Sunday, April 25, 2010

Birthday Crafting

[Please see my post for the Spring Cleaning Carnival on Getting the Food Additives Out! for a giveaway with a chance to win one of two copies of the Feingold Association of America's "What are all these funny things in food...and should I eat them?"]

April is a big month of birthdays in my family. My mom, two of my nieces, and me! I had a couple of things tucked in the gift closet for the girls, but I wanted to add in something homemade. The girls turned 11 and 7, so they're getting to ages where they like what they like and their auntie doesn't hardly know what whippersnappers are liking these days.

For the 11-year-old, she loves the color green and peace signs. Although "Lenetta at 11" is a bit hazy, I seem to remember being a bit broody, hanging out a lot in my room listening to music, and contemplating the world and how I was going to make it better. (Or something... like I said, it's hazy.)

To help her set the mood for her musical brooding, I wanted to come up with some lighting. And, within the next couple of months, they'll be moving into a new house and she'll have her own room! I was inspired by Ruffles and Stuff's Pom-Pom Lamp, but in my typical fashion, I did not plan ahead. :>) Our dollar store doesn't carry the plate covers, but after poking around, I found a four-pack of paper plate holders for $1.50 in green.

The only short strands of Christmas lights that I had on hand were multi-colored lights. Thank goodness for my mom! She brought me a few strands from her stash, and I ended up using a strand of 50 lights in each, leaving a "tail" from the bottom set to plug in.

I set two plate holders "face up" (like you would normally use for a plate) and tried to evenly distribute each string of lights within the holders. I then put another holder "face down" on top, which created a pocket between the two for the lights. There were three holes in each holder where the plate tucked in, and I threaded ribbon through those and tied it in bows to hold everything together. I threaded a ribbon through the top as a hanging loop, and another to hold the two lights together.

Since the plate holders weren't solid like the plate covers in the original project, the lights poked out and it would have been more difficult to glue on the tulle. Instead, I just stitched around the holders with embroidery floss using a running stitch then I trimmed the tulle. I included the light bulb that makes the strand blink so my niece can use it if she wishes. I didn't like it myself because it made the whole strand blink off then blink back on, rather than twinkling. (And we didn't think to try it until after I stitched it all shut anyway...)

For my seven-year-old niece, I made a fishing game with a math twist. I combined two fishing games for this, one from Shiso Mama and the other from Counting Coconuts.

I used fabric instead of felt because I had it on hand. I ended up purchasing two sets of buttons for some variety, one set of kitty buttons (she loves Nappies, too!) and a set of flower buttons, which were about $2.30 each. I used all white buttons for the eyes and perhaps I should have gone more colorful...but simple seemed like a good idea at the time.

To make my patterns, I used fish clip art. The yellow fish is actually a whale because I discovered my fish weren't really big enough for the buttons. I was a bit torn as to whether to stitch them right sides together and turn them or to stitch wrong sides together. With all the buttons and embellishments, I didn't think it would work to turn them, so I zigzagged around the fish, leaving the tail open, then used pinking shears to trim around the fish. I stuffed them with poly-fill, zigzagged the tail shut, and pinked the tail.

Some of the fabrics were sheer and/or prone to fraying. I used a total of four layers on the sheer ones so they weren't so see-through. I used fray check on the cut edges of the fabrics that wanted to fray to keep them intact. To make the fish "catchable" I stitched washers about where their mouths would be, then applied fray check to keep the washers from tearing out.

My sweet dad made the fishing poles using dowels. He put duct tape on the handles, and drilled holes in the ends, threading string through for the fishing line. I had planned to tape magnets to the line, but he was able to drill holes in the magnets, so I tied them on. (We tested the magnets with the washers and found that three magnets was enough to really grab a fish, and even two fish at a time, but three at a time was a challenge.)

For the bag, I considered trying to make the sides velcro or snap or button so it would open all the way up to be a good-sized "puddle" for the fish. That quickly got too complicated. I just stitched up the sides, and the top ended up being the selvage ends, so I just folded them down and stitched to make a channel for the drawstring, which is a rainbow ribbon.

To set up the math game, I penciled out a template and then made a similar-sized table in Microsoft Word. I then penciled out all the different problems that I wanted to use. I checked with my mom to see what kind of math she was working on, which is single digit addition and subtraction. I didn't double any up (i.e. 2+3 and 3+2), so that cut down on the number of cards I had to make. In the template I made, the math problem was on the front and then you unfolded the card to find the answer inside.

For double digit answers such as 9+9=18, we thought she could either pick up the 1 and the 8, or the 10 and the 8. As an added bonus, we thought she could also start teaching her two-year-old sister numbers. We put the cards in a box, and everything went inside the bag.

I was blessed to get a phone call tonight from the girls squealing over their gifts, so I think they liked them! This post is going to be linked up to Made By You Mondays at Skip to My Lou, Thursday's Treasures at Treasurers for Tots, and Frugal Fridays at Life as Mom.


Counting Coconuts said...

Oh well done!! These look fantastic!! I think as James gets older we'll add some math cards like you did - thanks!! And thanks for the link back, too. :)

Counting Coconuts

Angela said...

Once again, your craftiness amazes me! Those are awesome!

Anonymous said...

How fun! Maybe someday haha I'll be as cool as you. I can't even remember to make it to the bank to get a crisp $5 for my nephew's birthday. I tell you though, some year I'm going to be a really great Aunt....some year.

Kara said...

Very nice! Thanks for sharing!

Zimms Zoo said...

I have that pop-pom lamp bookmarked and had been looking at garage sales for some of those plate covers. I just might try this.Good job!! Although we need a pic in the daylight without the lights on so we can see the tulle and such.

Lenetta said...

I keep forgetting to pop back on here and note that I will get a "daylight" pic next time I'm visiting my nieces. :>)