What We’re Making Today: Needle-felted Cloud Mobile

This was a perfect cloudy day craft!  Clouds can be any color, thanks to sunset and sunrise, storms and rain.  With some plain white wool and rolls of colored roving, we mixed colors together until we had lovely clouds of purple, blue and green (sometimes all three).

What you need:

  • plain (natural or white) loose wool
  • colored roving
  • felting needle
  • felting pad
  • thread (I chose blue, but get creative!)
  • 1 0r 2 dowel rods
  • beads (pony beads, glass, crystal, raindrop-like)
  • wire
  • floral tape

The needle-felting is the easiest part for kids– this project also requires lots of knots.  If that is something your child’s hands cannot handle yet, you can tie knots while they spend more time on the cloud’s design.

If you want to make a mobile with two rods that form a cross, make at least four clouds (for a single rod, 2-3 will do).  Start by mixing your cloud colors by grabbing a handful of white wool and bit of colored roving.  Mix until it looks pretty.

Roll the wool between your palms, letting the heat and pressure compound it a little into a ball.  Put the ball on the felting pad and poke at it from all directions, picking it up and turning it over to ensure even compaction.  The point is not to make a tight ball, but to form the cloud with nothing hanging off haphazardly.  You can lightly pull on sections of the cloud to fluff it up if it gets too flat.  This would also be a good time to talk about types of clouds, or look out the window and see what kind are already in the sky.

Once shaped as you like it, attach a thread at the top and one at the bottom of the cloud.  Thread a needle and attach the string by going through a thick part of the cloud, coming back through and tying  a knot.  The top thread will attach to the dowel rod, so leave enough length to tie knots and get creative with where the clouds hang.  On the other string, add a bead and secure it at the end of the thread with a knot.  Multiple “raindrops” can be added.  Note: too much bead weight could harm the structural integrity of the cloud (just like a real cloud!)

To make the cross-shaped base for hanging the clouds, you will need:

  • wire
  • dowel rods
  • floral tape
  • pliers (something that will cut wire)

Cut a piece of wire approximately 12 inches long.  Arrange the dowels in the shape of a cross and wrap the wire around the center of both pieces, alternating directions.  Try to keep the end of the wire from sticking out too much.

    With the remaining inches of wire, make a loop and tuck the end of the wire under the frame.  Twist the loop.
Cover the wire with floral tape, and tape up each dowel to make it more stable.  Tape sufficiently over the wire to hold down the ends of the wire.  Prevent pokes!  You’re done when the frame won’t wiggle.When all the clouds are done and have their strings and beads attached, and the frame is set up (you can paint that, too, if you have time) you can attach the top strings of each cloud to the frame.  I chose to put one cloud at the end of each dowel and one in the middle.  I tied the strings, but also used my scissors to make a small notch on the top of the dowel for the string to sit in.Note:  I would not recommend this as an infant mobile due to the small beads, fragility of the clouds and the wire.  Pretty much the whole thing would be a danger in a baby’s crib if it falls.  Put it somewhere out of reach and let it cast rainbows on the wall.


Mixing Paint for Kids Who Hate Getting Messy

How in the world?  I learned recently that some kids don’t like getting their hands messy, and that it is very distracting from creativity if they are constantly washing their hands.  Mixing colors in paint is much faster and yields results much faster, but mixing colors in different mediums strengthens the attention span, motor coordination and sometimes ends with a more interesting result (more so if you don’t mix all the way).  So, if your kid is adverse to getting paint on her hands, or you need a craft that can be done with little clean-up, try modeling clay or wool.

I do a lot of needle-felting with my client, and as we were making clouds yesterday (a post on that later!) I found this wool-mixing alternative.  We started with plain white wool roving and some assorted colors in rolls.  Grab a handful of the white, and depending on how dark you want the color to be, pluck out some colored roving from the rolls.  This gets the child used to incremental steps as she finds what amount of color she should use when mixing with a larger amount of white.


What we’re making today: Bubble Bugs!

Today, with my little client, we’ll be making bubble bugs!

A few years ago when I first started making my little robots, I bought a gross of acorn capsules to package them in.  I still get excited about internet discoveries, and finding that regular people could purchase the plastic “prize bubbles” I so coveted from childhood made my month.  Years later, I’m still finding uses for them.

What you’ll need:

  • plastic bubbles (25 cents at most grocery stores)
  • bendy straws
  • googly eyes
  • tissue paper
  • glitter
  • Sharpie pens
  • hot glue

[NOTE] These are not for kids under 4 years, and they are more for display than play.  The hold between the hot glue and the plastic is not incredibly strong.  You can reinforce it by abrading the surfaces with a file or sandpaper before you glue.

What kind of “bug” do you want to make?  You can explain to the child (if you’re working with a kid, that is) that an insect, or bug, has six legs, while a spider would have eight.  That way you can get into a discussion about the differences in those little creatures.  But your “bug” doesn’t have to be like anything on earth!  Make it clear to him or her that this bug can be whatever is in their imagination.

Decide on a number of legs and cut similar lengths from the straws’ non-bendy portion.  Is it a tall bug, or a short bug?  Reserve the bendy parts for the eye-stalks.

Separate the bottom of the prize bubble and lay it concave-side down.  You’ll attach the legs to the underside.  Use a generous bead of glue for each leg, and let the glue sit just a few seconds before sticking the straw piece in.  It will take 20 seconds or more for the glue to dry, so you can use this as counting practice!  If possible, each leg should be a the same angle for stability.  But with 4+ legs, you don’t need to worry too much.   Once all legs are set enough to stand up without assistance, put the bottom aside to dry completely.

What will the head part look like?  I used crumpled tissue paper in one, and glitter and pens on the other.  Go crazy with this part, because no matter what, the bubble looks great.  For the glitter, squeeze a generous blog inside the up-turned bubble and use your finger to cover the entire inside surface.   Sprinkle with glitter.

If you want to use permanent markers to make designs on the plastic, I’d suggest you do this before stuffing or glittering (or it’ll fall out!)  Doing one thing on the outside and one on the inside creates a neat look.

Once you are finished with your decorations, the legs should be good and set.  You may need to help them pop the bubble onto the base.  Be careful not to snap the legs.

Cut eye-stalks out of the straws using the bendy portion (or not!).  Put a bead of glue onto the “top” of the stalk and press a googly eye on.  Put another bead of glue on the top of the bubble where you want the stalk to go, and hold in place.  More counting.  If 20 seconds isn’t enough, make guesses with the child how many seconds you should keep holding it.

Once the eyes and legs have set, you’re all done!  Unless of course, you’re not.  Use paper or scraps of felt to create hair, hats, eyebrows, mustaches, collars, whatever!  And don’t forget to name them and figure out where they are from.  Ours were from a planet that is bigger than any planet we’ve ever seen, a whole 90 miles away!