Lupine is back at it with a pinwheel tutorial. It’s delightful.
Find it on her YouTube Channel, The Happy Dumpling, or watch below.
Rachel + Lupine
Lupine is back at it with a pinwheel tutorial. It’s delightful.
Find it on her YouTube Channel, The Happy Dumpling, or watch below.
Rachel + Lupine
Happy Saturday! Lupine posted her third video tutorial yesterday, over on The Happy Dumpling. She’s sharing how to make felt Easter Eggs using just sewing thread and scraps of wool (or other) felt.
I shared my own tutorial for these when Lupine was only 5, and it’s so delightful to see how my kids have grown up with these homemade eggs (not purchased plastic eggs) as their spring celebration standard.
Happy making, dear ones.
You can find Lupine over at The Happy Dumpling today, sharing her second Homeschool Crafts tutorial: this one for an upcycled tin can telephone (she includes instructions for using paper cups or yogurt tubs as well).
Head on over to her YouTube channel, or watch the latest video below (if you want to stay in the loop on future videos, it’s a snap to subscribe).
Rachel + Lupine
P.S. Thank you for the many many sweet messages and charming photos of your kids and their projects after last week’s tutorial. Each one was a treasure!
Lupine and I have been talking at length about how to offer guidance, support, and fun to families suddenly finding themselves stuck at home.
As many of you know, our family has chosen to homeschool. But chosen homeschooling is a whole different ball game than what’s happening to so many families right now, with many kids and their grown-ups thrown into a stressful home + school reality so unexpectedly.
Lupine reflected on her love of making art and doing simple crafts and realized that she could bring that gift to young children who are home right now. Kids who are feeling bored, restless, anxious, or a little stir crazy, and looking for a simple outlet and a bit of creative fun.
So she put together a YouTube channel, The Happy Dumpling, just for kids. Her plan is to post approximately one how-to video each week. Her target audience is 7-10-year-olds, but she would be delighted if kids (and grownups) of all ages joined in the fun!
Be sure to subscribe to her channel, so you know when the next episode is live (I hear old-fashioned soup can telephones may be in the works).
You can watch her video here, then leave a comment below letting Lupine know what other projects you’d like her to share with you. As for me, I also have something special in the works for parents and kids.
Subscribe through the green link below and you’ll be the first to know when it’s ready!
Need more inspiration? Check my blog archives. They’re loaded with more than a decade of simple, accessible projects and ideas for parents and kids.
Stay safe and well, loves. And we’ll do the same.
After a month or two away, we brushed off our Bodgery membership and headed back to our makerspace for the very best sort of homeschooling day.
A full day of making is truly our bliss. Honestly — what could be better?
Between marveling at some experienced woodworkers (one pictured above) who were tinkering away at everything from furniture to cutting boards to ukuleles and guitars; to Sage's metal work (more on that soon!) and Lupine's handwork, we had no shortage of creative fuel. I spent much of my day at the laser cutter, completing some LüSa projects that have been in my docket for ages. Possibly not the most creative day, but certainly satisfying.
Back home, Lupine cast off her first major knitting project (and her first on double-pointed needles!), a hen she's named Henny Penny, the pattern from fellow Wisconsinite Susan B Anderson, from Taproot: WEAVE. What a magical moment it was when she bound off that final stitch!
It's profound how fulfilling these small acts of creating are to our hearts.
And, if my car trunk is any indicator, we'll be back at the Bodgery again very soon. (We're already loaded up with wool felt, sheet metal, and plywood.) We're certainly ready for a bit more making… as soon as we can break away from the maple cooker for more than an hour at a time. For those of you who live in or near Madison, the Bodgery is open to non-members on Friday evenings, and in our experience families are made to feel incredibly welcome in the community there. Come and join us!
What's in your project basket, friends?
So many projects have gone onto my needles in the past few months. And—perhaps more surprisingly—even with our busy calendar, a few have actually been cast off! It's a miracle, I tell you.
This little sweater though, I admit to casting this sweater off ages ago. (2014? Really.) Due to a lack of baby girls in my world, I only had a reason to add buttons last week, then promptly mailed it off to a friend with a sweet new babe.
The pattern is Carina Spencer's Gift Wrap Sweater – my favorite go-to baby sweater. I adore Carina's patterns without exception. The construction is clever, and the worsted weight yarn she's partial too for most of her patterns always makes for a satisfyingly fast finish.
As for the yarn choice shown above, I nearly always work with hand wash only wool yarn. I make an exception, however, when knitting baby gifts (at least for non-knitters of those I don't think have a stash of hand wash only clothing to tend to). I can't help but remember back to the profoundly exhausting days of early-motherhood and am certain of how I would have felt about "hand-wash only" gifts when my kids were small. I doubt they would have seen much use, since they'd be awaiting a hand wash until they'd been outgrown.
So this sweater (along with mittens for my own kids and hats for Pete—both of whom have a knack for discovering hand knits in the laundry after the spin cycle) I use this wool blend (afflink).
