Monday, August 11, 2014

Vacation Bible School Crafts: Day 5

This is it! We made it to the end of the week of VBS. Catch up on the previous four days of treasure chests, popsicle stick boats, seashell wind chimes and ornaments, and regrouping.

Day 5: Leis

The final requirement for VBS crafts was Friday’s craft needed to be quick (no more than 15 minutes) and couldn’t require drying or setting time. This was the last day and the kids and their crafts were going home. Friday had a shortened schedule as well..

Spending the week on ‘the island,’ of course we were making leis. This was the second idea for crafts to gel after the treasure boxes. However, for being the quickest craft to make, the leis required the most preparation time. Here’s how the craft went down.

The leis were made with lengths of plastic lacing (also known as gimp, scoubidou, boondoggle), artificial flower heads, and drinking straw “beads”. The plastic lacing was cut to 36” lengths. I choose plastic lacing for stringing because it was sturdy enough for the younger kids to easily hold and string the flowers on without needing a needle and without unravelling on them. Cutting and prepping the plastic laces was the easiest and quickest. The drinking straw beads were cut from drinking straws. That was also easily accomplished, but took a bit longer to do—there were a lot of straws to cut.

Sparkly rainbow plastic lacing cut and ready for counting

Big bowl of plastic straw beads

Finally, there were the flowers. The cost-effective way to do this in bulk was to get flowers by the bush—not individual stems. The more flowers per bush, the better. It was also important to make sure the disassembled flowers were suitable for stringing. Some flowers, like roses and carnations were made of multiple pieces, effectively doubling or tripling the available flowers for stringing. Likewise, where possible, the flowers’ leaves were used. Getting the flowers off their stems was easy, and quite fun—they just pop right off. The job was so fun, in fact, I was able to convince my two sons to do this work for me. For the leis, I only needed the petals for stringing. The second step was to remove the centers from the flowers. This job was not nearly as fun and was quite tedious. It’s a good activity for binge-watching one’s favorite shows, but does tear up the fingernails after a bit. It took a few weeks to get all the flowers taken apart and the straws cut.

This was about a third of the flowers prepped.

Flower centers

Flowers de-centered and ready for crafting

The day of the craft arrived. For set up, we split the flowers between the three rooms. I chose to have the flowers strewn along the table for the kids to select from for their leis. Each child received a plastic lacing cord and we showed them how to make a ‘locker’ bead with one of the straw beads to keep the beads and flowers from falling off at the bottom.

In retrospect, we probably shouldn’t have made all the flowers available all at once. Doling them out over the course of the day would have been a better idea. The flowers were the one material we ran into the risk of running out of. Fortunately, it worked out and we had just enough for everyone. When the kids finished stringing their leis, we tied the ends together and they had the option of wearing their craft for the rest of the day at VBS.

Finished lei

C models his lei

And that’s a wrap on the week with VBS crafts. After all that making, it was time to clean up and go home. I received a lot of positive feedback from parents and kids. Many said it was their favorite part of the day. This is what makes all the planning and preparation worthwhile. If there were kids who discovered joy in making or were inspired to continue making, then that is a week’s worth of work well-done.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Vacation Bible School Crafts: Day 4

We're past the middle of the week and the end is in site. Catch up on the happenings earlier in the week on days one, two, and three.

Day 4: Rest and Regroup

The team

The crafts endeavor for VBS was not a one-woman show, by any means. I had help. In fact, I think trying to accomplish all the crafts solo would have ended disastrously. Our VBS program was run by two women, one of them a friend of mine. The co-directors were an organized team and were super-helpful to me and the crafts team with whatever we needed. They even brought snacks down to us! I also had a collection of volunteers and family who helped prepare and stage the crafts and who helped get the rooms set up. And, finally, there were the volunteers who operated each craft room (mentioned below). I'm thankful to have had the help I did. It made the week far less stressful that it could have been.

The set-up

The fourth day of VBS was the day the children went to daily Mass. As such, the schedule didn’t have room for crafts that day so my team and I had a little break in the crafting action. This was our day to regroup and get everything ready for Friday’s dismissal. With this little breather, here is the set up crafts ran with:

Crafts were held in three multipurpose-type rooms, typically used for classrooms and meeting space. Each room had few tables, about 3’ by 6’ sized and arranged together in a tight rectangle. As crafting space goes, it was great. We had plenty of room for each group to have a little elbow room between kids. Storage in the room for completed crafts or staged materials for crafts wasn’t as abundant. Fortunately, we had access to a fourth room where we could store the completed crafts.

