Saturday, August 31, 2013 1 comments

Doll Sponge Cake (literally)

For the first little while this year, we'll be doing American Girl-related crafts for our art classes. (We homeschool, in case you didn't know or don't remember.) Our first project was a sponge cake - literally!

My son made the yellow cake with chocolate frosting.

My daughter made the strawberry cake with vanilla icing.

My husband thinks they look like Little Debbie snack cakes, and they really do.

The kids made the whole cakes and I made the slices so I could work along with them, demonstrating steps without doing their projects for them. We had a great time with this, and the kids are really impressed with how realistic everything looks.

I bought two packs of sponges from Dollar Tree (yellow and pink). They came with three sponges in each pack. We traced a Nutella-sized lid to get our cake shape, so we were only able to get one full layer out of each piece of sponge. That meant that I had one sponge left to make individual pieces with. I simply cut the same size circle out of the third layer, cut that layer right through the middle, and I had just enough for a cake half once I stacked them.

We put thick white craft foam in the middle of the layers and hot-glued it all together. (I used the hot glue gun so the kids wouldn't get burnt.)

At this point, I cut each of my halves into three pieces each. The idea was to have a whole cake to put on a cake stand and pieces of cake to put on the doll's plates.

We used Scribbles fabric paint for the icing on the outside. It has a nice, pointed tip, but we also used brushes to spread the thickness out a bit. It's a very realistic effect when it's dry!

For the individual pieces, I only iced the outside parts that would be iced if you cut it from a whole cake.

We're going to make good use of these at my daughter's birthday party in a few months. We're doing an American Girl party, and the dolls are going to have their own table and food (fake, of course).

I also picked up some yellow, red and blue fabric paints at Dollar Tree. I considered "decorating" the cakes, but I think my kids would get too frustrated with that. They've inherited some perfectionist tendencies from both my husband and myself. :)

I may end up making and decorating one special "Happy Birthday" cake to use on birthdays, if I get the chance.
Thursday, August 22, 2013 2 comments

Big Doll Project #1: Doll School

Details: mini educational posters from a Google search, functional blackboard from a roll of sticky-back blackboard paper, sentence strips from an old handwriting book (Abeka)
We started our new homeschool year this week, and I've been very busy. You see, I was getting two classrooms ready for a new year - ours and the dolls'.

Details: mini educational posters from a Google search, functional white board from a roll of sticky-back white board paper, sentence strips from an old handwriting textbook (Abeka)
I've been planning the dolls' classroom for months. My kids picked up a copy of American Girl's book, Doll School, at a thrift store and pored over it for days. They did a few of the activities themselves, but I looked through it and immediately envisioned all the possibilities for creativity.

Details: mini maps from a Google search, Washington and Lincoln pictures from older Target Dollar Spot flashcards, sentence strips from an old handwriting textbook (Abeka)
This was my back-to-school gift for my kids just because they're great kids ... and to offset the fact that we didn't have any of the "new clothes, new everything" hoopla that other kids have on their first day of school. (Not that they've ever hinted that they miss that, but I knew it would make the day extra-special.)

I had my husband set this up in the living room when we went over to the church (where our classroom is located) in the morning. After we were all done for the day, this was waiting for them to discover it.

Let's take a look at the details ...

Pants by Springfield, everything else was handmade by me
These are Alex's new back-to-school clothes. I can't begin to tell you how thrilled my son was with these clothes. Even I was surprised at how pleased he was, and I know him better than anyone. Not shown: real boyish underwear!

I made the black shoes from black canvas material leftover from the black dress pants I made for him. I haven't given him the black pants yet.

The pants came from Springfield. I bought them before I realized how easy it is to sew these things.

I made the polo shirt from a free Liberty Jane pattern. It's not perfect, but by allowing the shirt front to stay open a bit like I did, you can't even tell. My son loved the shirt. He said it was "perfect". I knew better, but I wasn't going to tell ... ;)

I handknit the v-neck cardigan using a ball of sock yarn that I picked up for its gorgeous color scheme. I've hung onto it for almost a year now, trying to figure out what would best showcase it. This was the winning project, and I'm very pleased with how it turned out.

As a side note, this was my very first time to do steeking. I did it on the armholes so the self-striping wouldn't get messed up. I was nervous doing it, but it worked perfectly. You know what? It's really easy, too!

Bags: Dollar Tree; box: vintage Sears box, given to me
 This is how I packaged the new clothes. Of course, I didn't get a picture until after everything was taken out, but it was really cool nonetheless. I added tissue paper to each bag and box to make it even more special. It was like pulling new clothes out of the store bags after you get home.

Outfit handmade entirely by me, locker from Five Below
You've seen Paige's outfit before, but I added the grey bolero since I showed it here. I decided to give her the black sparkly shoes with it, too, since Paige's other black dress shoes had come up with one missing just two days before.

