Posts tagged: arts and crafts

Feather – Make a Quill Pen (Weekly Unplugged Project)

By , September 22, 2009 2:33 pm

Feather was the theme of this week’s Unplugged Project.  We decided to try making a quill pen out of some big, beautiful turkey feathers that a friend gave us.

I found very detailed instructions here: Cutting Quill Pens from Feathers. This project involves sharp knives, so unless you have older children, you will probably end up doing most of the work like I did.

First temper the quill to toughen it up.  We filled a small, all metal pan with sand from our giant sand pile (you can use a tin can for this part too) and heated it in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes.

Next we stuck our feather tip into the hot sand and left it there until the sand was cool.

Use a sharp kitchen knife to scrape off some of the feathers near the end in order to make a feather-free area to grip.

Find the orientation of your feather.  This will determine which side you are going to cut.  Feathers curve and you want the pen to curve back in your hand as you write.  The feather is top side up in this photo.

The first cut is actually made opposite the way you would think.  Hold the feather pointed away from you and top side up.  Using scissors, cut the tip off the feather at an angle slanting away from you (so more of the top side is gone than the bottom).

The second cut is a long shallow cut along the bottom of the feather.  It should be centered along the top cut and should remove about half the tube.  This opens up the feather and you can dig out any membranes that are inside using tweezers.

The next part is making the slit.  I didn’t really understand this step until I saw how my cuts had shaped the tip, but you will see two little points (the website calls them “horns”) that are formed by the intersection of the two cuts.

Squash the tip of the feather flat so the two points/horns are flat one against the other.  Press hard and this should make a crack in your feather tip halfway between the points.  Ideally it should only be about 1/4″ long.

The final step (and the one I found the most difficult) is shaping the nib.  Look closely at the instructions to determine the proper shape.  I used scissors for my first cuts, and then a sharp kitchen knife to gradually shave the nib to hopefully something like the proper shape!

Clip off any teeny tiny rough bits, dip your nib in some good ink and test your quill on high-quality paper. I used sepia non-waterproof (ie. washable) ink. Obviously washable ink is preferable if kids are going to use it!

I must say, while not perfect, the quill actually did hold ink in the shaft and wrote much better than I expected.  Not too bad for a first try at a lost skill that really requires much practice and patience to learn properly.

If you decide to try this, I urge you to read the much more complete, knowledgeable and well-photographed instructions at Cutting Quill Pens from Feathers.


If you did a feather Unplugged Project this week, then please link to your project post in the linky below.  If you didn’t join in, please do not link, but read more about how to get involved in the Weekly Unplugged Project here.  We’d love to have you!

By the way, sorry I am late with the post this week, but life comes before blogging!


The theme for next week’s Unplugged Project will be very open-ended:

The Letter J



Ocean – Sandpaper Transfers (Weekly Unplugged Project)

By , September 6, 2009 9:41 pm


This week’s Unplugged Project theme was ocean.  Not having anything in mind when I chose the theme (it was the first thing that popped into my head as I wrote last week’s post), I decided we should try an art technique that I have been wanting to experiment with for some time.

Well, my plans fell through a bit.  The two oldest were invited to a sleepover tonight and the little one needed to go to bed, so I decided to go solo on this week’s Unplugged Project.

I am not sure what this is called, but I call it “sandpaper transfer.”  It is super easy and produces really remarkable results!

All you need is sandpaper (I used a coarse grain and a fine grain to see what different results I would get), crayons (we have PLENTY of those), and an iron.

Draw a picture on the sandpaper and color it in with crayons.  Of course I chose an ocean theme (plus sand is found by the ocean, so sandpaper fit the theme too, right?).

I drew a colorful fish on the coarsest grain of paper and a green/blue/brown artsy ocean wave scene on the finest grain.  Be sure to press hard for best results.

The next step is the really exciting one!  Place the sandpaper picture-side down on top of a sheet of paper (or cardstock, which I used).  Iron over the top.  It will only take one or two passes of the iron to transfer the image.

NOTE:  Don’t iron too much or you might notice wax soaking through the sandpaper backing and onto your iron.  Also, if you use paper rather than cardstock, I would recommend putting an old towel underneath the paper so melted wax doesn’t soak through onto your ironing board.

Peel off the sandpaper and you will “ooh and aah” over what you have produced!

This is the coarse-grained fish:

Here is the fine-grained ocean:

Quite different results.

These are very pretty on their own, or they would make a great backdrop for more coloring, collage, paint, stickers … anything you want!


