Archive of ‘books’ category

Backyard ART Camp :: kid art project books to inspire! {and a book giveaway}

next monday Jane launches in her awesome artist-inspired project but before that we both wanted to share some of our most inspiring books! jane is sharing picture books to inspire art  and I’m sharing project books!  (we are quite the duo, no?)

these are my favorite art project books, the ones I peruse on rainy days when the boys are running wild in the house or come to me with ‘I’m bored’.  we’ve done projects from each one of these books but some of them are better for younger or older kids so I’ve arranged them somewhat in age order.

backyard art camp: art books for kids

art treasury by rosie dickins a great book for starter art projects! one of our absolute favorites! each project discusses an artist and provide a simple projects spanning printmaking to drawing with chalk pastels.  the projects are accessible for lots of different ages but are definitely accessible for young kids.  i’ve gushed about this book before and we have done many of its projects.

the artful parent by the beautiful jean van’t hul is a recent addition to our library of books.  this book is not only full of great projects but also includes gentle, thoughtful ideas about encouraging creativity in general.  her tips on how to encourage creative, inspired activity are like wonderful reminders to honor and enjoy your kids.  sometimes we open this book and don’t follow a project to the letter but instead end up going in a completely different but wonderful direction.

side by side by tsia carson operates in a similar spirit. this book was the inspiration for the creation of a family art room in our house.  I love tsia’s projects! and I really appreciate her philosophy that art can be done side by side with our kids…I love making things alongside my kids!  the book includes loads of great projects.  some of them involve unusual supplies or a good deal of set up but it is well worth it.

art books for older kids

d.i.y. kids by ellen and julia lupton is for a slightly older kid…some projects assume mastery of a computer and are a little more complicated.  but, the projects are super inventive and super kid-friendly.  things like decorating a hoodie, making your own stickers and book design.  all the images in the books are kid-made and I think that would be very encouraging for art-interested older kids!

art lab for kids by susan schwake includes 52 different projects spanning all mediums from printmaking to mixed media.  each project are highlight an artist that works in that style. many of the projects are more appropriate for the older child, mostly because of the patience and attention required. I like the way this book is laid out and I love lots of the projects.  of all the books we have, however, this is the book most ‘serious’ and very geared toward teaching technique.  reminds me more of art training than crazy kid activities.  sometimes that is what you want!  my kids haven’t gotten there yet but if  a kid is really into learning art, this would be a great book!

now for the extra icing on the cake!  the book giveaway!  jane and I are thrilled to say that Potter Craft has offered a copy of  Martha Stewart’s Favorite Crafts For Kids for one lucky winner!  this book looks chock-full of projects, I will be terribly jealous of whomever wins the giveaway!

crafts for kids

to enter to win simply leave a comment either, here, on this post or on jane’s picture book post telling us “who is your favorite artist and what is your fave piece of theirs?” 

you can also earn two bonus entries for subscribing to A Happy Stitch and Buzzmills (via Bloglovn’, Feedly, etc)  or liking us on Facebook ( a Happy Stitch and Buzzmills)!

the giveaway will be open from now until midnight EST 7/23.  jane and I will tally together and combine our comments and choose a winner randomly.  we will announce the winner in our BAC post next Wednesday, July 24!

enjoy these books.  we are really looking forward to reading your comments!

and don’t forget to join the flickr group and check out the newly formed Pinterest board to follow all things backyard art camp!  we are so eager to see the projects happening in other backyards!

check back for the rest of backyard art camp! we can’t wait!


some first rate second-hand finds

nature books

it has been a great phase of second-hand finds for me.  I have been thinking more and more about the great, unseen costs of the kind of rampant consumerism I am often tempted by.  and, as a result, I’m paying more attention to how to buy things second-hand.  but, not just second-hand…also how to buy things that support all the things I love and believe in…like the proliferation of art and other ways to make my world beautiful.  so, I was thrilled when I chanced upon these golden guide books at our library book sale.  the boys and I have poured through them.  they are so beautiful.  I already have ideas about hand-carved stamps and printed fabric based on some of the images.   art books

I also picked up these art books…at $2 a piece I figured we can look at them or even tear them up for an art project.  why not?

