Monday, February 28, 2011

Recipe for Raising Readers

I have often wondered where the love of reading comes from. Is there a recipe for raising good readers? Does it get handed down from parents to children? Is it merely a matter of parents reading to infants and toddlers like parenting books tell us? Or is it mainly the job of schools  and educators to foster a love for books in children?

I suppose in my case the love for reading did not come through my parents. They were not great readers themselves. I never saw my parents read books. My dad only read the paper. My parents never took us to a library to check out books nor did they read books to us, except for the standard Grimm fairy tale edition, owned by every German household. I figure my mom, who had not much schooling, did the best she could by reading fairy tales to us.

There were certainly lots of books around our house when I was growing up. My mom had aquired an eclectic selection of novels via membership of a mail order book club in her pre-married life. My dad's books were mostly antique tomes about religion and history, some with fancy covers that would make you want to leaf through and admire the beautiful pictures. Dad's books were mostly printed in old German type and not accessible to a young child. I also distinctly remember a book with pictures from WWI and WWII. I am not sure why this horrible book sat  around on one of the lower shelves. It certainly made an impression on me as a young child...

So maybe osmosis - being surrounded by a number of books - was a factor, since there wasn't much encouragement to read on my parents part. I recall my love for reading started in first grade. It was then, I bought my first book with my own money. I had saved up my allowance to purchase a book of fairy tales printed in cursive. In those days German kids were taught to read and write in cursive. We were never allowed to print letters. I'm not sure if they still teach kids that way in Germany. I surely loved learning to make those curly letters, lessons in Schoenschreiben (transl. writing prettily), and my first book that I could read by myself.

Maybe books were my way to escape the reality of a not so happy childhood. The Catholic girls' school I attended from 5th through 13th grade had a fairly small library with juvenile fiction tucked away under a stairwell somewhere. Only the older kids could use the "real" library while the younger students were limited to the "stairwell library" run by the nuns. It was the strangest little library you can imagine, but I read every book in it. I cannot recall ever being bored in my childhood. How could you be bored when there were so many great books to read?


It's harder these days to find the time for reading. After a long day of doing chores around the house, cleaning, cooking, taking care of the kids, crafting, and working on the computer one gets too tired at night to read. Is that how my parents felt? Usually I fall asleep after a few pages.

But we try to set a good example for our kids. We make regular trips to the library and have done so since they were infants and old enough to attend story time events.  Yet I find it terribly hard to compete with the thrills of electronic devices around these days. There was no Nintendo to tempt me, no computer screen calling to play evermore addictive games, no XBox or Wii.  In a way it was much easier for a child in the 1970s to become a reader...
Maybe it would be easiest to ban all those things from one's house completely. But how can I, when the children see me sit and work at my computer every day?  So I see my role as parent mainly as a guide and role model. I try to set a good example by limiting my own computer time. I try to steer them away from screen time as much as possible - less than 1 hour per day. Have you tried to do a family reading night? I know after a busy day it's seems so much easier to pop in a movie. But really if you tried,  you might find that sitting together reading books a couple of nights a week may be just as relaxing...

What's the last book you have read? With or without children? For Christmas my son gave me the bestselling books (see picture)by Stieg Larson. I really got into them on one of our "family reading nights" and read them in less than a week's time. Looks like Ulla - the voracious childhood reader is back! Any book suggestions for me?

Friday, February 25, 2011

Bunny Conference...

I listed the two bunnies shown in the pictures yesterday in my Etsy shop. They sold instantly. Kind of funny how that sometimes goes. Looks like my husband and kids will have to spend more time waiting for me. It's not even close to Easter yet. LOL

Then one of my customers said something about the expression "multiplying like rabbits." I wish they would do that by themselves. But it takes a lot of time to make a little sculpture. I have been teaching myself to needle felt since 2007. See my page above on needle felting.


Now where will we hide those Easter eggs this year?
 I mostly use this technique to decorate my doll shoes. I take a design element from a fabric and felt it onto my tiny shoes. It's tedious work but the results are often stunning. Sometimes I can't believe it myself when I see the finished product. I love needle felting! Just wish there were more hours in the day to make all the things I want to make.
Right now I am dreaming of little birds, lambs, and chicks...But first things first: I need a few more bunnies...

Thursday, February 24, 2011

More Bunnies...

Zwischen Berg und tiefem tiefem Tal
Sassen einst zwei Hasen
Frassen ab das gruene gruene Gras
bis auf den Rasen

Between mountain and a deep deep valley
Once sat two little bunnies
Eating the green green grass
Down to the lawn...
I will spare you the rest of the story. German childrens' song are often quite brutal. As I recall in the next scene/stanza two hunters turn up and shoot the poor bunnies...I hope this will not be the fate of my little critters. Sigh!

