Saturday, March 30, 2013

Handmade Travel Activities for the Kids

We've had our new-to-us van for just over a month now, and we've managed to put over 4000 miles on it.  Holy car ride, Batman! o.O
With the extra time we've been spending in the car, I made a few games/activities to keep the kids occupied, so we wouldn't have to rely on continuously popping a different DVD in the player.  All of them were a hit with the kids, but there are some of them that they've been begging to play with while we're at home, too!

DVD Coloring Case
I needed something that would hold all their crayons and paper, without making a mess in the van.  I made these out of old DVD cases!

(pardon the glare!)

Things needed:
Empty DVD case
Fabric (I found little squares of fabric at Wal Mart for 97cents each, and I had plenty!)
Spray adhesive
Duct Tape (Optional-- you can use the spray adhesive for all of it if you want...)
Crayons and blank paper
Utility knife and scissors and a self-healing cutting mat

Remove any cover inserts, or stickers from the outside of the DVD cases.

The tricky part-- cutting out the circle where the DVD goes.  You need to use a utility knife, and slide a self-healing mat between the case and the plastic sleeve on the outside.  You want to make sure you don't cut the plastic sleeve. We did this on three different cases, and each case cut differently.  Some easier than others.  (And yes, I said "we"-- my hubby was very helpful when it came to cutting these out!)

Then cut a piece of cardboard to fit on the side of the case where you made the hole.  Then you'll cover the cardboard with some of the fabric.  Use the spray adhesive to make sure it stays flat on the front, and overlap it an inch or so on the backside and glue down with the spray.  (Of course, I forgot to take a picture of that step, but it's simple...)

Fold a piece of the fabric in half (or you can hem one side if you want... folding was easier for me...) This is how you'll make the pocket for the crayons.  You're going to attach it on the bottom of the cardboard.  Set the crayons on there, so you know how much slack should be in it.  Attach the sides and the bottom of the pocket to the backside of the cardboard with the spray adhesive.

Or use duct tape for the back of the pocket. :-)

Spray adhesive on the DVD case around the hole that you cut, and press the cardboard to it to secure it.
Then cut paper to size to fit on the other side of the case, using the little tabs to hold it down!  (5x7 inches)

Johannah's Book- Even fits with 6 of the "big" crayons in there!

Thomas' Pirate Color Book

Michael's "monster/dino/alien" Color Book

I used left over fabric to decorate a piece of paper cut to size to fit in the outside, under the plastic sleeve.  (Otherwise, you see the giant hole I cut in the back...)  For two of them, I just used more spray adhesive to attach fabric to the entire piece of paper.  For one, I cute out pieces of the fabric and glued them on.

The kids LOVED them!


Felt Travel Scenes

Felt is a fun material-- it kind of sticks to itself, but not in a static-y sort of way.  It has enough hold that I didn't have to worry about pieces flying all over the van when we hit the breaks, and the kid's didn't have to worry about their masterpieces being ruined at every speed bump.

I didn't get pictures of the process of these, but you can see they're pretty simple to figure out...

Items Needed:
Different colored felt
Spray Adhesive

Pick a background color, and use the spray adhesive to attach the felt to the cardboard.  I used a 9x11ish inch piece of felt, and cut the cardboard to fit.

Use the other felt to cut out different shapes.  I put each kids' shapes in a ziplock bag for safe keeping. The boys each got dinosaur shapes, and Jo got princess stuff.   I'm planning on making them some more random shapes soon, (circles, triangles, squares...) so they can use them to make their own designs.

They had a blast with these!  It was by far Michael's favorite.


Letter Sticks

Here I go, sneaking in some learning with their play-time! ;-)  I made these, and thought that they might help take up a little time in the car, but I was pleasantly surprised with how much the kids liked them!

Simplicity at it's finest.

Items Needed:
Cardboard stick (paper towel roll, etc...)
blank stickers and marker/pen
packaging tape

Put stickers all over the stick, and label them with the alphabet.  I did one stick with all capital letters, and one with lower-case.  Wrap the stick with packaging tape, so the stickers stay secure. Then make another set of stickers with all the letters.  (again, one set with capital, one with lower-case)

The kid with the lower-case stick has to use the capital letter stickers and match them up with the letters on the stick.  Vice-versa for the capital stick.
Since it's wrapped in tape, it's easy to peel off the stickers they match up, and do it all over again.

