tutorial :: twirly kite

We created a prototype of this twirly kite about 10 days ago, and were having so much fun with it... until my 4 year old twirled into the corner edge of a low bookshelf and gashed open his cheek just below his right eye (see above photo for reference).  So, this tutorial comes with a warning: please have lots of fun twirling, but do not twirl into corner edges of bookshelves, or someone may end up spending an afternoon in the emergency room getting his cute little face sewn back together (not fun).


Light weight card stock or watercolor paper (I used some paper we had painted with watercolor a few months ago)

Adhesive tape and/or glue

18 inches (47 cm) yarn or string

7-8 inch (18-20 cm) wide plate

Scissors, pencil & a ruler

STEP 1: Use a pencil to trace around your plate.

STEP 2: Draw a line across the center of the circle and mark the middle, then turn your ruler 90 degrees and draw another line down the center so you have quarters. (Apologies for the dreadful photos. It was early in the morning when I took these -- the light from the window was low & very blue.)

STEP 3:  Cut around the circle and then cut out 1/4 section.  Draw 1 1/2 inch (4 cm) lines at and between each quarter mark.

STEP 4: You can use adhesive tape to secure your yarn as indicated in the photo above, however, if you want your kite to really hold together, cut a small piece of scrap paper and glue it over the end of your yarn to hold it in place (as I did here in this other kite tutorial).

STEP 5: Overlap your edges to form a cone and tape or glue in place (tape is faster -- and this is important when there is a young child bouncing around the kitchen table eager to play with his new kite).

STEP 6: Cut each of the 1 1/2 inch (4 cm) lines which you drew earlier, plus you will need to make an additional cut where the sides overlap to form the cone.  Fold each cut section at approx. 45 degree angles, crease sharply, and then fold them back so the openings in the cone-shape are narrow (see photo above).  If the flaps are open too wide, the kite will not spin.

After making this kite, we headed to the beach where all we had to do was hold the kite in the breeze and watch it spin (and there wasn't a bookcase or sharp corner in sight!)


interpretations & variations

While working on my second book (Making Peg Dolls & More) I asked several friends to test some of my patterns, and I am very grateful for their help.  Their comments & corrections have certainly made the book easier for everyone to use, and I thought it would be interesting to show you the results of their pattern-testing efforts.

emily's doll & pincushion blossoming among the lettuce

Here is a pincushion stitched by my friend Emily.  She followed my instructions & patterns, but her pincushion is unique.  It resembles the pincushion I created, and yet this one is clearly Emily's own beautiful work.

snail applique by caroline (pattern tester extraordinaire)

My friend Caroline created this linen shoulder bag with snail applique.  In the book I added small touches of embroidery to the pocket, but Caroline did something very clever; she added embroidery which echoes the swirling silver snail-trails I find in the garden. (Additionally, she added veins to the leaf, which is also her own unique interpretation!)

herbal pocket doll stitched by alice & her mum

I adore this little yellow & lavender doll which Alice helped create (and I adore Alice's sweet face, too.)

greenwood tree wall hanging created by caroline

In my books, my designs are simple and relatively unornamented, leaving room in the patterns for personal interpretation, customization, extra embroidery, beading, etc... Designs with less ornamentation also reflect my personal style.  I am an avid admirer of Salley Mavor and Elisa Kleven. Both these artists create complex and intricate work; however, if I imitated the intricacy of their work (which I love and am in awe of... every little detail), I wouldn't be true to my own style. (Occasionally I will even add extra beading or embroidery to a project and then rip it out again because it doesn't look right to me.)

my little son playing with the wall hanging sewn by Caroline

Are you feeling inspired to try some of your own variations and interpretations?  I always enjoy & appreciate seeing photos of your work inspired by my books -- please email photos any time!

P.S. Did you know that, starting Monday, February 2nd, there will be a blog tour for the new book?  I will be posting the schedule this Friday, and you will be able to check in here every day for the next 2 weeks for updates about where to find the blog tour posts.  See you then!


designing projects

Leading up to February 2nd -- the start of the blog tour for my new book Making Peg Dolls & More -- I thought you might like to see photos showing the process of designing some of the projects.

In the top photo of this post you can see me stitching an applique for a small shoulder bag designed for a child to gather pebbles, leaves & acorns, etc... Above is my original drawing for the applique.

And here are the paper patterns I created from the drawing.

This is a test pattern for the dragon marionette in the new book.  This pattern was nearly right on the first try, but do you see the test pattern for the bird in the background?  It looks simple, but that design took six test patterns before I was happy with it!

These are the original paper designs for the pirate ship wall hanging.  I quickly took this photo before clearing the kitchen table & dashing off to pick up my little one from pre-school. The photo helped me remember how to arrange the pieces the next time I worked on the project.

In the animated trailer below, you can see I forgot to add the crow's nest to the top of ship's mast (oops). Now that I've let you in on the secret of this accidental omission, you can add it to your own pirate ship wall hanging!

