Category Archives: gift ideas

Custom Printed Tea Towels

A while ago now, I was asked if I could print tea towels with the rock crab linocut. I poked around, got suggestions, and decided on Moda toweling, ordering some in white and natural. In the meantime I experimented with printing a linocut on fabric using different paints and inks, but I couldn’t get a result that I was happy with. I decided the best choice was to carve a new rock crab stamp; I have always gotten good results printing my hand-carved stamps on fabric. When the toweling arrived, I experimented some more. Finally, these are the results.

Custom printed tea towels at amyhoodarts.com

The towels are approximately 16″ wide by 24″ long, and the natural is even softer than the white. They wash up beautifully, and the images are printed with heat-set fabric ink with a crab at each end. I packaged them up with a tag that includes washing instructions and the inspiration behind the image.

tea towel ready to gift at amyhoodarts.com

I enjoy working with people for custom orders, especially when it’s an idea that hadn’t yet occurred to me, such as printing on tea towels. (I’ve printed on them before; it just hadn’t occurred to me to print them with my own hand-carved stamps and offer them for sale.) It’s really gratifying when somebody loves an image I’ve imagined and created, and envisioning it in another form is excellent. It makes the final result a collaboration, and that’s very cool.

If you’re interested in any custom work, I’d love to hear from you!

A Birthday Shirt and Cape

I’ve been quiet here because I was busy last week getting ready for my youngest child’s fifth birthday. For her third birthday, I surprised her with a white t-shirt with her number and a crown painted in pink, and now a new shirt is expected every time her number changes. Last year’s shirt was purple with a light blue number and crown, and this year’s is pink with a black number and crown. Of course she wore it on the big day itself.

five

I made it using a freezer paper stencil, which is so easy, with such satisfying results. I’ve been using them for years now, and I’m working on a tutorial for a blog hop I’m participating in on Thursday with other members of my fantasy football league. (I’m a woman of varied interests!) So look for that.

She is also wearing her new wizard cape, which is technically for Halloween, but she really, really wanted it in time for her birthday. She and her brother picked out Halloween decorations for her party, and Halloween plates, and she wanted people to wear costumes, and she wanted her wizard cape. Four years ago, when she was just a wee baby who wouldn’t sleep without me, I agreed to sew each of the boys special capes–my younger son has one just like the one you see here, except it’s white (he was a ghost), and my older son had a wizardy one with stars and moons on the fabric and big drapey sleeves. I drove myself into several meltdowns trying to sew slippery fabric around the schedule of a clingy baby, plus I’d only been sewing for a year, which means I’d sewn as much as possible for a month before having the baby, then barely sewed at all, then made those two capes. (After that, my husband banned me from sewing Halloween costumes.)

But this year, four years later…I know so much more. I made this cape with French seams, so the raw edges wouldn’t fray and unravel like they’ve done in my son’s, because patterns never do tell you what to do about those raw edges, they just figure you know, and I didn’t. The fabric didn’t seem at all unmanageable, I gathered the hood as instructed (I don’t think I even attempted it last time), and I turned the narrow hems with no trouble at all. It took a goodly bit of time to sew, of course, but that’s all it took–time. It didn’t take anything else out of me. As I sewed the pattern pieces together multiple times (because of the French seams) and watched my seams line up and everything come together smoothly, I kept thinking, I have come so far! That’s a nice feeling, and a pretty good bonus that comes from making the same pattern four years later. As my daughter twirled around in her cape, pretending to fly, I sat on the couch watching her and couldn’t help saying, “I did such a beautiful job making your cape.”

Freezer-Paper Stencil Birthday Shirt

We have a nephew turning five this weekend (whose favorite color happens to be green), so top of my to-do list upon returning home was to make him a special shirt. This process will never get old, I don’t think. It’s so much fun and the results are so pleasing. The paint application is a little uneven on this (there I go, being a perfectionist again)–it’s a little tricky on the colored t-shirts to get good coverage without applying overmuch paint, which could lead to cracking later on. So I decided a little unevenness was better than possible cracking. But shoving that aside, I think this shirt is adorable. My kids all approved (and none of them commented on any uneven paint application, either), so I hope our nephew likes it too.