It's brilliantly soft, the colors are lovely, and it can survive the occasional trip through the washer. I pick it up at my local yarn shop, but buying online is an option too if you don't have a local option!
The buttons, of course, are those that Pete made for me for Solstice from the beach pebbles for Ireland. I couldn't resist.
And now? I'm back to knitting away on a much bigger sweater: one for me, knit from homegrown, hand-dyed wool. It's the Barn Sweater from Taproot Make. Perhaps some larger stone buttons are in order…
What's in your work basket these days, my friends?
Every few years this project finds its way back onto our costume to-do list. This year Lupine is putting together a "winter fairy" costume, so we need ice blue wings. Obviously.
Since I was pulling this tutorial up for myself I thought some of you might enjoy it as well. So fast, so easy, and a costume with lots of play-value long after the candy is gone.
I'm betting a few of you are still getting ready for Halloween. (We sure are!)
I made these wings a few years back and I loved them so much I could hardly stand it. The tutorial is as simple as can be, and start to finish they take under two hours.
So grab your glitter and some hangers and let's get crafty! (If nothing else it's an excuse to use the word "panty hose" again.)
But what? My costume stash is pretty lean these days, consisting of a too-tight-for-me-now wedding dress, a pair of cowboy boots and an Amish straw hat. And that combination was scarier than the mustache, so I needed a plan-B. A fairy! Of course. But Lupine's wings were too small.
And they were so easy. Ridiculous. And because of the amount of glitter I used, extremely satisfying as well. (I don't know what it is about glitter. I wish I could put it on my food I like it so much. Okay, not really. But unlike most adults I actually adore the stuff.)
These wings took me less than two hours from start to finish (including a trip to Walgreen's for nylons when I realized that I simplified all of my tights right out the door last spring).
So easy and so much cuter than a handlebar mustache.
Here is what you need:
Four metal coat hangers or equivalent amount of other very strong wire
Duct tape (packing tape also works in a pinch but isn't as strong)
2 pairs of nylons of preferred color, mine were size large-ish and full length, though in retrospect thigh-highs would work great.
White glue or Mod Podge
1. Shape each of the four hangers into a wing shape. My top and bottom wings have a slightly different shape giving a distinct top and bottom, but go with whatever you like.
2. Cut off the hooked part of each hanger and tape together your left and right wing pairs, as above.
3. Slip a nylon leg on each wing segment and cut it off at the appropriate length. Knot on the back. (Feel free to call them "pantyhose" if you'd like to channel my grandmother during the process.)
4. Tape together the left and right wings to make a connected set. You're almost done!
5. Using diluted white glue (1:2 water to glue), paint the edges of your wings and sprinkle with glitter.
Paint designs on the wings and add more glitter. I did simple swirls and dots and allowed the excess glitter to add to the design. Remember: it won't be perfect, and it is a law of physics that glitter will not stay where you put it. Knock the surplus glitter off of the wing and onto a tray or newspaper and reuse.
Tip: Don't rub the glitter into place or you may smear the glue.
Allow to dry while you admire your work.
Your house. Will be full. Of glitter. But that's okay. Because now your house is magical instead of messy.
6. Hide your packing tape under ribbon or fabric and hold the ribbon in place with glue and a safety pin hidden on the back.
7. Attach a super long length of ribbon (the long cream-colored ribbons below) for straps at the center point. Cris-cross over your chest and tie in the back or at your side.
Tie them on and say to your reflection, "You are so magical I can hardly stand it. Mwah!"
Thank you for your beautiful enthusiasm regarding the Women's Herbal Retreat that I shared with you this week. There is room available for seven more women, so if you haven't already done so reserve your space today.
I can't wait to gather with you!
On our return trip from Maine last October we made an unplanned stop in a state park in Indiana. It was a spontaneous overnight after I got worn out from driving a little camper through high winds all day. I decided it wasn't worth pushing on and we'd add one night to the journey. We pulled off of the interstate and found a campground.
The first thing I noticed as we rolled through the park wasn't the beautiful rolling hills or the hiking trails or that we had the place to ourselves.
What I noticed was the abundance of pokeweed.
I had been wanting to dye with poke berries for some time but it doesn't grow in my region, so I was delighted to stumble upon it – and in full ripe fruit no less!
As we were near the end of our trip I rationalized I could tuck bags of the poison (yes, poison) berries in the cooler and transfer them to the freezer when I got home. And since it's a toxic plant that the park was already trying to eradicate I didn't think the'd mind if I helped out a bit.
We harvested berries and brought them home where I plucked the vibrant, juicy berries off of the stems and tucked a jar into the back of the freezer.
This weekend it was time.
While the color is not what I was expecting (honestly, it never really is with plant dyes, except for predictable yellows) I am absolutely smitten with how it turned out. Along with black hollyhock it's my favorite color yet.
And the many surprises that plants bring to the dye bath? That's just part if the fun for me.
