Thursday, March 28, 2013

zodiac embroidery

Inspiration Pin, here.

Piece of painters' tarp + embroidery hoop + dye + plastic zipper bags (perfect for dyeing a small amount of fabric)

Dyed fabric, ready to stretch in the hoop after ironing

Stretched and stitched with antique silk thread (French knot tutorial here)

The back.

And now it's ready to be a birthday present for one of my favorite ladies. I wonder if she'd guess it's for her? ;)

Thanks for reading!

p.s. you can make these photos larger just by clicking on them, but you probably already knew that, clever you.

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Thursday, March 21, 2013

what's a robot party without a life-sized, prize-distributing robot?

My husband started laughing at my "to-do" list for the kiddo's robot party, and I leaned over to see what was so funny. "You've got 'add glitter to Play Doh' and 'use stamps on napkins' on either side of 'build life-sized robot to distribute party favors'." 

Ah, yes.

He's right; my lists often lack a sense of scale. For me, there's no building up from the smallest project to the largest; I jump head-first into everything at once, all four burners firing, and the toaster running, besides. Everything's on equal footing. I think it keeps life interesting.

* * * * * * *

Awhile back, I blogged about this iPod speaker that we made from an old intercom speaker and a busted set of ear buds.

At the end of that post, I mentioned that the speaker was part of a larger project I'd be sharing soon. Today is that day, readers. Here it is: the aforementioned life-sized robot made to distribute party favors and entertain toddlers.

size comparison: kiddo is 42 inches tall

I started with a stack of cardboard boxes and a pack of MakeDo Cardboard Connectors.

beginning "planning" stages

The feet are made of paperboard packaging inserts.

The kiddo and I trolled Bring and the Habitat ReStore for months to find "robot parts". It got so bad that every time we parked outside of any store at all, he announced that we were there to search for robot parts. It got so bad that his first act upon entering JC Penney at Christmastime was to inquire with a clerk as to the location of their robot section. No surprise here: JCP doesn't carry old bike reflectors, dryer ducting, light fixture parts, or old combination-lock alarm system panels.

completed head

A note to anyone interested in completing a similar project: our hunts for robot parts weren't usually specific. Most of the time, especially in the beginning, we'd go in looking for "robot parts" and I'd let the kiddo pick out whatever he thought that meant, from springs to sprinkler parts to metal light fixture bases. At 25 cents to 2 dollars per part, we weren't going to go broke, he felt involved in our project, and I ended up finding ways to incorporate most of it.

in progress


I also used hot glue, glue sticks, duct tape and aluminum sealing tape, Christmas paper, reflective stickers, plastic gears (from the Village), cardboard tubes, colored wire, an old house number, a push light (from the hall closet), and the clear plastic fronts that some packages have.

 opens to access battery hook-up
The key really turns, due to a bit of engineering. It's made of layers of cardboard and an empty glue stick with a hole drilled in the exposed end. I tucked it into a hole in the back and secured it with a cotter pin so it would turn, but my original attempt with layers of duct tape failed upon Kiddo Test. Thank goodness for my built-in QA engineer!

duct tape makes it look better than layers of cardboard

The buttons on the front are juice caps attached with cardboard connectors, so they really turn, too, with less engineering.

The intercom/iPod speaker mouth played a mix of robot-centric music as well as robot noises and one-sided conversations we recorded in GarageBand with filters applied. If you need some help finding the right "robot" filter when you tackle this project, send me a note and I'll tell you our secret formulas. You can export the new robot audio tracks directly to iTunes, then sync them to your iPod. (This is way easier than you might think.)

The head isn't motorized, but can swivel (by hand) due to the cardboard connector attaching it.




The arms swivel, too. For sturdiness against the toddler horde, there are used cardboard mailing tubes inside of the flexible dryer ducting.

The pincher hand isn't functional (though with a grabber arm inserted, it could be); it's another section of cardboard tube covered in aluminum tape.

The party-favor-distributing hand is a toy package leftover from Christmas, covered in more tape. A hole in the back to join with the cardboard tube makes it easy to swivel the arm forward, drop a prize down the tube at the shoulder joint, and have it pop out into the hand for the fascinated toddlers . . . and big kids, too! My niece and nephew are several years older and still thought it was cool.

This was a really fun recycling project (all but the tape and the reflector stickers came to us used), but I did use a lot of tape. Two rolls of gold Duck Tape, one roll of chrome Duck Tape, a partial roll of standard silvery duct tape, and a roll of aluminum duct sealing tape in all, plus some leftover silver Christmas paper and some paper tape from Target. Still, by weight, it's more than 95 percent recycled.

The percentage is even better if you count the bricks I put into the trap door feet to keep it from tipping over too easily.

brick trap doors closed with tape

brick trap doors open for stabilizing bricks

So: what long-term projects have you been up to? Any birthday party over-acheivers out there?

Thanks for reading, and remember: you can make these pictures larger just by clicking on them, but you probably already knew that, clever you.

