An Announcement

Dearest all -- 

I have an announcement to make.  My fingers tremble and my heart beats madly 
from excitement, anticipation, joy and a little bit of fear as I type this...

This has been brewing for a year now..

It's been exciting and difficult to keep a secret, but I can finally announce that...

In the January 2013 Hawthorn Press will be releasing a book on creating peg dolls... written by... me!

The book will have instructions & patterns for creating a good number of the dolls you've seen on my blog plus many new dolls I've created.  Please stay tuned... I'll be keeping you posted with more details about in-person signing-events, how to arrange for me to sign your books if you cannot make it to a signing-event, plus a blog-tour and give-aways to celebrate the release.

It's going to be a beautiful book (192 pages of peg-doll-love), and worth the wait, I hope!  Are you as excited as I am?



During the last month of school, my older son's class was working on a natural science unit about crustaceans.  For their studies, the third grade teachers brought in a passel of live crayfish, and as the final days of school approached, a call was put out that the crayfish would need homes.  Guess who brought one home on the last day of school?

Little Mr. was terribly excited about his new pet (and so was the cat.) Mr. Bloom and I were less excited.

Still, I love the tiny scraps of paper I found around the house with little sketches of crayfish, and I enjoy all the information my son has been sharing with me.  Some facts about crayfish (also known as crawfish, crawdads, mudbugs and yabbies):

-- Crayfish are members of the superfamilies Astacoidea and Parastacoidea. They are freshwater crustaceans resembling small lobsters, to which they are related. They breathe through feather-like gills and are found in bodies of water that do not freeze to the bottom such as brooks and streams where there is fresh water running, and which have shelter against predators.

-- There are over 540 species worldwide of crayfish.

-- Our crayfish is of the genus Pacifastacus,  native to western North America.

-- Most U.S. species of crayfish can grow up to 6 inches and they have a life span of about 2-3 years.

-- They are omnivorous and will eat small fish, shrimp and plants.  We feed ours an aquatic plant called elodia.

-- Crayfish are commonly used at bait by fishermen and are also used for preparing popular regional dishes in the U.S., Mexico, Spain, France, Scandinavian countries, Russia, Australia, China, and Nigeria.




File this under Weird and Wonderful

Last February I posted about my balloon-loving toddler.  I am here to report that his balloon obsession continues in full swing.  There are times in our lives when distraction is required (during diaper changes, car rides, etc...), and in these moments, when there is no balloon on hand, we will offer to sing a song about a balloon.  If we are not in the mood to make up a song ourselves, the only balloon-related song Mr. Bloom and I know is Up, Up and Away, first made famous by The 5th Dimension in 1967 and later recorded by other artists such as Nancy Sinatra, Diana Ross, Dionne Warwick and Sammy Davis, Jr. The problem with this song is, up until last week, we only knew the first line, so we would sing that one line over, and over, and over, and over (you get the idea...)

So last week, I finally went online and found some clips of the song Up, Up and Away on You Tube. These video-clips should definitely be filed under "weird and wonderful" and I especially like the costumes. I recommend having a look at some other 5th Dimension videos, too -- all their costumes are amazing!

 Did I mention weird and wonderful?  That would definitely apply to this version of Up, Up and Away sung by Nancy Sinatra...  And just in case you were inclined to sing along, here are the lyrics:

Would you like to ride in my beautiful balloon?
Would you like to ride in my beautiful balloon?
We could float among the stars together, you and I,
For we can fly we can fly...
Up, up and away
In my beautiful, my beautiful balloon
The world's a nicer place in my beautiful balloon
It wears a nicer face in my beautiful balloon
We can sing a song and sail along the silver sky,
For we can fly, we can fly
Up, up and away
In my beautiful, my beautiful balloon
Suspended under a twilight canopy,
We'll search the clouds for a star to guide us.
If by some chance you find yourself loving me,
We'll find a cloud to hide us,
We'll keep the moon beside us
Love is waiting there in my beautiful balloon
Way up in the air in my beautiful balloon
If you'll hold my hand we'll chase your dream across the sky
For we can fly, we can fly
Up, up and away
My beautiful, my beautiful balloon
Up, up, and away.....

If you'll excuse me now, I've got to track down my white miniskirt and Go-Go boots so I can dance along, too!


