My Bertoia Totoro

A few months back I stumbled upon this Apartment Therapy post where the writer had covered a Bertoia chair with stuffed pandas. Apparently it was an April Fool’s joke, but to me? It. Was. BRILLIANT!

I found a decent-priced knockoff of the diamond-shaped version, like this:And then I had the difficult job of finding a not-too-expensive stuffed animal that would make both Bruce and I happy. Relatively quickly, I found our perfect critter: Totoro! And if you haven’t seen My Neighbor Totoro, you really should – it’s gorgeously animated, and is a very sweet story. But at one point, the little girl named Mei falls asleep on Totoro’s belly. I’m like “if I can’t snuggle up to a giant Totoro, then dozens of smaller Totoros will have to do.” Obviously.

My mom had given me a set of specialty needles years ago, and I had never used them, but I got them out and chose to use the smaller curved mattress needle for this project. The only other thing I needed was some dark grey embroidery thread. Oh yes! And the Totoros! I had to order them from two different ebay sellers – both used the same picture/description, but one shop sent slightly smaller versions, which I wasn’t bothered by since everything went together really well and added a wee bit of variety.Yes – the Totoros look a little alarmed at their fate: getting their cute ‘tocks sewn down. It was sort of a game of Where’s the Needle Going to Come Out? which I generally lost. But the many random finger stabs were worth it since the process went very fast.

I went ahead and arranged the stuffed Totoros before I started sewing. Their cute little tails made the perfect “anchors” by pulling them through the wires. I only had time to get the peripheral stuffed animals sewn down on the first evening, but the chair looked complete, and so it was easy to let this project slide a few days while I did other projects.

I wrapped it up this morning, and am beyond thrilled with the results. The chair is super-comfy, and the best part? When you get up from the chair it’s like the Totoros have seen things…terrible things that cannot be unseen. It amuses me to no end.

Okay, enough of my yammering – I know y’all want to see the finished product.

Ta-Da!!!!!! Wookit deir widdle tocks! SQUEEEEE!!!!!

Ahem.

And what the chair looks like when you’re standing above it:Like a nest of cuddles.

Please let me know if you have any questions about this project, and I’ll happily answer. It really was easy, and the results so incredibly satisfying.

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.

Shrooms & Such

Well.

We’re about halfway through Gnomevember, and so far so good.  The kids really seem taken with all of the gnomes around the library.  The gnome hunt has been the biggest hit so far, and people seem reluctant to play Game of Gnomes.  I think it’s that whole “if I can’t grasp the concept within two seconds, then it’s more hassle than it’s worth” mentality that I can’t seem to break through.  We have one family who has come in every Friday who can hardly wait to play the game several times before they leave.  I’m going to try and figure out a different way to pitch it to patrons (short ‘n sweet’s the goal).  We’ll see.  I’ll let you know.

But that’s not why I wanted to write this post.  I wanted to write about something that I should have seen coming from a mile away.  No!  Two miles – minimum.  Just take a strolling scroll down to see what I’m talkin’ about:

The #1 most favorite thing for kids playing our games to do is to put the mushroom stickers over the gnome’s pupils.  It happens several times per day.  Every time we wait for the children to leave, and then gently perform some eye surgery to relocate the stickers.

That poor gnome’s pupils have had to be re-Sharpied several times, and I’m worried that eventually it’s going to tear through the paper.

Yes, we’ve talked about just leaving the mushrooms where they’re stuck – but come on!  Scroll back up, look at him, and tell me that that is not creepy.  It looks like the gnome’s tripping out of his mind.

And yes, we’ve had one “crotchshroom” incident with a boy old enough to know exactly what he was doing as his mom stood by and seemed oblivious to what a phallic symbol is.  Yes, “surgery” was performed in that case too.

It’s just one of those things that reminds me of who my audience is, and that to them it’s the funniest spot for a sticker possible.  In my childhood, I’d like to think that I would have been all over the objective to “build a throne,” at least my earlier childhood years.  Getting closer to 10 or 11?  I would’ve gone for the laughs.

And yes, as an adult I laugh quite a bit at how obvious it was that this would happen.

Oh No NaNoWriMo

Well, I finally had a quasi-epic fail in terms of putting together a crafty prop for a display.  I had this, by the amazing Rachel Moani, as my inspiration.  For awhile I’ve wanted to try my hand at making a big book like Moani’s, and the perfect excuse was NaNoWriMo.

I opted to try a somewhat larger book rather than an friggin’ ‘uge tome.  We don’t have a lot of storage, so my hope was to keep the book at a manageable size to store for various different displays. As you may have surmised, my book will not be stored, but we’ll get to that.