On Wednesday I will have a post showing projects created by friends to test patterns for the book. See you then!


preschooler woodworking fun

Did I just type those three words into the title for this post? Does "preschooler woodworking fun" sound like an oxymoron to you, too?  I feel a thrum of anxiety each time I pull out wood working tools, so the idea of adding an exuberant preschooler to the mix is definitely not my idea of fun. There are those intrepid and fearless folk among us who have high tolerance for such things, and maybe even enjoy woodworking with preschoolers (my friend Faith, for example). However, I am not one of those people. So what, might you ask, possessed me to trundle down to the garage this morning, little man at my heels, to rummage for scrap lumber, cut it down with a saw, sort through our nail & screw bin, and then pull out the electric drill?

Here's why. I was using a phillips head screwdriver to repair a toy and my 4 year old was intrigued, so I handed him the screwdriver. He had a great sense of accomplishment when he had replaced the screws and I thought to myself, "That wasn't so bad. We should do more of this..." And off we went.


1 enthusiastic preschooler
Small scraps of lumber (I cut my board down to 10 inches, which seemed a manageable size)
120 and/or 220 grit sand Paper
A small saw
A workbench vise
A pencil & ruler
A drill and set of bits
Screws of varying sizes
A screw driver and phillips head

STEP 1: If you need to cut down your lumber scrap, use a pencil and ruler to mark where you would like to cut.  Secure the wood in a vise and use your saw to cut along the pencil mark.  (Are you coveting my yellow vise jaw pads? They are fabulous.)  Do keep a close eye on your preschooler.  If you're feeling brave, you can have him place his hands on your arm or elbow to "help" you use the saw.

STEP 2:  Hand the wood and some sandpaper to your preschooler so he can smooth out the rough edges. This is my favorite part.  Not scary at all, except when he decided to try out the sandpaper on my hand. (It's "sandpaper," sweet love, not "handpaper.")

STEP 3: Rummage around and find an assortment of screws.

STEP 4: Match drill bit sizes approximately to the screw sizes.

STEP 5:  If you like, you can use a pencil to mark where you plan to drill holes, or you can drill a random pattern of holes.  Secure your wood once again in the vise and use various sized drill bits to drill holes.  Once the wood is drilled, use sand paper to smooth the wood around the holes.

STEP 6: Hand a bucket of screws and a couple of screw drivers to your preschooler so he can get busy with his fabulous woodworking project.


My little one was feeling frustrated that the tall screws were sticking up, so this morning we glued a piece of wood beneath the first and drilled the holes deeper.  Just make sure not to drill your holes all the way through the wood as the ends of the screws are sharp and poke-y!


signed book plates

It would be mighty tricky for me to show up all around the world to meet all you dear readers & sign your books.  So, did you know that, if you send me an email with the name of the person to whom you would like me to sign your book, plus your mailing address, I will send you a signed book-plate free of charge? When you get the book-plate, you can just peel off the backing, stick it onto the title-page of the book, and viola! you've got yourself a signed copy of my book, anywhere in the world.



My 11 year old & I went to see this movie today and I strongly recommend it. It's one of the best movies I've ever seen, however, if you are planning to bring a child to see it, please read the Common Sense Media review here ahead of time so you can determine whether you feel this movie is appropriate for your child. 


tutorial :: peg dolls & washi tape

A few days ago, I was emailing with a lovely librarian named Nora in Berkeley, CA, and she asked whether I had ever used washi tape to decorate peg dolls. I admitted to having purchased three pretty rolls several years ago and leaving them jumbled in a box with other paper-crafting items since then. I suppose I could have checked Pinterest for a few ideas, but generally have not found the concept of washi tape inspiring. However, Nora's question got me thinking. So I pulled out the rolls of tape, pulled out a few peg dolls, and here's what I came up with.

Peg dolls
Paint brushes
Washi tape
Felt and embroidery floss (optional)

STEP 1 :: Paint the upper half of your peg dolls (you can measure how far down to paint by putting a piece of washi tape on your dolls and marking with a pencil).

STEP 2 :: Add washi tape around the bottoms of your dolls.  Use a scissor to cut lengths of tape so the edges are neat.

STEP 3 :: Paint faces, hair, or add silly hats if you prefer.


a trailer for salley mavor's new book!

A new edition of Salley Mavor's Felt Wee Folk is set to be released at the end of February.  On her blog, she has written this about the new book:

Favorite doll projects from the first book, including acorn-capped blossom fairies and other fanciful wee folk make a return appearance. As requested by fans, more challenging techniques, such as wig making are added, making this book suitable for all skill levels, from the beginner who is learning the blanket stitch to the experienced embroiderer who relishes fine stitching.

The book is bursting with inspirational photographs of little characters set up in miniature worlds, from woodland scenes to doll houses, to fairy gardens. A certain type of person enjoys creating and looking into tiny, enchanting worlds and this book is for them! These dolls appeal to the child within you, no matter your age.

And today, to the delight of her many fans, Salley has released a book trailer...