Blueberry Tart

This blueberry tart was served to me two years ago at an informal mid-morning gathering and I have been waiting since that day to make one myself.  The hostess said, "Oh, that... it's just something I threw together.  Does it taste okay?"  My goodness!  From the moment I tasted it, I've been counting the weeks, counting the days until I had the perfect occasion to make it.  Today was the day!!

A Friday night phone call regarding problems with a dinner reservation meant that we were suddenly  expecting dinner guests instead of going out.  I have to tell you, these guests... they are in for a treat.  Now, if you'll excuse me please, I've got to go lick out pan in which I cooked those blueberries, but before I forget, here is the recipe...


Picking Plums

 Yesterday we heard from a friend of Little Mr.'s that her neighbor had a tree with an overabundance of plums.  I immediately volunteered to help solve this problem of overabundance.  When we arrived, I was astonished by the color of these tiny plums; they are golden yellow in color, sweet as they are pretty and the children had a marvelous time plucking these bright jewels from the tree.

 Now I have to decide... shall I share some of this plum-bounty with a few other friends by giving away a pound or two?  After all, how much plum-crisp can one family eat?  This little dilemma makes me think of the William Carlos Williams poem This is Just to Say...

This is Just to Say...

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which

you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me

they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold
. . . . .

Well, if someone ate all the plums in my icebox, they'd have quite a stomach ache.  I should give some away, right?  Mmmm... maybe not...


The Star Apple: A Puppet-Play Story

In searching out tales for puppet shows, I was drawn to The Story of the Root Children, not only because it's a beautiful depiction of the season's cycles, but also because of the presence of mother & child archetypes.  I felt that puppets created in the images of these archetypes would make versatile players for many & various stories.

Another story which I thought could be played nicely with a pair of mother & child puppets is known as The Little Red House with No Doors and No Windows and a Star Inside.  It is also sometimes referred to as The Star Apple.  I first encountered The Star Apple in a book called Healing Stories for Challenging Behavior written by Susan Perrow (published by Hawthorn Press.)  I highly recommend this book, not only as a source for many good stories, but also because the book discusses how to guide children through difficult situations using stories (The Star Apple story appears in the section for stories when a child is feeling bored or whiny); in addition to this, the book offers guidance in creating original stories for individual children according to their needs.

Now, on to The Star Apple!  It is usual for this story to start out with a child and his mother.  Other characters the child encounters include a little girl, a farmer, an auntie or grandmother and the wind.  Not having puppets on hand at the moment to play a little girl, a farmer or an additional mother/grandmother, I have simply substituted a little bird in my version.  This is the beauty of stories... they can often be adapted to suit your situation.  Here is a link via Mommy Nature.com to a version of the original story; for your own use, feel free to adapt the story, or use it as written!

The Star Apple 
(my own adapted version)

There was once a little boy, about the same age as you, in fact.  One afternoon, he grew tired of looking at his favorite book, playing with all his toys, and drawing pictures, so he went to his mama and asked, "What shall I do now?"  His mama replied, "Why don't you go on an adventure?  You can search for a little red house with no windows and no doors and a star hiding inside.  When you find it, please carry it gently home to me."  The little boy looked back at his mama with confusion and curiosity.  "Where can I find such a house?"  he asked. His mama pointed out the window and suggested he start his search by skip-hopping across the field and up the hill.

Off he went skip-hopping across the field, until, distracted by a pretty little bird perched on the branch of a gorse bush, he paused to say hello.  "Good afternoon, little bird," he said.  "Can you tell me where I might find a little red house with no windows and no doors and a star hiding inside?"  "Indeed," replied the little bird, "I don't think I've ever seen such a house, though it sounds awfully nice.  Perhaps you should ask the wind.  The wind blows everywhere.  It sees and knows everything, so surely the wind would know where to find such a house."  Then the little bird picked up a tiny twig in her beak and fluttered off to add the twig to her nest.  "Goodbye little bird, and thank you," called the boy as she flew away.

Standing next to the gorse bush in the middle of the field, the little boy wondered how to find the wind. He decided to start by calling it; so, he pointed his face up to the sky and called in a very loud voice, "Wind!  Wind!  I need to talk to you!"  A moment later he felt a brush across his cheek and a mischievous, invisible hand pulling at his cap as if to steal it away.  The boy laughed and held onto his hat for he knew the wind had heard his call.  "Wind!" he cried, "Do you know where I can find a little red house with no windows and no doors and a star hiding inside?  Next he felt the wind whoosh around him, push gently at his back and then rush forward toward the hill at the end of the field.  The little boy ran as fast as he could, keeping pace with the wind, to the end of the field.  Together he and the wind rushed up the hill, and at the top of the hill was a tree. 

