Nikki's Notebook

My journey as a fiction writer and a place for my projects, writing and otherwise.

Archive for December 2009

Nikki’s Popsicle Stick Llama Tutorial.

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One of my favorite things about knitting and other fiber arts is that they have increased my awareness of where things come from and how we connect back to the materials that we use in our everyday lives. Basically, I like knowing that the wool I’m knitting with came from sheep, or alpaca yarn from an alpaca. I’m especially entertained by skeins of yarn that come with a name – the name of the animal the fiber came from. This, in turn, has made me especially entertained by depictions of these animals, or the chance to see them in real life. I have several shirts from with sheep in them, and have started doing things like going to the Wisconsin Sheep & Wool Festival (though I regrettably missed it this year).  So, when trying to come up with ideas for my Amazing Animals class, I became extra excited when I thought of doing llamas!  Having discovered that the kids really enjoyed having an arts and crafts component to the class, I thought long and hard about how they could make llamas.  And that is how the popsicle stick llamas came to be.

For my class, I pre-assembled the llamas beforehand and then let the kids apply the “fur” in class. However, if you have more time and less kids, the whole project is not too hard for a kid to do by him or herself.

How to make a popsicle stick llama!

What you’ll need:

7 popsicle sticks
White glue or super glue
Glue stick
Googly eyes
black construction paper
Lion Brand Fun Fur yarn in brown, black, or cream (or any color you’d like!)
Lion Brand worsted weight yarn in brown, black or cream

1.) Body and neck: Take 3 popsicle sticks. Cut one of them about an inch from the end. Using white glue or super glue, glue the longer piece to the end of one of the other popsicle sticks at a slightly less than 90 degree angle. Glue the smaller piece to the other end of the popsicle stick, lining it up with the end.

2.) Take the 3rd popsicle stick and glue it on top of the neck piece and small cutoff piece, creating a sandwich. This creates the body and the neck.

3.) Legs: For the legs, you can either choose to glue all four in place at once and hold them until they dry, or do one side at a time and let the llama sit to dry, then do the other two legs on the other side once it is dry. I chose the second way since I was making several llamas at once, but first I lined up all the legs to find out what angle I wanted them to be at. I will describe that method here.

4.) First, find out what angle you would like the legs to be at. This is how I decided to do mine:

5.) Next, glue the legs on one side. I started with the ones that angled outward. Lay it flat on the table, legs side down so they don’t tilt out of place, and let dry.

6.) Once the legs have dried enough to hold in place, you can do the other set of legs. Glue on the legs that angle inward, and flip the body over so that these new legs are face down on the table, and let dry. You can do a test before you lay the llama down to make sure the legs will all stand evenly on the table if you want.

7.) Llama face: To make the llama face, fold the piece of black construction paper in half and trace the end of a popsicle stick, making it about an inch and a quarter long. Cut this piece out. Dab a little bit of glue on the top of the popsicle stick neck and fold the paper around it. Glue the ends of the nose together.

8.) For the ears, you want them to look slightly banana-shaped. I traced a strip of paper about a quarter of an inch wide that was as tall as the width of the llama’s face to give room to glue them on. Then, I made it about that height again and curved them forward at the top. To get them to be symmetrical, I cut this shape at the fold of the paper like I did with the head. Glue the ears to each side of the head, then, using two small dabs of glue, attach the eyes. Your llama should look like this:

9.) Now comes the really fun part, the fur! For my example, I’m going to make a black and white llama. Since I did this project with a group of kids, I wound the yarn onto small bobbins that I made out of cardboard from cereal boxes instead of using the whole skein of yarn. I recommend winding these small bobbins anyway, since it was not very hard to control the yarn while I wound.

10.) Now is when you use the glue stick. Do one body part at a time to avoid getting too sticky. I will start with the llama’s body. First, apply glue up and down the length of the body on both sides of the popsicle sticks. Using the worsted weight yarn, stick the end of the yarn onto the glue and begin to wrap, securing the end by wrapping around it.

11.) When you reach the end, cut the yarn and apply an extra blob of glue to secure it, if needed. You have your base wrap!

12.) Now, again with the glue stick, apply glue onto the wrapped yarn and repeat the process with the fun fur. You shouldn’t need too much glue except to secure the ends, but too much won’t hurt it either, besides getting your hands pretty sticky!

13.) Repeat the same process with all of the legs and the neck until you have a finished llama! Be careful when applying the glue stick to the legs that you don’t snap the legs off the body. I ended up having to go back and super glue a bunch of kids’ llamas in between classes because of this. When your llama is finished, enjoy!

