Thursday, December 10, 2015

Look out -- hot stuff!

Dave's birthday happened again, like it does every year. To mark the occasion, I made him a special gift, like I do because he just makes things look so good. Check this out:

Is that a manly man, or what? I made his smoking jacket out of a bolt of cotton/wool blend I got at the thrift shop for seven dollars. I had intended to use some grey wool that I had been saving to make myself something, but when I saw this, I knew the color would suit him much better.

The coat is lined with the same pink and burgandy satin-y fabric I used for my candybox skirt. I wish I had thought to have him flip back the tails so you could see it. Another time, perhaps.

The fastenings on the front, the "frogs", I made myself --and you can, too! They're not terribly difficult, once you get the hang of them. I used black paracord and they look just fine. Don't spend a fortune on tacky pre-made ones at the shop! Tie a few up for yourself and dazzle your friends. 

The fez was just kind of a silly thing I tried out with some leftover red bulky yarn, but Dave loves it and I have to admit he makes it look quite splendid. It's warm, too. We really need to buy a drafty old house to make it worthwhile having these cozy things.

Maybe not.

Dave rarely smokes his pipe, but it certainly goes with the outfit. "All you need is a spaniel and a moose head above the fireplace!" I said.

Now Dave is worried I'll find us a moose head some where.  Oooh, that would be awesome, wouldn't it? I could make it a matching fez!

...close enough.

Monday, November 30, 2015

The Rest of the Barrel

I've been keeping you waiting for so long on this final entry. I'm sorry about that. I hope it's worth the wait. Besides the dolls and clothing, there was vintage children's clothing ranging from toddler to age four!

The things I liked best were the light-as-air linen baby gowns. They hadn't held up particularly well over the years, but the exquisite handiwork was astonishing -- especially when compared to modern sturdy cotton baby clothes. Look at this one: seam joins are all by embroidered join work, and the smocking and wee embroidered flowers -- oh, so dainty!

And this one with the pintucks and pulled-thread work, decorative finished edge, and impossibly tiny buttons. See the little label that reads "Hand Made"? How much would you pay for something like this today, I wonder? I tried to find old catalog pages on Google to determine the approximate original price, with no success. 

"This was a dress I made for Elizabeth when she was 4 or 5. It was very becoming -- made her eyes look bluer."  
Elizabeth was hard on her dresses; this one was patched in several places. The hem had been made very wide so it could be let down, and it had been -- about three times! Look at all that smocking.

Each dress had a little note pinned to it with a personal comment.

"This dress Ruth Grove gave Carolyn for her 4th birthday. This color was very becoming."

"I made this dress when Carolyn was about 3 yrs old. She always looked so cute in it."

I could go on and on with those, but how much smocking does one blog need?

Now, hands up if you know who Shirley Temple was!

That's right! "America's Sweetheart", Temple was a film and television actress, singer, dancer, and Hollywood's number one box office star from 1935 through 1938.  Mothers nationwide wanted their little girls to look like Shirley, and her fashion line of dresses was very popular. There were two "Shirley Temple" dresses in the barrel that had been washed so many times it was hard to read their labels, but they had managed to stick to their accessories: the first one here has a vest that fastens at the front with two heavy round brass buttons on a cotton cord. If this had been my childhood dress, I assure you those buttons would have been lost the first time I wore the outfit out of the house.

The second dress has applique flowers around the buttonholes, a matching pocket square, and a Shirley Temple medal pinned to the pocket.

 I couldn't find a pin like it on the internet anywhere to determine its value, and I sold it along with both dresses to a dealer for $40. Just my luck if it's incredibly rare and worth hundreds -- or even thousands, haha. Ah well, it'll make someone happy and in another generation, no one will remember who Shirley Temple was.