If you did an ocean Unplugged Project this week, then thank you!  Please link to your project post below.  If you don’t have an ocean project to share, then please do not link.  You can read more about how to join in here.  Everyone is welcome, and the more Unplugged Projects we have, the more fun and inspirational it is for all of us!


The theme for next week’s Unplugged Project will be:


I don’t know what we’ll do yet.  What would you do?

Have fun and please join in!


Geometric – String Pattern Art (Weekly Unplugged Project)

By , August 30, 2009 9:55 pm


The theme for this week’s Unplugged Project was geometric.

Inspired by this article from Family Fun we made geometric string patterns.  However, not being able to resist changing instructions, we did it a little bit differently.

The article uses wood panels and nails.  While this would certainly produce a sturdier and probably more striking result, I didn’t want to mess with wood and nails, so I came up with a simpler alternative: foam board and straight pins.

You’ll need foam board, colored yarn, scissors, and pins.

Cut the foam board into a 12 inch square.  The edges were messy so I bound them with red duct tape which actually made a nice frame.

Trace around a dinner plate onto a piece of paper to get a perfect circle.  Cut out the circle.  This will be your pattern for placing the pins.

Fold the paper circle in half four times and unfold.  You should have 16 evenly spaced creases.  Lightly tape the circle to the center of the foam board.

Stick a pin in at the top of each crease touching the edge of the circle.  The pins will be sticking out pretty far, but that will give you lots of room to wrap the yarn. (NOTE:  We experimented with cutting the pins in half to make them shorter, but they kept falling out and didn’t leave enough room for multiple strands of yarn.)

Remove your paper pattern and choose your yarn.

Tie the end of the yarn onto the top pin (the “12 o’clock pin”, let’s call it number 1).  Create a repeating pattern and wrap your yarn.  For example, moving clockwise, skip two pins and wrap around number 4, then go back to the next pin over from the “12 o’clock pin” (number 2) and wrap, moving clockwise, skip two more pins and wrap, etc.  This pattern would be: 1, 4, 2, 5, 3, 6, 4, 7, etc. (NOTE: Pattern in the photo below is different, don’t get confused!)

Work all the way around the circle.  When you are finished you should have a nice design.  Cut the yarn and tie the end onto the last pin (should be the 12 o’clock pin).

Tie a new color onto the 12 o’clock pin and proceed with a different pattern.  Any pattern at all is fine as long as it repeats itself all the way around the circle of pins.  We found that three different patterns were all the pins would hold comfortably.

My 9 year-old daughter loved this so much that she made two other little ones in the corners of her board:

My 3 and a half year-old enjoyed it too.  I gave her a small piece of foam board, stuck pins in for her, and told her to do whatever she wanted.

This was the result:

She was very proud and couldn’t wait for me to take a photo!

USEFUL TIP: Remove all cats from the room. Much to everyone’s aggravation, Pita The Adventure Cat enjoyed this project tremendously:

OTHER IDEAS:  You don’t have to use a circle.  Try triangles, squares or rectangles.  Try different numbers of pins.  If you really want to get fancy, you can even make these in three dimensions!


  • History of string art
  • Bézier Curve – String art takes into account the mathematical ability to create a curve from set points using a series of straight lines. When straight lines are put through at least two points in a pattern, Bezier Curves emerge, giving the illusion of rounded shapes, when in fact no curved lines are used.  If you are really into math (or computer animation), Google “Bézier Curve” for lots of technical information on this string art-related topic!


As always, if you did a geometric Unplugged Project, then please leave the link to your actual post below.  If you didn’t do a geometric project, then please do not link.  You can read more about how to join in here.  We’d love to have more participants!


The theme for next week’s Unplugged Project will be:


Have fun and please join us!


People: Mixed-Up People! (Weekly Unplugged Project)

By , August 23, 2009 7:55 pm

The theme for this week’s Unplugged Project is people.

Our mixed-up people were fun and very easy to make.  Apart from generating child giggles, I plan on using this as a French language teaching tool.


1) Gather up magazines and catalogs (clothing catalogs are best), scissors, glue sticks, card stock, a three-hole punch, and a 3-ring binder. This was actually a challenge for me since I have gone from unwanted-catalog queen to hardly any catalogs at all thanks to Catalog Choice.

2) Cut out as many photos of complete people that you can.  You will be dissecting the photos into heads, torsos and legs.  Also look for interesting forward facing heads, torsos and legs.  Cut those out too.  Don’t really worry about sizes, you can triage the pictures later to pick the best ones. We even found a perfectly sized horse head and threw that in for fun.

NOTE:  Heads are easy, full torsos and legs are harder to find.