Since I didn't share the black sparkly shoes yet (an oversight), I should probably tell you that I made them from a black sparkly vinyl sheet that I picked up at Hobby Lobby for around $1.29. I have plenty more for at least another pair, maybe two.

locker tin: Five Below
See the locker? That wasn't even on my daughter's wish list, but when I saw the locker tins at Five Below, I had to get them. I knew my kids would love them, and I was right. American Girl's locker goes to shoulder height on the doll. Ours isn't quite that high, but it's close. I added a little height with painted candle cups glued to the bottom for feet.

Ours also locks, which is just for looks on the American Girl version. My kids really liked that feature!

locker tin: Five Below, milk eraser: Target Dollar Spot, backpack: handmade by me
 I added a hook inside each locker so they could hang up their coats or sweaters, as well as their backpacks. I got the hooks from Dollar Tree. They're the kind that you hang with foam tape.

This is the only picture I thought to take of Paige's backpack that I designed and sewed myself. I love how it turned out!

Backpack: doggie bag dispenser found at Tuesday Morning; laptop: Dollar Tree compact mirror; paper supplies: handmade by me
Here's what was in each of the backpacks: four folders (one had worksheets in it), one spiral-bound notebook (spiral from a regular spiral-bound notebook and holes made with my Crop-a-Dile), one binder (see below for details), a doll laptop (see below for details), and one composition book.

These were Alex's supplies. Paige's were all pink, with the exception of yellow folders.

Binder: handmade by me
You can find various tutorials for making doll-sized binders, but all of them have you attaching paper permanently, so you can't take paper out or put new paper in. I wanted it to be functional, so I used a plastic binding coil and cut off every other coil. I used my binding machine to punch every other hole on the paper, and it's a perfect fit. Now we can take pages out and put them back in.

Here's a little tip: Don't waste your printer ink by printing lined notebook paper for the dolls. Just cut down college-ruled paper. It's the perfect size!

Doll laptop: made from a Dollar Tree compact and free online printable images of a computer keyboard and screen
Here's another look at those doll laptops. I just bought mirrored compacts from Dollar Tree, printed out some images of a keyboard and computer screen, laminated them, and glued them down to cover the mirrors.

You can buy mini laptop Macbook mirrors on Amazon for somewhere around $5, if you'd rather. I'm too cheap. :)

Desk: mini stepstool; chair: handmade from jumbo popsicle sticks
Desk: mini stepstool; chair: handmade from jumbo popsicle sticks
The desks were mini stepstools I found at the thrift store. I have to fine-tune them, though, because the dolls don't fit under them like I thought they did when I experimented with them originally. It might work to saw off that round support on the bottom, but I want to think a bit more before I do something that drastic.

I made the chairs out of jumbo popsicle sticks. Alex needed a back to his, so that was the inspiration for the chairs. They aren't the sturdiest chairs you've ever seen, but they will work just fine until I find or make a more durable solution. (I picked up a miter saw at a yard sale this summer, and I may try to make some chairs with it.)

Pencil box: Dollar Tree; mini tape dispensers: Michaels; mini fake pencils: made from bamboo skewers, aluminum foil and a perler bead "eraser"; mini crayons from a long-ago mini coloring book set; padlock: goes to the lockers
Here is a closeup of the contents of the pencil boxes. Alex got a blue tape dispenser with no Hello Kitty stickers on it (I took them off), but otherwise they are the same.

Lunchbox: Dollar Tree container; food: erasers from Target
Last but not least is the lunch. The "lunchbox" is just a small plastic lidded container that came 10/pack from Dollar Tree. The milk erasers were from Target Dollar Spot, and so were the cupcakes and strawberries. The sandwich erasers came from Target's party favor section. (I noticed they were clearancing them the last time I was in.)

So, how did I do? Let's see ... For the lockers, desks, backpacks, lunches, and school backdrop from American Girl, I would have paid $324, plus tax. [Well, I would never have paid that much. However, you know what I'm getting at here.] That doesn't include the outfits, which would have been somewhere around $30 each, making the total $384.

To the best of my knowledge, I paid about $40, and that includes everything, including items that came several to a pack that I didn't use for this project (like the food and plastic containers). What's more, I was able to spread the purchases out over several months so it was almost like not paying anything because I never missed a dollar here and there.

For about 90% savings, I'm as happy as I can possibly be. You know what? My kids are, too, and that makes me even happier.

As they were going through everything, admiring it, my daughter turned to me and said, "Mommy, you'll have to show me how to make all these things when I grow up so that I can make them for my daughter." Oh, I hope so!!

There were a few exchanges of, "We have the best mommy!" in there, too. That did my mother heart a lot of good.

What can I say? It was a win-win situation. I enjoyed making all of this, I especially enjoyed watching their enjoyment of it, and they enjoy playing with it. Parenting just doesn't get any better than this.
Friday, August 16, 2013 1 comments

Doll Find: Roller Blades and Roller Skates at W-M!

