Shaving Cream Painting for Marbled Paper!

I had so much fun with this in the past few weeks.  I had been dying to try it after reading several how-tos, and I’d say it’s a blast even if you don’t have kids to do it with.


First off, this project can be done with acrylics or fingerpaints.  If you are not afraid of art being messy (and staining) I would go with acrylics.  The results are much brighter.  Fingerpaints, while totally safe for surfaces, come out very weak and not as “TA-DA!”


The supplies list is simple, and cheap:

-really foamy shaving cream (I used Barbasol)

-a variety of paint colors (acrylic, fingerpaints)

-cardstock (large pieces for agile hands, or index cards for tiny ones) or paper plates

-a shallow container (I used plastic plates with the kids, uses less cream)

-forks, popsicle sticks for “brushes”

The tutorials I read called for a squeegee for removing the shaving cream, but since that was not in my craft arsenal, I simply used a plastic ruler.


Spray the shaving cream into the container, enough that you can use a popsicle stick to smooth it out, like icing on a cake.  It doesn’t need to be perfect, and you don’t even have to do that step.  It is fun for the kids to play in, so that can be just one more fun activity for them.

When the cream is ready as your “canvas”, squeeze a few different colored streaks of paint on top.  Do you work with kids who just love squeezing paint bottles?  Then maybe you should do the paint for them.

Rake the popsicle stick or fork around the cream and paint to make swirls and streaks.  Mix paint colors in the cream and see what you get.  Once you see a particularly beautiful swirl, cover it with a piece of paper, card or paper plate and gently press over the whole surface.  Peel it back and let it dry for a few minutes.  Multiple prints can be made from the same canvas, so make sure you show them they can keep painting.

To clear the shaving cream and reveal the print, use a squeegee or ruler over the sink to scrape off the shaving cream.  I found putting the paper on an hard surface (like the bottom of a plate or a cutting board) make it easier, and prevented the paper from tearing.  Let these prints dry for an hour or more.


The index cards are quickly turned into valentines for the whole class, or you can cut them up into shapes.  Make a collage of balloons, or string shapes together to make a beautiful marbled garland.  It makes a gorgeous background for your desktop or Twitter page!


Make a Scrap-topus

What’s an octopus made of scrap fabric and thread that you’ve got all over your sewing room floor?  A scrap-topus!  This is a little project I did this summer at camp, on the days we designated “scrap days”.  With 100 kids coming and going through the sewing studio, our scrap bins got really fun.  I wish I had a picture to explain how much stuff was exploding out of them.

Now, you are probably saying to yourself– why not just throw it away!  That seemed like a bad lesson for kids, and scrap day had another meaning– it was a day to get creative with the little things, or figure out how to make lots of little things one big thing.  Enter the scrap-topus.  It’s more of an octopus-jellyfish, because the sheer material lets you see all the guts inside.

We had lots (I mean LOTS) of googly eyes on hand, but you can use buttons, paint, embroidery, what have you.  What you’ll need:

  • Sheer fabric (tulle, organza, chiffon, pantyhose)
  • Fabric and thread scraps (the smaller the better)
  • Ribbon, string or rick-rack
  • Googly eyes
  • glue (hot or fabric glue is  best)
  • scissors

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

What We’re Making Today: Bugs, Worms and Birds!

“Bird crafts” were requested for this week, so I have FOUR crafts, two of which are birds and the other two related to birds.  First off, I’ve got a little wooden birdhouse that we can paint up.  I’m wondering if I’m tempting fate by using acrylics, but they look so good!  If this birdhouse is actually going on the market (outside, that is) we don’t want watercolors that will wash off.

A friend recommended this lightning bug craft from Apartment Therapy.  Lightning bug or firefly?  Either way, it was really hard to find a video of fireflies that wasn’t about Joss Whedon or Owl City.  I’d like to start incorporating my iPhone into my teaching so I can use videos as examples, or find pictures to use as models.  I haven’t been in California for an entire year, so I don’t know how common fireflies are.   Here’s a wonderful example:

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • plastic eggs (ones that open)
  • LED tea light
  • pipe cleaners
  • duct tape
  • markers
  • stuffing
  • thumbtack
  • scissors

The egg is the body, the pipe cleaners legs and antennae.  The hardest part of this craft is the poking of holes, so let the grown-up do that.  The holes should be big enough that the child can push the pipe cleaner through, but not so big that they won’t stick without glue.  Six holes need to be punched in the pointed half of the egg, in two rows of three.  Poke two more holes in the round piece for the antennae:

Next, make the face.  You can do this with paint, stickers, or markers.  I chose Sharpies, since they go on very dark.

Legs!  Cut a pipe cleaner into six equal segments.  Push these into each hole and bend as necessary.  You can adjust these later when all pieces are together.  Cut two more equal parts, a little longer than the legs, and insert into the head.

Now for the light:  you can simply insert the tea light in, or you could put a little big of stuffing on the switch-end of the light to keep in in place.  It keeps it from rattling.

Last step:  make wings from duct tape, which requires no glue!  I made another change to the original tutorial here.  Cut/tear a six inch piece of duct tape and fold in half longways almost equally.  Leave a small tab of sticky side showing that will attach to the egg.  Now that it is folded, you don’t have to cut through a sticky side.  Cut the tape to look like two leaves attached at the base.  Or, get creative!  Stick the wings onto the egg.

To turn it on and off, you will have to open the egg, so make sure you don’t cover the opening with too much of the tape.

