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I got a Graco Pack and Play playard for my new grandson and the mobile that came with it is super boring!

When my own daughter was a baby, I made a makeshift mobile for her using some chopsticks as cross supports, sewing thread for hanging, and triangles of cereal box cardboard covered with bright gift wrap paper. The triangle shapes made the pictures face her when she was looking up. (I did not hang it above her crib, just in case my home-made contraption might fall and entangle her. I hung it in the living room where I could keep an eye on her.)

I now have more tools at my disposal, so I whipped up a conversion kit for the playpen mobile. You wouldn’t need fancy tools to do something like this. You could get by with plain paper (with bold marks on it), scissors and some adhesive tape (pretty sure that’s what I used my first time around). Obviously, don’t leave a baby unattended with anything you’ve cobbled together like this. That said, since it’s paper, it hangs easily and makes baby’s view much more interesting. Here’s how I made it.

Some other means of closure would probably work. Keep safety in mind, though!

This was to work on the pre-installed velcro that comes on the Graco Pack and Play mobile. You could probably attach via some other means, though again, keep safety in mind, and don’t leave baby unattended with anything that might endanger them in any way. If your pictures were on your triangles, you’d be done at this point. I wanted to add some existing pictures to mine though:

This process could be simplified by just drawing on the middle third of some paper triangles (probably wider ones), hanging them up (safely) and calling it done! I was retrofitting an existing mobile with some laminated pictures I already had.

A while back I had the idea of making a Halloween Advent Calendar, and I got busy this weekend (Sept 30 — nothing like planning ahead!) and did it, start to finish. I wanted to surprise my daughter and her husband with it, because they’re pretty into Halloween, and they usually come over for brunch on Sundays. Okay, so they didn’t get it until October 2. Still a Halloween miracle.


Here’s how I went about it.

  • Day one Sept 30: With David’s help I wrote a list of 31 Halloween related images, one for each day of October. It wasn’t easy coming up with the last 5 or 6.
  • I creased a brown paper grocery sack into 36 squares (6 rows of 6). This gave me a couple extra boxes in case I screwed up.
  • I sat down at the coffee table with a pencil and sketched a picture in each square. I went with mice, since I can draw them pretty fast, they’re a rather “forgiving” creature.
  • Next, I headed down to my art kitchen and listened to several podcasts and comedy recordings while furiously coloring with Prismacolors. I love my electric pencil sharpener. My rate was about five 1.5×1.5″ pictures per hour, so it took 6 hours to do the coloring. (Thank you Patton Oswald, Mitch Hedberg (yes, I know you’re dead), Danielle Krysa and “Sawbones.” You could spend a lot less time and still make something fun!
  • Went back up to the office and scanned my little pics. (If you’re only making one, you could just use the originals and use real life cut and paste skills instead of a computer.)mouse
  • Day two: Found a picture of a spooky looking house and sized it (in InDesign) to fit my final calendar, then printed a reduced version of it on 8.5×11. (easier to draw and scan than actual size)
  • On tracing paper, I semi-traced, semi-reimagined the house image lightly with pencil, planning in 31 window spaces. Then I inked it with India ink and some messy washes. (I was short on time, but I’m cool with the way my super-fast house came out.)
  • I would have scanned my house drawing, but who has time for India ink to dry? So I took a photo of it with my phone and placed it in an InDesign document, sizing it to fit my final calendar sheet. (I added a brown paper texture and green tint in PhotoShop.)
  • Next, in InDesign, I sized and placed my little brown bag illustrations on top of the windows in the house drawing, bearing in mind I wanted my illustrations just slightly larger than my windows.
  • After I had them where I liked, I duplicated that “guide” page in the InDesign doc twice, so I had 3 copies in all.
  • On copy 1 of the page, I kept the little illustrations, but deleted the house.
  • On copy 2, I deleted the little illustrations, kept the house, and placed the numbers 1-31 on the windows.
  • I kept my original page (copy 3), with both the house and the little illustrations, to print as a cutting guide.
  • Finally, I printed all three pages, one to be the outside of the house, one to be the illustrations that are seen when the windows are opened, and one that I made into a cutting guide so I could get the window slits in just the right places without marking up my house. I printed two different sizes. I checked my placement on a small printout before using our fancy 13×19 printer.
  • I made a cutting guide for each size of calendar. On it, I decided how the windows would open, (left, right, up or down) and marked the appropriate 3 edges with a contrasting Sharpie (now I can re-use the jig without stopping to think about each cut).IMG_8595
  • I placed the cutting guide over my final house page and taped it to the cutting mat so it wouldn’t move while I was cutting. It goes faster if you cut all the lines in one direction first, then go back and do all the perpendicular lines.
  • Finally, I used double stick tape to adhere “illustration” page to the “house with windows” page, and punched some holes to hang it with. (Obviously, I only put the sticky tape in areas where there weren’t any windows.)done

Boom! It’s a Hallowadvent calendar. If you want me to make you one of these, hit up my “cute stuff” Etsy shop, Goodwerks. It’s OK if it doesn’t get delivered on Oct. 1, because you get the fun of opening more windows when it arrives!

Happy October!

owl vintage farbic illustration by marla goodman

Click to find this at my Etsy store.

FarbicOwl I’ve noticed that I’m getting quite a few hits and pins on my vintage fabric illustrations, so I thought I’d show you how I do it. If you’re experienced in Photoshop, you probably don’t really need this, but in case anybody else is curious, here’s a rather haphazardly done step by step. (Click on the first thumbnail to arrow through the steps.)

If you like this illustration or this tutorial, please consider visiting my Etsy shop. Your visits help me rank higher in searches.

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