To save us angst when clean up time came around, the tables were covered with heavy brown craft paper. This gave us a surface we wouldn’t be afraid to get glue or paint on and provided a blank slate for crafting. We encouraged the kids to color on the tables if they finished their crafts early.

Day to day

VBS classes were arranged by age group. Each group, over the course of the morning, would rotate through one of the craft rooms. They always went to the same craft room each day. Over the course of the week, we got to know the kids a little and they got to know us as well. Each of the craft rooms was run typically by one adult volunteer and one teen volunteer. For the most part I had the same group of volunteers—tremendously helpful for maintaining some consistency. It didn’t take long for each room to develop it’s own characteristics and vibe. The day’s flow started with setting out the supplies for that day’s activities, running through the activity with the children, collecting and storing the completed crafts, cleaning up, and doing it all over aging for the next group.

To do

Thursday was different. Thursday was our day to get a jump start on clean up and dismissal. Crafts went home with the kids on Friday, when VBS was over. Our major tasks for Thursday included getting the crafts sorted into the bags they were going home in and doing triage when necessary. Popsicle boats that weren’t glued securely enough or glued too securely and treasure chests painted shut were the main culprits that needed tending to. Photos taken on Monday of each of the students also arrived and needed to go into their corresponding treasure chests as well.

Day four really wasn’t all that restful. Nonetheless, we definitely welcomed the breather. Stay tuned for day five and the culmination of VBS crafts.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Vacation Bible School Crafts: Day 3

This is the third article in my series about crafting for vacation bible school. Catch up on the first and second days of crafts at VBS.

Day 3: Seashells

Craft ideas for day three arrived close to the wire. We knew we wanted to include sea shells in one of the crafts and this was the day to do it. My initial idea for sea shells was to reuse a craft previously done for my older son’s second grade end of year party.

Original seashell wind chime craft

The craft consisted of one popsicle stick with pre-drilled holes, two long lengths of rainbow-died cotton string, and twelve seashells. The string was knotted together in a loop at the strings’ middle. Each end was threaded through each of the holes on the popsicle stick. Finally, the seashells were attached to the string using UHU glue dots (these things are awesome!). The craft worked reasonably well, but the design need improving.

Wind chimes

First, after my experience with the craft the first time around, it was clear that it wouldn’t be easy for children younger than rising third-graders. Most of my son’s second grade class were able to complete the project. There were enough who had trouble with the materials and instructions to indicate younger children would have difficulty with the craft. This meant I needed to come up with something for the pre-k’s to 2nd-graders. More on that later.

Second, there was no way I was going to drill a bunch of holes in popsicle sticks. It was barely feasible the first time around--I had fewer kids to prepare the craft for the first time around. From a numbers standpoint, I just didn’t see it working for VBS.

Third, there was the glue dots. Don’t get me wrong, these glue dots from UHU are wonderful. They’re as strong as using jewelry cement, but without the nasty stickiness you get on your hands. Even so, you have to be careful not to touch the glue dots when using them. If you do get the glue dots on your fingers, they’re easy to get off--but at the price of not getting them to stick to anything else again. This was a challenge for the kids in the second-grade class and proved to be a significant…um…sticking point in the craft.

My teen helper and I tried working out the best way to do this craft. The big thing was attaching the shells. We had already worked out making a cross by glueing together two popsicle sticks perpendicular to each other. We used two lengths of raffia tied together as described above. My teen helper figured out winding the lengths along each cross arm and tying them so each strand hung a little away from the others. We tried tying the raffia around the shells but the shells kept slipping out. We considered the original plan to use glue dots or hot glue to hold the shell on the raffia strand and gave those a try. The glue dots worked okay, but were fiddly and had the same issues as before. As I was pulling the glue dots out of my stash to try, I found a bag of leftover scraps of duct tape sheets from crafts the previous year. We gave the duct tape a shot.

I should have started with the duct tape. Duct Tape brand sells rolls of duct tape in all sorts of fabulous colors and patterns. They also sell sheets of duct tape in these same colors and patterns. These sheets have sticker backs to them. You peal the sticker paper off when ready to stick the tape to something. This makes working with duct tape much, much easier. The previous year, one of the crafts used narrow strips of duct tape sheets to tape a string of beads to a plastic cup. These strips were the duct tape leftovers I had. We realized we could cut smaller pieces off these leftovers and use them to tape the seashells to the raffia. It worked like a charm. Duct tape is certainly strong enough and sticky enough to do the job. With this last detail in place, the sea shell wind chime craft was ready to go.