later in the week, my husband and I took a much -deserved afternoon date to a local artsy town.  I saw these great wooden stamps.  I was tempted to buy them but ended up walking away from them.  as beautiful as they are, I just couldn’t add to the house clutter with an incomplete alphabet.
typeset letters I did, however, take this guy home.  what an incredible stamp, right?  I can’t wait to play around with how this one looks stamped on fabric!  on a tote bag, perhaps? we will see.  I was drawn to this stamp and I’m running with it. metal press manfinally, my luck brought me to a chest in the basement of a huge antiques shop where I found yards and yards of great wool fabric, a beautiful piece of lace/eyelet fabric(?) and fantastic red vintage buttons.  I couldn’t believe my luck.  I’ve had a few ideas rolling around to use wool so I was thrilled to snatch that up.  as for the other items, I’m going to let them inspire me…who knows what the outcome with be.
sewing finds


a lovely brown paper package

about a week and a half back we got quite possibly the coolest package in the mail.  a complete, out-of-the-blue, absolutely delightful surprise of two books…Bee and Bird and Lots of Dots sent to us by the author Craig Frazier.

craig frazier package

we love these books.  Craig’s images are playful and fun, the books are visually amazing and playful. Bee and Bird doesn’t have words, just images that play with the concept of perspective.  it’s lovely and fun and, in my opinion, its striking but spare images stretch the imagination in all the right directions.

beautiful new books

this whole thing came about when we did an art project based off the images in Craig’s book Lots of Dots after checking it out at the library.  we used dots stickers to make our own images, here is our project.  I emailed Craig’s studio to share our project with him.  I figured it’s nice for me when I hear of other inspired by my classes or projects, so it’s probably nice for an artist to hear they inspired kids.  I never expected to hear from him! but, he wrote back and asked for our address…then I kind of forgot about it.  until this package arrived!

frazierinscriptionhe even signed the books directly to the boys.  isn’t that sweet?  and he busted out some awesome first letters at the top of the page!   both boys are thrilled.  these are really super special books in our family library now.

boy delights in bee and bird

C keeps talking about how he would like to be an author-illustrator when he grows up (and a race car driver and a Dad, btw).  it could be the equivalent of my childhood dream to be a princess-President or it could be something more grounded in reality.  who knows?  but getting a surprise paper package like this from someone with his dream grown-up life is, at the very least, a seed of inspiration.  thanks Craig! we are fans for life!

look at this cute little bird and her bee!
inquisitive bird


sew mama sew giveaway!

I have been exceptionally lucky lately.  and, not just in the healthy kids, awesome husband, hilarious friends, grass-in-the-backyard kind of of way.  but, really, unusually lucky…in the past month I have won a sewing machine (yup!), two sewing patterns, and was randomly sent two beautiful picture books…I promise to share more about that later.  It’s raining crazy luck over here.  so, it is high time I give back.

that is why I’m linking up with the wonderful giveaways going on at sew mama sew.  if you are here because you saw me over there, WELCOME!  I’m truly happy you are here.

sew mama sew 2013 giveaway books

I’m giving away two wonderful books sure to spark some creative projecting:
1) Cool Girls Quilt : More than 15 Fresh, Fun and Funky Projects by the lovely Linda Lum DeBono
2) Out of the Box : Unleash your Creativity Through Quilts by Mary Lou Weidman.

both book offer colorful, inventive project ideas that go beyond the ordinary, run of the mill quilting.

out of the boxinside out of the boxthey are colorful and lively and encouraging.

cool girls quiltinside cool girls quiltthere are a few different way to enter to win:

1. leave a comment on this post.

2. follow this blog, either on bloglovin’, or by email (add your email to the box on the right) and leave a comment to let me know you did that.

3. follow me on Facebook and let me know in a comment.

each comment will count as one chance.  good luck!

