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 ISSUE 20   •   17  DECEMBER 2006  
   This issue: gifts


1. Editorial: Crafty gift ideas
2. MAKE: a miniature work of art
3. MAKE: a translucent papier mache bowl
4. MAKE: amazing gifts from clay
5. MAKE: 
mini rainbow gift bags
6. This issue's featured subscriber's blog

1. Editorial: Crafty gift ideas

I'm pleased to announce that I finished my Christmas shopping last week. I normally have to run around like a lunatic up until the last minute so it's a relief to know that I can spend the next week getting organised at home.

Unsurprisingly, there's a big emphasis on crafty, creative and homemade gifts from our family this year. In fact, many of the gifts that we are giving feature in this very issue.

Seeing as gifts are the topic of the week I have added my list of ten crafty gift ideas that kids can help to make to the public resources section of the site.

Also this week I've added a new printables page that contains project sheets for some of my favourite activities. I will be adding more to the list over the coming weeks so if you have a favourite craft that you'd like to see as a project sheet do let me know.

Printable project sheets can make great gifts for crafty children and busy parents. Choose your favourite activity, print it out and put it in a fancy box, along with all the craft supplies needed to complete the project. Kids can even help to decorate the box in a suitably crafty fashion!

Happy holidays, happy crafting and I'll see you next time!

Amber Carvan

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2. MAKE: a miniature work of art

Kids of all ages will leap at the opportunity to paint their own masterpiece on a pristine canvas. When doing this craft with very young kids it's a good idea to think carefully about which colours you will give them to paint with, and whether you would like to prime the canvas with a different colour before you start.

These miniature artworks make great gifts for doting grandparents and proud parents.

You will need

• a small canvas
paint and paintbrushes
a selection of acrylic paint

1. Set up a good working space and protect all clothing. If you're working with a very young kid it's a good idea to provide only two or three colours, each with their own paintbrush. Then
let the painting begin!

It's also a good idea to protect the work space. As you can see, my 19 month old son decided to start painting the chalkboard! And just after this photo was taken he decided to EAT a huge glob of paint – a timely reminder for us all to use non-toxic paint when crafting with kids!

2. When it's looking good, whisk the canvas away and replace it with a large sheet of paper so that the fun can continue.

3. MAKE: a translucent papier mache bowl

This activity is a great way to introduce the joy of papier mache to young kids – it's quick, easy and doesn't involve making complex pastes or building tricky wire structures.

The translucent quality of these bowls is really quite fetching. We keep a selection of them on our mantelpiece where they often attract compliments from visitors. They make great gifts for special little friends and their parents. Fill them up with something delicious or simply give them as is.

You will need

coloured tissue paper
kid's pvc glue (kid's pvc is simply a regular white glue which is non-toxic)
a bowl (preferably plastic)
plastic cling wrap
something to sprinkle (such as sequins)

1. Tear up the tissue paper into pieces. You'll need a fair amount of tissue paper, for this bowl we used three large sheets of paper.

2. Make up a watery glue mixture in a jar using equal amounts of kid's pvc glue and water. Then put your plastic bowl on the table (open end down) and cover with cling wrap.
Paint on a layer of the glue mixture and cover with a layer of issue paper.

3. Repeat until you're out of tissue paper or until you feel the bowl is going to be thick enough.

4. For extra bling, sprinkle some sequins or stars over the outside of the bowl when you've finished.

5. Allow the bowl to dry – this may take some time (as long as several days in winter or 24 hours in summer). 

When you think your bowl in dry enough to stay in shape on it's own, carefully ease it off the bowl and from the cling wrap. The inside of the bowl will be wet but it too will soon dry after it gets some exposure to the air. At this point you can choose whether you want to trim the sides of the bowl or leave them uneven like we have.

There are many different ways to apply this same basic technique. I experimented making this small basket (in the picture above) by drawing the basic shape I wanted onto a balloon and pasting over it. Once it was almost dry I stuck a pin in the balloon and cut out the basket shape.


4. MAKE: amazing gifts from clay

We've only recently starting doing some serious crafting with clay and have been enjoying the experience immensely. Personally, I like the fact that clay encourages you to plan and create a permanent object. It also feels great, especially the cold and clammy natural variety.

A beautiful post over at Soulemama affirmed to me that I will never tire of receiving pinch pots, or other clay creations, made from my childrens' hands.

When buying clay, make sure you get the kind that hardens with exposure to air rather than the kind that requires baking in a kiln. We have had success with the Das brand that is widely available in art supply shops and craft stores.

Generally, you can get clay that is white or terracotta in colour. White clay is great for kids to paint on (with watercolours) once it's dry and terracotta has that great earthy look.

On very hot dry days your clay creations will dry in a day or two. In colder and more humid climates it may take as long as a week.

For kids just starting out with clay, here are a couple of projects to try.

Clay beads

Roll clay into small balls (or cut it into squares using a knife) and use a skewer to make holes. Then wait for the clay to dry. Paint your beads if desired and thread on fishing line to create a simple bracelet or necklace.

Pinch pots

Roll clay into a ball and stick your thumbs in the centre of the ball. Pinch the clay around the edges to form a small bowl or pot.

Allow the clay to dry and paint if desired.

5. MAKE: mini rainbow gift bags

We don't own a coffee machine but paper filters are regularly on my shopping list as they are great to craft with. This activity takes advantage of the shape and absorbency of coffee filters to make gorgeous little gift or party bags.

This week we made a whole lot of these cute bags and gave one, each with a couple of homemade caramels inside, to Ella's preschool friends and teachers.

You will need

• paper coffee filters
food colouring
pinking shears (optional)
hole punch
sticky tape
plastic containers
paper towel

1. Make up some containers of dye by diluting some food colouring with a little water in a small container. Very bright colours work well for this activity so don't use too much water. You may have to experiment with your quantities before you get it right – test the strength of your colours by adding a few drops to one of the coffee filters.

2. Fold or roll up a coffee filter and dip each end into a different colour. Coffee filters are very absorbent so you won't have to hold it in for long. To use three colours,  dip each each briefly into a different colour, then fold in half and dip the middle into a third colour.

There are no hard and fast rules with this craft. Experiment with different folds and additional colours and see what you can come up with.

3. Unfold the filter while it's still wet and place on paper towel to dry. This may take a while... our filters took almost 24 hours to dry completely.

4. Carefully turn filter inside out, fold in the edges and use pinking shears to cut along the top edge of the filter. Then
punch two holes through both sides of the filter and thread through small lengths of wool. Tape ends of yarn to the inside of the filter to create handles.

5. And voila!

For a simpler version of this activity, go straight to step four and then have your little one decorate the filter using coloured markers.

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6. This issue's featured subscriber's blog

Some call them sticks

"Some call them sticks and string... I call them sanity! Knitting, parenting, life and more..."

I still need more blog addresses for the new year. To have your blog featured in this section just send in your web address – there are no hidden catches!


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