As you look at the pictures, you'll see these aren't museum pieces. Most were in pretty poor condition -- not because of the way they'd been stored, though that was certainly no help, but because they'd been so loved and worn and played in and torn and mended. Purely sentimental keepers, which is what made the pinned notes so nice. I contacted a few local museums to see if they wanted any of the pieces, but condition was a factor and so the answer was no. Antique dealers told me the same thing: vintage clothing only has value if it can be worn or displayed, and buyers don't want holes, stains, and patches.

Finally I called up a friend who does art with vintage things, and she took the items off my hands to use for ... well, something. So away went the little stack of dresses, washed and folded and with their little notes pinned to their fronts.

Next time, back to stuff I've made! Stay tuned for that. See you then!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

The '30's Girls

They cleaned up pretty nicely! Here are Elizabeth, Sally, Jane, and Elizabeth. (Names came with them from the manufacturers.)

The Elizabeths are Madame Alexander dolls with "Princess Elizabeth" stamped on the back of their necks. Their blonde plaits are standard, so I was careful to re-braid them after giving their hair a much-needed spritz of conditioner and a bit of a brush to get all the stray bits back in place.  

Sally is a Petite brand doll and the back of her neck and back have stamps ("Petite Sally") that say so. Her tin eyes are rusty which gives her a bit of a frightening look (Dave says "CREEPY DOLL!" and scoots away whenever he sees me working with her) and her hair was one big mat -- with a braid stuck on with a single rusty bobbypin. 

Oh, girl. Let me get my brush.

Braid Spray, folks. The stuff is a miracle. Composition dolls shouldn't get wet, so I couldn't wash her hair like I wanted to -- and also I figured her wig would come off! -- but I spritzed on some Braid Spray and as soon as I started brushing, Sally's dull grey-yellow hair turned golden and soft, and fluffed up like a baby chick! I left her braid off so she's got a sweet blond bob. I'll put the braid in with her clothes and if a buyer wants to restore her further, they'll have it. I think she looks just as cute without it.

And yes, she's wearing a pink bathrobe because she's having a spa day. She's 80-some years old; I think she deserves some comforts in her life.

Jane, in the pink plaid and molded hair, is a Horsman doll. There's no mark on her, but apparently that's the way they made them that year. She's the only one with eyes that don't make me itch, and she has a very sweet face. Unfortunately, she's missing half of her right foot, but we can't have everything. 

So now you've seen the dolls and some of their outfits that came in the barrel. There's one more blog post I'll be doing that will cover the rest of the barrel's contents. I promise you it's not dolls or doll-related. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Barrels: not just for monkeys anymore!

A friend contacted me with a question: would I be interested in his mother's dolls from the 1930-40s? They were taking up space in a storage unit and he'd be glad to have them in the hands of someone who would appreciate them.   I said I didn't know much about doll value, but I'd take a look. Because there's nothing I like better than rummaging through boxes of old stuff, it's true. So we drove over to the unit and there was a literal barrel that held treasure once we got the lid pried off.

There was more in the barrel than just dolls, and I'd like to spread them out in a couple of posts so things don't get too long-winded around here.

Too late, you say? Hush, you. Let's look at the doll stuff first.

What is it about tiny clothes? They're just so darn cute! Imagine if you tripped on a stone in the pathway in a forest, and landed flat on your face in the dirt. You turn your face to the side and start to get up, and that's when you see the tiny door in the side of a fallen log.

"That certainly is unusual," you might think (or maybe not, depending on your acquaintance with wee folk), and scooting closer on your belly, you open the tiny door. Peek inside, then, and observe the home of a woodland elf: a miniature table, set with an equally miniature mug and plate; a hearth rug that would fit in the palm of your hand; and on the bed, laid out as if ready for a special occasion, some wee outfits knit in wool...

To give you an idea of scale, that red jacket is about four inches tall (10 cm). And don't you just love the tails on the blue coat? There were four dolls in the barrel, and none of them were tiny enough to fit these clothes, so they must be for an elf.