Since Joey doesn't know her letters yet, I was going to make one for her with shapes.  Then I realized I was out of cardboard tubes.  So I used a little plastic cup. :-)

Silence in the backseat!  (Well, until Michael says, "Mommy, I can't find the "insert letter here" anywhere!  It's not here at all! I think you forgot this one!  It's not here! It's... oh... wait... nevermind..." )

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Up-Cycled Plastic Picnic Table

In our fairly small apartment, we've had to sacrifice certain spaces to make room for others.  Mainly, we've decided to lose our kitchen table, and use what is designed to be a dining room as the kids' play room.  It makes more sense to have all their toys in once area downstairs, rather than having them drag things around from their rooms upstairs to play with downstairs, and it definitely makes it easier when it's clean-up time.

So, we had to figure out how to serve meals without a dining room...

It's easy for my husband and I to use t.v. trays for our food, but the kids are a little more... clumsy. ;-)  They need something smaller, and more stable!  We've have a small folding table with little folding chairs set up in the living room for a while, but it's gotten so worn, and it's quite literally on its last leg.  It may now rest in peace!  We have a "new" table!

Beautiful, isn't it?!

Okay, so when we got it from someone who had used this table outside for several years, it was obvious that it had seen better days!  First Step: Deep cleaning!

Eight little screws are all that's holding the table together.  Super easy to take apart.

My husband was a great help, and did most of the cleaning!  We used my homemade vinegar floor cleaner to really scrub it down, and sanitize it.  The table was pretty dirty, but it still only took about 30 minutes.

After it was all clean and dry, the next step wass painting the legs.  I used Krylon plastic spray paint that was on sale at Wal Mart.  I found a brown color that has a little bit of glittery shimmer to it.  Not too much, but just enough to add a little something extra. =-)  (This Stuff!) I set the legs on a plastic chair that I didn't care about ruining, and sprayed!  It covered nicely, and quickly!  I bought two cans, but didn't need all of it.

Here you can see the slight shimmer to it!

BONUS: I had a lot of over-spray that got on the ugly green chair that the legs were sitting on.  Since I had some left over paint anyways, I finished off the can on the rest of the chair!  Probably would have turned out better had I planned for it, and cleaned off the chair first... For now, it's complete with little brown spider webs, and a few random leaves at the bottom. Eventually I'll get more paint, and do the other chairs that we have like this to match. ;-)

Next- Upholstering the seats and table top!  After many hours of browsing online, and probably 3-4 trips to the fabric store, my husband and I finally agreed on a pattern!  I got two yards, to make sure I had enough, and probably ended up with about 1/2 yard leftover.  Then we used our staple gun to attach it to the bottom of the table top and seats.  One of the random difficulties, was getting the fabric around the little pegs that the screws will go into.  I ended up just cutting a slit all the way to them, and then folding the fabric around them a little bit.  Once I started stapling them down, it stayed nicely, and didn't add too much bulk.

It took a little while to get the corners laid nicely, but once I figured out what worked, it went quicker.  The key was to get most of the bulk to what will be the underside of the tabletop, and not the sides by the screw pegs.  We wanted to make sure the table would still piece together easily.  (I used some duct tape to help me keep things lined up until I got them stapled-- it was really helpful!)

Since the seats only had one screw peg, they were a little easier to place.

Once we got all the fabric on, we repeated the process with a layer of clear vinyl!  This way, it will be easy to keep clean, and will wipe down easily after meals!

All done!

Then it was time to put the table back together!  Viola!

What a transformation!

Friday, November 9, 2012

No-Sew Two Layer Fleece Poncho

With or without hood!  It's super simple!

Items needed for this super simple poncho:
~Fleece (how much will depend on the size of poncho you're making, and if it's going to have a hood or not.  For this tutorial, I used 1.5 yards of each fleece.)
~Measuring tape (I seem to have misplaced mine... I just used ribbon instead!  I didn't need to know what the measurements were as I was making it, I just needed to know where to cut!)
~Marker or fabric pen
~Piece of paper (Which I forgot to add to the picture...)
~Floor space, or large table

STEP 1- Measure your poncho recipient.

You want to start measuring from the neck, drape it across the shoulder, and then down however far you want the poncho to go.

After deciding where the poncho should stop, fold your ribbon (or measuring tape) in half from that point, to double your measurement.  Then add about 4-6 inches more than that, and cut the ribbon.  (I wouldn't recommend cutting your measuring tape! ;-)  Making a note of the measurement will suffice!)  I measured my ribbon afterwards, and for my fairly short two year old, I cut my ribbon to about 45 inches.  I wanted her poncho to reach somewhere around her knees.

Then fold the ribbon in half, and mark the middle.  (22.5 inches, for my 45inch ribbon)

STEP 2- Cutting out the Poncho Body

Lay out one of the layers of fleece.  Lay out your ribbon across the fleece.

Make a mark at the ends of the ribbon.

Make a mark where the middle of the ribbon is.