The wind swirled through the branches of the tree, and plop! Down fell a beautiful, red apple, right at the feet of the little boy.  "Oh!" said the little boy excitedly, "A little red house with no windows and no doors, but where is the star?"  He gently lifted the apple in his hands and called to the wind as it rushed away towards the sea, "Thank you, dear wind!  Thank you very much!"

Carefully, the little boy carried the apple back down the hill, across the field and into the house where his mama was waiting for him.  "Look mama, look!"  he cried, "I have found a little red house with no windows and no doors, but I cannot see a star inside."  His mama cut open the apple from side to side, and there they found the star.  I can see it.  Can you see it, too?

This is only one story I found which would be nice for telling with puppets of mother & child.  Can you think of any others?  What stories would you tell? 


Paper Puppets for Toddler-Play

Yesterday morning I posted this tutorial for paper puppets, 
and then my wee Bloom got a-hold of the little birdie marionette...

Together, he and that little bird had a lot of fun...  
Fly little birdie, fly!


A Puppet Tutorial for Children: Bird, Butterfly & Ladybird, too

The materials for these puppets are very basic, and if you don't have these items lying around the house, you should easily be able to purchase them at a local shop.  Feel free to copy the shapes I've used and have your children decorate them, come up with your own designs, or better yet, have your children draw bird, butterfly and ladybug shapes which can then be turned into puppets.  You will notice below that my resident nine-year-old was not the least bit interested in making puppets (he was too busy reading the graphic novel version of The Amulet of Samarkand); however, once I finished creating the puppets, he was quite interested in playing with them!
Colorful Craft Paper or white Card-stock (which can be decorated)White Craft Glue
A Glue-Stick
Clear Sticky-Tape
Colored Marking Pens, crayons, glitter, etc...
Long Bamboo Skewers (for making Rod-Puppets)
Popsicle Sticks (if you are planning to make marionettes)
Needle and Thread (for making marionettes)

To start off, I used white-glue to attach two popsicle-sticks into a 'T' shape.  While the glue was drying, I cut out bird-shaped silhouettes and some simple shapes for wings.  To prepare the wings for gluing, I made small folds along edges where the wings will be attached to the birds (see photo above.)

Next, I glued the wings onto the bird-silhouettes and allowed the glue to dry for a few minutes (if your children are impatient, you can always use sticky-tape to attach the wings.)  Once the wings were firmly attached, I threaded a needle, poked it through the top of the head, tied a knot and then repeated the process farther down the back of the bird.  (Note: For maneuverability and stability it is important to suspend your marionette from two points. Suspending these small puppets from the head and farther down along the back works very well. Another option is to suspend them from a point on each of the wings, however they will be more difficult to balance and will tend to wobble either beak-down or tail-down.)

After I had attached thread to the bird at two points (the head and the back), I tied the other ends of the threads to a popsicle-stick 'T.'  The little bird was now ready for it's first flight!

To turn the other little bird into a rod-puppet, I used a bit of sticky-tape to attach it to the top of a bamboo skewer.  Now this little bird was ready for flight, too!

To create a ladybird rod-puppet, I cut a body and head from black paper and a set of wings from red paper (though, one shape could just as easily have been cut from one piece of paper -- the head would then be colored with the same black marking pen used to make the dots on the wings.)

I used a glue-stick to attach the wings to the head/body and then used sticky-tape to affix my ladybird to a bamboo-skewer... Done!

To make a butterfly puppet I cut wings from bright paper and a body from black.  Then I glued the body to the wings, used tape to attach a bamboo-skewer and, voila!  I had also intended to create a butterfly marionette, but more pressing matters took precedence. It was not time fuss with a few more bits of string -- it was time to play!


Making Waldorf Inspired Glove-Puppets: a tutorial

In creating my puppets, I had planned to refer to several books on my shelf;  I own a small library of books on the topic of building puppets and also a couple of books on making Waldorf dolls, but none of my books offered much help when it came to creating a glove-puppet with a Waldorf style doll-head.  When making a glove-puppet, it is usual to have space inside the head for the fingers of the puppeteer; however, on a traditional Waldorf doll-head, it would be very difficult to create a space inside the head.  This left me with a bit of a problem - I now had to design a pattern for a glove-puppet from scratch.

