My new website! Hooray, hooray!

Hello friends,

Today is a big day around these parts.  My patient, determined, super talented husband and I have been working on for over a year.  Mostly, we've been working during days off, evenings, weekends, and vacations, which is why it has been slow going.  I'm in charge of design, he's in charge of implementation, together we are in charge of awesomeness -- or, at least we try.

And, here we are -- both of us so thrilled with how it turned out. Big high fives at our house.

Red Bird Crafts is still where all of the blogging will take place, and you can easily get to my blog from the new website. 

Please visit! And, please pass the link on to anyone who might be interested.  I'm especially excited about the workshops I've been running in schools, libraries, head start programs, and museums.  If you know of a program, a school principal, a PTO organization, a museum educator etc. who is interested in art & literacy programming for teachers, parents, or children, would you share my website with her or him?  That would be so helpful and wonderful.  Thank you, dear ones!

xo emily

watercolors and flowers

The older kids and I made these in early September in the midst of balmy breezes, deeply saturated garden hues, and a big round baby belly. Our baby boy was due in two weeks and it seemed as if my body couldn't get any rounder. It was full of what we could only dream of.

It happened on a day when we desperately needed something to do. The children were sprawled like huge beached starfish on the living room rug;  I was a beached something on the couch.  It is always nice to have tiny cards on hand, so we set out to replenish our stock.

{Cut watercolor paper into small squares
Use a Sharpie to draw flowers, shapes, designs
Paint a wash of liquid watercolor over the design
Keep going until you can't go anymore.}

I made flowers.  The girls painted birds and flowers and people and bunnies.  

A happy silence hung over our art table; brushes swirled in rinse cups, the girls admired each other's work.  We framed Leah's flower and hung it in the new baby's room:  "Love, Leah.  Age 8."  

We were on the cusp of such change.  

I just kept painting flowers.  

p i c t u r e d :: february

 View from our back porch.

 A brunchy bit of sunshine.


Birthday party treasure hunt clue on the back porch.


 Bright eyes.

Warming her furry, little feline toes.

xo emily (Instagram @redbirdcrafts)

oh baby!

I had a baby in September.  I did!

His name is Oliver.  He was born in late September.

He is a beautiful little baby -- sweet, smiley, and engaging.  His eyes dance when he sees his people.

We've been spending lots of our time on the floor cuddling and chatting.  Don't even get me started on his soft little cheek pillows.

The 9 1/2 months of pregnancy was a mix of excitement, house preparations (the girls are sharing a room!), work (I taught ten workshops at the Boston Public Library in four weeks), travel, and a hot, hot, hot summer.  Oh my. It was really, really hot. 

And, now, we have this boy's little face to look at each day. 

I am a lucky mama of three.

xox emily

Sewing School 2 Winner!

My random number generator chose number 15, which is Ruby!

Ruby wrote: I think my almost 7 year old would LOVE this. Thanks for giving a copy away :)

Hooray! I am sure your seven year old will enjoy it for many years to come.  Please send me an email with your address, so Storey Publishing can send a copy of Sewing School 2: Lessons in Machine Sewing your way.

Happy Friday!

xo  e

Sewing School 2: Book Review and Give-away

I was so happy to receive a copy of Amie Petronis Plumley and Andria Lisle's latest book, Sewing School 2  (Storey Publishing) in the mail, but before I could even peek at the pages, Leah (my eight-year-old) rushed off to her bedroom with it where she quickly flopped onto her bed and perused each page and project. Amie and Andria's first book, Sewing School , is one of my girl's favorites, so it came as no surprise that she would be beyond thrilled to lay eyes on the new book with exciting new projects.  Plus, its focus is teaching children to use the sewing machine, which is always an exciting prospect around these parts.

While I knew that Leah would be super excited to dig into this book, I almost forgot that my Hazel (five-years-old) is in a perfect place to begin learning to use a machine.  She loves fabric, prints, wrapping fabric around her dolls, and hand stitching, so when I showed her the book and asked if she'd like to do a project with me, she was bouncing in anticipation.

