Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Knitted Hat

Earlier this winter I knitted Abe a hat using this free pattern by Susan B. Anderson.

I finally got some good pictures of him wearing it on a 65 degree day...in Minnesota...in March! Didn't really need the hat at all. 

And yes, the tulips and irises in that garden are now green and growing like mad!

For more details on this hat, see my post about it on Ravelry.com, and while you're there check out Susan's page for even more of her adorable patterns.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Cardboard Blueprints

I put together a PDF file (available here) with instructions for building our cardboard playhouse

To make it you'll need:

chalkboard paint (optional)  
utility knife

Download the PDF for full instructions, but keep reading if you'd like to see detail shots of some of my construction techniques...

This is where I joined the two boxes together on the side of the house above the window (step 9). I overlapped the edges, ran a couple pieces of tape lengthwise on both the inside and outside, then wrapped tape around the seam to really hold it together. 

The side walls seemed a little flimsy because they weren't a solid piece of cardboard, so I taped one of the flaps I removed from the top of the box (step 3) under the window to help strengthen the wall (step 10). Simple solution, but it seemed to make it much sturdier.

The flaps at the top and the bottom of the boxes were pre-cut, so I taped over the cuts to prevent weak spots on my roof and walls (step 4).

The flaps that I left attached to the box were folded down and taped to the sides to help support the structure (step 6). Once I added the roof they turned into convenient shelves to store light toys and books. To prevent the shelves from collapsing, I added a support made from cotton twine. I used an upholstery needle to poke through the ceiling and the bottom of the shelf and tied the ends together. 

I didn't want the cardboard roof or the shelf to tear so I added a small piece of cardboard above the roof and below the shelf to prevent the twine from ripping through.

I figured the base of the door would eventually tear off (since it was thin and was bound to get stepped on a lot), so I covered it with duct tape which seems to be holding the doorway together quite nicely. I also ran duct tape around the edges of the door to keep those from getting torn up. The "welcome mat" is actually a larger piece of cardboard that runs under the floor of the house to help stabilize the entrance.

For the curtains, I sewed a channel at the top and ran a shoelace through it. I made two small slits in the cardboard above the window and simply ran the shoelace out one hole and in the other and tied the ends together. 

For the chalkboard, I used two coats of chalkboard paint - let it dry completely between coats. The hooks are stick-on Command Hooks from 3M. 

As with the shelf support, I didn't want the doorknob to get torn out so I cut two small pieces of cardboard and glued them to either side of the door. I used a bolt that was big enough to go through the glass knob and the 3 layers of cardboard, and used a knob of the back of the door that screwed onto the end of the bolt.

The flower box was made from a few small pieces of leftover cardboard. I attached it in basically the same way I did the curtains, but ran duct tape through the slits in the cardboard instead of a shoelace.

For other ideas and expert advice on working with cardboard, check out this post over at Ikatbag. The things Lier can do with cardboard are inspiring...and completely blow my mind!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Magnetic Numbers

I made these colorful magnetic numbers to help decorate Abe's cardboard playhouse, and you can download them right here to make your own! (See my instructions for making laminated magnets here.)

They also make great house numbers... 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Rainbow French Toast

On St. Patrick's Day, my husband got up early to run the Get Lucky Half Marathon. Abe and I slept in and made rainbow french toast for breakfast...

...and since it was St. Patrick's Day, I served it with a pot of liquid gold (syrup) and a glass of green milk to wash it all down. 


To make a powdered sugar rainbow, you'll need:

powdered sugar
food coloring (I recommend gel food colors - it takes half a bottle of liquid food coloring to get the same results as a few drops of gel!)
small plastic bags

1. Combine a spoonful of powdered sugar and 6-8 drops of food coloring in a small sandwich bag.

2. Squish the bag between your fingers until the food coloring is mixed with the powdered sugar. If the food coloring sticks to the bag, rub the sugar against it to mix the color in. Add more food coloring, if necessary, to get the desired color.

3. Secondary colors (orange, green, and purple) are easy to make by combining already colored sugars (red + yellow = orange, red + blue = purple).

4. Store in an airtight container until you're ready to use them.

5. Sprinkle colored sugars on toast in arches to make a rainbow. (I made a paper stencil to keep the edges neat. Find it here.)


Monday, March 19, 2012

Pom-Pom Garland Video Tutorial

I made a pom-pom garland to decorate Abe's cardboard playhouse, and I love it so much I may start hanging these all over my house!

Pom-poms are easy to make and a great way to use up leftover yarn. They can also be used for really cute cake toppersholiday or party decor, and even gift wrapping!

I've explained how to make these pom-poms for other projects (and even posted a photo tutorial awhile back), so this time I made a video tutorial in case you'd like to see how it's done. 

I used two kinds of acrylic yarn (white & yellow), cotton yarn (teal), wool (gray), and a bamboo/wool blend (green). They all turned out great although the cotton yarn was a little stiffer than the rest. 