UPDATE: thanks to everyone who entered and are now following, it’s nice to have new friends!

the winner using a random number generator is #79 Jennifer  Thompson! Yay! [sound of crowd cheering].  Jennifer, I will be in touch by email.  Congratulations.


fail friday :: visit from abby glassenberg design

welcome to another fail friday!  fail friday is a series of posts showcasing and celebrating sewing and crafting failures.  why? because life is messy and so is crafting and the more honest we can be about that, the happier we can stitch…and learn and laugh and embrace our imperfections.

feel like joining in? post in the newly created flickr pool and share your fail story!

the wound is the place where the light enters you.~rumi

this week, I am truly pickled to have the prolific and uber-talented Abby Glassenberg of Abby Glassenberg Design as a guest post-er.  Abby Glassenberg is a plush pattern designer, craft book author, and sewing teacher. her new book on soft toy design will be published by Lark Crafts in May of 2013. visit Abby’s inspiring blog while she naps and her online shop, you will not regret it!  Abby is not only an amazing sewer (her soft toys literally boggle my mind) but her blog is filled with her optimistic, no-nonsense approach to the sewing and crafting business…so much so that I often feel the subtext of her conversations read “you can do this, too”!  she is honest about the trials and not afraid to dig into the nitty gritty.  and, her guest post here today is no different.  rather than dive into a specific ‘fail’ Abby is looking at the bigger picture, the great opportunity of a failure and the growth it affords.  welcome Abby!


Breathing Room: How Failure Can Make Your Ideas Stronger

There’ve been days when I’ve checked my email compulsively, waiting for an important person to get back to me with a “yes” or a “no.” Yes, we love your idea and we’d like to work with you to make it happen! No, I’m sorry, what you’re proposing just won’t work. Those are very long days and when they end with a “no” the sting can last much longer.

But sometimes that “no” does me a big favor. Sometimes when an idea fails you are actually being given a gift. It can be very hard to see it in the moment, but rejection can create a space between you and your idea that is incredibly valuable. In that space you can rethink, start again, hone in on the core, and emerge with something sharper, tighter, something ready to go out into the world and succeed.

In May of 2009 I was out for date night with my husband. It was raining. We’d gotten some dinner and were at Barnes and Noble browsing through books (to be at a bookstore without our kids is really heavenly and a worthy date night activity for sure). I headed to the craft book section to scour the shelves for softie books and then we sat at a table at Starbucks, sipping coffee and watching the rain. I mentioned to Charlie that the book I was searching for didn’t seem to exist anywhere. I’d been designing my own patterns for stuffed animals and I wanted a book that would guide me through that process, a book that would take patterns apart and explain the “why” and the “how.” I wanted a guide to soft toy design but there didn’t seem to be one.

I did some online searching back at home with no luck. And then all of a sudden I knew that I needed to be the one to write this book. There was a rush of excitement and sudden urgency to get the idea out of my mind and onto paper. I Googled “how to write a book proposal” and I began researching publishers. I spent the spring writing. I created a table of contents. I sewed toys and wrote sample chapters. The idea got bigger and bigger. It was huge and complex and, oh my gosh I needed to make it happen! But I was becoming totally overwhelmed by it, too.

On a Tuesday morning in June I emailed my proposal to six publishers. A half hour after hitting “send” the phone rang and it was the Acquisitions Editor at Interweave. I nearly fell off my chair. Most publishers spell out clearly in their submissions guidelines that you should expect wait eight months before hearing from them, not a half hour. I felt like I was flying. Over the next few weeks I heard from five of the six. I felt totally validated. I knew this was a good idea and it seemed that they did, too.

At the same time I knew that if they said yes, if they accepted my proposal, I’d have to actually write this book, this huge, complicated book. The prospect had my stomach in knots.

And then Interweave called back and told me that they’d had a meeting and had come to the conclusuion that my proposal was too complicated. They didn’t want it after all. But they did want a book of my bird patterns. Could we do that instead?

Instantly I felt this huge surge of relief because they were totally right. The book as it stood in that proposal was too complicated. It involved multiple contributors. It spanned both soft sculpture and soft toys. It was way too big. A book of birds, on the other hand, was so easy! I already had almost a dozen bird patterns. Ten minutes after the call I’d already drafted a table of contents. Even when the other publishers came back to me and said they’d like to do my original idea, I turned them down. One even offered to sign me to a two book deal with the soft toy design book first and the bird book second. I turned them down. I was doing a book of birds. Whew.

That rejection was the biggest favor anyone has ever done for me professionally. I never let go of my first idea, but failing to get it published right away gave me the time and space to develop my skills, to learn about publishing, to become more confident in my vision.