She chose the Tag Along project where you make a little stuffy with a loop for hanging.

She went right for a piece of punchy daisy fabric!

She was tentative about using the machine, but after some practice stitching, she was fired up and ready to go.  I love how the act of sewing with the machine teaches lessons in self-control and moderation.  There was a part of her that wanted to ZOOM!, but she took it slow because she was invested in her creation.


Here she is, so proud of her creation!  After much consideration, this beauty will hang in her doll's bedroom.  We already have plans to make more to give away for the holidays -- we're thinking of stuffing them with herbs and flowers!
Sewing School 2 is a wonderful way to introduce children to sewing with a machine because it encourages them to be confident in themselves while inspiring them to be creative in ways that feel fun and productive. Plus, the projects pictured in the book are made by other children, which leaves my kids feeling inspired and connected to all of the creative possibilities within.

Visit the Sewing School blog or Storey Publishing for more information about the book and the tour.  

Storey Publishing has generously offered to give away one copy of Sewing School 2 to a reader.  Just leave a comment on this post by 8/2 at midnight (Eastern Time) and I will announce the winner on 8/4.  Storey has requested that it be US only, please.

xo emily


*Schools out! On our way to get milkshakes.

*Spring things.  (crunch, munch)

* A spring puppy (Great Dane)

* Some of the bounty from our lilac explosion.

* A baby goat.  (We were dying)

* Our magnolia tree in full bloom.  Hello, beautiful!

Happy weekending to you and yours!

xo emily

h e l l o !!

Hello, friends!

I am back from my unexpected blog break feeling rested and excited to share news.  February was the beginning of many weeks of work, travel, deadlines, and family obligations, and while I had intended to continue blogging throughout, I ended up needing to take a bit of a break here, at Red Bird Crafts. Thank you to those who have written and inquired about my absence.  Each little note made me feel so happy. My blog, Everyday Fun, at FamilyFun continued throughout, though, which was nice.  More on that in the coming days!

The quick update:  My children have been home for summer break for a couple of weeks now, which has meant slow mornings, late breakfasts, and long evenings.  We have some big adventures on the horizon, so for now, we've been embracing the quiet and slow.  June, with its mix of cool rainy and and hot steamy days, really is beautiful.  We've been doing our best to pause and notice.

The long update will come in parts during the next few weeks.  Stay tuned for surprises, quiet moments, beautiful child made projects, and tales of adventures.  And, please -- do leave a comment or send an email with a brief update about YOU!  I missed that the most.


p i c t u r e d

* disco ball reflection
* colors
* organizing our children's library
* birthday sunshine
* my dream house (drawn by my daughter)
* a dance class circle 

xo emily  

Making Peg Dolls Winner!

Congratulations, Kris!  You are the winner of a copy of Margaret's beautiful book!  Please send me an email with your name and address, so I can ship it off to you.

Kris wrote: Looks like so much fun! Would love to win - my kids would really enjoy this!

Thanks to all who entered!

xo emily

Making Peg Dolls; interview & giveaway

I am delighted to be a part of a wonderful book tour promoting the super inspiring and beautiful book Making Peg Dolls by Margaret Bloom of we bloom here.  Given my fascination with tiny, imaginative, storytelling toys, I was immediately drawn to the whimsical dolls that fill the pages.  They are all so sweet!  And, charming!  And, magical!  When we first received the book, I snuggled into the couch with my daughters and the room was filled with gasps and giggles, sighs and squeals -- we were smitten.

I asked Margaret if she'd answer some questions about Making Peg Dolls and she kindly did.

Emily: What were your favorite toys to play with when you were a child?

No one will be surprised to read that, as a child, my favorite toys were tiny things -- wee furry mice dressed up in fanciful outfits, small dolls for whom I stitched tiny clothes, and tiny ceramic animals made by Hagen-Renaker…

Emily: In the introduction, you mention that you made your first peg doll in December 2010.  What did this little doll look like?  And, what inspired you to make it?

Margaret: The first peg doll I created in December 2010 was a little water sprite (you cannot see in the photo, but she has wings and also a tail!)  She was created for a Summer Season Craft Exchange which I wrote about in a blog post here.

