Think like a kid

Getting Inspiration From Kids (or what to do when you have cabin fever)



We were homebound for a week during the winter break.  Cabin fever was setting in.  When I had a chance I was woking on my writing, but I was struggling to make progress.  I was rescued by my 6 year old.  He climbed into my lap when I was listlessly browsing Pinterest, and demanded activity ideas.  He loved the cardboard creations I had pinned, and we worked on making a castle together.  He drew where he wanted me to cut windows.

When the castle was finished was when the real creativity began.  I sat back and watched.  The castle was populated, becoming a bustling place.  They were having a jewelry show.  The people were having issues reaching different levels of the castle, so they invented different “inators” to help them to get where they wanted to go.  A rockinator to go up, a bananainator to go down.  They had a movie theater (his Kindle) to watch movies.

The next day, a bad guy attacked the castle.  I came in the room to hear “say goodbye to your beautiful castle!” as the walls tumbled around the unlucky gem merchants, movie goers and soldiers.  It was a sad day for the people, but they will rebuild and recover from this tragedy.






Steampunk for Teens


Steampunk at the Library

First, a definition.  Steampunk is not only a fiction genre, it is a fashion trend, a type of crafting and a maker movement.  It is hard to pin down, but steampunk blends together science fiction and fantasy to create a world of advanced technology in a quasi-victorian setting.  I was asked, if you aren’t into steampunk, can you still put together a library program?  Yes!   I bet if you looked into your interests, you will find something you can apply to Steampunk.

Library program Ideas:

Altered books- Keep some of your weeded hardcovers and make purses, sculptures, book safes, journals or spellbooks.

Steampunk Tea party-  Host a fancy tea party, using the good china. Make cucumber sandwiches, scones and cookies.  Costumed characters make this event special.  This would blend well with a themed mystery party kit.

Costuming program-  Bring in a costuming expert- it could be someone who does historical re-enactments, a stage costumer or a hobbyist.  Have the expert talk about using sewing patterns, altering clothing and creating costume accessories.

Book-talks- Introduce a pile of new steampunk books to your audience with a brief introduction to each.  Invite your audience to share their favorites and start a discussion.  Spark a debate on what is and is not steampunk.

Steampunk crafts- create a gadget, an imaginary invention.  Ask your participants to come up with what it does.  Talk about movie props as you make something from plastic, foam, cardboard and paint that looks like it is made of metal or leather.

Jewelry making- make an unusual necklace or bracelet. Our group made pendants using resin and gears. (Caution: resin needs a well-ventilated area).

Rube Goldberg machine- challenge your teens to create a chain reaction machine using found objects, pulleys, string, dominoes and more, then film a succesful run for your website.


steampunk people

Teen Steampunk Movies: (Note: Chosen for fitting genre, not for excellence)

  • 20,000 Leagues under the Sea
  • Castle in the Sky
  • City of Ember
  • Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
  • League of Extrodinary Gentlemen
  • Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
  • Steamboy
  • Three Musketeers (2011)
  • Wild Wild West
  • Young Sherlock Holmes
  • Tv shows: Warehouse 13, Sanctuary, Doctor Who


Teen steampunk Books:


1,000 Steampunk Creations, Grymm, Dr., Quarry Books, 2011, ISBN: 9781592536917.  An art gallery of visual art, sculpture and fashion.

Steampunk Gear, Gadgets and Gizmos, Willeford, Thomas, McGraw Hill, 2012, ISBN: 9780071762366  For highly advanced crafters or browsing.

Steampunk Style, Mizobata, Mitsugu, Titan Books, 2014 ISBN: 9781781168479 Japanese steampunk art and costuming.  The second half includes a highly advanced how-to guide.

Steampunk Tea Party, Hewitt, Jema,  FW Media, 2013, ISBN: 9781440232954  Includes alcoholic recipes and drinks, but it has a lot of inspirational photos.

The Steampunk Users Manual, Boskovich, Desirina and Vandermeer, Jeff Abrams Image, 2014, ISBN:9781419708985. Covers all aspects of steampunk- visual art, crafts, fashion, music and books.