VBS wind chimes craft


Back to the younger kids. I have to credit Pintrest and the interwebs for throwing out this idea. Loosely, I had a notion of making ornaments with seashells for the younger kids. Practically, I was having a hard time coming up with something that used suitable materials and took up the right amount of time. Googling for ideas brought up this idea on Pintrest: Hearts cut from rolled out sheets of air dry clay with seashells pressed into the clay. The only modification I added was poking a hole in the clay for a hanger made from a short length of raffia.

Seashell heart ornaments

The younger kids really seemed to enjoy this craft. Most adventures in crafting with kids are more about process than product. This was especially true with this craft. The kids fun squishing the clay in their hands, flattening it out, cutting out hearts, and pressing the shells in. Then they would roll it all up and do it again.

I think we blew through an entire pack of wipes cleaning up after this craft was over. That’s what I call a good crafting day.

Day four had a respite from crafting, but was still plenty busy. Stay tuned.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Vacation Bible School Crafts: Day 2

This is the second post in my VBS week series. Catch up on day one's activities and an overview of the week.

Day 2: Escape to the Island

Another directive for crafts I received was to do something to draw down the supply of popsicle sticks in our VBS inventory. Apparently the popsicle stick collection grew over time as leftovers from previous years’ crafts were put back into storage. There are some great popsicle stick crafts out there. Unfortunately, most of them aren’t easily attempted by young children in that 20 minute time frame. Because of time and safety, I couldn’t do crafts that required cutting the popsicle sticks, so we were stuck with the rounded ends. What I ended up going with was the classic popsicle stick boat:

The boat’s base is a row of sticks laid side by side. Two sticks are glued in place along opposite edges, perpendicular to the initial row of sticks. The sides of the boat can be built up by overlapping sticks, much like building a house with Lincoln Logs. The mast is a stirrer straw held in place by a spool glued to the boat’s bottom. The sail is a square of canvas that could be colored with markers and had two holes to thread it on to the mast.

I modified the craft for different age groups. The youngest children created their boats using the fat popsicle sticks or tongue depressors. Their boats weren’t much more than a square platform:

Z's fat popsicle boat

The middle age range—about 1st through 3rd graders—created the same design, but with the standard-sized popsicle sticks. They were also given the opportunity to build taller sides to their boats:

Skinny stick square boat

The older kids had a trickier design. Their boats were diamond-shaped instead of square shaped. Popsicle sticks for the base were laid down and offset a little, resulting in a parallelogram or diamond shape. They could also build the sides up as high as they preferred.

C's diamond boat with bowsprit and crossbeam

In the end, I think we ended up with more popsicle sticks than we started with (the irony was that in order to draw down the stash in crafts, I had to buy more in order to complete the stash). In the end, we donated the extras to the preschool at our church.

Craft storage after day 2
Day three is coming up next.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

God’s Little Makers: A Week of Vacation Bible School Crafts

Last week was a busy week of making. During the summer, our church holds a week-long vacation bible school (VBS) camp for parish children. The kids enjoyed a range of activities during the week, all centered around our faith. My particular role in all this is crafts lead. I designed, planned, and led the week’s crafts activities for the kids—for the second year in a row. It was a rewarding experience, and definitely challenging. Coming up with four crafts for 120+ kids ranging in age from preschool to 6th grade isn’t the easiest thing to tackle. My goal was to design crafts that were fun and interesting to a wide age range, able to hit a wide skill-set range, and still tie into VBS theme and message. Here’s what I came up with, starting with day one:

Day 1: God’s Treasures

Our VBS theme this year was “SonTreasure”. The theme was centered around idea of tropical island fun. The message and focus of the week was God’s love for us. One of the requirements I had was one of the crafts had to incorporate the children’s photos. I found these little treasure chests at Michael’s Arts and Crafts and they became the basis for the first craft.
Treasure chests lined up and ready for crafting.
I cleaned out the supplies at two Michael’s stores, one of them more than once, looking for all of these boxes. This was the first craft I had a clear idea on. The kids decorated their chests. First with paints:

Sample chests--testing out the craft with my 5yo.
and later they added acrylic gems as time allowed.

Adding gems


Waiting for the trip home.

Before the kids took their crafts home at the end of the week, we added the photos to the chests to remind the kids that they are God’s own treasure.