The Artful Bird came out in January of 2011 (a month after I gave birth to our third daughter) and I sent out a fresh proposal for a book on soft toy design in February. This time my proposal was super tight. I had done a series of blog posts on soft toy design and gotten amazing feedback so I could prove without a doubt that this book would have an audience, but more importantly those posts helped me prove to myself that I was capable of creating it. I’d been through the book writing process already. I knew what I wanted and I knew what was ahead of me. Writing the Artful Bird readied me to make the book that I originally set out to write: a book on soft toy design. A book that I am forever grateful was rejected the first time around.

Sometimes rejection is just rejection. The idea blooms and dies. But sometimes rejection is a gift. After the wound heals, take another look at the original idea. If it’s still important, revisit and revise. Use the breathing room that the “no” provides to create something that will lead to a “yes.”


thank you Abby! great advice as we head into the sometimes treacherous waters of holiday making.   I’m willing to take some breathing room, for sure.  don’t forget to add your fail to the flickr group…perhaps we can all bloom together!

art projects for kids :: calder sculptures

one of the other art activities we did this summer that both boys enjoyed a good deal was making calder-style hanging mobiles. I got the inspiration here.  we started by reading two books about alexander calder….’sandy’s circus’ (which I highly recommend) and the alexander calder book from the “getting to know the world’s greatest artists” series.  I like introducing the artist this way for our little art projects because otherwise I feel like the whole project comes out of nowhere and the books kind of drum up some enthusiasm.  plus, I learn something, too!

then, I gathered out supplies.  we used foam sheets for the hanging objects and 24 gauge wire to create the mobile structure and embroidery thread to attach the objects to the wire.  the glue and modeling clay were out in case the boys were inspired to make calder-style circus characters or just start gluing together the foam sheets…I wanted to be ready in case they decided to take their art-making in a different direction, turns out they didn’t but you never know and nothing kills the artistic spark like a mom hunting around for missing supplies.

in fact, little J lost interest completely but enjoyed running around and watching C, but C was enthralled so this might be a good activity for a 5 year old in contrast to a 3 year old.

to make the mobile, I twisted the wire to create 7 loops from which C could attach six shapes and one strip of thread to use for hanging.  he chose triangles, cut them out himself and poked a hole in them.  I attached the thread to each shape and he dictated where each one was to hang.  there wasn’t much balancing involved in making this sculpture because the shapes are so light and we could bend the wire to hang whichever way he wanted it to.  but, I could imagine it would be relatively easy to add that dimension to the project to make it more educational.

he really liked his sculpture. it felt like very ‘real art’ to him and we hung them in our kitchen for a good month, letting them dance around moved by the motion of the life that  happens there.  for mama, that was the real art.

kids clothes week challenge–‘capping’ things off.

the last three days of kcwc moved more slowly, sewing-wise, than the first four did.  I guess I work like that.  the sprint is fun, the marathon…not so much.

but, I did finish off with an hour of sewing today to complete the bucket hats I set out to make.  these are from liesl gibson’s book ‘little things to sew‘.  this was the first thing I made from this very beautiful and inviting book.  I have read that liesl is very precise and exacting and her bucket hat pattern proved the point.  it was clear, concise and made a great little hat but there is no cutting corners…you gotta follow her instructions.  I tried a little cheating only to find I had to backtrack.  I believe that is called being schooled.  once I got the hang of it the hat doesn’t take long to make.

there is some hand stitching involved in this making, which I would normally shy away from but in this case it was necessary and even helpful.

the fabric is a japanese linen-cotton blend, some heather ross guitars and chino, from purl soho…an indulgent purchase that I knew the boys would love.

the lining is a nice linen-cotton blend that used to be a pair of my husband’s shorts until the nice linen-cotton ripped apart from over-wear.  I love it when that happens!

the boys do like their hats, even big C.  in fact, he put on this button-down shirt and said “do you want to take a cute picture of me now?” and then he did this pose.  I guess he has got my number.

inspiration :: thursday

~a week-long highlight of bits and pieces of inspiration. no rhyme, no reason.  just inspiration~

I don’t remember this story but I loved the images from our library find–Tiny’s Big Adventure by Martin Waddell and illustrated by John Lawrence.  I love the way the children’s section of the library is like a secret artists club. there is always inspiration in the colors and illustrations.

what inspiring you?  please share.  link to it in the comments.  the more inspiration there is buzzing around, the better.

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