I’m teaching a local workshop on this in December for ages 8-13 (see the classes page)…it’s a great technique for making gifts!

Shrinky Dink Fun

Materials: Plain Shrinky Dink sheets, permanent markers, colored pencils, hole punches

I have a vague memory of Shrinky Dinks from early childhood, involving an avocado-green oven and those pre-printed Shrinky Dinks that require no more creativity than coloring books. But then I began seeing tutorials for using recycled plastic, and then I saw blank sheets in the local toy/science store and tucked them away for a Christmas gift. Today we finally took them out to play! We’re not breaking any new ground here, but it was new to us and totally fun, and we have lots of blank sheets left!

I’d pinned a tutorial for Shrinky Dink buttons a while ago, so I definitely wanted to try that out. All the kids love buttons, so they all wanted to make some as well. We also printed out a sheet of computer-created stars for tracing and had the ruler out for squares and rectangles. V, being the oldest (and the most deliberate), decided ahead of time what size he wanted his finished square to be and then did the math to figure out what size plastic to begin with. (The package says pieces will shrink to about 1/3 their starting size.)

This is our output, pre-shrinking:

The wow factor of putting these in the oven and peeking through the window cannot be overstated! It was seriously cool! We tried the toaster oven first, but it just didn’t seem hot enough, plus we couldn’t fit much in at a time, plus we couldn’t all see, since it’s on the counter. Conventional oven is the way to go.

I realized afterwards that I made more pieces than the kids. Oh, well. (Did I mention how fun these are?!) Here are the kids’ creations:

V's creations

V wanted to re-create his stamp as a pendant for either a necklace or a key chain. Once he saw how much fun the rest of us were having with buttons, he made one, too.

N's creations

N wanted to make a star magnet and ended up with a smaller one than he’d counted on–but it still works as a magnet just fine (I cut a small square of self-adhesive magnet strip for the back). He had a hard time envisioning what 1/3 would look like. He really enjoyed making buttons, too.

G's creations

G does her own thing! She began with a the big button template (made using a 1 1/2″ hole punch, with the smaller holes punched with a normal hole punch), then colored on a rectangle, then punched a 1″ hole out from that, then had her brother add button holes to it. She also happily helped us count to 30 (the number of seconds you leave them in the oven after they flatten back down, to set them) and 15 (the number of seconds you leave some folded-up paper on top of them to keep them flat while they cool).

And here’s our total output of Shrinky Dink creations, after shrinking~mine are included in this photo, too.

I’ll have to experiment to see if the ink we used (permanent ultrafine Sharpies) will hold up to laundering, so we know whether these buttons can be used on clothing or are merely decorative. N is thinking about a career in button design*, so if that’s the case, I’ll need to make sure he has the right ink. And I may join him in his business venture, because this is the most fun I’ve had using the oven in quite a while!

* Check out all the Etsy items made using Shrinky Dinks!

Children Making Gifts (With Links)

I’m stepping out of the usual process-focused activities to give you a glimpse of what my children are making their loved ones for Christmas this year, and to share some links and ideas. Because my children vary in age, ability, and interest, their gifts do, too. Perhaps you will find something here your child would like to try.

First up, my three-year-old, who absolutely loves bookmarks. She likes to empty the bookshelf that holds chapter books, quietly spiriting them away one by one, each with a bookmark inside. If you try to reshelf them, she’ll exclaim, “I’m reading that!” She’s been known to “borrow” her brothers’ library books, too, claiming them as her own with a bookmark and sticking them in her bedside shelves. She thought giving people handmade bookmarks was a fabulous idea. Here is her painted, salted sheet of paper before cutting:

And here are some finished bookmarks.

I love this project because it is simple, yet with a beautiful and useful result.
She chose the ribbon color for each one, I looped it through, and she pulled it tight.

