Introduce Kids to Calligraphy

Introduce Kids to Calligraphy | TinkerLab

Introduce a child to calligraphy, and you’ll open him up to a world of penmanship, which is especially important in a time when cursive writing is being eliminated from public schools (Washington Post). Children will also learn to work with a dynamic and somewhat unforgiving drawing media and gain first-hand experience into the history of fancy writing.

 cal-lig-ra-phy (noun)

fancy penmanship, especially highly decorative handwriting, as with a great many flourishes*

A Short History of Calligraphy

Calligraphy, or beautiful writing, has roots in more than one culture. Early examples of calligraphy can be found in China from more than 4000 years ago with characters inscribed into clay with metal tools. Other early examples are found in the Egyptian hieroglyphs, carved into clay tablets and dating back over 5000 years. From these early beginnings, we can now find early examples of calligraphy in Japanese, Arabic, and Medieval Illuminated Manuscripts. This nice, short video about writing in 15th century England is a fun trip back in time to the root of what we now call modern calligraphy.

Modern Calligraphy

As a counter-balance to our high-tech online lives, many of us yearn for a little slice of handmade and hand-drawn. If you have an eye on Pinterest or pay attention to fonts on today’s menus, catalogues, and other forms of graphic design, you’ve probably noticed that calligraphy is having a comeback. Modern calligraphers use pointed dip nibs to write in script, and these pointed, sharp nibs allow them to make the swirling flourishes and thin strokes that make this style popular today.

Maybelle Imasa-Stukuls at Makeshift Society

One of my favorite modern calligraphers is Maybelle Imasa-Stukuls and I had the great pleasure of taking a class with her at Makeshift Society in San Francisco (photos below). Quick tip: While Maybelle is based in the SF Bay Area, she travels around the world and you can see if she’ll be heading to your town here. I loved this class, and if you have any interest in calligraphy these popular (and often sold out) classes are well worth the effort.

Maybelle Imasa-Stukuls at Makeshift Society

You don’t need a lot to get started!

For our class, Maybelle made each of her students a sweet wooden block to hold our calligraphy ink, and gave us a bottle of ink, calligraphy booklet, and a pen. Here are some similar supplies to get you started today…

Calligraphy Supplies

Introduce Kids to Calligraphy | TinkerLab

How to Introduce Kids to Calligraphy

Step 1: Clear the table

Step 2: Set up your supplies. Calligraphy pen, ink, paper

Step 3: Show your child examples of calligraphy. Ask, “how is this writing different from the writing that we use to make lists or write our names?” See reference books below for calligraphy resources.

Step 4: Practice drawing and writing. The object here is to have fun with the pen/s and not worry too much about how the writing actually turns out.

Introduce Kids to Calligraphy | TinkerLab

We drew right in our sketchbooks, which is nice a nice place to keep a running record of our drawings. The biggest challenge of using a calligraphy pen boiled down to how you hold the pen. I gently held the pen in my own hand to show my kids how to best twist the pen so that the nib was positioned properly on the paper. I didn’t worry too much about real calligraphy form.

The idea here isn’t to teach my kids how to write in perfect calligraphic form but to introduce them to a cool material. In the image above, my 3-year old used a drawing nib and shared with me that this was the most comfortable grip for her. She had a great time playing with the pen and drawing a picture (of me, on a swing, by the way!).

Introduce Kids to Calligraphy | TinkerLab

My 5-year old has been rocking flourishes for a while now, and used a pointed calligraphy nib for her lettering. She really enjoyed the challenge of adding swirls and spirals to her letters.

Calligraphy Books

These are all Amazon links for your convenience.

* calligraphy definition:

Tinkering Space Interview: Megan Schiller

TinkerSpace Interview with Megan Schiller | TinkerLab

Today I’m joined by Megan Schiller of The Art Pantry, as part of our ongoing series of inspiring conversations that center on how to set up creativity hubs, or tinkerspaces. If you’re scratching your head because you can’t figure out where to put your child’s art materials, want to turn your laundry room into an art zone, or tend to shift furniture to make room for creative supplies, these interviews are sure to give you food for thought.

Megan Schiller Bio
Megan Schiller is a creative parent with an impressive background in art education, who now runs an amazing online kid-friendly art store called The Art Pantry where she also consults families on how to set up their very own Art Pantry (check out her very generous giveaway at the end of this post). I’ve drooled over pictures of Megan’s child-friendly tinkering space in her Instagram feed and also on her blog, and I asked her if she’d be so kind to share it with us today. Yay! We’re in for treat. Enjoy this peek into Megan’s Art Pantry…

Can you tell us about your family?

I am so grateful to have such a loving family! My husband and I have two daughters (ages 2 and 5) and a very old dog (age 15). We live in a small home in an amazing community just north of San Francisco.