Move the ribbon around to make a few more marks.  Make sure you keep the middle of the ribbon in the middle of the fleece (where you marked it).  First, lay the ribbon perpendicular to where you first marked it, mark you ends, and then lay the ribbon in the spaces between the mark.  I made a total of 8 marks.  If you want more reference points, add as many as you feel comfortable with.

Connect your marks to make a circle.  It doesn't need to be pretty, or be an exact circle, I promise it will turn out pretty anyways!  One of the wonderful things about this poncho-- precision is not needed!  For someone like me, that is very important!  Cut out your circle after you sketch it.

Lay out the other layer of fleece, and trace the bottom layer on top of it.  Then cut out the other fleece circle.  (If you want, you can lay out both layers at the same time and cut them out together.  I prefer to pick up the fleece to cut it so that doesn't work for me, but if you can cut it while it's laid out, that will save you some time.)

Once both layers of fleece are cut, lay them out together and make sure they're smooth.  (I flipped up the one end of my pink layer for the pic... smooth them out all the way!) ;-)

STEP 3- Making the neck hole

I made a template for the neck hole.  I used the ribbon to measure the widest part of my daughters head, and then I drew out a circle that was the same circumference.  I made marks about half an inch apart all around the circle, and I cut out the center of it.  Then I positioned the cut out part of the circle in the center of the fleece and marked it. 

Cut out the little piece of fleece in the center of both pieces of fleece.

Make marks around the template onto the fleece.  These will be your reference points for cutting out your "tabs" of fabric that will hem up the neck hole.

Cut from the center hole out to each mark on both pieces of fleece.

Lots of little tabs...

STEP 4-  Making the Hood.  If you don't want a hood on your poncho, jump ahead to step 5.

Use the ribbon to get an idea on how big you need the hood.  Measure from just above the child's head to just past their shoulders.

Add a couple inches on top from where you measured, to make extra room for tying.  (I forgot to take a pic of the rectangle when I first cut out it, but you can see the measurements here... Just cut out a rectangle and lightly curve one corner.)

I also measured from my daughter's forehead to just past the back of her head, so I would know how deep to make the hood.  (with a couple extra inches added for tying)

This is your template for the hood.  Cut out two pieces of each piece of fleece.

All four hood pieces...

Stack the four pieces together.  Pattern on the bottom, two pink layers in the middle, pattern on top)

Cut tabs around the top and back of the hood (Around the rounded edge)  Leaving about 2-3 inches at the bottom not cut.

Tie the tabs together.  I found it works best to tie the "left" piece of pink to the "right" piece of pattern, and then the "right" piece of pink to the "left piece of the pattern.  They'll cross over each other  and hold well together.  Don't forget to double tie each knot, or they will slip loose.

You can see it all ties together, with the couple of inches left at the bottom.

Cut off the back piece that is hanging off the back, and then cut tabs in the bottom of the hood.  These will attach the hood to the poncho body.

This is what the hood will look like opened up.

**If you would like, you can tie the two layers together around the face.  I've found that since the fleece layers kind of "stick" to each other, with the rest of the tying, it's not really needed.  Personal preference.** 

STEP 5- Attaching the hood/ hemming the neck hole.

Fold up the top layer of fleece, so you can access the neck hole.  Fold the tabs of fleece to the inside.  You're going to tie up the neck hole from the inside, so the child won't have the little tabs all around their neck.

Tie the two layers together.  Remember to double knot!  If you're going hoodless, just tie all the pieces around the neck together now!

If you're adding a hood, put the hood on the top layer of fleece with the sides laid out.  Tuck the tabs of the bottom of the hood in between the two layers of the poncho body.

Tie the pieces of the body together, while putting a tab of the hood (pink two layers) in between each knot as you go.

Once you get two sections of the hood's tabs in between knots of the body, then tie the hood tabs together.  They'll tie across the body's knot, so that they can't slip out.  I tied the patterned tabs to the other pattern tabs, and the pink to the pink, but you can tie the opposite pieces to each other if you want.
Again, make sure to double knot!

You'll probably have a couple tabs left for the neck hole after you finish attaching the hood.  If so, that's fine, just finish tying them together.  This will now be the front of the poncho.  This time, I ended up with five extra tabs at the front...

This is the seam on the outside of the hood.

The front of the hood, where the extra tabs were.

STEP 6- Finishing up!

Lay out the poncho as flat as you can.  It won't be perfect (which I've said before-- is okay!!) attaching the hood makes it bunch up a little in different places.  Not a problem! 

Cut out tabs all along the edge of the poncho.

Tie them all together, and it's finished!

Johannah is extremely happy with her new poncho!

And it's completely reversible, too!