I love Miss Priss loves to make new play scenes for her American Girl dolls. She has a Tri-Fold Project Board Display, the kind used for science fair projects, that we periodically change out for different doll activities. So far, we have made a Restaurant, a Dress Shop, an Art Gallery, and a Hair Salon with the project board. Last week, Miss Priss asked if we could convert the background scene to an office space. You don’t have to ask me twice, so we loaded up and headed to Hobby Lobby where all of my great crafty projects start.
We used a hot pink desk organizer and tipped it on its side. The openings that would have held pencils, paper clips, or Post-it notes became shelves across the front of the desk.
We found 5″ sparkly candlesticks and glued them to the desk organizer. I used E6000 Glue, which is a heavy duty craft glue. I did measure the distance from the edges of the desk organizer and center the candlesticks on each side of the desk organizer box before gluing to make sure the candlestick legs were evenly spaced.
In order for the scale to be about right, desks and tables should be roughly 9″ tall.
The Bulletin Board
Purchase a pre-cut mat for a picture frame. The interior dimensions of my frame mat is 4 1/2″ x 6 1/2″. I used the thin corkboard on a roll with adhesive back that I had from making Doll Sandwiches. Cut a corkboard piece a little larger than the opening of your frame mat. Run a line of glue around the front edges of the corkboard and press it to the back of the frame mat. The corkboard sheet rolls up a little, so I placed books on top of the mat and cork on a flat, hard surface (like a kitchen counter) until the glue dried.
Once the glue dried, we attached the framed bulletin board to the science fair backboard. I put the science fair backboard flat on my dining table and measured the placement of the bulletin board before gluing, so it would be straight and centered. You can remove the sticky back paper to attach the bulletin board to the project board or attach with craft glue or hot glue.
Map pins work well for attaching notes. Your pins will go all the way through the cork and the backboard.
Look for mini plant containers at Hobby Lobby, Michael’s Crafts, or gardening centers. We purchased a block of that green oasis material that florists use to make flower arrangements and some fake greenery.
Cut a chunk of oasis to fit in the bottom of the container.
Cut pieces of greenery and stab the ends into the oasis block.
We went through the art supply section at Hobby Lobby and found a 6″ x 8″ watercolor paper notepad with the spiral binding on the top (portrait orientation).
Using Sharpie markers and a ruler, Miss Priss and I drew a few different graphs.
We set the notepad on a small tabletop art easel.
Using my paper cutter, I cut notebook paper, printer paper, and colored cardstock into 2″ x 3″ pieces of paper.
Using mini rubber stamps and ink pads, we stamped designs and monogram initials onto the top of the papers, so it looks like personalized stationery.
I also found colored paper clips that are smaller than standard size, and we clipped assorted papers together.
Hobby Lobby has plain craft boxes with lids in a variety of sizes. We bought 2 boxes that measured 2″ x 3″ x 1 1/2″ and separated the lid from the bottom. The bottom parts of the boxes fit in the desk like a drawer and hold some desk supplies. I used an X-acto knife to cut a small half circle out of one side of each lid and then sanded the rough parts down with a nail file. The lids look like in/out desktop file boxes. Miss Priss has papers in the file boxes.
We used a sparkly candle votive for a trashcan. Miss Priss wadded up scraps of paper to make the trash can look full.
We found small folders (about 2 1/2″ x 3 1/2″) that have the string to tie the folder closed like an interoffice mail envelope in the scrapbooking section of Hobby Lobby.
We pulled several of our items from the American Girl School crafting binge like the pencil and pencil cup to add to the office play scene as well.
Miss Priss likes the office so much, we needed a second science fair backboard, so this scene can stay up permanently, and our second backboard gets traded out for other scenes. We have also recently become the proud owners of an original Samantha Oversized Book of Cardboard Scenes and Settings. The American Girl village happening in our TV room is quite extensive. I may need an intervention.
We could have bought a box of pre-printed cards to give to classmates for Valentine’s Day, but that would not have been complicated or original enough for my tastes. I had multiple suggestions like Paper Fortune Cookies and Button Paper Clip Bookmarks, but Mr. Star Wars and Miss Priss were having none of it. They just wanted to give a snack size bag of Valentine M&Ms or a box of candy hearts with their name written on the back in Sharpie pen.
We compromised. I cooked up these little Valentine “medicine bottles” that are filled with mini M&Ms. We printed stickers that looked like prescription labels. The labels say, “Heart Medicine” and have a use by date of 2/14/15. I got the satisfaction of a homemade, crafty Valentine, and my kids are happy because it involves candy.
Mini plastic bottles with lids (I used Bead Landing 6.3″ x 5.3″ x 1.4″ bead storage jars, sold in a box of 30)
Mr. Star Wars gave Miss Priss a new American Girl craft book for Christmas. We own practically all of them, so I was impressed he located one we did not already have. The Doll Art Studio Activity Kit gives all kinds of tips for designing an art gallery for your American Girl doll. Working on these projects requires all of my concentration, so we were not able to begin construction until the MLK holiday when I had a day off from teaching and minimal interruptions. Miss Priss and I took over the kitchen and dining room tables and dug in.