My seven-year-old realized he could sew recently, so I asked if he’d like to try making felt Christmas tree ornaments. He very much wanted to. I sewed on the embellishments, since that’s a smaller needle and thread (but he arranged them first), and he sewed and stuffed the trees. Here he is sewing:

No photos of the finished trees, in case any relatives are reading. They are something to treasure, though.

My oldest also wanted to make ornaments, making more paint-drip globes like we did last year (using this tutorial). Last year, we made them for the boys’ teachers; this year, he’s making them for aunts, uncles, and grandparents. Here are the original six dripping upside down.

But a funny thing happened…on four of them, the paint dripped right out without adhering to the glass. Weird, right? So I rinsed out the remaining bits of paint (not much) and swished some rubbing alcohol around inside, assuming there was something in there that was repelling the paint. When they were completely dry, we tried again, and this time the paint stayed put. Last year we had enough to make extra, and we have several hanging on our tree. They’re simple and lovely.

Some more links for you:

Last month we made recycled crayons for the youngest cousins, using fun candy mold shapes. Our how-to is here.

A couple of years ago we made these surprise snowballs for cousins—they were easy to make and hopefully fun to use! I included a rhyme with them: Wash your hands, wash them every day/and your “snowball” will slowly melt away./And when it’s melted more than a little/You’ll find a surprise tucked in the middle!

And recently, as a countdown calendar activity, we made bird seed “cookies” using these directions. I doubled the recipe and we were able to make two larger and two smaller cookies. The birds loved them–and we’ve enjoyed watching the birds love them! And you don’t need special cookie cutters (although those do look cute)–for one of our molds, I cut about two inches off the top of a 32-oz yogurt container. Be warned, though—the mixture is very sticky.

Process to Product: Bookmarks for Teacher Gifts

We’re not all about process around here. Sometimes, we need a handmade gift. I do try, though, to include as much chance for open-ended creativity as I can, and I like for the boys to give their teachers something a little personal to go along with the gift card. Many, many people contribute to my children’s day, so we also need an item that we can make many of. For the holidays, we made ornaments, and for the end-of-year gift, I had the idea of making bookmarks.

Materials: Watercolor paper, liquid watercolors, salt, hole punch, stamp (optional), ribbon

I explained my idea to the boys first–they could paint a background on the watercolor paper, sprinkle salt for that neat textured salt effect, and when it was dry, I’d cut the paper into bookmark-sized strips. Then, they could stamp the bookmark with the school logo (I detail how I carved the stamp here), we’d punch the ribbon holes, I’d get them all laminated at Staples, we’d add the ribbon and tra-la, handmade and school-oriented bookmarks.

They both said this was fine. If you’ve read my manifesto, you know I don’t believe in altering someone’s artwork in any way, so I was very clear–we’d have to cut the painting, were they okay with that? It’s meant to be a background sort of painting, not a specific image, but still, it will be cut. Okay? Okay, they both said.

G, of course, joins in on all the projects, so she’s painting with liquid watercolors too. I gave each of the kids a 12×18″ piece of watercolor paper, which is a good thing. (A bit of foreshadowing there!) When the paper is fully painted and still wet, sprinkle some salt. As little or as much as you’d like–anything that doesn’t dissolve will brush off when the painting is dry. G made sure we had no salt leftover from what I’d poured into the dish.

Once the paintings were dry, N became adamantly opposed to cutting his up.

V’s salted painting

Tears were shed. Right away I said we didn’t have to cut his up, but then he decided he didn’t want his brother’s cut up, either. V, on the other hand, was laid-back about the whole thing. I kind of enjoy cutting up things like this, because then each piece becomes its own smaller, unexpected, found composition. Luckily, cutting a 12×18″ piece of paper into 2×6″ bookmarks leaves several left over.

N’s salted painting

Once they were cut, V inked up the stamp I’d carved and stamped each one, and after they were laminated, I gathered all my ribbons and he selected which color would go on which bookmark.

Who can’t use a bookmark? Well done, V. N has decided to draw a picture for his teachers (they’re getting bookmarks too; we have enough), and I respect his refusal to cut up his artwork, even if it was originally made with that purpose in mind. Becoming comfortable with giving your art away is a process in itself.