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!
After the novelty of the petal bag sewing project wore off, I launched into the next crafty activity– Ukrainian Easter Eggs. I haven’t made them for a few years because on top of the incredible time suck to complete just one egg, they require a lot of counter space, and they are not that kid friendly. The egg dying process involves hot wax and fire, and until this year, I didn’t really want to supervise Miss Priss and Mr. Star Wars trying to make the eggs. I could have told them that they could not participate in the great Ukrainian egg decorating project and given them inferior PAAS dyes as a consolation, but that would be cruel.
Ukrainian Easter Eggs are decorated using layers of beeswax and dyes. It takes a steady hand and a lot of patience. Sewing Sister can freehand hers, but I have to sketch guidelines with pencil to get better results. It can take several hours to make one egg, but the results are worth it (in this obsessive RoomMom’s opinion).
Mix dyes according to dye packet instructions with boiled distilled water. You really need to order the Ukrainian egg dyes. The colors are much more vibrant than anything you find with the regular Easter supplies at WalMart or the grocery store, and they are made for adding one color over another. You want tall containers with lids like a wide mouth pint Mason jar. Let dyes cool overnight, and keep lids on the dyes when you are not using them.
Bring eggs that you will be decorating to room temperature. The eggs are uncooked and NOT blown out. Wipe the egg gently with a paper towel moistened with white vinegar. This helps the dye coat the egg more evenly.
Draw guidelines on your egg lightly with a fine mechanical pencil. I always use patterns from the Ukrainian design books I have, and it shows me how to divide the egg. Most eggs start with a basic division into 8 sections. Pencil in any other tricky parts of the design. Pencil mistakes can be erased by wiping the egg with a piece of paper towel moistened with white vinegar.
Any areas of the egg that will stay white get covered with wax first.
Light the candle and let it burn while you work. Gently hold your kistka (the drawing tool) in the side of the candle flame. Do not hold the point of the kistka in the flame. Once the kistka is hot, dig the back of the “well” in the beeswax to fill. Begin tracing the first lines in the pattern with the kistka. Stop every few strokes to reheat the little tool in the flame and fill with more beeswax as necessary. It will be a little like writing with an ink pen that needs to be dipped in ink.
After covering all of the white parts of the design with wax, dip the egg in the lightest color (usually yellow). After several minutes (even up to 30 minutes), remove the egg from the dye, dry, and begin the next section of the design in the next lightest color.
Repeat until the design is finished. Dip in the final color, which will be the background of the egg. With Ukrainian eggs, the last color is often royal blue or black.
Remove the egg from the dye, dry completely by rolling and patting with paper towel.
Carefully hold the egg near the flame of the candle and wait for the beeswax to begin to melt. When the wax looks glassy and melted, wipe the wax away with paper towel. Continue to clear small sections of wax until all wax has been removed from the egg. Adjust your piece of paper towel, so you are always wiping with a clean portion of the paper towel.
After the egg is finished, you can drain it. I never do. The eggs are actually stronger if you leave them whole. Over time, the eggs dry out on their own if you keep them on a shelf out of drafts and movement. Do beware; if an egg cracks before it has completely dried out, you will come home to one stinky mess!
Do not retrace lines. You may think that beeswax is not covering the egg, but it is. When you retrace lines, it creates duplicate, sketchy looking lines and will not look as tidy when complete.
This process can be frustrating for kids (and beginners).