Wind power!

The breezy days of spring call out from pinwheels. However, with little hands that is not always a good idea. The artists made pin-less pinwheels today. Now they can take them outside into the breeze and watch them go, or they can just blow on them inside and create a fun swirl of colour.


paper squares (preferably colourful)


paper punch with a small hole

hole maker (for centre of the squares)

thin wire and something to cut it with

pony beads (three per pinwheel)

1/4″ wooden dowels

drill and very small drill bit (but large enough for two pieces of wire to fit through)

crayons or markers


Cut the paper along the diagonals about 3/4 of the way toward the centre. For a 21 cm (8 1/2″) square, cut the diagonals from each corner toward the centre. make each cut about 12.5cm (5″) long and leaving about 2.5 cm (1″) from the cut to the centre.

Punch holes in the paper: one in the centre and one at each point about 1.5 cm from the corner and .5 cm from the side.

Drill a small hole in each dowel about 1.5 mm (1/2″) from the end.

Cut the wire into 12 cm (about 5″). Sting a bead onto the centre of the wire and fold the wire over it. Slide another bead onto both ends of the wire.


Artists decorate each side of the paper. Try to do completely different decorations on each side of the paper.

Poke the two ends of the wire through the four hole and then through the centre hole of the paper. Add the third bead. Poke the wire ends through the hole drilled in the

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Mother’s Day Project

Remember how we make twig and paper bag egg nests a few weeks ago? I must now admit that I omitted telling everyone about the main project that day, because I wanted it to be a surprise. That day, we also got ready for Mother’s Day, a few weeks in advance, because the project that the young artists created needed some additional work by me before sending it home. With Easter holidays and a PD day taking up two of our class days in April, it means that the project was done in mid-April so the gifts could go home in time for Mother’s Day.

The three to five year old artists created beautiful painted scarves for their Mothers. Here is how they did it.


  • silky white fabric (100% polyester)
  • acrylic craft paints
  • water
  • wax paper
  • paint brush
  • cups (some for different paints and some for water)
  • drop cloths
  • water mister or spray bottle
  • salt (optional)
  • permanent marker
  • masking tape (optional)
  • scissors and tape for wrapping (the second session)
  • for preparation and finishing: washing machine, serger or sewing machine, glue

Preparation (by instructor or parent)

Please note that this project has quite a bit of preparation involved for the instructor.

Wash and dry the fabric.

Rip the fabric into 11″ by width of fabric pieces. My wax paper is 12″ wide and the scarf should be narrower than the wax paper. If you have wider wax paper or you use more that one sheet of wax paper, you can make wider scarves.

Finish the edges of each scarf. I serged the long ripped edges to finish them, but left the selvedge edges (this gives a perfect spot for writing names and date). After finishing the edges of 19 1/2 of the 20 scarves I made, I ran out of thread on one of my loopers. Don’t forget this step. Clearly, it is very important as it is one step that I invariably include just inches before the end of any project. So the substeps include: turn off serger, drive to store, purchase thread, drive home, rethread, cuss, try rethreading again, turn the serger back on, continue sewing.

Seal the corners of the sewing with a dab of glue and let dry.

Print the artist’s name and the year on each scarf with a permanent marker (if the artists are old enough to write their own names, they can do this step).

Rip wax paper strips just a bit longer than the width of the fabric.

Wet and wring out the scarves just before working with the young artists.

Optional, you can staple the scarves onto the waxed paper to secure them. After drying, remove carefully with a staple remover.

Prepare the paints by diluting the craft paint approximtely 1:1 with water in painting cups.

Put out drop cloths on the painting surface. I did this project on the floor with my group so that there would be enough room.

Steps (with the young artists)

Lay out drop cloths.

Centre each scarf onto a piece of wax paper.

Paint the scarves with the watered down paint. For very young artists, I limit the colour palette to two colours. Where these colours meet, a third colour is created. More than two colours can create muddy effects which seem inappropriate for spring time. If you use the paint straight out of the bottle, it will be too thick and you will not get the lovely blending of colours that makes this project so marvelous. Make sure to cover the whole scarf right to the edges so that no white is showing. Spray water to dampen the cloth if it begins to dry out. You want the cloth to be quite damp, but not so much that it would drip if turned sideways.

You will notice that the paint colours run into one another. The wetness may warp the wax paper and cause it to create more patterns and interesting effects. This is all good.

