sidewalk chalk


I love children’s sidewalk chalk scribbles. I love the colours, the raw energy of the lines and forms, the joyous abandon of the images and messages (like “LOVE” and “Hi!” signed by scrawling first names). When I walk in my neighbourhood at night, I’m always on the look-out for new masterpieces. I especially enjoy meeting the children who’ve marked the sidewalks and driveways around their home. “Beautiful!” I call out, watching them beam.

My favorite are block-long extravaganzas that start in front of one home and stretch on for several metres, as if the artists ran out of space before they ran out of ideas.

I appreciate sidewalk art.


bin of toys

I had a former boyfriend and his family over for an hour or so on Sunday afternoon. They were passing by my city and stopped in for a (planned) visit. It was so much fun for me to gather together some age-appropriate toys for their 15-month-old daughter to play with. I love toys. I loved them when I was a nanny and caregiver, I loved them when I was an aunt to young children. I still collect children’s activities on Pinterest, although don’t ask my why. Maybe to do them myself.

Yeah, I like the sounds of that. I’ll do them myself… :)

I appreciate play. And visiting friends. With children.

Raggedy Ann and Andy

crayons and masking tape

Raggedy Andy

Raggedy Ann back of head

crayon rubbings

red crayon rubbing

I was standing in my kitchen last night brushing my teeth when I noticed that the bottom of a discarded baby spinach container – you know, those huge ones full of pre-washed salad greens – had a textured bottom. Hmm, I thought. I could rub that. With crayons, and a piece of paper.

Out of the recycling bin it came, along with a plastic mushroom tray that also had some neat textures on it. I cut the bottom of the spinach container away from the sides, and tried to peel off a label adhered to the bottom. When it wouldn’t totally come, I covered it with packing tape, so at least the paper I was trying to rub wouldn’t stick to it.

Above and below are the first rubbings I made, on scraps of paper I keep for collage projects. The red one is a positive rubbing, while the blue-green one is a negative rubbing (i.e. I flipped over the piece of plastic). So much fun…

blue crayon rubbing

god’s eyes

god's eyes

When my niece and nephew were visiting in the summer, my niece made a craft with some dyed popsicle sticks. She left the craft behind when they went home. Several weeks ago I found it, and recycled most of the components (shh!). I wanted to do something with the popsicle sticks, though. I thought maybe they would make great God’s eyes or “yarn paintings,” with some of my many colours of yarn.

Tonight when I was gathering together some things to take to my parents’, I pulled out the sticks and some yarn, thinking the God’s eyes would be something nice to make while I visited with Mom and Dad. I wasn’t sure how to make them, though, so when I got there I searched for a tutorial on my iPhone, and found this video. I love how into it the kid is. My finished results turned out really well (see the photo at the beginning of this post). I hung them in two of my windows when I got home.

I just looked up God’s eyes on Wikipedia, because I wanted to learn more about them. I love the many shades of meaning…

Update: Tuesday night, November 29. The God’s eyes lasted less than 24 hours in my back room windows. The cats found them, and managed to pull one down and run off with it the morning after they were made. I moved them to my kitchen doorway, and there they hang, now.

God's eyes in my kitchen doorway

christmas card craft

Finished cards

Note to anyone who has been checking this page regularly, hoping I would *finally* update this tutorial: Here it is! All the step-by-step instructions and photographs, describing how I created these Christmas cards with my niece and nephew this summer.

And yes, I realize this tutorial is totally too late for Christmas 2011. (I am posting this update on Christmas Eve.) My bad. But maybe you want to keep this craft in mind for next year…

Finished cards

When my niece and nephew were visiting London this summer, I thought up a craft to do with them: Christmas cards for their mom and grandma. The craft was done in several stages, and I assembled the finished cards in November.

I’ll repeat that last part, because it’s important: This craft was done in several stages. It involves a couple of applications of wet poster paint – plus some glitter glue – that all need time to dry. This is not a quick craft! Also: Probably not appropriate for small children (my niece and nephew are 9 and 12), although it can be adapted for different skill levels, with the hard / dangerous stuff done by grown-ups.

Finished cards

For this project you will need:

  • Scrap paper
  • A ruler or straight-edge (or scissors)
  • Permanent, felt-tipped markers
  • White poster paint, and brushes or sponges
  • Some potatoes or sweet potatoes, and a knife to cut them
  • Yellow poster paint
  • Yellow coloured pencils or markers
  • Metallic pens in gold or silver (optional)
  • Glitter glue in white pearl and gold
  • 8 1/2″ x 11″ cover stock
  • A sewing machine (or alternatively: some really strong glue!)
  • Gold or yellow sewing thread
  • A bone folder (optional)
  • Invitation envelopes (4 3/4″ x 5 3/4″)

Bin of scrap paper

Start with the scrap paper. I keep a bin of this stuff lying around for crafts and collage projects, and it’s full of paper allsorts: scrap construction and scrapbooking paper, printer and photocopier rejects, junk mail, magazine tear sheets, old envelopes, used colouring book pages, old children’s artwork, recycled giftwrap, old calendars, etc. Basically anything that’s made out of paper and could possibly be recycled in a cool project.

