Make: Happy Mail #1

 

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In honor of the easy hours and unhurried days of summer, I’m sending a slow hello–by U.S. mail. This is the first post of several that celebrates pen-on-paper communication. Who doesn’t want to get a letter in the mail?

For my first batch of happy mail, I painted strawberries, popsicles, sunglasses and striped bathing suits with acrylic paint on a batch of colorful envelopes (purchased individually at my local craft store). I’m not sure how long it took me–maybe no more than an ambling hour spent with paint and brush, sipping afternoon coffee and listening to the radio. That seems to be the point of this project: it’s a simple one, paced at a stroll rather than a sprint.

 

 

Penny & Jelly and a Star-Powered Craft!

Your friend is not invited to the sleepover. But you are. What do you do?

In Penny & Jelly Slumber Under the Stars, Penny faces this dilemma, with a twist or two. The excluded friend isn’t just an ordinary pal but her fur-faced, dog-breathed bestie, Jelly. And the sleepover isn’t the any-old variety, either. It’s a special sleep-under-the-stars event at the Town Community Center.

Penny and Jelly Slumber Under the Stars

Penny meets this problem with aplomb. As a maker and dabbler myself, I love how Penny sets about finding a solution. The girl gets crafty!

Armed with yarn, cotton balls, recyclables, shaving cream, even gelatin, Penny attempts to create a substitute Jelly to attend the sleepover instead.

Penny & Jelly Slumber Under the Stars

(A close-up of the classic toothpick-and-marshmallow combo:)

Marshmallow Jelly

OK, as you’ve probably guessed, Penny learns that craft projects don’t fix all of life’s problems. (She does find a creative solution. But I’m not giving it away.)

Nonetheless, the story inspired me to get crafty. Why not throw a starry sleepover for a couple of wacky, resourceful kids that I know and celebrate the publication of the second Penny & Jelly adventure (written by Maria Gianferrari and illustrated in warm washes by Thyra Heder)?

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We don’t see a lot of stars in the city so we chose to make our own. Here’s how:

You will need a standard size flashlight, 1/4″ hole punch (we used a star-shaped punch), black construction paper, scissors, white pencil, and masking tape.

Step 1: On the black paper, trace circles that will cover the lens of the flashlight.

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Step 2: Sketch your starry designs. Simple constellation patterns are readily available online for inspiration–or for tracing.

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Step 3: Cut out your circles and punch holes for each star in your pattern.

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Step 4: You can either inset your star discs (which involves unscrewing the head of the flashlight, removing several parts, and then replacing everything–whew! involved)–or you can overlay the star disc on the lens. You may need to use masking tape to keep it in place while projecting.

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Step 5: Pop some corn, set up the sleeping bags, and project the starry night onto your ceiling!

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Boston-area residents: Bring your young book enthusiasts to the Penny & Jelly Slumber Under the Stars Book Launch at Newtonville Books on July 24 at 2 p.m.

And check out all of these stops on the the official Penny & Jelly blog tour:

Extra feature:

 

Make: DIY Bitty Bistro Chairs

Mini Cafe Chairs by homemadecity.com

I’ve been saving champagne corks for a while meaning to twist together some tiny cafe chairs, but I had forgotten about the project until . . . I tripped onto This Is My Dollhouse, a recent picture book by Giselle Potter (published by Schwartz & Wade Books). As a maker and admirer of all things itty bitty as well as a fan of Potter’s doll-like, oval-faced illustrations, I couldn’t resist getting my hands on the book.

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The story is about a girl who creates a dollhouse out of a cardboard box, furnishing it from snippets and household bits.

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Inside the dust jacket is a hidden treat: hints and ideas for making and outfitting your own cardboard box dollhouse.

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Clothespins and a matchbox become a bed. Bottle caps make perfect plates. Pieces of yellow string equal noodles. Fried eggs? Pencil a yellow circle on a white scrap! The story honors a child’s ability to transform the ordinary into a miniature world.

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So, I found my champagne corks where I had squirreled them away.  If you have a supply ready, here’s how to make them:

You need: a wire cutter and a champagne (or craft beer!) cork

Step 1: Cut the wire that connects the bottom of the cork cage. Try to straighten out the twists as best you can.

Step 2: Twist the wire into the shape you’d like and hook and secure the loose ends to the back legs of your chair.

The tricky part (other than all that twisting that ended up lopsided in my attempts) is to secure the back and keep the seat on the chair. If the legs splay out too much, the seat falls off. You need to straighten the legs a bit to keep the seat attached.

Mini Cafe Chair by homemadecity.com

 

 

 

Places: Treasures & Trash

My friend Mary is a veteran treasure hunter and estate sale scout. She looks for places that are lived-in, worn-at-the-edges, abundant–in other words, houses with a lot of stuff in the basement. Mary loves discoveries of ephemera best: bits of ribbon, rolls of old wallpaper, kitschy greeting cards, and she’s willing to whisk through the contents of desk drawers and dig through musty closets for a great find.

Last weekend, Mary invited me to a sale held at a former convent of Armenian nuns, which before that was the many-roomed replica manor home of a wealthy family. The place is now marked for demolition. It was one of those places layered in stories: the third floor narrow hall with rooms in the eaves for servants, a grand sun room darkened by the nuns into a makeshift chapel, a wing painted in ice cream pastels for orphaned children. I didn’t pick up much–a plate, a stitched scene (of Armenia?)–but I marveled at the crackled linoleum, the porcelain door knobs, the notebook filled with needlepoint patterns, Xs in squares, the pencil still tucked in the page.

Make: School Pencil Flags

This one’s for people who share my unnatural possessiveness toward pencils. In my school library, pencils walk away with alarming frequency. A yellow #2 looks a lot like every other one, after all.

My solution: pencil flags! The kids love getting picky-choosy about their favorite flags, but they also tend to return them more often. I glued little sayings and stickers on colored rectangles of paper and used strong packing tape to attach to the pencils. Now my library pencil jar is full!