Optional: Sprinkle salt over the scarf to create more interesting effects. I did not do it with this group as we had space and time restrictions and there were two crafts going on at the same time with this group.

Try to let the scarves dry before stacking the scarves (with the wax paper still on them) and set aside. It is best to let them dry flat as hanging them may cause the colours on the scarves may run and drip into other areas of the scarf.

I stacked the scarves, rolled them and placed them into a kitty litter tray (unused of course) to took them home with me. If the scarves are wet and you stack them, some of the colours may bleed through the wax paper. Unfortunately, I know this from experience.

Finishing (by the instructor)

Dry the scarves thoroughly. I unrolled mine at home and spread them out on the grass. Alternatively, you could hang them on a clothes line with the waxed paper still attached.

When the scarves are completely dry, label the wax paper with the artist’s name. Peal the scarves away from the waxed paper (set it aside). Heat set the scarves in the dryer at the highest heat setting that is appropriate for your fabric. Then, wash and dry with a bit of detergent and fabric softener. I use the hand wash cycle. Some of the colour will fade, but most of the colour will stay. I recommend to parents to hand wash the scarves in the future.

Bring the dried wax paper back to class along with the scarves and use the wax paper as wrapping paper for the scarves.

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Spring Nests

This week we are continuing to welcome spring by making our own

nests. These bird’s nests would make a beautiful centrepiece for a spring table.


  • paper lunch bags with squared bottoms (one per artist)
  • very thin twigs, pieces of dried grass, pine needles, spanish moss, etc.
  • glue squeeze bottles
 The children (or in this case, because of time restrictio
ns, the instructor) can go out and gather grasses, twigs, pine needles, leaves and other found objects. I found lots of twigs under the reawakening trees in our yard. I broke these up into man
ageable pieces. A local nature path provided lots of dead grasses for this project.
Put out glue on squares of waxed paper.
Put out piles of the natural materials.
Open up the lunch bag and turn inside out. The outside of the bag at the bottom is usually neater looking than the inside. That is what will show at the bottom of your nest.
Turn the top edge down and out. Continue rolling the top of the bag down and out till you reach the bottom. You may want to go around the bag with both hands and scrunch and gently pull outwards once or twice while rolling. 
When you get to the bottom, use both hands to scrunch the rolled sides into a nice circle with a bit of a lip so that the inside bottom of the nest is wider than the opening of the nest.  Shape into a nice nest shape with your hands. 

Take a small pile of twigs and break them up so they are no larger than about 4 inches. Break off any smaller branches if they are more than about a centimetre or two long. You want to use very thin twigs to create a great looking nest.
Glue the grasses, twigs and other natural materials to the paper bag, all the way around to create the look of a nest. 

Let dry thoroughly. Fill with something pretty or leave the nest as is and admire.
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Spring “Eggplant”

This was the start of a new term of arts and crafts classes. This term I have only one group of artists (3 to 5 year olds).

Today we are preparing for spring (or Easter) celebrations by creating our own “eggplants” — not the purple plant that tastes so delicious roasted, but a plant of painted eggs.  Eggs have always been a symbol of the renewal of life that occurs at this time of year.


▪               salt dough (flour, salt and water — recipe below)

▪               small flower pots (plastic, peat or ceramic)

▪               grass

▪               bamboo skewers cut approximately in half (3 half pieces per artist)

▪               small foam eggs (three per artist)

▪               acrylic paint

▪               paint brushes

▪               palette

▪               water cup

▪               cloth

▪               plastic flower pots with hold in the bottom (optional)


Make the salt dough:

▪               4 cups flour

▪               1 cup fine salt

▪               1 1/2 to 2 cups warm water

Combine the flour and the salt. Stream in the water. Mix until a ball forms. Knead for 5 to 15 minutes. I use my KitchenAid mixer to make and knead this dough.

The dough should be soft and smooth. It will keep in the refrigerator for a few days if tightly sealed in plastic.

Cut the skewers in half. For this group we only have one hour in class, so I also painted the skewers so they would be ready to use.

Optional: If you feel uncomfortable with the artists doing it themselves, poke a hole in the bottom of each egg with a pointy end of a skewer and glue the painted skewers into each egg shape.