I really wish these socks were big enough to fit one of my dolls, but alas, they are made for someone bigger than our elf, and daintier in foot than my girls. I love how they open down the front. I  wonder if they were meant to be turned down and cuffed like a boot? Maybe? They're the only wee socks in the bunch, about three inches long (8 cm), and I'm keeping them just because they're so stinking cute I can hardly stand it. Can you imagine the slender needles used to knit these? What intricacy!

There were many handmade dresses, and once they're washed and pressed, I'll take some pictures of them, too. I thought this commercially-made dress was interesting, though. It's a Madame Alexander and besides the usual delightful attention to detail that is the hallmark of that company's vintage items, it has a feature that I've never seen before: The underpants are attached to the dress!

That's a way to keep your bloomers from falling down! Look at the detailing on the cuffs, and the rickrack decorating the neckline. Too cute! Too, too cute!

But the sweetest things I found in the doll clothes were these:

At first I thought they were just scraps, but on closer inspection, I realized they were a little girl's handiwork. Wobbly white stitches on a folded-over hem of blue cotton made a little cloak and a hood that ties on with a bit of ribbon. Absolutely precious. This is what I'm talking about, you guys, about little girls learning to sew! This is where it all starts!

And here she learns how to manage a mistake:

"Mama, I made the neck too big!" And she just put in some shoulder straps and pretended like she meant for it to look that way! I love that one buttonhole is done, and the other two are marked but not started. Buttonholes are yucky, kid; I agree.

Pictures of the dolls? I haven't taken any because those ladies look pretty wretched. Once I get their clothes tidy and on them nicely, I'll take a group shot. I've always thought that vintage dolls have kind of a creepy look to them, so I won't be keeping them. Except for a few things I'm keeping because they work for my dolls or are just too adorable (socks!), I'm going to help my friend find a buyer for these items.

I have to go put some more Woolite in the machine and send another load of tiny things through a delicate cycle. I'll show you more things from the barrel next time!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Dr Who Sonic Screwdriver, a post with no dolls at all. Except in this title. Oh, darn it.

For years friends have been going on about Dr Who and how great it is, and I tried a few episodes and just could not get into it. I've always had trouble with time travel in books and movies because of the paradox and everything. It's so hard to keep track. Then Dave started watching episodes of the 9th Doctor, and I figured it was worth another shot. I mean, when so many people have raved about a show, there has to be something to it.

David Tennant as the tenth Doctor sold me. I was never a huge fan of his companion Rose, but I liked Martha, and once Donna appeared, I was hooked.

The local chain bookstore had some Dr Who merch on their sale table, so we picked up a customizable sonic screwdriver kit for half price. I snapped together the pieces I liked into a kind of steampunky screwdriver, but it didn't feel like mine until I took it into my workshop and added a red leather wrap to the handle, and used Rub-n-Buff to bring all the different metal colors to a more match-y union.

There's a little flippity tab that I can press to make nine different scanning sounds. My favorite is number four, which sounds like an engine winding up, coughing, and failing. The blue parts at the end light up and flash, which is very fun in a dark house at night. 

We went to the EMP in Seattle to see the science fiction exhibits and it amused me to take my screwdriver out to "scan" things. 

I'm such a geek. 

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Bad Hair Doll.

Remember Mary Alice, the bald doll? The other day, I found her polar opposite. Same place: the thrift store shelf in a tangle of baby dolls, but this doll had hair.

She had... PLENTY... of hair.

I do love a challenge, so I paid the 99 cents to bail her out.

Girl's been living rough. There were sticks and pine needles in that mess. And some narrow, tight braids in random places. And some green streaks that I hoped weren't permanent. Look at those mats. Girl, what have you been up to? I hope you had fun. 

A quick shampoo and condition later, I squeezed the excess water from her hair with a towel and grabbed my Braid Spray, a trick I learned from Neth at American Girl Outsider. (Link Warning: Neth speaks her truth with NSFW cussin'.)  A few spritzes and some brushing later, and I had this:

It's a little blurry, but much better, I assure you.  The green even washed out.

