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Vendor Spotlight & GIVEAWAY: American Girl Crafts Wrap & Roll Bracelets

Reported by Heather Strenzwilk

As the parent of an American Girl OBSESSED tween, my daughter and I were eager to review the American Girl Crafts Wrap and Roll Bracelets kit from EK Success. The kit contains materials to make 150 paper beads and includes supplies to create up to 13 bracelets.


The kit includes:
– project and idea book
– 150 paper strips (to make cylindrical and oval beads)
– 150 wooden beads
– 1.5 fl. oz. (44 mL) clear craft glue
– foam brush
– clear string
– 20 rolling tubes
– foam block (used for holding the beads as they dry)

The kit is pretty inclusive, but you will need a ruler, tape and scissors. We also used a non-stick craft sheet and some small bowls to sort the finished beads (although they made the project easier, these two items aren’t necessary.)

Wrapping an oval bead- starting with the wide end of the triangle

The kit contains rectangular paper strips to make cylindrical shaped beads, and triangular strips to make oval beads. The rectangular strips are approximately 11.75 inches by 13/16 inch. Each individual strip is to be wrapped separately on a rolling tube (which is about 2.5 inches long). The instructions advise to roll the paper tightly around the tube, trying to keep oval beads centered or cylindrical beads straight and even. After you roll the entire strip dab a little glue on the end of the paper, hold it for a few seconds if necessary until the glue sets. Our finished cylindrical beads were approximately 3/8 inch in diameter.

We found it much easier to dab a bit of glue on the paper after we wrapped it around the rolling tube once or twice. Because we were wrapping tightly, the dab of glue would keep spreading forward as we wrapped and the whole bead felt tighter. If needed we would add an additional touch of glue as we wrapped. There is a short learning curve, but after 5-6 beads both of us had a feel for what was tight enough and knew when to unroll a bit of the bead to make it more even. Our attention span was about 30-40 minutes per bead rolling session and we would create 12-18 beads collectively. If I was alone watching a DVD as I wrapped, I could make 20-25 in a sitting.

A few beads drying on rolling tubs embedded in craft foam

The instructions suggested sealing the beads by brushing them more of the clear craft glue. This protective coating helps the bead keep its shape and adds a shiny finish. We carefully applied the glue coat to the beads after we rolled them. You have to be careful that you don’t glue the bead to the rolling tube so as a “check” we made sure we could move the bead on the rolling tube before setting it in the craft foam to dry. The craft foam is actually florist’s foam used for creating flower arrangements. After each of our four beadmaking sessions we allowed the beads to dry completely overnight. However, I think the beads are safe to handle after a few hours of drying time.

Just a few of the different styles in the kit. Notice the sheen on the beads from one coating of clear glue

Sharing the glue bottle turned out to be an issue for us, so we poured a puddle of glue onto a non-stick craft sheet and we shared that. The kit only included one foam brush so I grabbed an extra from my craft stash. You’ll definitely need a few extra glue applicators if you do this with a large group. We are almost out of glue (we used more than the instructions stated) and we have approximately 20 paper strips left in our kit.

I tried to exactly duplicate the stacker bracelet pictured on the package

The oval beads were easier and more fun for both me and my daughter. The cylindrical beads were more difficult to keep straight. Some of our cylindrical beads had uneven edges and this was an issue when I made the stacker style bracelet (my first time making this style bracelet). As you can see in the photo above the plastic string is not flush with all the edges of the beads because of the uneven bead edges (and because I might not have pulled the string as tight as I could have pulled it). You can also see that I left a tail of string.

Some of the wooden spacer beads that came with the kit had incompletely drilled holes

The kit comes with 150 color coordinated wooden beads that can be added to bracelets. Our beads were a mix of longer ovals and small spacers. We noticed that some of the holes on these wooden beads weren’t completely drilled through the bead. I was able to finish poking the holes through with a needle.

Our other issue is that the bracelets are finished by tying the ends into a square knot. Square knots are not too bad with yarn or non-slick string. Trying to tie them with the plastic in the kit is a big challenge. So was picking up all of the beads after a knot failure.

Paper beads + wooden beads = many combinations!

My ten-year-old daughter has seen various American Girl craft kits at chain craft stores. Although she was initially drawn to the brand (she loves anything American Girl), she was excited at the prospect of making her own paper beads and bracelets because she likes to make jewelry. We only used beads from the kit for these samples but my daughter immediately came up with ideas for future bracelets using some of her bead stash and some of my designer paper. With a retail price of $14.95, this makes an affordable gift or group project plus this kit can act as a springboard for girls to experiment making paper bead jewelry.