Stay tuned. Days two through five to follow.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Latest Project: Sewing a Slipcover

Summer vacation is like New Year's: time to make resolutions for making (and finishing!) projects. With the optimism of a new season, here is one of the projects I hope to complete before the summer is over:
I inherited this chair from my grandmother, who was also a maker. Someone, way back when, had modified and upholstered this chair for her. It was one of my favorite chairs because the chair was made for someone of short stature (something else I inherited from my grandmother).

The blue fabric is showing its age, but is still in decent shape. With it's relatively simple lines, it would make a good candidate for a custom fitted slipcover. The fabric purchased for this project is white cotton twill with black cotton twill for the piping. At the moment, the plan is to 'doodle' designs on the white twill for a patterned effect. Stay tuned!

Saturday, June 14, 2014


New sling cover for our deck swing is finished! The old one was unusable: it was disintegrating and falling apart, and just generally looking disreputable. It also tended to collect rain water in the seat.With that issue in mind, I chose phifertex mesh fabric (in Sand Grey) with the idea the mesh would allow water to drain away.

Now all that's needed are cushions to put over the mesh sling. The old swing cover had the cushions and sling as all one, integrated piece. In addition to quick draining, I wanted separate cushions so they could be stored during the winter and hopefully last longer. At the moment, I'm looking at buying cushions, if I can find something I like at a price I like, at the size I need. So far, this search hasn't proven an easy one.

Also used for sewing the sling was a #18 universal needle and V92 UV coated thread.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Woven seat bench at Target

At the beginning of spring I saw this bench at Target:

I liked how the seat was made from weaving fibers. I believe the brown is hemp and the colorful yarn is some kind of up-cycled material--maybe plastic shopping bags. The yarn definitely had a plastic-y feel to it. I thought it was a neat little bench and might make an interesting project sometime.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Jeans Cuff Pencil Case Instructable Published

My instructable on making the Jeans Cuff Pencil Case is now published. My instructable was even featured right off the bat on the home page and on the Living category page. What a pleasant surprise! Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Too Much Stuff?

My sewing room went unused a good deal of time between the Christmas holidays and now. Whenever that happens, things tend to get out of hand. Stuff gets piled up on any available surface, Other stuff doesn't get put away. It's just a big mess. You know how it goes.
With summer vacation approaching--along with a desperate need for summer clothes--it was time to start cleaning up. That's been the task of the last few days. I had everything almost all put away and my sewing table all cleared off.

Except it wasn't really cleaned up. I was just moving piles of stuff from one location to another. The situation went downhill when I needed to clear a path to the laundry room to make way for a new dryer (yay!). Going further into the rabbit hole was the notion of 'organizing' the stuff. A bookshelf removed from the basement was moved into my sewing room. That set off the problem of what to put on it and how it should all be arranged.

I'm not sure if it's possible to have too many craft or sewing supplies. I think, though, that I am getting pretty close to finding out what those limits are. It's clear I need to start drawing down the stash by restricting or abstaining from new purchases until I've used what I already have. That will the main focus for projects over the next few months, until the new school year rolls around in September. Then we'll see where we are.

Here's to a fruitful, stash-busting summer!

(But first, I gotta get that table cleared off again.)

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Jeans Cuff Pencil Case

This afternoon's project:

Zippered Pencil Case
Zippered Pencil Case

It's a zippered pencil case made from the cuff removed from a pair of jeans I had to shorten (that happens a lot--I have a quite a few of these). The other cuff was also made into one of these some time ago. This time I took pictures of the process. I'll be posting an instructable on how to make this pencil case.
Both cases, made from the pair of ends taken for the jeans I shortened.
Both pencil cases. The one with the pink zipper was created first.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Hi there!

Hello and welcome!

My name is Patricia. As you can see in my little author's bio over on the side, I like to make things. For a few years, off and on, I maintained a blog on crafting and making over at Really more off than on. For an assortment of reasons (not the least of them the ease of maintaining a hosted blog) I decided to move the crafting part of the blog over to here. LittleBerry Studios will get revamped and continue its life as a site highlighting my work in the web world. At least that's the plan.

This blog, however, we're talking about making things. I've been a maker all my life, though I didn't fall into the term until relatively recently. The things I make vary with the season, interest, need, and supplies. Sewing, embroidery, and fiber crafts have long been part of my life. Cake decorating and cutting up pieces of paper are also favorites, as are beading and wire-craft. Recently, I've been getting into working with electronics. With fingers crossed, I hope you will all enjoy seeing my making endeavors here.
Happy making!