Have you ever used pom-poms to make something fun? What do you do with leftover yarn?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Cardboard Playhouse

I've been wanting to make Abe a playhouse for awhile now, so after sizing up the competition finding some inspiration on Pinterest (see a few of my favorites here, here, and here) I got to work on my project for...

Home Depot is generally the last place I'd think to look for children's toys, but it's the first place we always go when we're working on the house. This time I was working on a house for Abe, and I knew that, except for a few supplies I already had at home, they would have everything I needed. 

Our cardboard playhouse is made from: 3 large packing boxes, ½ roll of clear masking tape, and 1 roll of black duct tape. Other supplies I had on hand, but also available at Home Depot: glass cabinet hardware (for doorknob), chalkboard paint, plastic hooks, battery operated light, and a utility knife. (Find the building instructions here.)

I used one glass knob left over from refinishing my old dresser, along with one of the original knobs that I had taken off that dresser, to make the doorknob. 

Abe has been very interested in locks and keys lately, so I added a keyhole - custom made for his colorful set of keys.

Abe helped decorate the house as I was putting it together. At one point, he decided to lay down while he worked. Apparently even babies get tired of "painting" walls. 

Of course every house needs some numbers! I made these laminated number magnets and stuck them to an old metal lid. The lid was a little too small to fit all my numbers, but they go up to 12 so it could be used as a clock too!

Abe noticed me building the window box, and after telling me it was a "chair" he decided to sit down and try it out. Not the most well-designed chair but it works well as a window box!

I made some hand-painted flowers from lightweight cardboard to fill the window box. They don't smell like much but they sure are pretty! (Tutorial coming soon!)

The mailbox is made from a small box that I attached to the house with zip ties. I added a cardboard flag and ribbon pull-tab for easy access. 

He couldn't wait to check for mail...

...so I had to make sure there was something to find! I filled the box with these laminated postcards, leftover valentines, and holiday cards from family and friends.

I used another small  box to make a doghouse for his puppy. Every morning he walks his puppy into the kitchen and asks me for a "cookie". I know he's going to offer his puppy a few bites before eating it, so I usually give them an animal cracker or vanilla wafer to share. Darn boy and his dog trick...gets me EVERY time!

On the other side of the house I made a wall for him to work with his tools. I used a real screw driver to poke some holes in the box, and then pushed the plastic nails and screws through to make the holes bigger. 

I cut the hole with the blue ball in it big enough to fit an empty paper towel roll to use as a spy glass. He didn't quite understand the concept of looking through it, but he did figure out that the hole was big enough for his plastic balls.

Now I just have to teach him how to use a hammer.

Here's a view from the other side. I hung a battery operated lamp on the back wall (so he can still play in there after dark), and threw down a small blanket for a rug and his Boppy to use as a chair. Eventually I want to build a little kitchen and some other cardboard furniture, but he seems content with it for now.

I built the house in such a way that I ended up with a convienient little shelf at the front and back of the house.  The back shelf was big enough for some light toys and stuffed animals...

...and the front shelf had just enough room to stash a few board books.

By the door, I hung a little safety mirror with duct tape and a small plastic hook for his keys. I left the other walls empty for Abe to decorate on his own. So far his favorite color to use has been brown. I think it may have something to do with the chocolate scented marker he's been using...

Since I wanted to be able to use the front window as an impromptu puppet theater, I made curtains to help hide the puppeteer (usually me). The adorable 5 Little Ducks stick puppets are a free download available at Picklebums.

I didn't cut any windows in the back of the house because I wanted a nice big area to make a chalkboard. I simply taped off a large rectangle with painter's tape and covered the area with a couple coats of chalkboard paint (leftover from this project). 

Of course the chalk use wasn't limited to the chalkboard. Does this picture remind anyone else of Harold and the Purple Crayon

To keep art supplies handy, I added another hook next to the chalkboard to hold a small bucket of chalk.

Abe enjoyed drawing on the chalkboard, but he loved rearranging the pom-pom garland I had hung above it. I know I shouldn't be surprised because he's been bringing me dust bunnies cradled in the palm of his hand - like tiny little pets - since before he could walk, so it makes sense that he'd love grasping the fuzzy pom-poms. 

Originally I strung the pom-poms on a length of nylon yarn, which stretched out a lot when he started playing with them. I replaced the yarn with cotton twine and that seems to be holding up much better.

We generally keep the chalkboard side turned to the wall, although it's easy to slide out or spin the whole house around when he wants to color. Unfortunately he doesn't understand the difference between cardboard walls and real walls as the walls in our sunroom are now covered with chalk. Oh well, that's why we buy the washable stuff, right?

So there you have it...Abe's cardboard playhouse. Oh, and the total cost of essential supplies (boxes, tape, and duct tape)...just over $12!