I sewed test patterns from muslin and then proceeded to cut up precious pieces of vintage velvet which had been hoarded for many years in my fabric-stash, only to discover that my patterns were flawed.  Back to the drawing board, and on to using revised patterns to cut the next series of puppet-bodies from some lovely brown velour... only to discover that my pattern was still not quite right!  Luckily, I was able to buy more brown velour to use when I finally perfected the pattern!

In this tutorial, I will give you guidelines for creating your own pattern, however, I strongly recommend that you create puppet bodies from muslin (or some other scrap fabric such as an old t-shirt) to test your pattern before you cut your puppet-body pieces from fine cloth.

There are several good books on making Waldorf doll heads, including one titled Making Waldorf Dolls published by Hawthorn Press. Additionally, you can find excellent instructions on the blog Doing Without.  Below, I offer a very basic outline of instructions, however, if you've never made a Waldorf doll-head, I suggest you refer to secondary resources for more specific information.

Most Waldorf doll-making instructions tell you to start off with tubular gauze.  In the United States, tubular gauze is only available via mail-order; not having any on hand, and wanting better control over the size of my doll-head anyhow, I sewed a tube using fabric from an old, cotton t-shirt.  Knowing I wanted my head to be about 4 1/2 cm wide and approx. 5 1/2 or 6 cm high, I cut the width of my fabric about 13 1/2 cm wide, folded it and sewed it into a tube.  Then I made a tight gather at the top, turned it inside-out, stuffed it firmly (so the height was approx. 6 cm), and tied it off at the bottom.

To create the eyeline, I took heavy cotton thread, wrapped it a few times horizontally around the center of the head, made a few vertical wraps and then tied off the string.  To secure the string, I sewed an "X" where the horizontal and vertical wrappings crossed on both sides, then pulled down the horizontal crossing at the back to get the correct shape to the head.

To make a nose, I stitched round and round, just beneath the eyeline, catching bits of stuffing as I went along, pulling tight until I had a small raised area.  To firm-up the nose of my puppet-head, I smeared on a good layer of white-glue and allowed it to dry.

Many years ago, I bought two yards of mini-ribbed cotton fabric and dyed it a rosy-tan color.  I was glad to have it in my stash and used this bounty to cover my puppet-heads.  Before I sewed on the face, I decided on eye and mouth placement by inserting pins into the head (the eyes go right on the eyeline.)

Then, inspired to try something new, I also created a Mother Earth puppet with a head from felt.  You will notice, in the pattern I drew, that the neck is quite wide;  I had planned to construct the puppet so that my fingers could fit up inside the head, but changed my mind;  The neck on my puppet head is narrower and accommodates my fingers going up behind the head inside a pocket, as you will see  below when I describe construction of the puppet bodies.

Anyhow, to create this type of head from felt, you will need to draw a head with a face in profile and cut 2 pieces.  You will also need to cut one gusset-piece to go up the back of the head.  I do not show it in a photo, however, I sewed a test pattern from scrap-felt to make sure the size and shape of the head was correct.  My first version was too small, so I enlarged the pattern slightly and then proceeded to use the corrected version of my pattern to cut my peach-colored wool felt.

Here you can see the top of the head where the gusset meets the side-pieces.   I have also embroidered eyes and a mouth.  The cheeks are made pink by applying red wax crayon.


Here is a drawing of the basic pattern I created for my puppets (both the Root Children and Mother Earth.)  You will need to cut two of these.  There is a 1/2 cm seam allowance built into the pattern -- and, please know that the whole thing is sized generously.  I have given measurements, however, this is not rocket-science... if your pattern does not exactly match mine, don't worry.  Just keep in mind that it's always better to cut a little larger than you will need.  If your puppet-body is too small, it might not fit, however, if it's too large, you can always make it a bit smaller.

The portion at the top, extending up from the neck, will form a pocket at the back of the puppet's head to accommodate your fingers.  It is 7 1/2 cm wide.

At the widest point, the arms measure 21 1/2 cm.

The widest point of the body should measure approx. 19 1/2 cm.

The height of the entire pattern should measure approx. 30 1/2 cm (or taller.)

After I cut two body pattern pieces, I took one of the pieces and removed the tall portion from above the neck (this is marked by a dotted line in the pattern photo.)  This tall portion above the neck is needed to form a pocket at the back of the head (to accommodate the fingers of the puppeteer); however, this flap of fabric is not needed on the front of the puppet!