Tinkering Spaces Interview with Megan Schiller |

How would you describe your space?

Our art space is located in our sunroom, just off the living room. It was once a covered porch, so the wall between the living room and our art space is full of windows. This allows me to keep my eye on the girls, but still close the door so my toddler doesn’t run out covered in paint!

Tinkering Spaces Interview with Megan Schiller |

The space is about 100 square feet with most of the art supplies on one side, a reading area on the other and a table in the middle. We live in my Grandmother’s old home, who was also an artist. She used this same sunroom as her art studio, so I have a lot of memories creating art as a child in this room.

What’s the inspiration for your creative space?

My inspiration comes from the “ateliers” of Reggio Emilia preschools. While studying the Reggio Emilia approach in grad school, I was lucky enough to attend a study tour of these Italian schools. It was life changing and has shaped everything I have done in my career and as a parent. I am completely in awe of their approach to the use of art in early childhood education and have tried to set up our art space to reflect this.

Tinkering Spaces: Art Pantry Studio Tour  | TinkerLab

I want my girls to view the materials as tools for exploration, investigation, construction and self-expression. I want them to be self-sufficient in this space and have free access to many of the materials. The rules are if they can reach it, they can use it without supervision. My 5 year old mostly has free access to everything, while my 2 year old can access markers, stamps, stickers, plastic scissors, paper, and sometimes paint!

If you had to be selective, what three things do you love most about your space?

The natural light, the open shelving, and the fact that it can be closed off, but still visible.

Tinkering Spaces: Art Pantry Studio Tour  | TinkerLab

Do you have any tips for those of us who want to make our homes havens for making?

Create a dedicated art space somewhere in your home and make sure it is near a work surface (a desk, play table, or kitchen table). Make it inviting by keeping the materials organized and easy to access. If it gets too disorderly, store some of the materials away in a closet and rotate them often. If you have room for a lot of materials, choose a few to highlight every once in a while by putting out an “invitation to create.”

Tinkering Spaces: Art Pantry Studio Tour  | TinkerLab

What five supplies are indispensable to you and your children at this moment?

My kids are big fans of the basics: markers, play dough, tempera paint, scissors, and tape.

Tinkering Spaces: Art Pantry Studio Tour  | TinkerLab

Can you share a favorite tip for organizing your creative zone or for cleaning up after a creative session?

For messy projects, I am a huge proponent of using trays. They usually keep the mess contained in the tray and they can be moved out of reach if you need to save cleanup for later. We also use them for storing projects that extend over multiple days.

Tinkering Spaces: Art Pantry Studio Tour  | TinkerLab

What do you wish for your children to remember about their childhood?

Great question! I hope they will remember an abundance of love, giggles, creativity, dancing, being in nature, and the feeling of playing deep in their imaginations.

Tinkering Spaces:: Art Pantry Studio Tour  | TinkerLab

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

I’m so honored that you asked to interview me, Rachelle! I have been reading your blog for years and want to thank you for being such an inspiration. I am extremely passionate about helping people set up art spaces for kids and have recently started offering design services through The Art Pantry. I’d love to offer one of your readers an e-design package as a giveaway. I can’t wait to work with the lucky winner!

Thank you so much for sharing with us today, Megan! 

Do you have an inspiring Tinkering Space to share?

If you have an art studio, maker space, or tinkering garage that you think our readers would be inspired by, we would love to hear about it! You can fill out this short form and we’ll be in touch.

More Tinkering Spaces

You can check out the rest of the TinkerSpaces in this series here. 


Megan is offering one lucky reader her Art Pantry Design Services, to help you create an art space that’s inviting, organized, age appropriate, inspiring, and empowering. This service is valued between $125 and $500.

To enter: simply leave a comment on this post by Sunday, April 27 at 9 pm PST and the winner will be chosen by random number generator. This contest is open world-wide and you must be at least 18 years old to enter. 

Congratulations to Emily, winner of this giveaway!

Screen Shot 2014-04-27 at 9.16.08 PM

How to Set up an Art Cart

If you’re looking for ways to organize your most frequently used art supplies, the rolling, portable art cart could be a great solution. While we haven’t always had an art cart, I now appreciate that our everyday supplies have their own place, and that the cart can roll around the house and park itself right next to wherever my children decide to make their mark. 

How to set up and Art Cart  for easy-to-reach, everyday art supplies | TinkerLab

What’s on the Art Cart?

There are three broad categories of materials that go onto our cart. You can fill your cart with exactly what you see here, or substitute some of the items for things that are used more frequently in your home. The materials on our cart reflect my kids’ daily interests in drawing and making 2-D art. While you won’t see building and paint supplies on our cart, we do store these other art-making supplies nearby.

