Maneki Cake-O

It wasn’t until my late 20’s that I read the Tortall books by Tamora Pierce and was utterly smitten with them. One thing that stuck with me was that one of her strong heroines had a collection of maneki neko figurines (aka lucky cats). For many years I kept a single lucky cat with me. However, over the past month or so I’ve gone a little maneki neko crazy and have an actual collection (some at home, and some at work).

It was when I received one of my online orders in which I had added a few Funko Pops that I had one of my SHAZAM! moments: I could turn the Cake figurine from Adventure Time into a customized maneki neko!

Now, I’ve never attempted to customize any of my vinyl figures (one of my other collections), but I had recently read Epbot’s customization experience  which encouraged me to give it a go.

Obviously, from the image at the top of this post, I tried it, and it turned out crazy-awesome! I’ll share some info on the process below all of the following photos in case you’re curious. If you’re not curious, then I hope that you enjoy the photos:

I call her Maneki Cake-O, and she takes a very special spot in my special collection.

I had to make two paperclay BMO’s – the first one was rather sad and flat. When I started building it out – that’s when it finally looked good. After the paperclay dried, I painted a coat of gesso over it, and then gold leafed it. I had never used either paperclay or gold leaf before – so I was sweating a bit. But both were easy enough. I was very glad that I bought a set of three basic clay sculpting tools to use – they immeasurably helped the process.

Other than that, I used E6000, several cheap small basic paint brushes, a gold leaf pen (to hide a few cracks in the gold leaf), a red ribbon, and a tiny bell to complete the look. The only thing that I would do differently in the future is that I’d like to try Loctite instead of the E6000.

If you’d like to give this a go, then I say go for it! If you have any questions for me, then don’t hesitate to either ask in the comments or email me. I’ll happily try and answer as soon as I can.

Good luck!

Kittens ‘n Mittens

Three little kittens, three pairs of bright colored mittens, and a mamma cat looking all sassy and felted.

Our new children’s librarian started last week, and boy am I happy!  I truly do love doing storytimes (it’s the theatrical ham in me), but with all of my other duties, they make my workload almost unbearable.

For my next-to-last final storytime for our youngest group, I put together a Kittens ‘n Mittens themed storytime (basically, I was looking for an excuse to sing Soft Kitty with the children).  As the main story, we read Jerry Pinkney’s Three Little Kittens.  Right after the story I pulled out my handy-dandy flannel board, the kittens, mamma cat, mittens, and pie that I made based on Stories with Ms. Jenna‘s flannel kitties. She had obviously used thread and needle for the details (something that I don’t have the materials or skills for), so I improvised.  My greatest discovery was that I could cut a teensy-tiny piece of flannel and roll it into a ball for the kitten’s foot pads (I did a similar trick with the whiskers).Super-cute kitten close-up! D'awww!

I am very aware that our youngest children aren’t very strong visually, but we’re a small library and can only handle a handful of children at our events – so everyone gets a front row seat.  However, I’m still hoping to build a larger flannel board for future storytimes.

I also didn’t do a traditional story with the flannel board.  Since we had just read the story, I had fun seeing what the children could remember from the story, or I did an extremely shortened version depending on the groups’ interest levels.  The most popular part was when I let the kittens eat their pie and made silly nomming noises while holding the pie up to their mouths.

If you’d like any other information about what I did for this storytime, then don’t hesitate to ask!  Everyone had a purrfectly fun time.

Pom-Pom Wreaths

I’ve been storing leftover pom-poms from my canvas art from a few years back, as well as several wreath forms I had bookish plans for (which fell through out of laziness).  What’s a girl to do? Pom-pom wreaths!

I created two very easy-to-do wreaths made out of wreath forms and leftover pom-pom balls.

I got out my hot glue gun, pom-poms (thrown in an empty casserole dish to get maximum pom-pom containment/sortability), and my wreath forms.  Then I settled down to glue like crazy while watching cheesy holiday flicks.  I was also making Chex Mix for the first time while doing this, so I was forced to get up every 15 minutes for two hours…so this project took about two hours.

My large front door pom-pom wreath with a sparkly green door hanger.

I was using the smaller leftover pom-poms (eagle-eyed readers might note that there’s a lot of blue pom-poms in the mix that weren’t used in the canvases – this was because I bought blue pom-poms for a Doctor Who craft that never happened), so I had plenty of hot glue burns on my left pointer finger since I’m not always the most careful of gluers.  I tried a quick-dry tacky glue, but the drying time was an issue in terms of being able to move quickly without knocking of previously-placed pom-poms.

I went ahead and covered the entire wreath in case I ever hung it in a window (I also wanted to use up all my pom-poms).  To finish it off (i.e. to make a hanger), I cut about a 2″ piece of ribbon, hot glued one side, and then pushed a push-pin down through the ribbon/glue and into the form.  I then repeated this process on the other side of the ribbon.

A cute red ribbon with white trim is a neat touch to this fun and unconventional wreath that no one may ever see, but I'll know is there.

I found some sparkly door wreath hangers at a dollar-type store and hung them up. Behind one, I sticky-tacked to the door a special “Season’s Greetings” special round card that Bruce had from his childhood.  Both Bruce and I really enjoyed having the old mixed with the new.

The second wreath (out of four that I plan on completing) with a round glittery illustrated card in the background.

My Almost Insta-Flannel Board

Ever since I found a love of felt (see here), I’ve been wanting to invest in a flannel board.  However, we’ll hopefully be getting a new children’s librarian soon ::crosses fingers:: and I have no idea if s/he is even interested in using felt in storytimes.  So, to spend the library’s money on something that may or may not be used is just wrong.

