Thursday, 31 October 2013

Preschooler Cooking - Halloween Jack-o'-lanterns

Halloween is not very big in Australia. But since today is Halloween, today Miss 3, Miss 2.5 and I made some jack-o'-lanterns. Not real carved pumpkin ones, but jelly ones in oranges.

First, grab some oranges, cut off the tops and scoop out the insides.

Then make up some jelly. We made two packets for four oranges, which gave us a small bowl left over as well.

The girls poured the jelly into the oranges, put the tops back on and then we put them in the fridge.

After a few hours, I carved some faces into the pumpkins with a sharp knife (note - I actually started carving a face before filling with jelly, with some idea that I could seal the face up with tape to stop the jelly escaping... then I decided that this was a terrible idea and it turned out that I was right).

Pretty fun! And pretty tasty too.

More fun things to do with nearly-three-year-olds? Check out the preschooler art, cooking and play, and the toddler art, cooking and play posts.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Materials and Techniques - 'Merrilyn Anne Knits and Gifts'

There are so many artists out there using a wide range of materials and techniques to make their creations. Every fortnight I have a chat with one of them about their skills. Today I am talking to Merrilyn, who knits and sews for her store, Merrilyn Anne Knits and Gifts, which is based in Warrnambool, Victoria.

Please tell us a little about yourself.

I live in the beautiful seaside city of Warrnambool on the south-west coast of Victoria. I have four adult daughters and seven grandchildren. The eldest three granddaughters love my sewing room and often come for "sewing sleepovers". I give them free range (almost) of my fabric stash and threads. They have learnt to use my machine and now need very little supervision. They usually go for the "brights" bin and have made some gorgeous soft toys, puppets and bags.

What materials and techniques do you like to use?

I love colour, and fabric, and wool. (You will not be surprised that I have a problem with space too!! Not that my house is small, but I just buy too much!) Many years ago as a stay-at-home mum, I built up a little home-based machine knitting business. I knitted custom orders and taught machine knitting classes in our family room. It all worked really well. I’ve now retired from the teaching, but still have cupboards of beautiful yarns which I’m gradually knitting into garments for my family and for my Madeit shop, Merrilyn Anne Knits and Gifts. Unfortunately I can not resist the new yarns, so I keep buying. Much of my knitting is done by hand as I always knit in the evenings. I use the machines for the fine 2ply wools that make such beautiful scarves.

I also love fabrics and over the years I have made clothes for my family and curtains, etc for our home. A few years ago I caught the "patchwork and quilting disease" so my sewing room now has boxes of fabrics for that craft. I sell a few little quilts and soft toys in my store. I’m also a keen hand embroiderer.

What challenges have you faced in the creative process?

Probably the greatest challenge is time management – finding the time to try all the techniques and experiment with the new yarns and fabrics. I set goals, planning to have x or y finished or to a certain stage in the day. But I do not get upset if I fall short as often attention is diverted by other unavoidable events.

What drives you create?

I think the "drive" comes from the fabrics and yarns, the desire to "make something" with them. I usually have a vision of what may work, then I experiment.

What is coming up next?

I’m currently making a quilt using tiny hexagons and Kaffe Fassett fabrics. This is all handwork and will take ages, but it is a good project for "sit and sew" group days. I have another six strips to make (two wider and four narrower) and will then appliqué them with plain coloured strips between, colour not yet decided. (There is a saying that the "quilt has control". I believe this to be so, as often the "quilt pieces" just shout out an idea for colour of design. I often make decisions as the work progresses.)

I also have a little floor or cot quilt ready for the batting and quilting. It has cars and flags and will be listed in my store.

My current embroidery project is an embroidered blanket for my youngest granddaughter’s first birthday. It will have a rooster and chickens embroidered in "thread painting".

I’ve just finished hand knitting a little cardigan for a friend’s grand daughter using a bamboo and wool yarn from Bendigo Woollen Mills.

You can also catch Merrilyn at the very occasional market stall.

All images have been provided by Merrilyn of Merrilyn Anne Kits and Gifts.

Read back through the previous materials and techniques interviews. If you would like to share your artistic process, please leave a comment.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Preschooler Play - Library Story Time

The library is one of my favourite places to hang out with children for many reasons - books, understanding librarians, books, often a selection of toys, books, they're free, books, other media including CDs and DVDs, books...

Since we've moved our schedule has matched up nicely with pre school story time for 3 - 5 year olds at our local library. These sessions run for about 45 minutes and have stories, rhymes, singing and a craft activity to finish off the session. The sessions have a theme connecting the activities, such as all about hippos, or food, or snails.

Story time is very common and most libraries run sessions for children - have a chat with your local library about what sessions they have available, as there will probably be sessions for different age groups, including little babies. Story time sessions not only promote a love of reading and books, but also help children to develop their language skills, teach them to listen, socialise and be part of a group, and give them an opportunity to be creative and imaginative. And did I mention that they're free?

Investigate more activities for toddlers (including art, cooking and play) and preschoolers (including art and play).

Friday, 18 October 2013

Sneak Peaks of New Notice Boards

This week I finished a new little boy's notice board.

The train in the foreground of this picture is one of my father-in-law's creations from The Toy Boys (if you're in Melbourne this weekend, you can visit him over at the Williamstown Craft Market).

But taking a break from children's wall art, I've also been working on a new wedding canvas and some gingerbread men. Sneak peaks...