As for what I was expecting, I would say a bit less orange and a bit more red – In the pastel pink to deep magenta range. But truly, this color suits me even more than those.
There's still quite a bit of color left in the dye pot so I'm contemplating adding another skein to see what results. Perhaps a more pastel melon color? Or maybe that pink I was expecting.
We shall see!
P.S. If you are interested in exploring natural dyes yourself I'm quite taken by this book.
Or: sheep + flowers = happiness.
We became shepherds a few years ago because 1. sheep are fuzzy and cute and look adorable dotted across our hillside; and 2. because I really wanted to grow my own fiber for knitting.
I planted black hollyhocks in my flower garden so that I could have a wider color palate of natural dyes. As a biennial (flowering only on the second year) even my dye plants were a long-game plan.
Finally this spring I dyed my first skein of hollyhock wool (the bottom skein in the photo above) and it was true love. A complex sage with an undercurrent of blue, it's mellowed to a soft sage green in the months since I dyed it.
And it is, quite possibly, my favorite yarn ever. Because squishy, gorgeous, and homegrown in every way? Yes, please!
Despite my yarn being worsted weight, I chose to knit a Guernsey Triangle after being utterly distracted by my friend Meg's gorgeous version during a visit this spring as we discussed homeschooling, lambs in tutus, and doing yoga with goats. (Among other things.)
Yes, the Guernsey Triangle is designed for fingering weight yarn. Yes, I knitted it in worsted. Rules be damned!
To accommodate for the extra bulk of my yarn I simply cast on the small version with the expectation of it coming out roughly the size of a large. (It did.)
Next up? A cowl with fiber from this cute bunny.
Photos by the ever-helpful Sage. Thank's, bud.
P.S. My project notes are here!
I spent one evening this weekend searching Pinterest for the perfect backyard tent to make with my kids.
And I found some charming designs. Wooden frames, hemmed fabrics, grommets, twinkle lights – the works.
Every one was picture-perfect.
And as I closed my laptop I decided that we wouldn't make backyard tents this weekend after all.
Because I had no bamboo poles, dowels, or 1×2's. I only had two grommets, and no yard after yard of perfect fabric to cut and sew into a tent. And frankly, no ambition to take on a six hour craft project after weeding eighteen thousand thistle plants out of my strawberry bed.
Don't get me wrong. I adore Pinterest. I find great inspiration there. But sometimes what I see is all a bit beyond my reach.
And then as I looked out on my kids playing in the backyard I realized what was happening.
It was the perfection myth bubbling up again.
The false idea that if it isn't photogenic it isn't worth doing.
That if it isn't perfect it isn't enough.
I wasn't going to play that game.
We were building forts, dang it.
So instead of going back to Pinterest I went to the linen closet. I pulled out some old bedsheets, blankets, and table cloths.
I went to the barn and gathered all the bailing twine we pulled off the hay bales last winter.
I grabbed my pocket knife and we set to work.
Not Pinterest-style, but old school. Like what I built when I was a kid with only my imagination to guide me.
And we did it. In one afternoon.
Two fabulous, simple – and yes – imperfect play forts.
Total cost: $0.
Total time: 5 minutes for Lupine's, all afternoon for Sage's as he tweaked and modified and tricked his out again and again.
And the play value? Fan-freaking-tastic.
Want to make one, too? It's easy. Really.
You can squeeze it between the sidewalk and your garage, tuck one in the corner of your patio, or set it up in the woods. Be where you are and use what you've got.
Heck, you could even make one without a yard if you screwed a couple of lag bolts into your living room walls and anchored the corners with bean bags or duct tape.
And, of course, it doesn't need to be perfect. (But you already knew that.)
So grab your kids, some old sheets, and get outside.
Here's what to do:
1. Find the biggest flat sheet you can spare for the day or the week or forever. (You can still use them for sheets as for this basic version there's not need to cut or sew it.)
2. Run a strongish rope, clothesline, or spliced lengths of bailing twine tightly between two trees, a tree and an eye bolt on your house, or your fence and playhouse. Whatever you've got that will hold the weight of a sheet. Be creative! Set the height based on the size of your sheet (smaller sheet = lower line). Ours is a full sheet and set set it at waist/chest height.
3. Suspend your sheet along this rope. The sheet above is centered but you could also hang it off-center for a more one-sided shelter. If needed use spring clothespins to secure your fabric.
4. Sage suggests tucking a small rock into each sheet corner and tie a rope or piece of twine tightly around the rock. (The rock will keep the corners from slipping out.)
5. Secure to a tent stake, root, tree trunk, or stick pushed into the earth. Angle the stake back toward the tent to keep it from pulling out.
6. Trick it out with doors, windows, walls, tree branch supports – whatever inspires you or your kids. (Optional)
7. Line with a blanket or pile of pillows if you wish, and get in there and play!
There. Now aren't you glad you didn't get disouraged by those pretty, fancy play tents?
Take that, perfection.
Originally published in 2014.