Honestly, I didn’t really measure, and I really should have measured.  I was also out of glue so I tried using lots of tape.  Lots and lots of duct tape.  And other tape.  Yep.  Tape.

So, here it is – and yes, I strategically took the picture from a distance and at an angle (and yes I filtered it – STOP LOOKING AT ME THAT WAY. Ahem):

I do like my handwritten NA NO WRI MO, but really detest the cursive on the other side of the book.  I think I should have either left it blank, taken the extra time to do a nice print, or written something fun like “once upon a time there was an author…”  But what’s done is done, and at the point that I made that call, I was coming up on my self-imposed deadline of “this project is now taking more time than it should.”

The biggest change I made to the original inspiration (besides having it barely look like the inspiration) was to try and cover the botched-up underneath-the-top-layer bits, I accordion folded some paper that was the same height as the top page, and then taped it down.

To try and distract from the big book, and to fill out the table a bit more, I added our library’s rarely-used typewriter and typed out where to find out more about NaNoWriMo.  If you look closely, you can also see some “artistically crumpled” paper to the left of the typewriter.

That’s about it!  It’s not the worst display ever, and I definitely learned from my mistakes.  I may hold off and practice some cardboard-wrangling on my own time to just get a better feel for the medium before I delve into such a complex cardboard piece again.

It’s Gnomevember!

One of Brittany's "tennis ball container" gnomes with our Non-Fiction gnome-inspired display.As we started planning what we wanted to do in November (in early October), I had planned on trying to keep it as simple as possible.  I should really know better.  I gave Mary the task of figuring out something to do in terms of decor for the library.  The next day she commented that she really didn’t want to do anything stereotypical – and so we started brainstorming.  Out of if came “Gnomevember!”  We laughed and started throwing out fun ideas for what we could do with it (the laughter being the thing that tends to seal the deal when we try to figure out what we want to do at the Children’s Library).

That night, I stumbled across this idea by Reading with Red on Pinterest and was like “Oh, we should totally do our own version of that!”  It wasn’t until the next morning before we opened when I thought “OMG GAME OF GNOMES!”  Both Mary and Brittany laughed when I told them (so that was that).  And that day I started drawing the image that I wanted to use to advertise our silliness:

My official Game of Gnomes logo. All in pencil. I also discovered how awesome light boxes are while making this.

I quickly decided that the two ways we’d adjust our game from the original inspiration was that we’d use mushroom stickers to help the Gnome King build his throne, and the kids would draw “mushrooms” out of some flowerpots that had been donated to us.

I do have to take a moment and acknowledge that both Gnomevember and Game of Gnomes turned out to have been thought of by others before me (but I’m glad that I didn’t realize this ’til after we’d committed).  Garvey on deviant ART has a far superior Game of Gnomes than mine, and I was very relieved to see his was to scale and was a much more accurate/cool take on it.  Gnomevember turns out to be a fun tradition at Castle in the Air. And there’s possibly some other variation of these things out there, so if you think that I should include your version of either one of these things, then please let me know!

Anywho, Mary got to work on giant gnomes to fill our front windows, and Brittany got to work on these 3D gnomes made from construction paper and empty tennis ball tubes.  Last month I was cleaning our craft closet when I came across the empty tubes and told my team that we had two months to use ’em or lose ’em (the tubes, not the staff).  Thankfully, Brittany was able to use them to make a wonderful variety of gnomes to place throughout the library.  Each one has a wonderful personality and they make me smile whenever I see them.  I wish that I could show y’all every one of her almost-a-dozen gnomes (like cowboy, ninja, goober, Broomhilde, Katniss, etc.).  I got to work putting together both games (I realized that we could have both Game of Gnomes as well as a Gnome Hunt).

Our gnome king, in less than 24 hours, has already got a good start to his mushroom throne.

The Gnome Hunt is extremely basic: we’d already put up gnomes throughout the library for both decor and Game of Gnomes, so why not have the kids count them?  I put out two more “stand-out” displays for the game at our circulation desk with everything that the kids need to play, and within five minutes of putting them out we had a family of 3 playing.  Putting out a highly visible “do it yourself” display/game turns out to be the key at our library for patrons to initiate these sorts of games.  Hooray!

An example of our game signs that have the instructions and all the pieces for the kids to play without us prompting them.

With this particular game, it’s been fun to hear some kids learn to tally and then practice their counting skills.  Again, it warms my heart to hear the parents interact with their children to make this experience a learning one.  When the child comes up to give us the answer (currently 33 gnomes) we’ll let them know how many gnomes there are, but that the goal was to reach 15 gnomes to earn a sticker.  Not one child so far has settled for not finding every single gnome.  Finally, when the child is done, we give him/her a mushroom sticker to put on the Gnome King’s throne (and yeah, on the King as well).  We also use the time that they take to put the sticker on the door to encourage them to try Game of Gnomes either on this visit or next time.  So far about half have taken us up on the game right then and there (and have gone nuts over it – usually playing more than once).