It would not be an official AG craft project if we did not make a trip to Hobby Lobby to get started. I had Miss Priss bring the kit’s idea book in the car with us and skim the pictures and explanations to make sure we would not miss anything critical. Miss Priss’ reading skills add tremendous value to project work– especially now that I have to wear the “over 40” glasses and need her to read all of the fine print on the material packages.
Paint Brushes and Artist Palette Materials
duct tape (shiny silver and a few other colors)
3/16″ glue dots
acrylic paint (5-6 colors)
The AG book came with a paper artist palette that I traced on brown cardboard. If you do not have a template for the artist palette, draw a kidney shape that is roughly 3″ x 2″. Using scissors, cut out the palette shape. Using an X-Acto knife, stab/cut a thumb hole. Carefully drop small blobs of acrylic paint evenly around the edge of the palette and let dry overnight.
To make a paintbrush, cut a 1-inch piece of colored duct tape or a piece of tape that matches the length of your matchstick and carefully roll the piece of tape around the matchstick until you come to the end of the tape piece.
The glue dots are stretchy, and you pull a glue dot around one end of the covered matchstick.
Carefully cut the bristles from an old paintbrush and make a pile with the cut bristles. Roll the sticky end of the matchstick through the bristles. If you want thicker bristles on the paintbrush, add another glue dot around the first layer of bristles and roll through the cut bristles again.
Cut a thin strip of silver duct tape less than 1/4″ wide and wrap the silver strip at the base of the bristles. Trim bristles to even up if needed.
Studio Table Materials
2 wooden A letters ~9″ tall
wood plank for tabletop (mine is 1/4″ thick and is ~5″ x 12″)
5/16″ diameter wooden dowel
acrylic paint (any color)
hot glue gun
Paint your table materials and let dry. If you like the natural wood color, you can skip the painting step.
Measure the length of your tabletop against your wooden dowel and make sure the dowel is 2″ to 4″ shorter than the tabletop. I sawed ~2″ from the end of my dowel to make the dowel ~10″ in length.
Hot glue the dowel into the nail hanging slots on the wooden letters, so the dowel connects the two letters. Put the tabletop on your working surface and hot glue the the top of the letter A’s to the tabletop.
We also made a display table by painting a wooden plaque and resting it on a metal candle holder. The candle holder is only about 6″ in height.
Original Artwork Materials
mini canvases (available at Hobby Lobby)
variety of stickers
colored Sharpie markers
mini easels (available at Hobby Lobby)
The sky is the limit with the mini canvases. You can paint original artwork, draw with the Sharpie pens, paint backgrounds and put stickers on top, cut out pictures from magazines and create collages, glue foam shapes together for modern art… anything works.
I also scoured around my house for little clay projects Miss Priss had made and any other mini craft projects and added those to the displays in the art gallery.
We had a science fair backboard we used for the American Girl Dress Boutique. We took down a few of the decorations from the dress shop and put up the art work using Tacky.
The AG doll book came with a few easels as well as the new ones I purchased. We used the easels to display the art on the tables. I also moved some clear acrylic boxes stuffed with colored tissue paper from the dress shop into the art gallery and set small clay projects on those (notice the tiny little otter in the background of the picture below).
We dropped the paint brushes in a mini pail and a small glass jar for an authentic art studio look. We borrowed the colored pencils and cup from our AG School Supply stash and set up the artist table with an art canvas in progress, paint palette, brushes, pencils and a mini LED clip reading light I found at the checkout at Hobby Lobby.
The activity book has many other ideas and paper accessories. The small tags to label the art came from the book as well as the template to make the art smock Samantha is wearing. Miss Priss was tired of waiting to play with the art gallery, so I had to stop adding to it and let her actually play. *sigh*
The most popular activity at American Girl camp last week was the hair salon station. We had a hair salon set up every day. We gave instructions on how to properly brush and care for American Girl doll hair. The girls could visit the hair salon area any time they finished a camp activity. We had doll brushes, spray water bottles, and hair accessories available along with directions about a specific hair style each day.
On Caroline day, the campers learned how to put their doll’s hair in a bun. Caroline lived during the War of 1812. Ladies during the early 1800s might wear their hair with curls around their face and have a bun in the back.
Keep your doll still. Hold between your legs or use a doll chair.
Always use a wire doll hairbrush. Plastic bristled hairbrushes snag and frizz the doll hair.
For best styling results, lightly mist your doll’s hair with water. Cover the eyes and face with a small cloth or paper towel while misting. Protect the body from water too.
Take a small section of hair at the tip and brush gently. Work your way up the small section of hair.
Don’t pull the doll’s hair too hard when brushing. If possible, hold the doll’s neck as you work.
