activities go to the Action Pack website

Laura and Annie write to each other via their blog across the Atlantic ocean. Laura lives in Bristol, England and Annie lives in DC. I love their blog name Nimble Fingers and Steady Eyebrows – The phrase comes from Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities and it describes Madame Defarge, who knitted “with nimble fingers and steady eyebrows and said nothing”.

Recycled Shirt Cushion Cover: This is a great way to recycle an unwanted or thrifted shirt. The shirt buttons form the cushion fastening, so all that’s required is some simple sewing and as much (or as little) appliqué decoration as you like. Our final cushion was 18in x 18in (46 cm x 46cm) but you could vary the size depending on the size of your shirt and/or cushion filler.

You will need:
– an unwanted shirt (ours was a man’s cotton suit shirt)
– a cushion filler
– assorted scraps of fabric
– buttons and embellishments as required
– sewing thread

– sewing machine (optional), scissors, ruler & pencil
– paper (or print out the pattern with the house templates)
– hand sewing needle, pins, iron (optional)

Step 1 – Preparation: Cut the templates for the pattern on the front of the cushion. Remember that there is an extra 0.5cm (1/4 inch) boarder around the pieces for tucking under to leave a neat edge. You can check if they fit on the shirt and the cushion by placing them roughly before you begin sewing.

Step 2 – Cutting the fabric: Pin the templates (see below) to the scraps of fabric of your choice (we used fabric in shades of blue and green to match our shirt, but you can use whatever you choose). Cut the shapes out.

Step 3 – Sewing the windows to the houses: Pin the rectangles you cut out for the windows onto the rectangles you cut for the houses. Sew on the fabric for windows using slip stitch (to be neat and to give it a more hand made look, I like to go around the piece with slip stitch one way and then back around the other way – this creates little crosses) and sew on the buttons for door handles.

Step 4 – Placing the Shapes on the Cushion: Lay the shapes out onto the back of the shirt near the bottom and arrange as you like (remember don’t worry if they overlap as 0.5cm will be folded under. Fold under the edges of each piece by 0.5cm (1/4 inch) pinning to keep them in place. Make sure that once you have pinned the pieces on you are happy with the look of the design. This is how it will look once you have sewn it all together. Sometimes it helps to press your pieces with an iron – this keeps the folds neat and secure.

Step 5 – Securing the Houses: Hand sew the shapes in place using slip stitch and using the crossing technique if you wish. Then add the buttons for door handles. Be sure to only sew through one layer of fabric.

Step 6 – Centre the cushion: Place your cushion filler centered over the finished design and draw roughly around it, leaving a few centimeters seam allowance. Cut out the cushion shape from the back of the shirt. Pin it to the front of the shirt with the right sides facing, ensuring that the shirt buttons run straight down the middle of the shape. Cut out so that both pieces are identical in size and shape.

Step 7 – Sewing the Cushion: Using a sewing machine (or by hand, if you prefer), sew all the way around the cushion shape. Trim any excess fabric from the edges and corners, being sure not to trim too close to the stitches. If you are very keen you can even iron out the inside seam before Undoing the buttons and turning right-side out. Insert your cushion filler and button up at the back. Your cushion is complete!

Annie Sewing

Laura Sewing



Today I want to welcome Helen Bird to whipup, Helen is the creator of Curly Birds, a blog dedicated to crafts for children. Her blog, and small line of children’s play accessories, are aptly named for her sweet, curly-haired twin girls.

How to Make a Magnetic Flower Garden
After planting a real garden outside, waiting for the flowers to grow can be more work for children than the actual gardening. For instant gardening success make a magnetic flower garden. Your kids can spend hours of imaginative play and maybe the wait for real garden to grow will not be so hard.

Black and White photograph enlarged to fit your fridge or other metal surface
Magnetic paper (available at office supply stores)
Flower pictures from magazines
Double-sided tape

Step 1. Cut out magazine pictures of flowers leaving a border around each flower
Step 2. Apply glue to the back of each picture and stick it to the magnetic paper
Step 3. When the glue has dried, carefully cut each flower out
Step 4. Attach black and white photograph to fridge with double-sided tape
Step 5. Arrange flowers on picture

I also made magnets from photographs of the girls – they were quite a hit!


For more kids craft, creative ideas and activities go to the Action Pack website

I am very happy to welcome the Kirsten and Cath, the girls from Prints Charming to Whipup today. They are sharing a tutorial for embellishing fabric with hand stitches.

Crafted is a great word- it means it was made by hand, it means it was made for someone special and that is a wonderful thing. We print and stitch our own designs because we love them and would love to craft with them. Our book Sew Charming has been written with “handmade” in mind, we want to introduce you to the Prints Charming world of colour and embellishment.

And it’s embellishment that we have written this tutorial for Whip Up. We love the use of basic stitches over and over with simple thread types and colours you can create wonderful effects. Perle 8 and six stranded threads are our favourites of the moment, sometimes doubled some times single just depends on the look you need! At our classes we hold in our studio one of the points we often make with embroidery is don’t worry when you start just keep adding colour and stitches you’ll know when you are finished. The other point is watch out it’s addictive!

We made this video about our work and making philosophy for our US Sew Charmingbook launch – take a peak at our studio here and our making processes here too…

Stitch guide to some basic stitches you can use to embellish:

Running Stitch: We call this the up and down stitch and use it all the time. It can be worked along a line that is straight or curved. It is as simple as guiding your needle up and down through the fabric. Running stitch done row after row can create a great effect.

Backstitch: This simple stitch makes a great outline and combined with other stitches is another favourite of ours. As the name suggests you bring the needle up and then go “back”. Bring the needle up and then behind the stitch take the needle down and then come up in front of the first point. Continue to create an unbroken line of stitching.

Chain Stitch. What a wonderful stitch, once you’ve learnt this you will use it over and over. Bring the needle up through the fabric, hold a loop with your thumb and insert your needle again just next to the place where you just bought it through. Bring the needle up a short distance away, in the direction your chain is going, with the thread looped under the needle. Repeat.

French Knot. Go dotty with these “knots”. Bring your thread up through the fabric. Wrap the thread over and under the needle then insert the needle close to where it came up. Make thicker knots by using thicker threads.