Tag Archives: DIY

A Robustly Crafty Elmo Birthday Party


For the month or two preceding my daughter’s second birthday, I was seemingly in the bedeviling throes of an insane amount of self-imposed crafting and domestic arts for a toddler’s birthday party at home, or what I deemed “Operation Elmo Birthday Party”. Yet, even inching towards the finish line, i.e. the wee hours of the morning prior to a 10:30 start time the next day, I felt an extension of energy throughout the summer, that, though quite busy, was never really stressful, Rather, it offered creative bursts of activity that were the, hey, I did it! personally-fulfilling kind. It is as if I had embodied the infectious, positive attitude of Elmo himself.

Friends warned me that, post-party, I might suffer a mental crash afterwards, with any adrenaline I was running on depleted or with a project-based mission now absent. But I really haven’t felt any of that. Instead, I totally want to write about it—partially because the general lack of readership of my blog more or less means I am journaling for personal edification, not blogging for public consumption. But, I also wish to identify the myriad sources who have paved the way of Elmo and Sesame Street toddler birthday parties before me, permitting me to then build on their really great and numerous ideas which, might, in turn, spark your own version of an ultimate toddler birthday party on the scale of crafty, as they did for me. Without further ado,


Elmo party photo invitation

My daughter, as probably 95% of the American population of humans (and I bet some dogs) around age 2 or 3 are wont to do, was hyper-happy about Elmo’s existence in our known and fictional world. The idea for an Elmo party occurred to me about half a year before her actual birthday. No, I didn’t ask her what she wanted. Yes, I chose the theme for her. And, yes, I am healing whatever I might have felt was lacking in my childhood through her, though, frankly, at 18 to 24 months, without Elmo’s tutelage on an episode of Elmo’s World about birthdays, I’m not sure she would’ve known what one even was. (Now she knows.) Just right for an invitation, I had captured a photo of her sitting on one of those coin-operated mechanical rides you see at strip malls or in front of supermarkets. This became a pivotal theme-setter for the party.

Tip #1: With a little forethought, establish the party theme with a photo card invitation. Rather than using licensed character illustrations for paper or email invitations, take a pic of your child with that character (on a ride, holding a plush toy, at an amusement park or store featuring the character, etc.). My daughter’s toddler friends were really pleased to receive an invitation in the mail with her photo, at an age when pairing names and faces are still a teaching tool.

Party Games & Activities

Cookie Monster’s Toss Your Cookies Game, made from a Cookie Monster face with cut-out mouth and handmade felt bean bags (which continue to get play at our house in the pretend kitchen).

Cookie Monster Toss Game

Pin the Nose (and Eyes) on Elmo, a handmade felt face stuffed with batting.

pin the nose on Elmo

Dorothy’s airbnb Prize Game. This activity is derived from the classic carnival game where picking a numbered object yields an inexpensive prize.


For whatever reason, I was just really, really averse to buying more plastic single-purpose toys for the sake of a party, and, though I contemplated having a tub of rubber duckies so each child could also take one home, I decided that this, however logically inconsistent (because, please, I was still totally committed to shopping at Dollar Tree and Target for the cheap, mostly “Made in China” goods), was unnecessary and wasteful for the purpose sought. So, what I ended up doing was spending at least an hour of design work around a sign just to create a story around why it was not Ernie’s rubber duckies or why Dorothy’s fish bowl had no Dorothy, but, instead, three turtle bath toys we already had around the house. All the while, Dorothy’s bowl is not a fishbowl at all, but an empty glass kimchi jar. The drawers, an IKEA Helmer red enamel rolling drawer unit, was a piece of small furniture we already had that was emptied out for the party to serve as the prize drawers as well as the display stand for the game.

So, the story goes that Dorothy’s actually on vacation and has subletted her fish bowl to the three turtles via an airbnb listing. Drawers 1, 2 and 3 had either a 25-piece puzzle, 2-pack palm-sized board books or flash cards for prizes, all Sesame Street and from Dollar Tree.


Oscar’s Tattoo Parlor. Besides very, very tiny Oscar the Grouch stickers on the sign, the grimy guy is noticeably absent here, as we ran out of steam towards the end of the week to figure out how to draw him well. The idea for Oscar’s Tattoo Parlor came from a superb and jawdroppingly beautiful sign discovered in my late night Sesame Street reconnaissance. The green plastic trash can contains a paper towels as well as a water-soaked washcloth to apply the Sesame Street temporary tattoos.

Sesame Street Coloring and Activity Pages (free downloads and more free downloads). The coffee table was set up with crayons and coloring pages available from official and licensed sources.