I mentioned that I recently had my daughter look through the American Girl catalog and list everything that she wanted. My plan is to make as much of it as possible and buy only what I can find for a reasonable price (if I think it's even worth the money or has enough play value).

One of the things she wanted was the Skates & Gear rollerblade set. I think $34 is an outrageous price for such little accessories, but this was one thing I couldn't think of how to make.

Then I remembered that Wal-Mart had carried a set of pink rollerblades earlier this year for $2. That I can handle! Sure enough, they had two pair. I'm going to get some plastic paint and paint Alex's a boy color because that's way too much pink for a boy! :)

After I had found those, the kids mentioned that they'd like roller skates for the dolls if I couldn't get the rollerblades. While I was food shopping yesterday, I took a quick look through the toy aisle to see what they were doing to that section (it had been ripped apart the last time I was in), and I found these fantastic roller skates for $2 each! (Compare AG's version, with an outfit, for $38.)

To be honest, I think the roller skates are cuter, much easier to roll, and look to be better made. But I got both to be safe. For about 95% off the AG price, I was able to get them both rollerblades and roller skates. They're going to be thrilled! My daughter went so far as to say that she only wants roller skates for Paige for her upcoming birthday. Now, thanks to Wal-Mart, I can do even better.

But wait! What about the helmet and knee/elbow pads? Never fear, I'm making the helmets already. I'll share them just as soon as I've finished them. I may even do the knee and elbow pads, although I'm thinking of skipping those since my kids have never seen anyone wearing them and wouldn't miss them anyway.

If you have 18" dolls in your house, you'll want to check out the new accessories that Wal-Mart is putting out for them. They had a whole shelf of new, inexpensive accessories like backpacks (that are very small, but still!), new boots and shoes, and headbands (some even had headphones attached, while others had earmuffs attached). They were all very cute and very reasonably priced. The most expensive accessories were the animal hats that were close to $5.

I got these hiking boots ($2) for Alex out of the new footwear accessories. They were just too cute!

I just remembered the one accessory that I wasn't impressed with: the canvas doll shoes. They looked cheap and very, very small. Most of them were already fraying and looked like they had been through a war. Other than that, though, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at the selection.
Thursday, August 8, 2013 1 comments

More to Come ... Soon

I just wanted to drop you all a line, in case you wonder where I am and if I'm out of ideas or quit making things.

This is a busy month for me as we gear up for homeschooling again. I aim to start mid-month so we get a headstart and can take a few days off now and then as ministry demands (and my own sanity) require.

As a result, I don't have much time to take pictures and write up blog posts at the moment. I may be able to get out only one post a week, but rest assured that I have lots and lots of things to share with you when I can find the time to properly do so.

Honestly, I have three big doll-related projects that are almost ready to share and a few that are just waiting for me to remember to recharge my camera batteries - or remember to buy a spare set.

Just as a little hint/teaser ... When the latest AG catalog arrived in our house, my kids sat down with it and started drooling. It wasn't very long before I heard them complaining about the high cost of everything and how they could never afford this and that and the other thing that caught their eye.

As a mother and a teacher, I try not to let a teachable moment pass. I had my daughter write down everything she wanted from the catalog and told her I'd see what I could do about "making them happen". She knows me well enough to know that the clothes weren't going to be that much of a problem, but she's going to be thrilled with the accessories that I'm sure she never thought I could make. I wasn't so sure myself, until I did it. :)

As a side note, both of my kids thought the Bitty Twins' lemonade stand was cute. I was so proud of them when they showed me (later that same day) the lemonade stands they had made with things they had on hand. I think they're "getting it"!

Lastly, for those of you who have recently favorited my Etsy shop in hopes of my listing some doll clothes again, I aim to do just that as soon as I get the time. I have a lot of doll clothes sitting here that I had a blast making, but there's no way my kids' dolls can wear all of them.
Friday, August 2, 2013 2 comments

Easy and Inexpensive Doll Tights

I promised to tell you about the cute rosebud doll tights I showed you a peek at in the last post. Well, here they are. Do you want to know a secret? They came from knee socks.

 I originally found this idea on Peachy Tuesday's blog. You can go there for the full tutorial, but the basics are this:

You make them from one knee sock (so you can get two pair of tights from one pair of knee socks). They are a tight fit (which is why they're called tights), so a small child might get frustrated putting them on the doll. But they're so cute I just couldn't resist making, oh, about seven pair:

I might have made more, but these were the ones I thought had the most wardrobe potential at the dollar store.

If you look at the first picture, you may be able to see that the crotch is a bit lower than usual on these. I measured about 4" from the top, instead of 3". I probably should have made the legs a bit longer and short-changed the waist, but I didn't want them to fall off the doll. It would irritate me to no end to have to wear tights that fit like this, but these dolls don't complain, and nobody sees that the crotch is a bit lower than usual. You just can't beat the price!

Now I need to find another good project for the mates to these socks.