Emily: Can you describe the process of writing Making Peg Dolls?  When did the idea come into your head and how did it come to fruition?  Were there exciting moments that stand out in your memory?  Hard moments?

Margaret: After making my first doll, I proceeded to create fairies, pixies, gnomes & sprites, bumblebees, bears, bluebirds and owls but had no interest in selling my work.  I was creating far more dolls than my children could ever need as playthings and this was puzzling to me -- I couldn’t figure out why I was so compelled to make them.  Then, via my blog, requests started coming to me for tutorials, and once I started writing tutorials, I realized that they could be the basis for a book proposal.

The most exciting moment, hands down, was when I received a response from Hawthorn Press in July 2011.  As for hard moments, those would have to do with balancing work and home life.  During the time I was working on the book, I overheard my husband Paul tell a friend over the phone, “If she is not caring for our children or sleeping, she is working on the book.”

The process of creating the book itself was fairly straightforward.  First I made all the dolls, then created the written portions, and finished up with the illustrations.  Each day, the moment my little one went down for his afternoon sleep, I sat myself at the kitchen table to work.  It took a fair amount of discipline, and most days, I would not even allow myself to wash dishes while he was sleeping because I had set this time aside for the book.  Good music helped keep me on track; I listened to a lot of Jolie Holland, Renee & Jeremy, and the album Leave your Sleep by Natalie Merchant.

There were certainly days when exhaustion and frustration got the better of me. On one of those days I lined up the cabbage, carrot, corn and tomato peg dolls on a cutting board with a knife and told them that if they did not behave themselves they would all go into the soup. I swear the carrot peg dolls looked a bit alarmed.

Emily: The craft styling in your book is gorgeous and so enticing!  For example, the Martinmas (page 117), Bluebirds (page 30), and Owls (page 104) make me smile. Oh my!  It is all such a feast for the eyes!  Can you tell us a bit about how these scenes were designed and created?

Margaret: Thank you for your kind words!!  I had in my mind that each scene would be a little world unto itself for the dolls to inhabit; some of the scenery was constructed even before I created the dolls.  The props (such as the trees, grass, and witches house) are made from cardboard and simple in design, which I felt complemented the design of the dolls.  I also had in mind that some of the dolls would be photographed among items from nature.  When I am in the garden or walking outside, my eyes are always open for fallen branches, moss and acorns which leave my coat pockets perpetually mossy and twiggy.

One underappreciated aspect of the photos is lighting.  My husband Paul worked as a commercial photographer for many years prior to his current career, so when he and I shot the photos for the book, Paul put a lot of care and energy into how each scene was lit.  I was amazed that we needed such large lighting equipment to take photos of such tiny dolls.  But I’m convinced that what truly made each photo shine is, at the start of every photo session, Paul would say to the little dolls, “Okay now, everyone smile!”

Do your children make lots of peg dolls at home?  Do they have favorites?

Margaret: My older son will sometimes see me working on dolls and sit down at the table to create his own.  Last week he painted up crew members to accompany a pirate peg doll we recently unearthed in a forgotten stash.  My little one has a dandelion doll which he calls his baby, and he has three large-sized peg dolls which live in our box of wooden blocks.  Many a tragedy has befallen these poor block-box dolls; every time a new home is built, it seems the house is dashed to the ground before they’ve hardly settled in.  On a positive note, due to the insistence of my older son, these three larger dolls have recently acquired pencil-drawn noses.
As for favorites, with unbiased hearts, my children seem to love every doll I create.  When I make dolls as gifts, my older son inevitably looks woebegone and asks if we can’t just keep them for ourselves.

Emily: What is your idea of a perfect Sunday morning?

Margaret: Oh, gracious.  This is embarrassing.  There is temptation to inquire whether you could ask a different question instead of fessing up to the fact that we are horribly lazy on Sunday mornings.  Paul and I make our way through the Sunday edition of the San Francisco Chronicle and a big pot of coffee.  My older son loves to read the comics page, while my little one likes to grab sections of the paper and run circles through the house.  I usually make French toast from thick slices of challah, and pajamas are the mandatory dress code until noon.  To me, this is perfection.