Airborn, Kenneth Oppel

Airman, Eoin Colfer

All Men of Genius, Lev Rosen

Dead Reckoning, Mercedes Lackey

Clockwork Angel, Cassandra Clare

Etiquette  & Espionage , Gail Carriger

Girl Genius graphic novel series, Phil Foglio

Girl in the Steel Corset, Kady Cross

Hunchback Assignments, Arthur Slade

Incarceron, Catherine Fisher

Leviathan, Scott Westerfeld

Mark of the Dragonfly, Jaleigh Johnson

Worldshaker, Richard Harland

Kinda-sorta steampunk…

Alloy of Law, Brandon Sanderson

Dinotopia, James Gurney

Golden Compass, Phillip Pullman

Steampunk  ancestors

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Jules Verne

The Time Machine, H.G. Wells


steampunk books

Let me know how your program goes!  Good luck!

Blackout Poetry is Not as Easy as it Looks

Blackout Poetry attempt

After seeing examples of Austin Kleon’s work, I decided to make an attempt at blackout poetry.  It looks pretty simple, you start with a newspaper article and then cross out words until you get a poem.  Right.  Just like when you write a regular poem, you just have to write words down.

Regular newspaper seemed too small to work with, so I grabbed our local weekly paper.  There’s too many pictures.  Ok, I’ll use this piece on the evaluation of the state of the state address.  Here’s a collection of words.  Oh dear.  Not exactly a masterpiece.P1110607

improved on
the new
plans for
the creation of
from cautious to concerned
“we have some concerns
with understaffing
that the way is one for all, all for one”
members believe
value of the work
plan to expand
access and more
manner that allows
to produce
need to get
our priorities straight and
protect our generation
responsibility to
every child
parents know
the consequences of
their actions.

What I learned about creating blackout poetry:

  • experiment by using a pencil to mark off different words before jumping in with a sharpie
  • what article you choose effects what you can say
  • don’t sniff the sharpie while working
  • use a clipboard to hold your work in progress
  • poetry isn’t my thing

If you are going to do this as a project with students, start ahead of time gathering articles with potential, ones that have lots of expressive language.  Make copies of them, so that mistakes are not project-enders.  It would also be interesting to compare how different students create widely different poems from the same piece.  Practice making a bunch so you realize that the finished pieces will be a bit abstract.

Take Your Child to the Library (that’s an order!)

Take Your Child to the Library Day


Actually, most children’s librarians would elongate that to “Please take your child to the library every week or at least once a month because that’s the way they become lifelong readers and learners”, but TYCttLD is plenty long enough.  It’s the first Saturday of February, this year February 7th.  The idea came from Nadine Lipman, a children’s librarian from Waterford, CT.  Now it’s celebrated in over 600 libraries in three different countries.

This event is an open house, encouraging parents to see what libraries have to offer.  Yes, books, of course books.  That’s usually not a surprise.  What many parents are not aware of is the “everything else” of libraries.  The other materials, such as videos, music, e-books, games, magazines, audiobooks, and even devices.  The events, such as Zumba classes, movie nights, story-times, employment help, computer classes, health programs, cooking sessions, book clubs, tax help, citizenship classes, performers and lectures. We can do faxes and copies, usually cheaper than an office supply store.  Not to mention providing meeting space for other community organizations to hold their programs.  Then there’s the educational toys for the little ones to play with, the internet-free computer for the elementary kids to use, the internet connected computer for older students to complete assignments with, and the free wifi.  Oh, and we have books, too!

As a parent with kids who are getting a little stir-crazy, having a place to go that doesn’t involve buying something is wonderful.  Some of the parents that come in are timid, afraid of the library.  They see it as a place to be quiet, to be serious, a place only “A” students go.  That’s unfortunate, since we are more like a community center, a hub providing local resources and referrals.  Your child doesn’t have to whisper, and we understand if they wander off during story-time.  We want you to feel welcome.  Every day is bring your child to the library day, it’s not an exception to a rule like “take your child to work day” is.

TYCttLD Facebook page1902738_896099660435355_5492608685765151268_n



Librarian Crafts- paper crafts


Paper Crafts that work for Library classes

When I need to pull together a crafts class for the library at the last minute with little money, I usually do paper crafts.  There is a paper project for all ages and abilities.  For preschool crafts, just practicing with the scissors is important.  Sometimes, if the project is too hard for them to cut out and it has been done beforehand, we just cut up scraps to practice.