I have been in a bit of a bunny making frenzy over here. No time to talk. Got to make bunnies. My husband says if this continues he will turn into the hunter from that story...They don't chew the vegetation but he is tired of them chewing up all my time. LOL

Saturday, February 19, 2011

New Bunny Dresses...

Can you say cute, cuter, cutest?


My kids are mad because I have been making these cute little bunnies and they want to keep them...
I found this perfect fabric for Easter. It is cute beyond words!


How about the yellow colorway? I can't decide what color I like better. The yellow is sunny and bright like a spring flower. The pink is sweet and girlish. Please vote on your favorite color! And what bunny color do you favor: White or brown?


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Keep your Heads...when making Doll Heads

I have once again run out of pre-made doll heads. I admit, it's the least favorite part of making dolls in my book. I need good music and lots of strong coffee to make it through a head making session.


I can't believe I actually used to offer pre-made heads in my Etsyshop. I  cannot bring myself to offer them any more - because that would mean I would have to make even more heads...Don't care what you offer me. I ain't selling them no more!

What has always fascinated me about Waldorf style doll heads, is the fact, that a number of people will follow the same recipe or formular for making them, yet their dolls look completely different. Just browse the internet and compare different dollmakers. It's quite intrigueing.
Kind of reminds me of cooking. Our perceptions of the end product are so vastly different as cooks. Is it because our tastebuds are different, and we taste the food and add different amounts of seasoning? Maybe it's that way with doll heads, too?


I prefer a rather firm and roundish looking head. I like my heads to be proportionate to the size of the body I am making. I measure each head as I shape it and try to make them the same size for a 12 or 15 inch doll.

Do the ingredients used in the process make a difference? I am sure it is another factor. What type string are you using? I have tried many different things over the years. Some books recommend dental floss. Ever tried that one? I found that plain old cotton crochet yarn works best for me.

The wool plays an important role too! If it's not carded right and full of plant residue such as straw and leaves - you will get frustrated because you spend so much time picking out foreign objects...I like my wool to be fluffy, white, and super clean.
Over the years I have received bags of wool from friendly souls. Proudly someone will present to me a bag of wool they bought at a craft fair they visited. Sadly I can never use it because it was carded differently. Not sure what they did to the fibers but usually the fibers are matted together and I am not able to wind the wool into the balls.


That's how each doll head starts -  at least - according to my formular...
If you have never made a doll head before, don't give up too soon! It takes many tries to come up with a recipe that works for you. I wrote mine down on a card as a reminder. I look at it as my own special concoction - recipe card. LOL. Seriously, you would think after so many hundreds of heads I would know how to do it. But I love to have it handy, in case I lose my head (patience) and turn into a total basket case while making another batch of heads...

Monday, February 14, 2011

How to make Friendship Peg Dolls

I knew it! The day would come when I would be able to use all those pretty fabric scraps I have collected over the years - even down to the smallest little bitty one. Of course, my husband won’t believe me. But last week I came up with the perfect project!


I was looking for a craft to do in the classroom with Elementary school-age kids on Valentine’s Day. I realized I still had some wooden clothes pins in my supply box. Not sure why I bought them years ago. You all know how that goes. It’s on sale and you throw it in the basket…We are sure it will come in handy some day. And in this case it did!


All you need for this craft is:

-Wooden clothes pins : I used small ones called baby flat clothes pins! If you use larger ones you may have to cut the clothing for your dolls bigger!

-colorful scraps of fabric, blue jean fabric scraps

-chenille stems or pipe cleaners, cut into 2.5 inch pieces

-glue

-thin tipped marker or pen

-scraps of wool, if you are doll maker you can just use the clippings from cutting your dolls’ hair



Steps:

1.Get your husband to drill holes through the pegs where the arms will go. May be a bit of wait here…Or if you know how to work the drill best to do it yourself. LOL

2.Cut squares of fabric for the peg dolls clothing. We made either skirts or blue jeans for our dolls. For the jeans we cut two one –inch squares. For a skirt one rectangle of about 1 inch by 1.75 inches

3. Cut tops/shirts for your dolls. Cut about 1inch by 1.75 inches

4. Glue on the pants by attaching on little blue jean square per peg leg and wrapping it around the legs when you glue it. A toothpick or long pointy tool will come in handy! If you are doing skirts you’ll have a much easier time! =) To avoid frustration my child took it upon herself to make 25 pegs which had the jeans put on already…


5. Glue on the shirt/top making sure you don't cover up the holes for the arms

6. Insert chenille wire pieces through the predrilled hole and shape hands at the ends

7. Draw a face on your dolly with fine tip marker

8.Glue on hair



With the help of my daughter I made 25 kits to take into the classroom today. Looking forward to the kids faces when they finish their Valentine Friendship Dolls!