Pros:

  • Kit contains all of the critical items to create multiple bracelets
  • Illustrated instructions were well written and easy to follow
  • Enough paper strips to make 150 beads, which is enough to cover a few misshapen or beads gone wrong

Cons:

  • The clear string included in the kit is very difficult to tie
  • More string is required for a stacker style bracelet so you’ll probably need additional string in order to use all the beads
  • Some of the wooden beads in the kit weren’t drilled completely which made them difficult to thread

GIVEAWAY
The folks over at EK Success are giving away a kit to one lucky reader. To enter simply answer any of the questions below in the Comments section of this article on our website. One comment per person, please.
Do you buy themed craft kits for children? Do you find children’s jewelry kits a good way for children to learn how to make their own jewelry? Have you tried any of the American Girl Craft Kits from EK Success? Please share your thoughts with our readers.

Winners are chosen at random. Contest closes Sunday, June 12th at 6pm CST. Good Luck!

Disclosure

Click on the link at the top of the page to visit Craft Critique for comments, giveaways and more!

Vendor Spotlight & GIVEAWAY: Shapelets

Reported by Erika Martin

If you’ve never heard of “silly bandz” or “shaped rubber bands,” then you may just have been living under a rock. They’re all the rage in kids circles and schools. My daughter trades these shaped bands with her friends and has quite the collection going. Remember when we used to trade jelly bracelets in school back in the 80s? Shaped rubber bands are the jelly bracelets of the new millenium, and they’re taking the world by storm.
If you ask my daughter, “What’s better than silly bands?” she would say, “Making my own!” And that’s where Shapelets come in!
Shapelets is the “stretchy band design system” that allows you to create your own designs right in your kitchen! Shapelets bands are formulated to take on the shape you create on a peg board after you put it in your oven or toaster oven.
There are different ways that you can purchase Shapelets.:
  • The Shapelets Design System is a kit contains 1 pegboard, 32 pegs, 24 specially formulated bands, and 3 cut and punch templates. This kit retails for $9.99.
  • The Shapelets Class & Party Pack is a kit that contains 10 pegboards, 320 pegs, 96 specially formulated bands, and 30 cut and punch templates. This kit retails for $49.99.
  • You can also purchase refill bands when you run out so that you can continue creating. The refill packs come with 24 bands and Shapelets offers 4 different pack choices. Basics, Brights, Glow and Glitter. The refill packs retail for $4.99 each.

The Shapelets website includes a gallery that anyone can put their designs on and you can access it for ideas to use with your own bands.

The process behind Shapelets is a very easy one. There are 5 simple steps, according to the Shapelets website:
Step 1: Insert pegs into the pegboard to create the outline of a Shapelet shape you would like to make.

Step 2: Thread a new Shapelet band around the pegs to form the shape. Make sure the band is not stretched too tight. If you need to you can move the pegs to loosen the band a little bit.
Make sure that you choose the correct size band that your template calls for.

Step 3: Ask your parent or another grown-up to preheat the oven to 225°F. Then bake the Shapelet band for 10 minutes. CAUTION: PARENTAL SUPERVISION REQUIRED! (The pegboard and pegs are rated to withstand the 225° oven so they will not melt during normal use. Make sure not to forget them in the oven because they WILL melt and make a mess if you turn on your oven later on to a higher temperature.)
Step 4: Wait 5 minutes to allow the system to cool down. Then remove the Shapelet band from the pegs.
Step 5: That’s it! You’ve made your own Shapelet band with the Shapelet Stretchy Band Design System! Now you can wear it, show it, trade it, and much more.

When I took the Shapelets templates out of the oven, I got a strong whiff of plastic melting. I have chemical sensitivies (yes, I know, I use all sorts of crafting supplies, but it’s a worthwhile trade-off) so the smell bothered me a bit. I have a really sensitive schnoz, so others might not notice the smell. If you want to keep the odor contained, you could place the templates in a covered casserole dish so it doesn’t “hit you” when you open the oven door.
When you purchase the Shapelets Design Kit, you’ll receive a piece of newsprint type of paper that includes 3 “cut and punch templates.” These templates are a great starting point for using the kit and especially for younger kids that aren’t quite confident yet in creating their own designs. Directions are included on the sheet to instruct you on how to use these easy templates.

There is a useful FAQ section on the Shapelets website and this came in helpful for my daughter and I when we had bands break in the oven when we were creating. We had too much tension on some parts of the affected bands. This can also happen if you’re using a size of band that is too small for the template and pegs.

The bands that had even tension turned out great.

Another thing that we discovered is that you should make sure all of your bands are untwisted between each peg before you put them in the oven. If the band is twisted in between the pegs, you’ll get weak spots in your bands after baking. This could cause them to snap and break when being stretched later on. Some twisting of the bands between the pegs might also have played into why the bands in the above photos broke during baking, besides being tight on some of the pegs.