Now, Madame Alexander makes some fine dolls, and has been doing so for decades, but I have to say that I'm not impressed with the hair they put on their 18" line. Like Sangeeta in an earlier post, this doll had a tag saying not to wet the doll's hair. Remember how the company representative I contacted said getting the hair wet would ruin it? Well, obviously that's a bunch of nonsense, and as I searched all over the internet to clarify the meaning of that label and found nothing, I will share my findings/opinion here in the hopes of helping others:

What they mean is that the Madame Alexander dolls have hair that comes styled. There is a starchy product in the hair to help it stay neat. The hair is rooted in the scalp to make the style's hairlines and parts look natural. If you want a different style-- like two ponytails-- bare patches and rooting plugs are going to show. If you wash the hair, the starchy product will be gone, so the hair will be more fluffy and prone to messiness. The hair is washable. But it is cottony and tangles easily, so keep that in mind. Washing won't ruin the hair, but it will ruin the pre-set hairstyle, and your styling options might be a little limited after that.

Why on earth they would make a doll with hair like this for children, who have "brush and style hair" in the top five favorite things to do with dolls, is beyond me.

Good thing she's got a pretty face to get by on.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Let There Be Light!

We bought our house ten years ago. I can hardly believe it's been that long, but I've got an aging dog and a kid out of college that assure me the passage of time continues despite my disbelief. Ten years ago we stepped into the place as brand new homeowners and looked around us. "First thing we do is paint," Dave said.

As my eyes scanned the blue tropical seascape mural painted from floor to ceiling of the dining room, I nodded in agreement. "And a new light fixture," I added.

So we went to the DIY home store and bought gallons of paint and got to work. But we could not agree on a new light. Everything was ugly, expensive, or similar to the boring round medallion we already had.

And ten years passed.

Then one day, when we were looking for electrical wire at a second-use warehouse, we saw it. Each of us shot out an arm, pointing. "THAT." Dave says I pushed a woman out of the way to grab it, but I'm sure I was never so rude.

It had been spray painted black and silver, but I knew with a little freshening up, it would be just the thing. And we were right. All it took was a black basecoat, a touch of brown spraypaint here and there to "age" it, and some of my "secret ingredient"-- Rub-n-Buff, and we have an awesome new victorian/steampunk/gothic/what-have-you chandelier -- see?

It came with tiny paper lampshades for each arm, but we found that we liked it better without those. It's much brighter, too. The LED bulbs mean we'll never have to replace them for, like, 20 years.  There are tiny holes on the top branches where prisms used to hang, so I'm keeping my eye out to see if I can find some replacements. No rush. We've been thinking strings of colored glass would look good too. Maybe in another ten years.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Some clever title with a doll pun, yeah, that's it.

I've been having just the most fun making this and that for Rilla. Turns out she's a lot like me and the dresses, though cute, weren't cutting it for her lifestyle. The first order of business was a sturdy pair of denim jeans, with pockets where a girl on the go could stash her stuff.

The important thing about making doll clothes is scale.  Look at the little dollies-- they're small. We humans (even child humans) are much bigger. So you can't expect to take big human fabrics and make doll clothes that look right. If I used regular jean denim for these tiny pants, they'd look thick and bulky. I used a thin, soft work shirt I got at thrift for a buck and placed my pattern pieces so that the side seams on the shirt worked as the outside leg seams of Rilla's jeans. The lighter weight of the fabric lets it fold and crinkle and fit like heavier denim does on big people. A scrub on the knees, cuffs, and other strategic areas with fine sandpaper gives the impression of long wear, and a rub across my workshop table picked up enough dirt to make them look pretty much exactly like my own jeans after a day of work. Rilla isn't a fashion plate-- she likes to get her hands (and jeans!) dirty.

I slid a button into her back pocket and buffed it with sandpaper to leave the impression of a Skoal can. Of course Rilla doesn't chew tobacco -- I just think it's hilarious. A little inside joke to see what my friends notice.