I decided to add a scarf to my example llama and make him into a Christmas tree ornament!


Written by nikkinbird

December 26, 2009 at 4:53 pm

The trouble with tourist yarn.

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The trouble with tourist yarn is not knowing what it’s made of.  When I was studying abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina a couple of years ago, my friends and I hopped on a bus and spent an afternoon at the Feria de Matadores, an outdoor market with all kinds of artisan goodies.IMG_1212  As we were leaving and looking again at the last few stalls, I stopped in my tracks as I spotted something amazing.  A stall with a small pile of yarn skeins on it!  I was immediately entranced.  As I started fondling the yarn, the woman running the stall reached under the table and began pulling out more and more skeins, much to my delight.  I ended up going home with six skeins of yarn in an unknown fiber.  But it was not completely unknown.  From the feel of the fiber, it has to be alpaca, llama, or one of the other related animals.  IMG_1213Either way, I brought it to my after school class on the day we learned about llamas and told them it was llama yarn.  I passed the yarn and two balls of alpaca roving around the circle of less than 10 children, and watched as dismay as they untwisted the skeins and unrolled the balls of roving, my fiber becoming more chaotic as they played with it, just to enjoy the feel of it.  As a knitter and lover of fiber, I couldn’t really fault them, could I?  Still, I rather quickly snatched all the show and tell items back from them and moved on.

So that yarn was one of my best treasures that I carried back with me from my time abroad.  And I bring a lot of treasures, for as a tourist, I am a compulsive trinket gatherer.  I especially love handmade souvenirs. IMG_1209The yarn has gone through a few variations as I tried to start projects with it, but I never quite found the perfect project to make with it.  Then, after bringing it to class, I realized it would be a perfect yarn to try in my new loom! And a scarf was born! This is my fourth project that I’ve done since I got my Kromski Harp, and so far it is my favorite. The drape of the alpaca (or llama, or whatever) yarn is amazing, and it has that soft, buttery feel. I’m also pretty pleased with the plaid. It was the first time I tried doing different colors in the warp. The width of the scarf is perfect, too. I made it extra wide so that it could be worn bunched up for more warmth. The only thing is, it’s not exactly my colors. If the brown were a bit deeper, perhaps. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it yet, but for now it is sitting around here looking pretty and letting me pet it. Of course, Tashi thinks he knows exactly what it’s for.


Written by nikkinbird

December 21, 2009 at 9:17 pm

After school kids and tiny skeins for Christmas!

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Lately, it’s been difficult to find a time to take pictures of things, since I get home an hour after it gets dark and I never feel like doing anything after work, anyway.  I never like how things come out with flash, so I try to take pictures when I have natural sunlight.  There just isn’t as much of it right now!  But I do have a few pictures of what I’ve been up to lately.

First, I have pictures of the popsicle stick llamas my after school class made.  Actually, I put all the popsicle stick bodies together before the class, and the kids just chose their yarn colors and wrapped it around the llamas.  One thing I learned from teaching this class is that if you have a time limit and younger children, you have to keep it simple!  Also, I learned to let go of any perfectionist tendencies I may  have when it comes to crafts, because it’s really not a big deal if the kids don’t do it perfectly as long as they have fun!  After the kids made their llamas, I brought them home and arranged them on a poster board for a presentation at a family night.  I still plan on doing a little how-to post for how I made the llamas, I just gotta find the time.  Stay tuned!

The other day I was finishing up some handspun yarn and freeing up some bobbins so I could start on some new yarn.  Usually when I do two-ply yarn, there’s always a little bit of singles left on one of the bobbins and I wind it up and save it.  So this time, having just had a conversation about Christmas ornaments with Chris, after I wound the yarn up into a little skein, I had a thought.  I thought, this little skein of yarn is so cute and tiny, it would be perfect as a Christmas tree ornament!  That idea sent me to my stash of yarn scraps – handspun and commercial – to make up a bunch of tiny little skeins. They all turned out so cute!  Perfect for my fledgling Etsy shop.  Soon I hope to have lots of full-size skeins of handspun yarn gracing my shop, but for now, check out my tiny skeins and some hemp bracelets made by me!

Speaking of hemp bracelets, a coworker and I are teaching a jewelry making after school class for 3-5th graders, and I’m really excited.  Apparently there was a lot of buzz about it in the 5th grade after the brochures were distributed.  I’m also touched and flattered that a lot of the kids want to take my classes simply because I’m teaching them.  Kids are awesome.

Written by nikkinbird

December 13, 2009 at 3:53 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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