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.

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


Five Things to Do With A Sheet of White Felt

P1110552Felt Crafting

So I found a pile of white felt and gave myself a challenge- make five things with it.

1. Adipose.  From Doctor Who.  “The fat just walks away!” I used this pattern.


2. Dove ornament.  I eyeballed this pattern.  I made the wings and body two-sided, and added a strip along the belly.  I discovered I really should study how to embroider before doing it.


3. Baymax.  From Big Hero 6. I invented this one by looking at a drawing.  If I do something like this again, I’ll make a paper pattern first.  My husband teased me that I have no sense of proportion.  I used embroidery floss for the eye/mouth.


4. Olaf.  I am not happy with this one.  His face just isn’t right.  I think googly eyes would have worked better, and his mouth should be even wider.


5. Tooth pillow.  A little pocket to leave out for the tooth fairy!  The pocket is edged with a blanket stitch of embroidery floss.


Feedback for Your Art

Get Input on Your Art

“Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.” – Stephen King

If you are creating for the joy of making things, then you don’t need this advice.  Everyone else, which includes people making gifts, selling crafts or submitting work, needs to get feedback.

17331349To paraphrase from the book Think Like a Freak by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, imagine prehistoric people trying to figure out how to make bread.  How would they decide what ingredients to put in, how much, cooked how long- if they were not allowed to cook and eat the bread?  There was probably a lot of bad bread before they got it right.

Feedback can be intimidating.  It would be nice to keep your work of art protected from the judgement of the outside.  Hearing that the project you worked day and night on for months or years needs work is frustrating and disheartening.  The artist herself can be blind to her flaws, or only see the flaws, or in my case, rapidly fluctuate between those two states.

Often the feedback is not what you want to hear.  My friend Sandra from Quigley’s Cakes was telling me about the feedback she was getting.  “I’m making all these wonderful flavors for my holiday cupcakes- eggnog, peppermint mocha, gingerbread- but the customers gravitate towards the cute designs in plain chocolate or vanilla!”  Her cute designs include snowmen, reindeer, and a Santa in a snowbank that is freaking adorable.1513832_10203223469888017_2004381623091161091_n

So she takes the feedback and makes more “cute” cupcakes.  But she also keeps making the flavored cupcakes, and makes some of the cute ones in the more unique flavors.  This might lead to repeat business, where the customer bought a cute one and now wants a special flavor.  Or maybe she will sell a majority of cute but plain flavored cupcakes and will never sell a lot of flavored ones.  Her friends certainly give her feedback on those ones for gifts!

I am seeking feedback for my writing.  I have joined Scribophile, which was promoted by National Novel Writing Month (winners get two premium months).  It’s a credit based system where you do 4-5 writing critiques to get a critique of a chapter of your own work. I’ve earned the points and now I have to put a chapter in.  NaNoWriMo is also a good resource for getting feedback- they have a forum called “novel swap” where you read someone’s novel in exchange for them reading yours.  I’ve connected with three people who will look over my raw rough draft I just finished, searching for giant plot holes, character inconsistencies and late night insanity writing.

There are works of writing I did for myself, and I’m not getting feedback on those- well, actually, if I wrote it for myself, I am giving myself feedback…

Guest Blog- Tisha Dolton, embroidery art

9220483454_324bde1580_zEmbroidery and Redwork artistry

I sat down with Tisha Dolton, also known as Aprilsongstress, about her art of choice, embroidery.  She does redwork, portraits, and recently did Doctors from Doctor Who.


Why did you make the Doctor Who series?

“I was searching for Doctor Who embroidery patterns because a bunch of my friends love the show. I came across this great site called Fandom In Stitches that focuses on creating embroidery & quilt patterns for a variety of fandoms like Harry Potter, Disney, etc. It’s like fanfiction for crafters. They were in the middle of a Doctor Who stitch-a-long (#DWSAL) & I decided to join the fun.”
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How do you create the pictures for your embroidery?

“Well, for my embroidered portraits, I start with a photocopy of a photograph. I generally blow them up to 8×10 so the image fits on a regular sheet of paper. Next I take a pencil & trace an outline of the face, hair, etc. Then I use a fine tip Sharpie to solidify the lines I want, creating the embroidery pattern. Then I use that to transfer the pattern onto fabric & embroider away.”  She talks about the process on her blog.

What was your favorite piece you’ve made?

“My favorite pieces are the embroidered portraits I do of my daughter. She takes great selfies. She’s so funny, sarcastic, smart, creative & beautiful. She inspires me every day.”

Tell me about using children’s drawings with embroidery.

“I was fascinated by my daughter’s drawings. We dubbed them ‘Fiona’s Famous Monsters’. I basically traced them & tried to match the color she used. I’ve embroidered drawings done by my niece, & nephews, & friend’s kids. They make truly unique keepsake gifts for family & friends.”


Such amazing art and creativity!  Visit her Etsy site.