3) Sort your pictures into heads, middles and bottoms.  Count the number you have in each pile.  Based on this, you can decide how many of each kind you want.  Cut out more of any part you need, throw away any extras that don’t really work.  Size doesn’t have to be exact, but it’s best to try and keep things as uniform as possible.

4) Once your pictures are sorted, you’ll know how many sheets of card stock to prepare.  Punch holes in the card stock using the 3-hole punch.

Next, cut the card stock into three sections so that there is one hole in each section.  I made the leg section the biggest since I thought legs would need the most room.  I used a paper cutter and that made it easy to measure and cut to the appropriate size.  You could use scissors, but make sure you cut each section to the same size.

5)  Glue all the heads on the top part of the card stock.  Take care to glue the heads in about the same position on each page.  We put a finished page in front of us, and put the stack of empty pages below in order to see where it lined up.

6) Now glue the middles on.  Again, make sure you glue them in the same place on each card, and also make sure they are below the heads.  Place a head card on the table above the stack of empty torso cards, that way you can make sure that your torso is approximately lined up with the head.

7) Repeat the procedure for the legs.

8) Put your finished cards into the 3-ring binder, and flip them around to make some funny combinations!

To use this for foreign language teaching, simply ask children in the target language to make different combinations of people using vocabulary that they know, or are learning.  For example: “A woman with long hair, wearing a red cardigan and a skirt,” or “A child with an orange t-shirt and blue shorts.”


Did you do a people Unplugged Project this week?  If so, then thank you!  Please link to your project post in the linky below so we can all find your project.  If you didn’t join in with a people-themed project, then please don’t link, but read more about how to join in here. We’d love to have you!

Participation has been down lately, so if you have been merely lurking and thinking about trying it, now’s a great time to join in.  The more projects we have to offer, the more fun and interesting it is for all.


The theme for next week’s Unplugged Project will be:


Remember, be creative with the theme and above all, have fun!


Remember, the linky is for Unplugged people projects only, thanks!

Pocket – Artist Trading Cards (Weekly Unplugged Project)

By , August 17, 2009 9:05 pm


This week’s Unplugged Project theme was pocket and we made pocket-sized art, Artist Trading Cards.

Artist Trading Cards are so much fun because:

  • There is only a small surface to work with (easy and less intimidating).
  • You can really do pretty much anything at all to your cards.
  • It’s social – you can trade the finished product with friends (or strangers), just as you might trade a baseball card.

I didn’t invent this, although I wish I had.  Artist Trading Cards have been around for a little while (since 1996) and are sort of the art version of baseball cards.  They are even the size of baseball cards and can fit in standard trading card protective sleeves.

There is only one real “rule” about Artist Trading Cards, they must be a standard size: 2.5″ x 3.5″ (64mm x 89mm).  This ensures that they fit into trading card pockets.  Also, it is best that they be made of durable card stock.

The tradition is that these cards are traded among artists, not sold, and many swaps by mail exist.

Like last year, I have been involved in a babysitting coop with some friends for the last two weeks before school starts, and have found myself with seven children at the house.  This has given me a great pool of willing “guinea-pigs” for my Unplugged Project!

Creating our cards was a fun and easy group activity which culminated in an exciting swap among friends.

♦  All you need is some card stock to cut to size.  I actually used thick, high quality watercolor paper that I cut to size with a paper cutter.

Then – cover your table, get out ALL your craft supplies, and let the kids have at it!

We used paints, markers, pencils, hole punches, magazines, tissue paper, feathers, stencils, stamps, even salt (to sprinkle on the paint or glue for texture) and googly eyes (the most popular element, as you can see from our finished cards).

♦  Finally, the swap.  We put the dried cards face down and everyone picked an equal number.  Those who ended up with one of their own, traded it with someone else. Once the kids had their final set, everyone signed the backs of the cards they had made, and even added messages.  Very fun!

♦  Some of our finished cards:

A few kids deviated a bit from the one and only “official rule” (size) by adding on to their cards or sticking them together with remarkable results! (Since this was just a project for ourselves, I was certainly not going to stifle any creative impulses):


–  Paint Modge Podge or watered down white glue over the finished cards if they have papers stuck on them.  This makes a nice clear, shiny finish and seals all the edges and corners of the collage.

–  If the cards curl when dry, leave them overnight under a very heavy book and they should be flat by morning.


Why not incorporate this idea into an art history lesson by having students create cards in the manner of a certain artist, or style of art?



If you did a pocket Unplugged Project this week, then please link to your post (not just your blog) in the Linky below.  I look forward to seeing what you did!  If you did not do a pocket project, then please do not link, but read more about how to join in here.  We’d love to have you!


The theme for next week’s Unplugged Project will be:


Enjoy and be creative!


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