Next, I pulled out my stash of knit cotton (which I had used to cover the puppet head) and cut 4 hand pieces per puppet.  To make a pattern for the hand pieces, I matched the width of the hand-pattern to the width of the arm opening of the body.  My hand patterns are approx. 4 cm wide and 4 1/2 cm tall.

You will also notice, in the photo above, that I finished off the puppet head by removing most of the fabric which had been hanging off the bottom of the head.  I left approx. 2-3 cm of fabric, folded it toward the back and carefully sewed it down.

Then I pinned the hands onto the right-sides of puppet body pieces and sewed them in place.

Next, I matched up the hands, front to back, pinned the sides of the bodies together (front to back) and sewed down each side from the neck, around the hand and down to the bottom edge.

Note: I left 1/2 cm at the top of the neck unsewn.  This allowed me to roll the fabric under when I pinned & sewed the front of the body to the head.

For me, attaching the head of the puppet to the body is always the best part, because, after this is done, I can put my hand inside and make the puppet wave hello. That first hello is always very sweet and magical. This is what I love most about glove puppets -- their expressiveness -- their ability to wave hello, nod their heads, play peek-a-boo, clap their hands and then take a bow...

To attach the head, I pinned the front of the neck (where I had removed the tall flap of fabric) beneath the face and then sewed the pocket-flap to the back of the head.

The pocket flap is not intended to be sewn down flat against the head.  It should be raised in the back to form a roomy pocket for your finger(s).  I had intended it to fit 2 fingers, however,  I actually find it most comfortable to control this puppet with my index finger up behind the head, my thumb controlling one of the hands and my middle finger controlling the other hand.

Note:  I did not sew down the top of the pocket at the back of the head.  Leaving the top of the pocket open left a little more room for my finger(s), and, because I have covered the heads of my Root Child puppets with stretchy knit hats, this works out just fine.  According to your preferences, you may or may not want to sew the top of the pocket shut.


The Root Children, newly awoken, dressed in their brown, root gowns
Now for the fun part -- costuming the puppets! There are so many choices to make... I added grey, looped braids beneath the cap of my Mother Earth puppet, and added hair only on the front of my Root Child puppets because I couldn't figure out how to add hair over the pocket at the back of the head...

Root Child glove-puppet by Melissa
However, my clever friend Melissa figured out how to add hair to the entire head (front and back) of her Root Child puppet! To create hair, she crocheted a cap for her puppet using a loop-stitch, and it looks so wonderful that I'm a bit in awe.

I also stitched up flower-petal pinafores from wool felt to garb my Root Children for their Spring and Summertime festivities.  I hope you have fun, too, coming up with your own original costuming ideas and designs.

Mother Earth glove-puppet by Melissa




Mother Earth glove-puppet by Jen of SEWNnatural
 Finally, I'd like to share with you this link to the Ballard Institute at the University of Connecticut which shows several hand positions you can use to control your puppet.  For this particular set of puppets, I am finding it most comfortable to use my index finger to control the head, with my thumb inside one puppet-arm and my middle finger inside the other arm; however, this link will show you a few other options.

Tiptoes Lightly marionette by Rhonda of Joy Grows

Mother Earth glove-puppet with a knit body by Melissa

And now, dear Readers, a public service announcement: Did you know that, even if you "Like" we bloom here and/or Making Peg Dolls on Facebook, you may not be seeing updates and messages from me in your Facebook feed?  Did you know that you might be missing tutorials for lovely, quick-to-whip-up gifts? Missing information about the upcoming blog tour? About book give-aways, and other give-aways? 
Here's what you can do so you don't miss anything: once you’ve liked the we bloom here and/or the Making Peg Dolls page (thank you!), use the dropdown menu right under the “liked” button to select “get notifications.” This lets Facebook know, going forward, that you really do want to know when I've posted a new tutorial, give-away, and other assorted nonsense. 

Another way you can hear from me is to have a look at the right-hand sidebar of this blog, and find the widget which allows you to "follow by email."  Once you've typed in your email, you will get notifications delivered directly to your inbox.  I don't have access to information about who signs up for email through my blog, so there is no way I could add you to some list and send you junk-mail (not that I would ever consider doing such an annoying thing anyhow, I promise).

Thanks for visiting! Please say "hi" any time -- I love hearing from you. xo mb