Now of course a t-shirt is standard to wear with jeans, but why not take things a little farther? It was pretty easy to come up with a pattern for a cowgirl shirt, and once I found the perfect fabric, it practically made itself.

Tiny pearl buttons are just for show -- underneath there are a few snaps to hold the shirt and cuffs closed. Because I hate doing regular-size buttonholes, and I doubt I'd like making little tiny buttonholes any better. I'm still deciding as to whether I want to do any embroidery on the yoke of the shirt. And I'll make the collar a little narrower next time, too.

Rilla shows off her sweater and shop apron. Look at that crocheted sweater -- isn't that the cutest thing ever? I used Patton sock yarn, which is nice and thin, because again: scale. Regular sportweight yarn is much too thick and would look bulky and wrong. This sweater took one skein, and I had enough left over to do a cute winter hat and scarf to match, although she wouldn't wear those with the sweater because she has more fashion sense than that.  Dave got me a tiny screwdriver set (used for eyeglass repair or something) so Rilla has her own set of tools that are just her size. ..or maybe even a bit small.

And I made her a pretty necklace because beads are fun.

And in the midst of all this silliness, I decided she should have one thing I couldn't make -- a friend. (Meaning I couldn't sew her a friend, not that I can't make friends for myself. Of course I can. If I want. As long as they don't mind listening to me prattle on about dolls and horses and 14th century underpants and stuff.)

Goodwill came through again with a Madame Alexander doll. So here's Rilla's new friend, Sangeeta Gupta, all the way from Nashville.

She's dressed up in her salwar kameez because it's a special occasion and she likes to show off, but once the welcome party was over, she was happy to slip into something more hard-wearing.

That blue sweater is made from a two-ply Scottish wool that is just a tiny bit thicker than the sock yarn I used for Rilla's sweater, and you can see that it's a little more bulky. But who doesn't love an nice thick wool sweater when it's cold and rainy out? I certainly wouldn't use anything heavier than this, and I kinda wish I'd made it two rows longer at the bottom hem. Oh well, it's not the last sweater I'll be making for the girls. She's also wearing brown corduroy pants that I haven't quite finished yet. I need to put big square pockets on the front. I cut them from a pair of fine-wale children's pants that were, again, a dollar at thrift. (I love those 99 cent sale days.)

Sangeeta's hair is something else again. The care label on her side cautions against getting it wet, and when I contacted the company for clarification, they assured me that water + this doll's hair = ruination or at least awful damage.

I wonder what it's made of.

Spun sugar?

Gremlin fur? 

So I'm learning to deal with the texture of it, and as a woman whose hair is just stick straight and who never played with dolls as a kid, and whose styling experience is pretty much limited to brushing out my horse's mane and tail, I will admit it's a challenge. But Geeta is pretty tolerant and I'm sure soon I'll learn other ways to style it. For now, she's rocking this twisted ponytail and keeping it out of trouble.

That's it for now, and if you're wondering if it's going to be dolls dolls dolls from here on out, relax. I have three other things at least to show you in the coming days (I was going to include them in this post but it's already long enough) and none of them have anything to do with dolls at all. So there. Just you wait and see!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Doll Chat.

"The little girl who has taken a part in making her doll's wardrobe, and then keeping it up to date, will find that the knowledge she has gained in this way will be invaluable to her in after life. The child who has helped to put together her doll's combinations will have no difficulty in making her own later on, neither will she be perplexed when she in turn has little people to sew for.  ... The next step is for the little girl to see to the household linen and general furnishings of the doll's house." 

---from Victorian Needlework Techniques and Designs

Mary Alice, the formerly bald doll, has found a new home with a friend of mine. I just couldn't warm up to her too-blue, intense features. But I still wanted a doll of my own. Rather than leave it to thrifting fate, I decided to spend a bit more and get exactly what I wanted. Yes, I comparison shopped for my doll, just like Consumer Reports magazine.