Don’t just assume since you have instructions in front of you that you can teach folding a shape.  Practice!  Make at least five or six so that you get a feel for how it needs to go together.  For a thirty minute class for children, have three shapes of progressive difficulty.  Have step-by-step instruction hand-outs, but don’t give them out until you start each shape. Ideally, you should have demo pieces in different stages of completion. Start by explaining the difference between mountain and valley folds, an important concept in creating origami.  Do the project along with your students, so instead of taking their project away from them, you show what to do on yours.  Don’t explain the next step until your slowest student completes the previous step.  The advanced students can go ahead by looking at their instruction sheet.  Have a display of origami books on hand for your students to check out when they’re done, and let them take home paper to keep practicing!

You can purchase origami paper at most craft stores.  For absolute beginners, I often use squares of colored copy paper, which is thicker and bigger, so easier to learn on.  To create a square out of letter-sized copy paper, take one corner and fold it down until the corner lines up with the opposite side edge, making a triangle.  Cut off the excess (which can be used for bookmarks).

I love making jumping frogs out of index cards.  Use colored index cards if you can.

Paper Models

There are some great free printable paper model sites out there.  My go-to site is Canon Creative Park.  Again, practice first.  Use the thickest paper that you can run through your printer, because regular copy paper doesn’t stand up as well.  Gauge your audience.  Can they cut around complicated edges?  Do they have the patience to hold pieces together until they are set?  If you are having a drop-in craft with mixed ages, be sure to have something simple as an alternative.


Most of the time I use glue sticks when doing paper models.  This has the disadvantage of not having a strong hold, but is less messy than liquid glue.

Paper Dolls

Everything old is new again.  My go-to site for paper dolls is Making Friends, which has a lot of choices for both genders.  I like being able to make a scientist doll.f_science


There are great books of craft ideas, especially in the juvenile section.  Stock your craft storage shelf full of paper, and keep a file of ideas on hand.  Take notes when you finish a class as to what worked and what you would do differently.

Today at the library we’re doing snowflakes, but I’m not running this one.  I think I will make some Star Wars ones at home, though.

Sewing Room Makeover

Organizing a Creative Space

There’s nothing like a domestic disaster to make you reorganize your stuff.  We had a water heater fail and flood our basement, where my sewing supplies were.  We took that problem as an opportunity to rehaul our stuff.  My husband pulled all his boxes of office supplies, old technology and equipment, and made himself a little tech workshop.  I took the opportunity to move my sewing area.


When setting up my new area, I asked myself some basic questions that helped me to decide what to put in there.

  • Is it useful for sewing?
  • If it’s just decorative, does it make me happy when I look at it?
  • Does the way I’m setting this up work with or fight against my habits?
  • What can I do to make it easier to find things and put things away?

I put away my scrapbooking materials, which I haven’t used in years, and found homes for my miniatures painting supplies.  I put all the little scraps of cloth into one bin, and folded the rest of my cloth over cardboard, putting it “spine up” to make it easier to see what I have and get it when I need it.


This room is shared with my son for a play area, and I worked with him to sort out his toys, saving what he actually plays with and weeding out unwanted items to be donated.

I was looking forward to using my new space, but then the basement heat stopped working.  Guess I need to wait a little longer.  Or perhaps bundle up.


Book Page Print

Making a Quote Print


As a librarian, I am sometimes overwhelmed by discarded books, books that no one wants, that no one has looked at in more than five years.  I feel like I have to preface this craft by saying that, because some people see books as sacred objects, never to be sullied.  I instead see books as potential craft supplies.

To make a print page, create the quote or image you want on your favorite program (I used Pages).  Measure the size of the page you are printing on to, and set that on your program.

The easiest way to get a page out of a book is to carefully run a box-cutter along the seam.  Remove any glue that comes with the cut before printing.


Place the page carefully in your paper feeder.  Every printer is different.  Some will take the smaller size easily, while other printers will be ornery.  Run the print, and there you go!

If you are a nervous Nelly or want to line up the quote just right on a particular page, print it out on regular paper, put on top of your page and then hold up to the light to preview before printing.  Frame your quote for a nice accent for an office.



Resources to help the chaotic crafter get organized

Organizing your crafts for the perpetually disorganized

January, the fresh start, the new year, the time of getting your… stuff together.  Because of a leak in our basement, I have been re-doing my sewing and crafts area.  I have a tendency to let things go for a long time, then frantically try to dig myself out when it gets too much.  Things that get put down “for a minute” tend to stay permanently.  Especially with craft materials, which are all about creative use, everything might be useful for something even if I don’t have a plan for it.  It is hard to get rid of things.  So, I look to help from books and websites to tell me how to make a working, organized work area.