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Sign up for KSW’s Two-part Screenprinting Workshop!


goccoI will be teaching the first of a two-part workshop “Do-It-Yourself Screenprinting” at Kearny Street Workshop in May as part of API Cultural Center’s United States of Asian America Festival.  Learn and produce multiple prints on the Print Gocco at this hands-on workshop.  In addition to supplies to flash a master screen and equipment time to print as many as you can make in an afternoon, we’ll discuss the future of Gocco, sourcing additional supplies and equipment and tips on maximizing space on the screen, multiple color layout and doing what we can to reduce equipment malfunctions.  Handouts provided.  The following weekend, Scott Louie and Herna Cruz Louie bring us back to silkscreen on a larger format.  Be sure to register early as class size is limited.  Class Details:

yuduMay 1, 10 am – 2 pm & May 8, 10 am – 3 pm
Location: 1246 Folsom St.
Registration: $95 (includes cost of all materials)

This is a hands-on workshop for novice screen printers. Learn the basics of screen printing on all media and the complete screen printing process from artwork preparation to image burning to ink application. Make your own DIY notecards, business cards, or even a handy tote bag! After two Saturdays, you’ll be equipped with the savvy to screen print future projects on your own. Screen printing has been a tool for social and political change, and was one of the earliest classes offered by KSW. Workshop instructor Scott Louie will give you the historical context to appreciate this art form.

Day 1: Print Gocco with Debbie Yee
Learn how to use the Print Gocco, an all-in-one tabletop screenprinting machine from Japan. Produce your own small art prints, notecards, business cards and other small paper goods from images sized up to 3 1/2″ x 5″.

Day 2: Traditional Screen Printing and Yudu with Scott Louie
Screen print one artwork onto your choice of substrates (paper, cloth, wood, etc.) Then take your screen home to continue printing on your own. In addition to traditional screen printing, this session includes a tutorial on modern screen printing with the Yudu.

Registration fee is $95. To register by check, please send check or money order to: Kearny Street Workshop, P.O. Box 14545, San Francisco, CA 94114-0545. Register online. Please include your full name and contact info.

Mr. and Mrs. Crafty


Fresh from our craft-infused wedding and recuperating via a roadtrip across the Southwest, my partner in crime and I had one of our first arts/cultural outings on Saturday since getting back into town at Kearny Street Workshop‘s APAture Runway III. Crafty couple, Scott and Herna, owners of FLINC were on hand to sell FLINC-designed t-shirts and APAture 2009 gear. The great thing about the fashion show and reconnecting with folks that night was how it inspired us to continuing on with stuff-making, especially as a team.

Mr and Mrs Crafty

Some of our DIY collaborations for the wedding included the following:

Gocco Save The Date cards

Save-The-Date flat cards and envelopes designed by Billy and me on Adobe Fireworks/Illustrator and printed on Gocco. The return address was printed on the envelope flap and the barn illustration on the card was repeated on the upper left corner of the envelope.Cardstock and envelopes supply from Paper Source. Fellow crafty-lawyer-bride Jess at Fig and Plum recounts the pros and cons, do’s and don’ts of committing to Gocco craft for one’s wedding here at her blog.

OOT bags

Out-of-Town bags for our travelling guests. However, since all but a few were out-of-towners, we made extras for the locals as well! The bags had a wedding logo co-opted from the Made-In- China novelty item, Fortune Teller Miracle Fish.In place of “Fortune Teller” and “Miracle Fish”, Billy re-designed it with our names and wedding date on Illustrator. The logos were done using inkjet iron-in transfer paper. In each bag, we included a few helpful items (tissue, sunscreen, water), local goodies (cookies from Cowboy Cookie N’ Grub of San Luis Obispo) and a zine called “Debbie & Billy’s Guide To The Coast”.

fan wedding programs

Fan-style wedding programs. This had been a conundrum for me years ago when a friend asked me how to make these for her wedding. I had a grommet punch that I kept for fabric uses that would fix an eyelet or grommet in place, but I didn’t know how to create the mechanics of movable paper that was bound by a metal eyelet. Flash forward a few years, a landslide of scrapbooking enthusiasm, stores and tools are now readily accessible. I was looking into the products at Eyelet Outlet, and learned that the trick to making paper held by an eyelet move is to also use an eyelet washer. The scrapbooking world also revealed more efficient ways to affix eyelets beyond eyelet setters and hammers, like the Crop-A-Dile I used to bind the leaves to form the fan.The scrapbooking world has a thing for aquatic reptiles, it seems, because another tool I used to create the fan programs was a corner rounder made by the company Paper Gator.


Our wedding was held at an apple farm. To go with the country orchard theme, instead of numbered table cards, the guests’ names were printed on reproductions of vintage fruit crate labels and each table was assigned a fruit crate label instead of a number. While often no longer copyrighted, it seems (from my brief internet research) that fruit crate labels are highly collectible and borrowing (ahem) the images are hard to come by. Luckily, we found a Dover publication that contained a whole book of full-color crate labels and–biggest score of all–came with a CD of the crate labels as TIFF files! We resized them to uniformly fit on a square card and, at the reception, they were waiting on a clothesline and small clothespins for the guests.

fruit farm wedding

We wanted to share in our word-loving and game-playing and decorated the wedding cake with Scrabble tiles that spelled out “Debbie Loves Billy”. Turns out there are only two B’s in each game set, so we had to borrow from two sets!

cd wedding favor

Finally, guest favors included a CD in a chipboard sleeve printed on Gocco and packages of red Swedish Fish, both containing the Fortune Teller Miracle Fish novelty.

Swedish Fish Favors

We’re not sure just what’s next, whether another zine, silkscreen t-shirts or more Gocco prints, but we’re excited that it will be something we do together.

Wedding thank you's