How to set up and Art Cart  for easy-to-reach, everyday art supplies | TinkerLab

Here’s what goes into our cart, for children ages 3 and 5

Top Shelf: Drawing and Cutting Tools

  1. Washable Markers
  2. Pencils and Colored Pencils
  3. Crayons
  4. Scissors
  5. Paintbrushes

Middle Shelf: Attaching Tools

  1. Tape: Colorful washi tapes, colored masking tape, and clear tape
  2. Glue: White glue, colored glue, and glue sticks
  3. String: baker’s twine, cotton twine 
  4. Stapler

Bottom shelf: Treasures

  1. Stickers
  2. Pom-poms
  3. Sequins
  4. Wiggly eyes
  5. Buttons
  6. Color coding labels
  7. We sometimes store our sketchbooks on the bottom shelf too

Other ideas

Dough Tools: Sculpting Cart

  1. Play dough
  2. Play dough tools
  3. Air dry clay
  4. Mini muffin pan
  5. Spoons and bowl

Building Tools: Tinkering Cart

  1. Low-heat glue gun
  2. Recyclables
  3. Broken toys and appliances
  4. Hammer
  5. Tacks
  6. Goggles
  7. Duct Tape
  8. Scissors
  9. Screwdriver

Paint Tools: Painter’s Cart

  1. Tempera Paint
  2. Watercolors
  3. Paintbrushes
  4. Rags
  5. Water containers
  6. Apron
  7. Paper

How the Art Cart Works

When my kids want to create something, the art cart is self-service. They can find what they need, remove it from the cart, and then put it back in its place when they’re done. These are some of the projects we’ve worked on with materials form our art cart (top to bottom):

How to set up and Art Cart  for easy-to-reach, everyday art supplies | TinkerLab

  1. Sequins, beads, and buttons stuck into dough
  2. Homemade crown with Sharpies, glue stick, and scissors
  3. Office stickers and Tape in paper frames
  4. Paper doll with clear tape, stickers, and permanent marker

Where to buy an Art Cart


  • We love our Raskog Kitchen Cart. Like anything IKEA, you have to assemble it yourself, but it’s not a difficult assembly. The cart is sturdy (made of steel), the casters are solid, and I don’t imagine we’ll have to replace it any time soon.
  • As of this date, these come in turquoise, dark grey, and beige.


There are lots of choices on Amazon. We’re an affiliate and selected a few carts that look promising.

Do you like this post? Pop over here to see our Art Cart in Action


How to Build with Box Rivets

Today we’re joined by TinkerLab reader and friend, Aricha Gilpatrick Drury who’s offered to show us how to build with box rivets. Aricha is a mom to four children and has a knack for tinkering. When she shared this uber-tinkering activity on our Facebook wall, we asked Aricha if she’d be so kind to share with us today. Lucky us, she said, “yes!”

If you’ve never built with box rivets before (we haven’t), you’re in for a treat. They’re simple plastic connectors that enable you build almost anything you can think of from cardboard: castles, theater sets, play structures, and more.

How to build with rivets and cardboard boxes |

About a year ago, my father sent the kids a package of Mr. McGroovy’s Cardboard Rivets (Amazon), which took up residence, half-forgotten on a shelf. My kids all love building with cardboard boxes, but I’d assumed the rivets would require a great deal of adult help and I was hesitant to introduce them. I was pleasantly surprised to be proved wrong when I finally got them out on a recent snow day.

Supplies: Build a Box with Rivets

My 9-year-old and I gathered our supplies:

Mr. McGroovy's Rivets |

How the Rivets Work

After a quick safety review for the punch (to avoid punching directly into one’s hand), we checked out the rivets to see how they worked. Two rivets are positioned on either side of the cardboard with the prongs at a 90-degree angle from one another. When the rivets are pressed together, the ridged prongs click securely and hold the two layers of cardboard together.


I demonstrated once, showing my son how to punch through two layers of cardboard then press the rivet together through the punched hole. Once he had the idea, which only took one demonstration, I turned him loose to design and build.

Build with Rivets and Cardboard

He started out by gathering all the boxes together and then arranged them into the general shape of the playhouse that he wanted to make. After getting a rough idea of where each box would go, he figured out which sides needed to be cut open and how to overlap the joints to secure the boxes together. For the most part, he was able to punch the holes and line up the rivets himself, though he needed an extra hand (or a longer arm) for some spots.

Creative Problem Solving

In a few places, the cardboard didn’t overlap and we used packing tape to join the pieces. When that proved to be far less reliable than riveting, he discovered that an extra piece of cardboard could be placed over both edges and riveted together, creating a much more stable joint.


He also discovered that he needed to do some pre-planning in a few places by securing the harder-to-reach rivets first and leaving the ones close to the edge for last.

His final touch was a door, which I cut for him using the box cutter. He designed a handle with a strip of leftover cardboard and riveted it on.