Ultimately, I decided on the My Life collection from Wal-Mart. Originally this line was manufactured by Madame Alexander. Now it's not, but they've kept the face much the same, but with a more natural look that I find very sweet. The hair is decent quality and doesn't tangle and mat when played with. The doll is jointed at the neck, shoulders, and hips, but also has a wire armature inside so you can bend the elbows, knees, and waist for more natural postures. Best of all, the body is half vinyl and half cloth, so she doesn't look strange in strappy dresses or tops. And the price? Only $24.99.  Except when I bought mine, she rang up at $13, no explanation, no sales signs, just magic.

She came in this outfit, along with a black patent leather vest and red glasses, meant to portray a "rock singer", but I just like her appearance, and her black maryjanes and grey t-shirt are things that can work with stuff I make.  I had a little toy terrier that seemed to go nicely, so now they're friends.

So please meet Everilda and Scraps. Yes, I said "Everilda" -- it's from an E Nesbit story called The Princess and The Cat. At home she is just "Rilla".

I had some old-fashioned looking print cotton, so I made her a little back-to-school style dress. Yes, those are tiny cartridge pleats at the waist. With her hair loose, I think she looks like a young Mary Tyler Moore.

See the resemblance?
Now to get to the quote up there at the top --talk about burying the lead, huh?  I've been thinking while I sew tiny hems. I bought Rilla from a long aisle of pink boxes, sided by every accessory you could imagine: kitchen sets, bedroom sets, pony stables, boats, campers, hairstyle salons, cupcake bakeries -- it seemed endless.

How far dolls have come from their original purposes! Little girls used to make doll clothes from scraps from mother's sewing bag, and in doing so, they learned and practiced hems, buttonholes, pleats, and other basics.

I got a load of free patterns from American Girl's website, amazingly. I can't believe they're giving away anything these days, much less patterns for 24 outfits and accessories! They work up into beautiful little things quite easily, but it says right at the beginning "The doll dress patterns and instructions in this portfolio are intended for an experienced sewer, not a young girl -- unless she works with and is directed by an experienced sewer."

I hope there are people out there who sit with their children and dolls and show them "This is how we place a pattern...", and "This is why it's important to..." and "Let me show you a trick about that..." because there is so much pleasure in creating things, and it's so powerful to learn I CAN MAKE THIS.


Oh. Sermon over, I guess, but I also wanted to show you my doll case that I worked up. Sometimes I want to take Rilla over to a friend's so we can sew and play, and this makes it easy and tidy. Just a old suitcase that I put cloth-covered foamcore board into. I ran a cord through one side so I can seatbelt Rilla in place -- less rattling around keeps her hair from getting messy. The little bags that came with the suitcase and snap in place were perfect for shoes and small things. I just lay her dresses out and there's a rouched flap that fastens down over each side to hold things in place when I close it up. Best part: the suitcase was free, just hanging around in the attic.

Now go make stuff with a kid! Go on! Shoo!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Something Completely Different: Mary Alice

“It is an anxious, sometimes a dangerous thing to be a doll. Dolls cannot choose; they can only be chosen; they cannot 'do'; they can only be done by.”
Rumer Godden, The Dolls' House

Earlier this week as I strolled through a local thrift store, I saw a very desolate doll. She was heaped up with the tangled elbows and ankles of baby dolls all around her, and when I saw she had no hair, I thought, "That's tough luck. No little girl is going to beg Mommy to buy her the bald dolly." But neither was I going to buy the bald dolly, even for the price of the dollar they were asking.

It was a whole day later when suddenly my brain announced "You have doll hair. You got it three years ago because it was cheap and you thought you might use it for something someday. It's in the third drawer down in your stash."  

Funny, the things we pick up.

And then my brain started telling me how fun it might be to use up the smaller pieces in my stash to make little dresses and whatnot, just as a lark. So I went back to the thrift shop and of course she was still there, looking as awful as ever...