Paint the eggs in decorative ways. You can paint a base coat of one colour on each egg and set it into the holes of an upturned plastic flower pot to dry. Then base coat the other two eggs. Try to use thin layers of paint to assure that the egg will dry enough to start decorating it.  Really young artists generally apply the paint thickly and most of these artists only had one layer. With the application of more than one colour however, some of the eggs were breathtaking in their combination of marbled colours.

Paint the flower pot: both the outside and top part of the inside. Set aside to dry.

(Optional) Return to the base coated eggs and start adding dots, stripes, or what ever you want to your eggs to decorate them. To do stripes around the egg, hold the paintbrush to the egg and use the skewer to twirl the egg around slowly, painting as you go. Do not move your painting hand, just slowly rotate the skewer.

Take a small chunk of salt dough and form it into a rough ball shape. Drop it into the flower pot and pat it down.

Pull a small quantity of grass from the package, again shape it into a rough ball shape and lay it over the salt dough.  Pat it into place.

Once your eggs are dry, push them into the salt dough through the grass. Holding the skewer, twist each “eggplant” and use a drilling action to push through the grass and into the salt dough. The salt dough will help the stems of your “eggplants” stand up. After a few days, the salt dough will dry and harden, really supporting those stems. Until then, try not to touch the stems too much to prevent the stems from moving around too much.

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Drawing with Scissors (Henri Matisse)

Students got a short lesson on Henri Matisse and how he worked. Among other things, they learned that after becoming ill from abdominal cancer, Matisse could no longer work as his easel and turned to collage. His assistants painted large pieces of white paper with gouache. Matisse cut shapes in what he called “drawing with scissors” which is cutting without drawing shapes on the paper. He then instructed his assistants as to where to place the cut pieces on his canvases. These pieces were very large and had to be done across a room with Matisse guiding from afar.

After seeing images of Matisse’s paintings and his collages, students were shown a piece of canvas board (10″ by 12″ or 25 cm by 30 cm). They were asked to use pieces of coloured paper to “draw with scissors” and then those pieces would be arranged on the canvas board. The canvas boards were displayed in the room, but students did not get the opportunity to work directly on or near the canvas.

Working in pairs, each student took on the role of artist and of assistant in turns. The artist instructed the assistant as to how and where to place the shapes that they cut. The artist was only allowed to speak and gesture to help the assistant to place the shapes. After one artist’s work was arranged, the roles were reversed.

Students found this exercise to be interesting, but also frustrating. They were able to sympathize with Matisse as to how difficult it must be to create when having to direct someone else as opposed to doing it yourself. Several times, I heard students express that it would be easier to do if they did it themselves. Students seemed to get a lot out of the exercise and they created some wonderful collages.

Further, students discovered that some of the negative shapes left after cutting out the shape they intended, created interesting elements that they could add to their collages.

Henri Matisse (December 31, 1869 –November 3, 1954)

•Possibly the most important French painter of the 20th century.
•Colour and its expressiveness were very important to him throughout his career.
•Was originally a lawyer.
•Started in art because his mother bought him art supplies when he was ill.
•Discovered impressionism in 1889.
•Leader of the Fauvist movement where natural scenes are painted with unnatural, bright colours.
•Later in life, when he was ill and bedridden, he turned to collage, having his assistants hand paint white paper with bright colours and adhere them to backgrounds.

Examples of his works:

This site has many examples of his work.

The Red Madras Headress

Snow Flowers


Great information on Matisse and some of his works is available at the Centre Pompidou website.

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Spool Knitting Fun – Making the Cord – The Basics (A Video)

This video ( a Quicktime movie) shows the basics of making a spool knit cord. I demonstrate spool knitting on a home made knitting spool. You can access the directions for that here.

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Spool Knitting Fun – Making the Spool Knitter

Spool knitting is an old craft that can be used to create cords that are almost identical to i-cord. In recent times it has resurfaced in a larger form and is called loom knitting. You can get loom knitting kits at most yarn and knitting stores, craft stores and major department stores (with a craft section). I made spools for all the students in my class. The older students spent two classes learning about spool knitting, knitting lovely cord and eventually making a beautiful beaded bracelet.

The spool knitters are made from common household items. I am confident you have everything you need to make one at home right now.  The directions to make the spool knitters are contained in this PDF document  How_to_make_a_spool_knitter_PDF.

If you have any comments or questions, just leave a comment below.

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