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CSI Project

Monday, March 18, 2013

thrift store finds: campaign dresser + yellowstone pennant

The bedroom is in a transitional stage (urgh, the walls . . . look away . . . LOOK AWAY!), but I wanted to share this vintage campaign-style dresser and Yellowstone National Park pennant I picked up at an estate sale a couple of weeks back. The dresser came with a mirror, too, though I haven't found a place to put it yet.

The dresser set somehow survived until Sunday and I put in a bid on it, since there were no other takers. To my surprise I won (it was too low for what the dresser is worth, but I couldn't justify budgeting more), and eventually we made the decision to get rid of my husband's old 1990s oak veneer dresser and put this one in its place. 

I cleaned up the dresser and papered the drawer bottoms with old nautical charts, but otherwise, I'm waiting on making changes or updates.

I've seen a lot of painted or refinished campaign furniture on Etsy and Pinterest, but I kinda like the speckled wood stain. Link up in the comments section below if you've seen a campaign furniture makeover I need to see before making up my mind.

I love the pennant a ton. It's screen-printed wool felt and probably dates to the 1940s. The only way it could be better is if it were from Glacier (where we visited this summer).

Eventually, I'll get the walls replastered, primed, and painted and I'll give you a look at the finished room . . . but honestly, a foot on all sides of these photos is kind of a disaster area right now, so it'll probably be awhile.

Thanks for reading! Any unexpected thrift scores of your own lately? Do tell! I love following your (non-spam) links to look at pretty stuff.

p.s. you can make these photos larger simply by clicking on them, but you probably already knew that, clever you!

Linking up to:

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Saturday, March 16, 2013

the inventor's supply kit

I was recently looking for a couple of birthday presents for two sweet kids in my family. One, a girl turning eight, is very artistic. Arts & crafts kits for kids her age (especially those targeted at girls) are pretty easy to find, and I'm told she loves these things. I found two (one; two) I thought she'd adore and wrapped them up in a pretty fabric sack I'd made (tutorial coming soon).

The other, a boy turning eleven, was harder to shop for. He's also creative, and has a particularly curious mind when it comes to engineering gadgets and finding out how stuff works. This always impresses me about him.

It's somewhat difficult to find a ready-made kit for someone like him. A lot of science-y kits (even the more expensive ones) cheap out on the supplies, or only provide enough for a limited number of experiments one time through. I don't think that's the best way to encourage the kind of experimentation that engineering and inventing require. Obvious answer: to make an Inventor's Supply Kit of my own invention.

As a pre-internet kid, books were where I always found my answers when I was little. So I found a couple of books I thought would inspire a ton of ideas in his mad-scientist head, and collected a bunch of stuff he'd need to do most, if not all, of the projects in the books. Ta-da! Instant kit.

Well, I mean, not totally instant. You know me. I had to make it look "legit". I also used one of those nice shipping boxes with the red interior that came with a photo book from MyPublisher, and made some graphics and wrapped everything up in brown paper with stickers and striped tape. But mostly instant.

The first book, Kinetic Contraptions, requires hobby motors, which are pretty cheap from on-line retailers until you add in shipping costs. I headed to the thrift store and bought a couple of cheap motorized cars someone had donated. Then I disassembled them and salvaged the motors (full disclosure: the Mister helped loosen some crazy-tight tiny screws). As a bonus, this also yielded a supply of tiny screws, several wheels and axels, gears, and an LED lighting and speaker assembly, all of which are harder to come by than hobby motors.

Some kids would appreciate the opportunity to do the disassembly themselves, but I didn't want to leave any obstacles between the recipient of our gift and the projects in the book. Better, I decided, to give him raw materials to build with from the ground up. He can always pull apart old toys later to salvage more parts if he wants to.

Most of the other supplies came from the dollar store or were pretty inexpensive elsewhere. Here's a list of what I put in the kit (also printed on the graphic inside the box lid):

• 2 books (Amazing Rubber Band Cars and Kinetic Contraptions)
• 2 hobby motors (from RC cars)
• 1 speaker/light assembly (from an old RC car)

• assorted tiny screws
• straws
• bamboo skewers (with the sharp points cut off; I'm creative, not crazy)
• 4 film canisters (from a bunch of rolls of camera film I picked up for my old-timey 35-mm at the thrift store)
• assorted RC car wheels
• wire (leftover from another project)
• 8 AA batteries (the book recommends dollar store batteries, since things are bound to be left connected accidentally, and good batteries drain just as well as cheap ones)

• 36 spring-clamp clothespins
• 3 D batteries (see above)
• 2 spools of electrical tape
• 250 plastic-coated paperclips (which can always be stripped down if the project calls for it)
• 12 binder clips
• spare gears and wheel axels (from old RC cars)
• brads and decorative metal gears
• glue sticks
• rubber bands

I also used a part of a roll of striped orange paper tape from Target's stationary aisle, reused some brown kraft packing paper, and printed some labels on some label paper.

If you find yourself wanting to make one of these kits for a scientist or inventor in your family, I can totally send you a PDF of the graphic for the box top (for personal use only, of course, not for resale). Just send me a message via e-mail or in the comments field below and I'll hook you up!

Thanks for reading!

p.s. you can make these photos larger simply by clicking, but you probably already knew that, clever you!

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