Visit my Madeit and Etsy stores to investigate the current range of notice and display boards on offer.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Preschooler Art - Underwater Picture

An underwater mixed media picture for preschoolers.

We collected some aquatic themed stamps, fish stickers, a star biscuit cutter, a rolled up sponge and a sponge cut out in the shape of a fish to make an underwater picture.

The stamps went on first.

The girls dipped in paint the cookie cutter to make starfish, the rolled sponge to make shells, and the cut sponge to make fish. Then they added seaweed with paintbrushes and crabs with their hands. And topped the whole lot off with some fish stickers.

So many different techniques for making a picture and think about the different creatures that live in the sea.

Investigate other preschooler art posts, or investigate the toddler art, cooking and play posts.

Friday, 11 October 2013

Materials and Technologies - 'Jessidee86 Handmade Cards'

Every second Friday I have a chat with another crafter about the materials and techniques that they use in their work. Today I'm talking to Jess from Newcastle, who makes greeting cards which she sells in her online store, Jessidee86 Handmade Cards.

Please tell us a little about yourself.

Hi! I'm Jess from Jessidee86 Handmade Cards. I'm 26 and live in Newcastle, NSW. When I'm not crafting, I'm at my day job, or studying... I am studying a bachelor of education through correspondence.

What materials and techniques do you like to use?

My main materials are patterned papers, good quality card stock, alcohol ink markers (Spectrum Noirs) and stamps. I love stamping people images and colouring them in using my Spectrum Noir markers. They feature, quite heavily, in my cards. 

What challenges have you faced in the creative process?

I, like so many people, lose my craft mojo, and nothing I create seems to work. To get out of this craft block, I look at inspiration online, clean up my forever messy desk, or organise/cull my ever growing stash of supplies... 

What drives you to create?

For me, creating is a process of relaxation. It takes my mind off of uni work and all the other day to day stresses. I gather inspiration from so many sources, one of my favourite things are colour combinations. I love cruising Madeit or Blogs to come up with 'trendy' colour combos and fun patterns. I usually start by spreading out lots of pretty patterned papers and try to match a stamp to those papers...

What is coming up next?

Coming up next, hopefully, I'll expand my range from cards into stamped and coloured images to be framed for kids' bedrooms. I plan on exploring my options for this in the coming months, so keep an eye out!


All images have been provided by Jess of Jessidee86 Handmade Cards.

You can read more materials and techniques interviews from the last two months. If you would be interested in contributing, do get in touch.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Preschool Art - Playdough Monsters

The girls have been really enjoying playdough lately. I've posted previously the recipe for playdough and we've been teaming it with some coloured icy-pole sticks, plastic beads and googly eyes.

This is real free-form play, with each child getting a ball of dough to then sculpt into whatever their imagination dictates.

Miss 3 has a definite purpose to her creations and a planned location for each addition. What Miss 2.5 lacks for in planning she makes up for in enthusiasm and frequently ripping everything out to start again.

They have constructed some fabulously cute monsters over the last few weeks:

 This is the first post where I've officially had a preschooler in the mix, but lots of toddler art, cooking and play posts are also up here. Have a read.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Toddler to Preschooler Upgrade: Misses 3 and 2.5

Today is Miss 2.5's birthday and she is no longer a toddler, but a big three-year-old preschooler. Happy Birthday To You!

Friday, 4 October 2013

Kids' Notice Boards

I was recently invited to join the Handmade Cooperative - Australian Handmade 4 Kids, a group of crafters who share finds of Australian handcrafted items for children. So, as you've probably noticed, I've been working on my children's collection of notice boards and wall art.

And I've been trying out some new photography. What do you think?

In the kids' range, I've also been working away at a quite large canvas (91 by 61 cm) for a custom order. It takes up most of the dining room table.


The finished product is both a notice board and a kid's weather chart and is big, beautiful and bright.

Pop over to my Madeit and Etsy stores to check out the current children's range.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Operation Christmas Child

82 days until Christmas and it's collection time for Operation Christmas Child.

Have you come across Operation Christmas Child before? We found it last year. It's a global operation run since 1993 by Samaritan's Purse where families, churches, schools and businesses put together gift-filled shoe boxes to be distributed to children in need. From 1993 through 2012, some 100 million gift boxes have been handed out in more than 130 countries (our Australian boxes go to kids in South East Asia and the South Pacific). Evangelical literature is also added to the boxes by Samaritan's Purse or given along side - Christmas is a Christian event, after all.

To pack a box for a child, you just need a shoe box and six presents:
  • Something to love
  • Something for school
  • Something to wear
  • Something to play with
  • Something for personal hygiene
  • Something special

Borrowed from

This year, we again packed for a girl and a boy about the same age as Misses 2 and 2.5. The presents don't have to be expensive; we set a $20 limit for each box. We chose hand puppets to love, a mini stationary pack for school, t-shirts to wear, kaleidoscopes to play with, toothbrushes with feet for personal hygiene and some special stickers. I'd saved some shoe boxes from earlier in the year and we wrapped these in Christmas wrapping paper before the girls packed the boxes.

We also downloaded the participation certificates for the girls to fill in as a little story about who has packed the box.

Whilst donations to improve communities are probably better ways to help out disadvantaged children, every child deserves to feel special and getting a present brings them a lot of joy. In addition, learning to give is an important lesson for kids. I'm finding that toddlers really love preparing a present for someone else and they were so proud to carry them into the drop off centre and add them to the pile.

The final date for drop off is 25 October, although it's good to get in early as some of the drop off points close early. Start packing now!