Enter ingenuity!

I have no idea if other people have done this, but this idea came to me because I’ve used various frameworks (from bulletin boards to empty frames) for other random crafty things and I was like, “hey, we have these extra unused picture frames at the library that I could totally use! It’ll be on the small side, but it should be quick, easy, and cheap.”  It was indeed all of the above!

Basically, I took out the glass from one frame and carefully discarded it.

A picture of a very sad picture that no one wanted to look at. Also the cardboard I used for later on in the project.

I then glued two pieces of black felt to the backer board (and trimmed the excess).

Empty frame, and the cheap cardboard backer partially covered with one of two black felt pieces.

It was on the flimsy side (this needs to stand up to curious toddlers who I hope will interact with the board), so I took a cardboard box lid and cut it to fit the frame. I then folded down the little metal prongs – and BAM! I was done.

The back of the frame with the bonus thicker cardboard backer - showing off my lazy cardboard-cutting style.

I now have a pretty snazzy gold-framed felt board.

That's it! A completed flannel board for storytimes using things that we had lying around the library.

The gold paint had flecked off a little bit in the lower left-hand corner of the frame (you can see the black splotches in the above picture).  I had a gold leaf pen at home, so I brought it in and used it to cover the damage – and it looks great! (refer to the top image of this post)

This truly was a fantastic instant gratification project.  I’ll be sure to let you know how well it holds up.  And if it does hold up well, then I may even think of making a few more with different colored felt backgrounds for different stories.  It would also be fun to add a hanger to the frame and hang it up somewhere in the library where we could switch out what was in the frame(s) to go along with the decor each month.

I showed my boss this project and she was so excited about it that she’s offered to bring in a much larger picture frame of hers to be converted since the glass was cracked.  I’ll be sure to post about that board as well if we do indeed flannelize it.

Side Note: I made the turkey from the top image from using the template found here.  I plan to use this in a toddler storytime, so I wanted to make only the large feathers, and didn’t embroider the feathers since I wanted sticking power.

Quirky Turkeys

Showing off my waddle-less turkeys as I practice singing the song. And now I have "Fiiive turkey rings" in my head a la "five golden rings" from The 12 Days of Christmas.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been sorting/organizing the craft closet in preparation of hiring a new Chidren’s Librarian.  It’s also been a fascinating adventure since I didn’t know that we had half the things that are in our closet.  I came across a sad/worn felt board, and then an entire box of commercial felt characters from books (where images are printed on the felt).  I decided it was time to invest in a new board, and that I’d have the new librarian go through the box to see if s/he wanted to keep or use any of it.  The few that I looked at seemed rather flat, boring, and sad.

Honestly, the only flannel programming I’ve seen in libraries was when I was a child – it was Stone Soup and it was really cool.  I really don’t remember much from the flannel board story, but I remember having the sense that I’d just seen a really neat thing, and it’s the single storytime from my childhood that I remember.  I’d also seen plenty of felt components to other librarians’ storytimes that they’d shared online, but I didn’t fully get the appeal.

It wasn’t until I stumbled across this post by Abby Johnson on the ALSC Blog that something clicked in me.  I think it was that this particular song/felt combo spoke to me on a deep level, and the potential for using felt in our storytimes opened up to me (angels sang, trumpets blared, etc.). Maybe it was seeing a flannel mitt (which I’d never seen before) that made me realize how dynamic this medium could be.  And cute.  Never underestimate the power of cute.  Here’s the song that converted me to a flannel-lover (and like Abby, I couldn’t find the origin of this adorable song – so if you know, then please let me know and I’ll share):

Five Nervous Turkeys
(to the tune of My Bonnie)

Five (4, 3, 2, 1) turkeys were getting quite nervous – 
Thanksgiving Day soon would be back!
So one turkey put on a duck suit
(swap a turkey flannel out with a duck flannel)
And now he says “gobble, quack, quack!”

IS THAT NOT THE CUTEST THING EVER?!

Anywho, I double-checked to see if we had a mitt (we didn’t) and so I went and dug through our small plastic bin of felt to see if I could either make one or come up with another idea.  And another idea I had!  Why not make rings (or super-simple finger puppets)?  My only concern is that I could mix them up when doing the song, and the two rings that really won’t work on different fingers are the pinkie and thumb ones.  I most likely will subtly number them on their back sides.

I grabbed some felt pieces that we had on hand and made my felt critters.  We didn’t have orange felt, but Mary suggested using an orange Sharpie to color some white felt (and it worked – huzzah)!  I drew a few outlines, but I mainly just “winged it” (bad pun intended).  I would use my first cutout as a template for the rest. Et voila!  Turkeys and duckies!  Okay, turkeys minus their waddles (seriously I just now noticed that I didn’t make waddles – but I don’t think that I’m going to make them out of fear of destroying the cute Sandra Boynton feel. But now I’m waddling back and forth between adding them or not. Yes, bad pun intended).

UPDATE: They’ve been waddle-fied!

And now for the duckies:

My completed felt duck finger puppets.

The back side of the felt finger puppets - their mystery revealed.

Very randomly, I now have “five turkey/duckie rings” a la “five golden rings” from The 12 Days of Christmas in my head.  Now it’s likely in yours.  You’re welcome.

Well, this is for later in this month, and I’ll be sure to update here if I have any noteworthy notes to share with y’all.  Until then, I leave you with a gif I made to illustrate what goes on in my head when I sing this song:

Turkey on Make A Gif