Just in case you didn’t read the other librarians’ version of this game, here’s the basic gist: we have two flower pots (one for early readers, and one for junior readers).

A simple but eye-catching display along with the game pots.

The player pulls out a mushroom paper that on the back has variations of this: “Look for a gnome with a [color] hat, and a [color] shirt.”  Then the child must find that gnome and pick out a book (or audio book) form that gnome’s bookcase. An example of our game piece for going on a gnome hunt.

One child wasn’t allowed to get audio books, so we let her pick another mushroom.  Once they pick out the item, they check it out, and get a sticker for the throne.  If they want to keep the sticker, then we let them, and then add a sticker to the throne once they’ve left.  The stickers are what we use to keep track of how many times the games were played!  This is also a really fun way to get the kids to check out items from areas that they may not usually even browse.  Can I tell you how much I love this game? It’s a lot. A HUGE thank you to Reading with Red for this faboo idea!

One picture that I failed to get was the back side of the Gnome King (so it’s what people see as they come into the library – besides the awesome giant gnomes).  Basically we have “It’s Gnomevember!” written across the top arc, and then large cutouts of the mushrooms along the bottom.  I’ve heard many kids and parents laugh about “Gnomevember” (hooray!) as they come inside, and the mushrooms keep the back of the throne from looking like a dark cave that the children must go through in order to enter the library.

For our “Great Wall-o-Puns” it took an assist from our wonderfully creative library page to come up with the perfect idea.  We were really stuck with what items we’d highlight because all we could think of were gardening puns (since gardening wouldn’t really work for this time of year), or ones that sounded too much like our previous Summer Reading Program theme.  I asked her to help us think of something, and she came back with “well, I think it should be a play on either ‘no’ or ‘know.'” And that triggered my idea that I almost shouted: “The More You Gnome!”  – like “The More You Know” PSAs.  She in turn lit up and said, “You could put gnome hats on the books!” Which I loved, but adjusted it to have the hats on the book stands instead, since it seems that people are hesitant to check out anything that has a “prop” attached (like our cat books with tails).  She then came up with the idea of putting out the Junior Non-Fiction books that have been returned – like what we do with our Picture Books (with great success), and which also saves time in shelving.  Done and done!  Mary made the shooting star, I made the lettering that Brittany colored, and our page made a prototype for the gnome hats which I then made.  Whew!  I absolutely LOVE the result:

Large '80's style lettering, a shooting star, and books with pointy hats! OH MY!

Last, but not least, I was almost in a panic about putting together a display by our bench featuring fall and Thanksgiving books when Emily, our Practicum Student, asked if I had a project for her.  BOOM!  No more panic or worries.  Emily had never done such a large display before, so it was fun watching her put all of the elements together, from getting the idea all the way to executing it.  She did an amazing job with very little assisting from me.  The only tweak I did after she was done was that I found a bag of already-cut construction paper leafs, sprinkled them around the books, and then added some around the sign to more fully tie-in the sign to the display (plus they give it some cool perspective since the pre-cut leafs are a bit bigger than the intricate ones that Emily had made).  I know she was bummed when she realized that the items on display would cover a lot of her leafs/books near the base of the window, but it’s a good lesson in thinking through all aspects of a display.  That part doesn’t bother me since when someone takes a book from the display, the gap looks full and intentional.

"Rake in a Good Read" which we did cheat and add fall-related movies to this library display as well.

With only two partial days of Gnomevember having happened at our library (since the taking down of the spiderwebs took a lot longer than anticipated), I’m delighted to say that Gnomevember’s been a HUGE hit so far.  I think that both parents and kids are starting to really get into the fun passive programs that we put together, and the whole “put a sticker on it” has taken this sort of program to another level.  I’ll be sure to update if I have anything to add at the end of the month.  I also know that Mary’s planning to decorate our white board, so once she does, I’ll be sure to add a picture.  She did it! And here it is in all its cute glory:

This may become a tradition at our library, because everyone really got into it, and it was truly a full-team production.  If you ever end up celebrating Gnomevember, then please let me know!

A Gnome of Your Own:

Here’s a basic “game piece” gnome for you to use/copy/color if you’d like! Just click on the image and download it:

Gratuitous Picture Time:

A gratuitous picture that I really loved and just had to share. Superhero gnome to the rescue!

Our dragon mascot as a gnome - or an Amish dunce depending on how you look at it.