Once the house was complete, we carried it out for the rest of the children to explore. After an initial peek inside, they furnished it with pillows and blankets. Over the next couple days it became a play house, a castle, and a place to be alone. After a week in child care (including being moved by small children), the house is still standing solid.



Mr. McGroovy’s website has designs for using the rivets to create projects from your own cardboard boxes, as well as ideas from customers and tips for acquiring large appliance boxes.

Mr. McGroovy’s rivets on Amazon

Note: This post contains affiliate links for your convenience

Aricha Gilpatrick Drury on How to build with rivets and cardboard boxes | TinkerLab.comAricha Gilpatrick Drury is an early childhood consultant and mother of four. She comes from a long line of fixers and tinkerers and hopes to pass on a tinkering mindset to her children. She likes to test out her open-ended art and tinkering invitations in her husband’s in-home childcare program.

How to Felt a Wool Sweater

Have you ever wondered how to felt a wool sweater?

Today we’ll show you how how to felt a wool sweater and how to make felted wool flowers to use as pins or barrettes.

The inspiration for these instructions and post came from one of our favorite new books, This Book was a Tree by Marcie Cuff (Perigree, 2014). We reviewed the book here (and there are links to other reviews) in case you’d like to check it out!

How to Felt a Wool Sweater – Step 1

Collect your 100% wool sweaters. They should be 100% wool, and the thicker they are, the better. Alpaca is wool, and felts beautifully! I’m not sure if you can tell much about the weight of the sweaters from the image below, but the one on the right felted MUCH better than the other three, which were on the thinner side.

How to Felt Wool Sweaters |

How to Felt a Wool Sweater – Step 2

This step may be a little painful at first if you’re using a sweater that you kind of love.

Cut the Sweater at the seams. Cut off the necks, arms, and slice right up the side seams. Cut off the edges so that the sweater has a better chance at felting. The following pictures give you an idea of what you’re after.

Use sharp scissors. I LOVE my Gingher scissors. These were recommended to every costume design student at UCLA (and I won’t even tell you how many years ago I was there!). Suffice to say that these last FOREVER. These scissors are not cheap, but if you want really great sewing scissors that will last, these are the ones.

Anything with ribbing is probably destined for the scrap bin. You’ll notice a few squares of ribbed cuffs in the bottom of the stack of the last photo (below). I was hoping that these would felt nicely, but they were a mess.

How to Felt a Wool Sweater | TinkerLab

Toss your scraps. See those scraps in the bottom right hand corner (above)? Those get tossed. The ribbed cuff pieces should be tossed too.

Wash on HOT. Put all your sweater parts into a hot water wash with some detergent that will help agitate the fibers. Wash and then dry on hot. Marcie suggests doing this two times, so I washed and dried mine twice to maximize the felting.

Now you should have a mad pile of felted wool that you can turn into all sorts of wonderful things. Are you ready to make something now? Let’s get started with a felted flower!

Felt Wool Sweaters into a Felted Flower


  • Felted Wool Sweater Pieces
  • Strong/thick needle
  • Thread
  • Ruler (optional)
  • Scissors
  • Hot or low-heat glue gun
  • Barette clips. We used alligator clips like these, but your favorite type of clip will be great.

How to Felt a Wool Sweater into a Flower | TinkerLab


  1. Gather Supplies
  2. Measure and cut a piece of felt to be the center of the flower, about 15 cm (5″) long x 4 cm (1 1/2″) wide. Marcie’s instructions of 15 cm long x 1.5 cm will make for a flatter flower.
  3. Roll the piece of felt up
  4. Secure the felt with needle and thread
  5. Cut another piece of felt, about 10 cm (4″) long x 5 cm wide (2″). Cut loops or zigzags at the top of this second strop to look like petals. Wrap this second piece of felt around the center piece. Secure with needle and thread.
  6. Cut another piece of felt, about 10 cm (4″) long x 5 cm wide (2″) and wrap it around the flower. Secure with needle and thread.
  7. Cut two 6 cm x 3 cm leaf shapes and stitch them to the bottom of the flower.
  8. Wrap a small piece of felt around the top part of a barrette and glue it in place with a glue gun (no photo – so sorry!). The idea here is to cover the shiny silver barrette with felt. Then, glue the flower to the felt that’s attached to the barrette. Voila!

How to an old wool sweater and turn it into flowers | TinkerLab

We made two felted flower barrettes, and now I have an enormous amount of felt just waiting for the next project. Any ideas for us?

More Felted Wool Sweater Projects

Felted Bird Ornaments

Felted Alpaca Purse

Recycled Wool Throw Pillows

Felted Wool Snowflake Pin

Felted Wool Blanket

Note: This post contains affiliate links for your convenience!