Sweet! I love this craft because it helps me teach kids to recycle and make beautifull things at the same time. Now I can work on scaling down my mountain of fabric scraps…I may be offering these kits in my shop in the near future! What do you think?

Happy Valentine's Day!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

First GermanDoll Facebook Fanpage Giveaway!

I don't have any Golden Tickets to give away. But I humbly offer you one of these sweet golden Babes in my first ever Facebook Giveaway. So go visit my Facebook page and comment away this week!
http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Germandolls/89865513533

I wonder what's more illusive a dream? To become the next American Idol or to win my Facebook contest? LOL

This contest is open to anyone American or not!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Handmade Natural Discount Dolls - ???


Hands of the dollmaker at work...

The title of today's blog post is an oxymoron. Handmade and discount don't go together, do they? If there ever was a combination of contradictory or incongruous words - this is it in my book!

There are days I get letters via email that make me quite frustrated and sad. What letters? It's the type of letter inquiring about buying my dolls at a discounted rate. I just received another one the other day. They usually go something like this:

"I really love your work. Your dolls are so amazing and truly unique. I would love to order a number (one of each skin tone maybe) of them to

a) sell them in my online/brick and mortar shop
b) give one to each of my kids, nieces, and nephews
c) put them in my brandnew daycare

How much of a discount could I get if I bought 3 or 4 of your dolls?"


Sigh! How does one answer them politely? On the one hand, of course, one desperately needs business, and I would love to sell a large quantity of anything. But it's not like I am a machine and can whip out 3 or 4 dolls faster by producing them in large quantities. Each doll takes about 8-10 hours. Please, see my blog post on "How long does it take to make a German Doll?"

Trust me, I have looked at it from all angles. Even if I got my supplies for free - mind you I use organic dollskin and sheepswoll of the highest quality - I could not charge less money per doll. My hourly wages are something I try not think about too much or I'd get totally depressed. I have not managed to hire a herd of stay-at-home mommies and grannies to sew and knit for me, nor do I run a little sweatshop over here. I do every single stitch myself! From the tiniest needle felted doll shoe decoration to top the top of the head, my dolls are made by your's truly. I am not sure why my unique handmade Waldorf style dolls don't fetch over $2000 on Ebay yet. I suppose I have to work on becoming a fad...


I make dolls because I love making them. I make dolls because I love receiving pictures of happy kiddos playing with a unique doll I created especially for them. Hopefully, when you browse my virtual Etsy and Artfire store shelves you will find something that makes your heart sing - the way mine does when I create my little works of art.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Only 11 Days till Valentine's Day!

I love mermaids! I believe I designed my first mermaid costume for dolls in 2004. I got the idea from my daughter when she wanted to be a mermaid for Halloween and insisted her doll get an outfit to match her costume. Of course, now everyone is making them. I still like to believe I came up with the idea first...So if you love mermaids too, you may want to get one of my original designs for your favorite doll!

 


They come in two sizes: 12 inch and 14-15 inch. I designed the Hearts costume with Valentine's Day in mind. Only 11 days till Valentine's Day. You better hurry if you want one for the occasion!


But you can order my mermaid outfits in pink, purple, turquoise or teal for your everyday mermaid. The costume consists of two pieces: A bandeau top which wraps around the torso and a tail section. The tail slips over the legs and voila - you got a mermaid. Ingenious!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Pink Hair Anyone?


It's been sooooo cold over the last two days. The arctic cold is not much fun. Good thing is I have a lot of wool to play with in my house. Here is what I made over the last two days. At least my hands are staying warm...


I was a little burned out after Christmas. I had no energy left to make dolls because I got so swamped with clothing orders...But it looks like I am back on track making sweet dolls. You saw the custom doll "Jenny" I shipped off the other day. Finally I present you with "Elise". I just listed her in my shop.


I hear that dolls with pink hair are quite the rage now. I am more of an old-fashioned kind of girl and prefer dolls with natural hair colors. When I see pink and blue hair I am reminded of the punk movement. But my daughter tells me it's okay to have dolls with outlandish hair. If only I let her, she'd color her hair in pink like the dolly I just finished. What's your take on the subject of doll hair color?