Scrap paper

The finished cards will fit in invitation envelopes (4 3/4″ x 5 3/4″), which makes them one quarter the size of a sheet of 8 1/2″ x 11″ paper. You want to collect a bunch of pieces of scrap paper that will fit on the front of the cards, with some blank space around the edges. You could measure and create a template that exactly fits this space, but I like projects that are a little rough around the edges, so I just created a few templates by folding a piece of 8 1/2″ x 11″ paper in four, drawing a rough rectangle about half an inch inside the edges, and cutting it out.

Cutting the template

I think this was probably the kids’ favorite part: We ripped up about 100 pieces of scrap paper using the templates as a guide. I taught them how to use a ruler as a straight-edge for ripping paper, and they loved the physical, noisy, messy aspect of tearing through a bunch of paper really fast. It doesn’t matter what kind of paper you use (colour, darkness, pattern) – it will be whitewashed with poster paint in the next step.

Tearing paper for Christmas cards

Tearing paper for Christmas cards

Ripping the scrap paper

(In the end, some of the most successful scrap papers we used were red construction paper, old photocopied music (I studied classical singing for a while, so I have a lot of discarded photocopies – shh!), and old children’s drawings. But really – the kind of paper doesn’t matter.)

Ripper scrap paper

Writing the word "hope" on the cards

Once you have ripped / cut as many pieces of scrap paper as you need (plus a few extras for bloopers – my niece, nephew and I tore about 100), take some permanent markers and write the word “Hope” on the card, long-ways (i.e. landscape orientation).

Writing the word "hope" on the cards

The kids got really creative with this, sometimes making puffy, cartoon-like letters, sometimes using wavy lines, sometimes doing it like I suggested (plain block letters). Again – doesn’t matter, as long as the word is more-or-less legible against the paper. (I discovered that black construction paper is not ideal for this step of the craft, but will still turn out okay by the end.)



Next, take some white poster paint and do a quick and messy whitewash of all your papers. (Helps if you have a large table to spread them out on undisturbed, because they take a while to dry.)

Painting the papers white

Whitewashed papers

When the whitewash is dry, it’s time to do some potato prints.

Sweet potato star stamp

Take a few large potatoes or sweet potatoes, and cut them in half. Draw star shapes on the cut side of the potatoes, and cut away all the parts outside of the stars. (I realize that’s not a great description, but words are failing me right now. If you truly have no idea how to cut up a potato to make a potato stamp, check out this video on YouTube.

Sweet potato stamp

When your potato stamps are ready, dip the stars in yellow poster paint, and stamp them on the whitewashed, dried scrap papers. We did one big star and two little stars on each paper. Then let the papers dry again.

Yellow poster paint

Drying papers

Yellow pencil crayons for the stars

When the papers with the star stamps are dry, take some yellow pencil crayons or markers (crayons would also work) and write the word “hope” on the papers again, this time with the paper in “portrait” orientation.

The finished paintings

You can also take metallic pens in gold or silver and draw one large star in the centre of each paper. I did this part in November, without the kids.

Silver pen

Glitter glue

Next I painted some pearlized (clear or white) glitter glue in the centre of each star.

Finally, I drew one large star on each page with gold glitter glue.

Glitter glue star

Let everything dry completely before moving on to the next step.

In process

Sewing the star

The next part is optional, but makes the cards look really interesting and unique: Use a sewing machine to sew each piece of scrap paper onto a piece of 8 1/2″ x 11″ cover stock (heavy paper). Don’t worry – if you don’t have a sewing machine, you can just glue the scrap papers onto the cover stock.

Printed cover stock

Note that if you want to print the cover stock with a message or a date, you need to do this before sewing the scrap paper on. I’m not going to go into a how-to here, but I pre-printed my cover stock with a verse (“Hope is a star that shines in the night / leading us on till the morning is light”), and a copyright on the back, plus a QR code so recipients could navigate to this tutorial on their smartphones. I know, I know – I’m much too clever for my own good, sometimes.

Placing the star

The trickiest part about sewing the cards is positioning the scrap paper correctly on the unfolded cover stock. A hack I’ve figured out over the years (because I’ve sewn cards like this many, many times) is to have a sample card (the pink paper, below).

Position the scrap paper on the sample first, so that you can see how far from the right and bottom edges the scrap paper should go. It’s always kind of a guessing game, and it’s okay if it’s not perfect. (People will be so freaking impressed that you sewed the cards, they won’t care about anything else. Trust me.)

Positioning the star

Start sewing on what will be the “back” of the finished card (once it’s folded after sewing), and then sew one continuous line to “draw” a star over the scrap paper with the stitches. Again, I’m not really explaining this well. Have a look at the photos, and write a comment if you still can’t figure it out. I may know how to use my words better by then. :)

Sewing the star

Beginning and end of sewing

Sewing the star

Sewing the star

Finished card

I left the ends of thread hanging long on the outside of the card, but on the inside (which people won’t see once the card is folded) I cut them fairly short, about half an inch long.

Back side of the sewing

Cut thread ends

Outside of folded card

The last step is to fold the card stock in quarters, to make the finished card. I always use a bone folder to make nice crisp edges that look really professional, but you don’t need to purchase a bone folder to get the same effect. Just use the side of a thick marker or highlighter, and run it along all the folds.

Finished card

Seeing the finished cards all together is always magical for me. We used such a variety of scrap papers, and each card was truly unique. Together they looked fantastic.

Finished cards

Thanks for reading! Happy creating!

Finished cards

©2011, Michelle Lynne Goodfellow. All rights reserved.