Julie Morgenstern’s book applies to all kinds of clutter and organizational issues, and she’s written some other excellent books on time management and dealing with your stuff.    Dr. Zasio is a consultant for the show Hoarders.  I haven’t finished her book yet, but she talks about the psychological reasons behind hoarding.  She explains that there is a continuum, a range going from excessively neat to clinical definitions of hoarding.  Clinical definitions of hoarding are when it interferes with the day to day functioning of your life, but many of us are “clutterers with hoarding tendencies”.  She not only discusses how to help yourself, but how to approach a friend or loved one you want to help.  She talks about the type of clutter you have- sentimental, potentially useful, not wanting to be wasteful, stockpiling in case of emergency, and overwhelmed.  Carolyn’s book on organizing quilting  has some similarities to Morgenstern’s book, in that she talks about having “stations”, while Morgenstern talks about “zones”.  In both, the idea is to have everything you need to do an activity in one area, in a way that makes sense to you and is easy to maintain.  So I started pulling out stuff that had nothing to do with the activity I want to do in this area.  I used to do scrapbooking, but haven’t touched the stuff in about five years.  That can either go somewhere else or be donated.

Another resource for planning your craft space is Pinterest- several pinners have made boards for designing their craft space, with links to things like how to fold cloth, innovative storage ideas, how to make layered shelves, and of course, the inevitable million dollar dream craft room to envy.

I hope by next week to be able to show you an “after” picture.  Here’s the “before”.




Simple sports team ornaments from felt

Yankees and Celtics felt ornaments

I made Celtics and Yankee ornaments for my nephews.  (Note, make absolutely sure you know what the recipient’s favorite teams really are!)

Look up the logos.  Usually teams have a simplified version of their logo.  Obviously, this logo is trademarked and can’t be used for resale.  I found good images on Pinterest to help me.

Start by cutting out two circles of felt in the base color.  Make a smaller circle to go on the front of the ornament, and cut out elements of the logo.  Sew all the logo pieces onto the small circle with embroidery floss (using blanket stitch), then sew the small circle onto one of the larger circles.  Put the two large circles right sides together and sew almost all the way around, leaving an opening.  Turn the ornament right side out.  The felt was thick enough that I decided not to put stuffing into it, I merely sewed the little opening shut with a ladder stitch.  Attach a piece of embroidery floss onto the top of the ornament and make a hanging loop.

By the time I got to making one for my dad I was good at it, but for complicated designs like the elaborate “B” for the Boston Red Sox, I would recommend using an exacto knife and cutting board. Currently my craft room is under repair, so I was unable to utilize that.  I don’t have a picture of the Red Sox one.

Any requests for more?  I think I’m becoming a felt crafter- it is fun to hand sew, and with felt you don’t have to worry about edges.

Graham Cracker House

Graham Cracker and Candy House

I’ve been doing this craft for years and years.  It started with a cute little one page idea in Family Circle (or was it Family Fun?), using individual milk cartons.  I couldn’t get milk cartons- the school wouldn’t collect them for me as the children threw them out after use. So I came up with a template for the base, using graham crackers as the measurement.  The template is four graham crackers high and a half graham cracker wide. On a side note, did you know that the size of graham crackers has shrunk in the last ten years?  I had to redo my template.

candy house template

What you need:

  • canned frosting
  • graham crackers (at least 5 per house)
  • pull and peel Twizzlers
  • cereal- Life makes great shingles
  • spray frosting (we used “Cheese Whiz” style)
  • smarties, red hots, mini marshmallows and other small candies (note, better to get less popular candy)
  • paper plates
  • knives (plastic is fine)

candy house how to 3Assemble the house out of thin cardboard.  I find the cardboard used in gift boxes is the ideal thickness.  To attach the graham crackers, spread a thin layer of frosting on the cracker and press in on to the house.  For the side pieces, carefully break the cracker in half along the break line.  There will be a bare spot above the side- it could be filled in with frosting and candy.

Decorate your house!  It is amazing to see the kids’ creativity.  No house is alike.  If doing a large class, the spray frosting will disappear fast- some kids will empty the entire bottle on their creation!  I will sometimes hold some frosting in reserve, so that everyone gets an equal chance for the supplies.

candy houses how to 5candy houses how to 4P1050852

Make sure you take pictures of their creations, as sometimes they disappear mysteriously on the way home.