I think originally she was blonde. Her eyebrows are very pale. But I've never cared for blonde haired, blue eyed dolls; they always look a bit creepy and precious. A quick search on the internet turned up a how-to on doll wig making, and I was glad to be able to use my crochet skills to whip up a wig cap while watching Dr Who.

Stitching the hair on in layers only took about an hour, once I got the hang of it.

There were some moments when she had a distressing resemblance to a drunk goth chick. (There's a sock over her face to keep the hair from getting caught up in her lashes and tangling.)

It's not perfect, and I don't think I'd give her to a small child, but even with a minimum of styling and brushing, she looks very nice. 

I cut up an old plaid shirt to make her shirtwaist dress, with a bit of ribbon at the waist for a girly touch. Look how long her hair is in the back -- plenty to work into pretty styles. 

Dave was next to me on the couch watching that episode of Dr Who while I crocheted the wig cap. He asked me what I was making and I just dithered something about playing around, because I was kind of embarrassed to admit that I was playing with dolls. I don't even know any little girls to use as an excuse. When I mentioned my project to a friend earlier today, she said lots of women in her crafting group have dolls, and they get together to swap patterns and show off things they've made. Can't leave all the fun to the kiddies!

I've named her Mary Alice, and she'll probably show up in future blogs as I make other things for her. And in case you're wondering -- yes, I fully intend to make her a 14th century outfit and accessories like mine! 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Kid stuff.

My nephew came to visit for two weeks, and while he was here, I thought we could make some gifts for his mom and dad.

I had to think hard and do a little Google searching to find projects that were in the scope of a four-year-old's abilities and interest. I also wanted something that would be a real gift, not just a token. A project that showed creative work, was beautiful, and was useful. This is what I came up with.

For his dad, a picture frame made from leather. I did all the cutting, of course, but there's a lot for a kid to do in this project. Louis used the sponge to wet the leather so it could be stamped, and he chose the stamps himself from my collection. At first, I held the stamp (to keep the spacing even and straight) and he hit it with the mallet, but after he hit my hand a few times, we switched. I'd help him set the stamp and then he'd hold it while I used the mallet. Much less painful. I really should have thought that out better. Once the stamping was done, we let the leather rest for the day.

We continued the project the next afternoon. Louis used the swab to put a somewhat even coat of brown dye on the front and back of the leather. Once that had dried, we punched holes along the edges. Then he rubbed in the leather conditioner and put on the topcoat, doing a very nice job for a first-timer! With a little help, Louis laced the front and back pieces together with some twine. We congratulated ourselves on a job well done.  A picture of him making the frame was the perfect final touch.

For his mom, I found an online tutorial that looked too easy to be real. Dying a silk scarf with just tissue paper and water? That can't possibly be a thing, right? And to be fair, a lot depends on your tissue paper. Most of the common stuff you find nowadays is colorfast -- even the cheap stuff. I thought about using pieces of paper party streamers, but those too are made to keep their colors now. I was beginning to despair, when we found a packet of cheap cocktail parasols in the pantry. A spritz with water showed they bled like crazy! Perfect!  I removed the sticks and flattened them out. We laid out our silk (I've only read about this done with silk. Other natural fibers might work, but yield different results) and Louis sprayed it with water from a spray, getting it good and wet. Then he pressed down the colorful circles however he thought they looked best and gave everything another good spray.

We ate dinner while the colors ran, and then I hung the silk up to dry in the sunshine, which took about ten minutes. I pressed it with a warm iron to set the colors, and we were both very pleased with the results. 

So was his mom, when she wore it to work and was mobbed with coworkers asking where she'd bought her beautiful scarf. I imagine she was very proud to say, "Oh, my four year old made this. Isn't it lovely?"

We had a great time making things together. Have you got any winning projects you've done with your kids? Share them in the comments, or give us a link so we can see! I need some ideas for when he visits again next summer!