Emily: Thanks, Margaret! I can’t wait to share your answers with my readers!

Margaret: You are so very welcome!

I have one copy of Making Peg Dolls to give away! Just leave a comment and a way to reach you on this post. I will keep the giveaway open through this coming weekend and and randomly choose one winner on Monday morning. 
Disclaimer- This giveaway is for US only.  Thanks to all who enter, and good luck! ** This giveaway expired on 2/18 **

The Making Peg Dolls trailer:

The Making Peg Dolls blog tour:

February 4th:  The Crafty Crow
February 5th:  The Magic Onions
February 6th:  The Toymaker
February 7th:  Clean
February 8th:  Anna Branford
February 11th:  Red Bird Crafts
February 12th:  Art is a Way
February 13th:  Softearth's World
February 14th:  Chocolate Eyes
February 15th:  Rhythm and Rhyme
February 18th:  Wild Faerie Caps
February 19th:  Sacred Dirt

This weekend!

To my  NYC friends, I'll be leading Show Me a Story crafts at two lovely spots and I'd love to see you there.   

Saturday (1/19) at 2:00 I'll be making Story Disks at Play Kids toy store in Brooklyn.

Sunday (1/20) 2:00-4:00:  I'll be leading my Memory Card craft at the Children's Museum of Manhattan.  It would be so, so wonderful and fun to see you there!  

What a nice week it has been in! We had bright sun, sweet grapefruit, and an official snow day where the children made a snowman, snow fort, and drank large cups of hot chocolate. Our weather turned from sunny and warm to cold and snowy quite quickly.

This guy has been waving to our neighbors all week.  That is me in the doorway. The photograph was taken at 2:ish and I was still in my pajamas.  Success!

Happy weekend! 

xo e


I took this photograph in front of The Chicago Tribune for two reasons:

1. The stones and etching are beautiful.

2.  Show Me a Story was recently reviewed in The Chicago Tribune!  Standing in front of the building made it all feel extra special.

Have a wonderful weekend!


Book Tour :: Chicago!

Last weekend, I zoomed to Chicago for some exciting events for the Show Me a Story book tour.  It was a wonderful trip filled with kind faces, incredibly creative children, a zippy glass elevator in the hotel (gulp!), and inquisitive teachers and parents.  I was so delighted and honored to spend the weekend with lovely people in a super city.
We stayed in a great hotel directly in the heart of the city.  It has glass walls, a glass ceiling, and a glass elevator that made me a little weak in the knees.  I eventually got used to it, and by the end I was brave enough to look outside as we raced to the fifteenth floor. 
 Standing in the hotel lobby, looking up.
This was at the wonderful Magic Tree House Bookshop in Oak Park, right outside of Chicago.  It was my first stop, and as soon as I began making Story Disks with the children, big, fat snow flakes fell from the sky.  It was beautiful and perfect.
My next stop was the Chicago Children's Museum at Navy Pier where I was so impressed by the creative exhibits and sweet staff.  And, um, the children and families that made Memory Cards with me were unbelievably creative.  Oh my!  They had it going ON! 

Don't worry, this child's Memory Card reads "Fire" because he went to the fire station Christmas party where his grandfather used to be a fire fighter.  Oh, this little boy was SO sweet and funny!

Tom and I walked to the end of Navy Pier where we seemed to be the only ones willing to brave the frigid wind.  Night was coming, and I was determined to stare into the milky blue waters of the Lake Michigan before it was time to go.  We caught a gorgeous sunset and we were serenaded on our way to dinner.  Such beautiful gifts!
And then we squished onto a tiny plane (3 seats across and all of the tall people had to crouch while standing) and soared back to our home sweet home, where my two children greeted me with warm cheeks, smelling of chocolate and shampoo.

It is so nice to soar, to go on adventures, to meet crowds of wonderful, new people. It is fun to drift and gaze and wander.  It is also so nice to come home.


p.s. Want to see more of my Instagram photos? Follow along here: redbirdcrafts.