The FAQ section also gave us the idea to do up to 5 of the same shape at once. This way, my daughter could make a bunch of matching bracelets all at once. It cut down on the time and also on the electricity for our oven.
I think the one of the best resources that Shapelets offers, though, is their Create page on their website. You can create your own templates using the grid provided. You can add pegs, move the pegs and the band, print the template, submit your design to the gallery and the program even tells you which size band would be ideal for your design. It’s really important that you separate your bands by size so that you don’t put the wrong size on your pegs and ruin them in the baking process.

I tried my hand at creating a heart template. It takes a little bit of patience to figure out how to move the pegs and band on the program so that they’re going in the right direction for shaping but once you get the hang of it, creating new templates becomes addictive.


When I was done with creating my template, I printed it out on a piece of computer paper. It will also print with instructions and takes up a half page. To make the most of your paper, create another template and put the paper back in your printer in the opposite direction that you originally had it in so that you can print the next template on the black half of the page. Each template you create should have the size of the band needed at the bottom of the template, just like the cut and punch templates that come in the Shaplets Design Kit. However, the heart design that I made printed out as an “invalid size” so I tried different sizes of bands until I found that the smallest of the bands was a perfect fit.
Computer paper can be hard to poke the pegs through so use something sharp to make the holes in your paper to line up with the pegboard underneath. I used a seam ripper to poke the holes and the pegs went in really easy. You could also use a pin, a pen, the small end of a stylus, etc.
I lined up 5 bands and put them into the oven and they turned out great!


My daughter was excited to make some bands for the Penny Fair that we’re going to be having at our house on the last day of school (to benefit our local humane society). Look how serious she is about getting the bands just right.


We need prizes for the prize booth and since these bands are all the rage with her friends, we thought this would be a great addition to what the kids can earn at the fair.

Really, now…could you have asked for a cuter model to show off these Shapelets bracelets? Of course I’m biased, so I’d say no. *wink*

Pros:
  • Great price point for Design Kit ($9.99)
  • Shapelets offers a Class & Party Pack at an affordable price with plenty of materials for a fun party activity
  • Shapelets offers refill bands at a great price
  • Even though you’ll eventually use up all of bands in the kit, you still have the peg and pegboards to keep creating
  • The Shapelets website offers a gallery of designs, as well as a grid program to create your own designs to print and share on the site
  • Just as much fun for adults to create as it is for kids to create

Cons:

  • Only 3 cut and punch templates in the design kit, though you can find and print more on the Shapelets gallery and Create grid
  • For people with sensitive noses, there is a melting plastic type of smell that comes out of the oven when you take your templates out but this could be easily remedied by placing the templates in a covered casserole dish while baking
  • Some of the templates I created on the Create grid printed out as an “invalid size” – if this happens, you’ll need to experiment with different size bands to find one that fits well
The cons were not that big of a deal and we had a great time creating together. I can see this being a great activity for my daughter and her friends/cousins to do when they get together.

GIVEAWAY
The folks over at Shapelets are giving away kits to two lucky readers. To enter simply answer any of the questions below in the Comments section of this article on our website. One comment per person, please.
Are you or your kids sporting these bracelets? Would you purchase this to make your own designs and what shapes would you pick?
Winners are chosen at random. Contest closes Sunday, June 12th at 6pm CST. Good Luck!
Click on the link at the top of the page to visit Craft Critique for comments, giveaways and more!

Vendor Spotlight: My Friendship Bracelet Maker

Reported by Kristine Fowler

As a little girl I remember making friendship bracelets by the hour, using thread, a piece of cork and a thumbtack.  In fact, just this past summer, I tried to introduce the craft to my 8-year-old daughter – and while we definitely enjoyed the mommy-daughter time, the cork/thumbtack setup was frustrating for her and it seemed that I was spending more time untangling threads than anything else.  Needless to say, we didn’t get a whole lot accomplished before giving it up.  That is why when myfbm.com asked Craft Critique to review the My Friendship Bracelet Maker, I jumped at the opportunity.  I had high hopes that this little machine would be the user-friendly friendship bracelet making solution we needed — and it delivered!

The My Friendship Bracelet Maker, by Corey Creations Inc. is a craft toy targeted at girls ages 6+.  While some boys might also enjoy making friendship bracelets, the packaging and the unit itself are bright pink which definitely gives it more of a girly appeal.  {And did you notice that groovy retro-style font on the box?  That is a touch of marketing genius in my opinion since immediately I knew this toy would ‘take me back’ to my childhood.}

The unit itself is pretty basic in that it is made of hard plastic and has a clip in the shape of a Butterfly that holds your bracelet-in-progress secure.  The clip is adjustable, allowing you to slide it up and down the shaft and place it in the optimum position for weaving depending on the length of your threads.  There are 10 posts along the bottom which side-by-side create slots that work to keep your threads organized and tangle free as you work.  The slots are numbered, so if you use the myfbm patterns, creating is a snap. In addition, there is also a slide out tray on the bottom the unit that holds pre-measured My Friendship Bracelet Maker threads.  The unit comes with 56 individual threads in 14 different colours.  The fact that the threads are pre-measured and individually packaged is a dream come true.  It makes the unit easy to use right out of the box as there is no setup or prep work involved to get started.

