Quill Pens

quill pensNeed a simple project for a big event? Perhaps these quill pens will do the trick!

Last Saturday, Cotsen hosted a table at Princeton University’s Community & Staff Day event. Because of the big crowds, we needed something simple, fun, fast, and literary. Last year, we made flying books. This year, we decided to make Harry Potter-esque quill pens.

We were, of course, dressed in hats and robes. Even though it was 85 degrees out. Because comfort never comes before costuming, am I right?

wizard robes   You’ll need:

First, twist a sparkle stem into the desired shape. We offered 3 different shapes to choose from (even though some kids made their own shapes of course):

stemsPlace the sparkle stem on top of the feather. Then use masking tape to attach the feather and the sparkle stem to the the top of the pen. You can continue covering the pen with tape if you’d like (just make sure you don’t accidentally tape the cap on). Done!

pen from sideBelow you can see the layout of our event table, including a display pen floating in the upper right-hand corner of the photo. It’s always a good idea to have an example of the project displayed somewhere. That way, kids can see what to expect and grown ups can get a jump on gathering the appropriate supplies.

table side 1On the opposite side of our event tent was a mirror activity. Here, kids could use their newly-created quill pens to do some inverted writing and try their skills at mirror mazes.

table side 2The mirror activity is very simple to put together. We duct-taped 6 bookends to the back of an inexpensive door mirror and stood it up on the table.

mirrorSince we weren’t able to staff the mirror activities during the event, we printed up some display instructions (here are my mirror writing instructions). I put the instructions in a double-sided plastic display stand.

instructionsWe stacked practice paper and 4 types of mazes (which we found using Google images) on either side of the mirror. The mazes were really popular, even with older kids!

boys writingLooking for a few more simple Harry Potter crafts? Try these PVC pipe wands, or this wrist owl (scroll to the bottom of the page to see the owl example). Defense Against the Dark Arts enthusiasts might enjoy this boggart!

Pan Pipes

groverGet your Grover on with these simple pan pipes necklaces! I designed them for a large-scale Lightning Thief event (you can read more about the event, and our awesome Mythomagic deck here). The pipes were part of a “Pan Pipes & Pythagoras” table hosted by Music Together Princeton Lab School. Since we needed to create several hundred sets of pan pipes (event attendance was around 5,000) I needed something inexpensive that would give kids a little taste of tone and pitch.

I considered PVC pipe, empty marker tubes, empty pen tubes…but they were either too expensive, impractical, too hard to cut, couldn’t produce a satisfactory sound, or required way too much prep time. Happily, the solution came when I stopped by Fruity Yogurt, a local frozen yogurt place. In addition to soft serve, Fruity Yogurt does bubble tea, which naturally comes with a bubble tea straw.

strawsBubble tea straws are thicker than your average drinking straw. I tested a few and they were perfect! Not to mention inexpensive and they come in jolly colors!

You’ll need:

  • At least 4 bubble tea straws
  • A small craft stick (for a 4-straw set of pipes, you’ll need a 3″ craft stick)
  • A 28-29″ piece of yarn
  • A ruler
  • A Sharpie permanent marker
  • Scissors and tape for construction

Start by folding the bottom of each straw up and taping it very tightly (some bubble tea straws have pointed bottoms – you can trim the point off if you’d like).

taped straw Place the folded straw next to a ruler, and use a permanent marker to mark the desired  length of the straw. I cut my straws in 0.5″ increments. So the first straw was 5″, the second straw was 4.5″, the third straw was 4″, and the fourth straw was 3.5″.

marked straw I did some experimenting with how long or how short a straw can be before it starts losing its tone. Based on my experiments, I wouldn’t go any longer than 7.5″ and no shorter than 2.5″. Beyond those lengths, the straws seem to lose their ability to hold a note.

Next, knot the yarn on both ends of the craft stick, and reinforce the knots with tape.

attached yarnLine all your straws next to each other in ascending order. Make sure the top (i.e. the open ends) of the straws are even with one another. Secure them with a piece of tape.

taped pipesThen flip the pipes over and tape the craft stick on the other side! Done!

finished pipes

Furry & Fabulous

glamsterWhy be a hamster when you can be…a GLAMster! With the proper hat, accessories, and a stunning pair of sunglasses, become a hamster who is sure to get noticed.

We read Glamsters, written by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel and illustrated by Jackie Urbanovic (Disney-Hyperion, 2008). It’s the big annual sale at Hamster World, and Harriet the hamster is worried that she and her sister Patricia won’t get noticed. When Harriet spots a magazine article about “glamsters” lining the bottom of her cage, she thinks she’s found the solution. She transforms herself with “high gloss-and-glo fur volumizer,” a new hat, and funky whisker extensions. Yes, Harriet’s feeling pretty glamorous until Patricia wakes up from a nap, sees Harriet, and screams. Definitely NOT the reaction Harriet was expecting. Patricia helps Harriet get back to normal and, best of all, the two hamsters get noticed by a lovely new owner. Just by being themselves.

You’ll need:

hamsterWe’ll begin with the hamster. Wrap the outside of a large oatmeal container with brown construction paper. Cut the feet from a square of tagboard (or brown poster board). I cut little toes as well.

hamster feetHot glue the feet to the bottom of the oatmeal container. Next, cut the hamster’s bib from the template (the bib is the white “fur” that forms the hamster’s tummy, cheeks, and forehead). You can leave the sides of the bib just as they are in the template, or you can use scissors to cut ruffles in the sides to resemble fur.

hamster bib rufflesHot glue (or tape) the bib to the front of the oatmeal container. Arms are next! The arms are  2 tagboard rectangles that are rounded at each end.

hamster armsAttach the arms to the body with hot glue (or tape). Hot glue on a pom-pom nose and a pair of wiggle eyes. Use markers to add a smile. Finally, use brown construction paper to make a pair of ears, and then hot glue (or tape) them on. You’ll notice that the ears are attached on the front of the container, above the eyes, and at a slight angle. This is so the hamster’s ears won’t interfere with the hat.

angled ear Your hamster is finished, now for some glamorous accessories! For the hat, I prepped a bunch of simple white origami hats. Start with a 9″ x 12″ sheet of construction paper:

hat step 1

Fold the paper in half downwards

hat step 2

Now fold the upper right-hand corner towards the middle of the paper like so:

hat step 3Then repeat with the upper left-hand corner.

hat step 4Fold one side of the bottom up

hat step 5Then flip the hat over…

hat step 6And fold the remaining side up at the bottom.

hat step 7Flip the hat back over, open it at the bottom, and secure it with 2 staples.

hat step 8The hat is ready, let the hamster makeover commence! I offered patterned paper, embossed foil paper, sparkle stems, craft-ties, heart stickers, small feathers, and dot stickers, as well as the Bling Bin. I also tested some glitter tape out on this project. I was dubious about its claim to not shed glitter, but it actually wasn’t too bad (see my issue with glitter in the FAQs).

Kids make hats, necklaces, belts, purses, ties, briefcases, etc. The final touch, however, was a pair of sunglasses. Color and cut a pair from the template, and perch them on your hamster’s pom-pom nose. Perfect dahling.

As you can imagine, we had some super glamorous hamsters at story time. I captured a few quick poses in my photo studio, and Katie whipped up some exclusive magazine covers…

Harper's HamzaarHAMQRolling WheelGood HamsterkeepingCheeselingersSqueek