NEVER use a blow-dryer, hot rollers, curling iron, or straightening iron on your doll’s hair. The hair is made of plastic and will melt and burn.
styling spray water bottle (found spray bottles that will lightly mist in the soap making section at Michael’s crafts)
short bobby pins
classic hair pins (the kind that are wide)
small elastics (the kind that look like Rainbow Loom bands or rubber bands for braces)
paper towel, washrag, or some type of covering to protect the doll’s face and body when misting hair with the water
Gather the hair at the back of the doll’s head and make a high ponytail. Tie with an elastic. Twist ponytail tightly; spritz it with water; wrap twisted ponytail around the elastic. Tuck the end of the ponytail under the bun and insert a hairpin to hold. Pin the rest of the bun in place, crisscrossing pins.
Classic Bun Step 1
Classic Bun Finished
Make a ponytail and tie with an elastic. Using small sections at a time, very loosely pin the ends of the ponytail around the elastic.
Messy Bun Back View
Messy Bun Side View
Brush all of the hair back into a high ponytail or pull a small section into a side ponytail. Tie off with an elastic. Separate the ponytail into 2 equal sections. Twist both sections of the hair clockwise. Tightly cross one section over the other counterclockwise until you reach the end of the ponytail. Tie off with another elastic.
Rope Braid Step 1
Rope Braid Step 2
Rope Braid Finished
Some campers visited the hair salon and did nothing but brush their doll’s hair. If you plan to host an American Girl camp, I think having a hair styling area is a must! I think this would also work well as an activity at an American Girl birthday party.
The school where I teach runs American Girl camps in the summer. The history teacher in charge of AG camp is pregnant and had to go on bedrest at the end of the school year, so the school needed last minute subs to run the two camp sessions. Clearly, I am totally qualified to run this camp, but I was hesitant to accept the job. I immediately had visions of American Girl crafts run amok since I tend to think big and have difficulty prioritizing and gauging what is realistically possible for little hands. 20+ campers and overly complicated mini craft projects are not always a good combination. Nevertheless, I took on the challenge, and we just finished the last day of American Girl camp today.
I recycled many of my American Girl craft projects, but I also designed some new ones too. This past Monday was Kaya Day. With the help of my nieces who are still staying with me, we engineered tepees out of brown butcher paper, strung Nez Perce-like beaded necklaces, and wove mats for the tepee.
brown butcher paper (I used painter’s floor covering paper from Lowe’s)
wooden dowels– 1/4″ diameter, 24″ length (4-5 per tepee)
duct tape or masking tape
mini hair bands or Rainbow Loom bands
My oldest niece has the original Kaya tent. She traced the outline of the cloth tepee cover for me to use as a template. The tepee shape is basically a half circle. The diameter is 48″ with a small circle cut out at the center of the straight edge.
Using the template, we traced the shape onto the brown butcher paper and then cut out the shape.
I added Native American looking patterns and symbols. I cut geometric shapes out of poster board for the campers to use as templates for designs on the paper.
I also shared a handout with some Native American symbols.
After decorating, turn the tepee paper over and tape 4-5 dowels to the paper. Space the dowels evenly around the tepee shape, and the bottom of the dowel needs to be even with the bottom edge of the tepee.
Fold the paper in half and stand up. Pinch the first and third dowel together and wrap a rubber band around the top of the dowels. Pull the rest of the dowels together to make them look like the poles at the top of the tepee. Add another rubber band around all of the dowels. (We also wrapped some twine around the top to make it look more authentic).
Spread the part of the dowels that touch the floor out and fiddle with the paper to get the desired tepee shape.
waxed cotton thread
plastic beads– various shapes (perler beads work well too)
lanyard clips (2 per necklace)
Cut 3 pieces of cotton thread in 3 different sizes– 14″, 13″, and 12″.
Line up the 3 pieces of thread so the ends are even. Keeping the ends even with each other on one side, tie a “granny knot” around the lanyard clip.
Thread beads onto all 3 pieces of string. You can create any bead order and partially fill the string or fill the string full with beads. Leave space at the end to make it easy to tie the threads into a knot.
After adding beads, gather the loose ends of the strings and even them up. Tie them in a knot to a second clip making sure the ends are even with each other.
When the necklace is on the doll, the strings will hang at 3 different lengths in a similar way to the quill necklaces worn by the Nez Perce Indians.
Cut scrapbook paper into the mat size you would like. Our mats were 5″ x 5″.
Fold the mats in half with the design facing in.
On one side of the folded paper, draw guidelines for cutting. The lines begin at the folded end of the paper and stop about 1/2″ from the opposite edge (the open side of the folded paper). My lines are 1/2″ apart. You can adjust based on the mat size you use.
The campers made cuts along the lines being careful to stop when the line stopped. Then, kids opened up the paper flat and weaved strips of scrap paper over and under securing each end with a glue dot. My strips are about 1/2″ wide, and I used a paper cutter to make all of the strips.
The mats fit neatly inside the tepee, and if our American Girl doll had been living with Kaya in the mid 1700s, the mat would have helped keep rain out of the tepee.
For more DIY American Girl ideas, visit my other AG posts or check out my Crafts link in the menu bar to the right!