The next craft is quilled birds, from Family Fun.  This consists as a series of nested paper rings.  The lengths listed in the tutorial are very helpful, but it’s not necessary to be exact.  I’m going to use this craft as a chance to learn to measure and use a ruler.   You’ll need:

  • colored cardstock
  • glue stick
  • scissors
  • ruler
  • toothpick
  • clothespins

I have nothing innovative to add, so go over to Family Fun and check out that tutorial.  Here’s my go at it:

If we have time, I bought some wonderful air-dry clay to make caterpillars.  I’m actually new to the idea of building up sculptures using aluminum foil and I love it!

Tear off small pieces of aluminum foil and roll into balls.  Make a good little pile of them, maybe 8 or more.  Take a little clay (start little, then add) and cover the foil balls.  Roll in your hands until it looks smooth and round enough.

Just put them all together and you’ve got a caterpillar!  I added some wires later for feelers.  After 2-3 days it will dry, so next week we can paint them!  I’m gonna buy a second tub of this stuff for myself.

What We’re Making Today: Spaghetti Art!

I got this idea from the folks over at Busy Bee Kids Crafts.  The idea is ever so simple: cook spaghetti, mix it with equal parts paint and glue, make a sculpture!  I always test crafts before I go to work, and I’ve been having a blast with this one.

What you need:

  • Glue (I used Modge-Podge)
  • Cooked spaghetti (let it cool, ok?)
  • Wax paper
  • Various colors of paint

Mix equal parts paint and glue.  I just plopped a small pile of spaghetti straight into it and mixed with my hands, because it feels great!  I tried to use poster paints first, since they are washable, but I didn’t get vivid colors.  I used acrylics, and everything popped (also stained my new dress).

Lay the noodles on one by one, and make sure every noodle touches another one, and there aren’t too many stray noodles that gravity won’t be able to hold up.  Let everything dry overnight on a flat and safe surface, and hang it in a window.  The wax paper should peel off easily.

It's a spaghetti sculpture made of spaghetti. So.. it's spaghetti.

Another good thing about this craft is that if the child gets bored or isn’t interested in making the shapes, she can skip the glue and use the noodles as paint brushes.  Here’s my Jackson Pollack rip-off:

Make sure you have plenty of plates to mix the noodles and paint on, and lots of paper towels handy.  This is a craft that absolutely hinges on the ability to get messy, so don’t fight it.

Now THAT is what I call nail art.

What We’re Making Today: Arctic Scenes!

Four projects in one!  Today we set out to make an arctic scene with landscapes, weather and of course, inhabitants.  This was inspired by a toilet roll penguin craft in Make and Do Crafts, but you can find  how-tos all over the internet.  We made a penguin, arctic hare (rabbit), mountains (or glaciers) and a mobile of clouds, snow and sunlight.  Over the next few posts, I’ll go into detail about each one.  For now, feast your eyes.

Arctic hare and mountains.

Close up of penguin.

Weather mobile.

What We’re Making Today: Embroidery

My new job requires me to spend hours of one-on-one time with a child doing crafts.  It is, for me, the best thing ever.  I can’t write too much about it, but I will put up an occasional post about cool things we’ve done.  Today was a good day for embroidery.

I have no child experience– don’t got ’em, haven’t hung with them.  I was a kid once, and that’s about all I have to go on.  But I think I’m doing ok, and together we’re doing all sorts of different activities.  She is learning how to needle felt, do various papercrafts, puppets, paper mache and embroidery.  Every day, I try to introduce a new skill.  Maybe I’m imagining things, but I think I already notice an improvement in her ability to handle/manipulate small pieces when crafting.  My sister used to tell me I was weird around kids, and I think I know what– I approach them as a zoologist approaches an unknown species.  I’m perfectly genial, but always making sure I don’t make a wrong step (and sometimes I say/do something that is probably completely weird).

So, embroidery.  Every day, I realize that after 29 years, I take my skills for granted.  Everything I do now, I had to build up.  I had to make tons of mistakes and form good habits, break bad ones.  Today, at 29, I get frustrated when ripping stitches from a messed up hem, when my bobbin runs out around a tough corner or when I can’t find my favorite Sharpie.  So, of course a small child doing embroidery for the first time might actually HATE it.  That was early on, and I was bummed that she seemed so disgusted by the repetitive act of stitching and teasing out knots.  So, after learning about Rule #1 (patience) I figured out Rule #2: put it down, try it again tomorrow.
We tried it today with a piece of muslin that I pre-decorated with her name and a few easy shapes.  What also helps is telling a kid what activity they will do, not hem and haw and give them lots of choices.  Also, if you’ve got more than one trick up your sleeve, well, they can’t see up your sleeve.  Give them what they need, and don’t tell them anything else.  I’m not trying to be tricky, but if I seriously told her everything I could possibly come up with, little brains might explode.  I showed her all the colors of embroidery floss I brought, showed her how to use a disc of beeswax to prevent tangles (the word “bees” got her attention).  She got started, and after about an hour she had it finished.  I only helped a bit with de-tangling.

I wish I could post the whole picture.  I took these because I’ve got her little embroidery at my house to frame it.  I got a frame and sparkly paper for the mat so she can give it to her mom for Christmas.  It feels nice that one day when she’s older, she might look at that little frame and remember when she learned how to draw with a needle and thread.   It was a good day to be at work on my birthday.