The unit out of the box.
The slide out storage tray.

The My Friendship Bracelet Maker is super simple to use and comes with basic instructions.  The knot-tying instructions are given in both prose and picture format – making it easy for even the early reader to get a handle on.  Trust me when I say that upon opening the box, you’ll be creating your first piece in no time at all.  The instructions included are for the Beginner Level Stripe Pattern like the bracelet you see below.  My 8-year old daughter made this one.  She gave this product a big thumbs up.


Because I was up for a bit of a challenge, I jumped on over to the myfbm.com website to see what other bracelet patterns were out there.   In an area of their website called ‘The Workshop‘ there are 16 patterns available in addition to the Stripe which came in the box, for a total of 17 different designs.  Most of the online patterns have prose instructions as well as a real-time full-length how-to instructional video.  For six of them, (Skull, Large Butterfly, Penguin, Bat and MadJack), the videos are ‘coming soon’.  While quite lengthy, I was pleasantly surprised to see the videos online as they will allow early readers or otherwise ‘visual’ learners to get crafting.  The first alternative pattern I chose to make was the Double Helix.  It is rated as an Intermediate/Advanced pattern.

Here is a photo of my Double Helix bracelet in progress, as well as my completed piece.

I admit, I did not watch the video and perhaps should have, as I did make a mistake part way through my bracelet (see photo below) and somehow missed a step or two.  Because of the colours I used, it was easy to detect, and using a pointy kebab skewer (a needle would have worked too I’m sure), I was able to undo enough knots to straighten myself out and was back on track to pattern in no time at all.

In addition to The Workshop on myfbm.com My Friendship Bracelet Maker has a blog where they share ideas, company news, contests and special promotions.  Right now, through the month of October, they are running a promo called Pink & White Kids Join the Fight to collect pink & white friendship bracelets.  Bracelets collected will be delivered to kids that are helping someone battle breast cancer to let them know they are not alone.  In addition, $1 from every My Friendship Bracelet Maker kit purchased by a retailer is being donated to breast cancer research.  Here is the bracelet I am making to send in to the campaign.  The Cancer Cause Ribbon Pattern is rated as Intermediate.  I can see already that this is going to be awesome – with the repeated pink breast cancer ribbons surrounded in white!  Love it!  Quite frankly, I am simply amazed that someone managed to pattern this one out!

Overall, I am super impressed by the simplicity and usability of this device – and have already purchased a few more for holiday gift giving and a couple to tuck away for upcoming birthdays.  There are a few little girls on my lists that would just love to get their hands on this one.  My only criticism of the unit overall would be the slide out tray.  While super functional, I wish it had some kind of latch mechanism.  My daughter was carrying the unit and the tray ‘slid open’ accidentally.  She not only dropped a bunch of the pre-packaged threads, but her work-in-progress got a little tangled up.  It wasn’t a huge problem really, it was quite easy to straighten everything out again, but with a simple latch/lock this situation could have been avoided.

If you’re interested in purchasing the My Friendship Bracelet Maker, pop on over to myfbm.com and use their handy Store Locator to find a retail outlet near you.  The map breaks down availability in all U.S. States, and there is an additional link for International Orders.  In addition to the My Friendship Bracelet Maker, there are add-ons available as well including:

  • the MYFBM Tote bag for crafting on the go
  • the MYFBM Clip Board (which looks to be the same unit without the storage tray, is blue rather than pink and instead of a Butterfly, the clip is a Peace sign – this would be more appealing to boys I’m sure – and the Clip Board comes with 10 different colours of pre-measured threads)  This unit was reviewed on Craft Critique yesterday by Kelleigh Ratzlaff, check it out.
  • the MYFBM refill pack which includes an interchangeable double-heart “BFF” clip, the international symbol of friendship as well as 56 pre-measured threads in 14 different colours.
So in summary here are my general thoughts on the My Friendship Bracelet Maker:
Pros:
  • easy to use right out of the box
  • durable design
  • 17 bracelet patterns available online (could be a con also – see below)
  • instructional videos available online
  • portable
  • has a storage tray to keep your threads organized
  • included threads are pre-measured
  • the unit makes a ‘retro’ craft easier to manage – no more thumbtacks and cork….Yay!
Cons:
  • storage tray does not lock shut
  • only one bracelet pattern is included in the box – you cannot access additional designs without internet access
Have you tried the My Friendship Bracelet Maker or associated products?  Let us know what you think.  Leave us a comment below.

Disclosure

Click on the link at the top of the page to visit Craft Critique for comments, giveaways and more!