Love That Lute

rock outStrum a merry tune! This box lute was designed for a Robin Hood event. It needed to be quick to assemble, made from super cheap materials, and it had to be sturdy enough to handle even the most energetic Medieval power ballad!

You’ll need:

  • 1 box (mine was 4 ½” X 4 ½” x 9” but a large tissue box works too)
  • Stencils (optional)
  • 10 craft sticks (mine were 4.5″ long)
  • 3-4 rubber bands
  • 1 paper towel tube
  • Hole punch
  • 2 pipe cleaners
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating

The first step of the project is optional – use a stencil to decorate the front, back, and sides of your box. I found this brass stencil in the stamp and card making aisle at Michaels craft store. It was $4.99 (I used a 20% off coupon on it too).

brass stencilI used an ultra fine tip Sharpie on different areas of the stencil to create the look you see below. But you could also use markers and simply freehand your box’s decor!

stencilsNext, slide 3-4 rubber bands lengthwise over the box. I used different gauge rubber bands so, when plucked, they would each produce a different sound (Office Max sizes 33, 19, and 18 to be precise).

rubber bandsTo make your lute’s “frets,” stack 5 craft sticks on top of one another, then secure them together with tape. I used masking tape to give the lute a pop of color, but scotch tape works too! Try to stick the tape close to the ends of the sticks, where it won’t interfere with the rubber bands. Repeat the above steps with the second set of craft sticks. We prepped the frets in advance, to speed along the construction process at the event.

stacked and taped sticks Slide the frets under the rubber bands. Give the rubber bands a few experimental plucks!

fretsSet the box aside for a moment, and use scissors to cut a paper towel tube down to 8″. Punch four holes in the bottom of the tube like so:

punched holesThen thread two pipe cleaners through the holes.

threaded pipe cleanersNow place the threaded tube on top of the box. Bend and tape the pipe cleaners firmly to the top of the box…

taped neckThen curl the ends of the pipe cleaners upwards!


You might be wondering why I didn’t use hot glue to attach the bottom of the tube to the box. The reason is this: the Robin Hood event was 5 hours long and drew big crowds (over 3,000 people). When events get that long and large, I find non-heated adhesives for projects (like the glue dots used on this pom-pom cannon). So, pipe cleaners and tape it was!

You can leave the top of the tube undecorated (which somewhat replicates the actual neck of a lute and it’s angled-back pegbox). Or, you can curl the ends of 2 pipe cleaners and tape them to the top of the tube for some extra flourish.

finished lute

Herbal Magic

amuletHave issues with goblins? Need a peaceful night’s sleep? Are you seeking wisdom and courage? This herbal amulet is just what you need! We made these amulets at a Robin Hood/ medieval history event, but they would also work splendidly at a Harry Potter program.

You’ll need:

  • A 3.5″ mini organza drawstring bag (I bought mine at Oriental Trading Company)
  • 1 tissue (I used the smaller, 8″ x 8″ square kind)
  • herbal amulet list template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ paper
  • A 30″ piece of ribbon or string
  • A selection of dried herbs (more on this below!)

After doing a little research on medieval herbal lore, we created a list of herbs and their purported properties. I purchased the herbs in bulk, which is much cheaper than buying them in individual bottles.

scrollAt the event, kids checked off which herbs they wanted in their amulets. Then a student volunteer helped the kids put dried herbs on squares of tissue. A little herb goes a looooong way, so just a sprinkle is needed – especially if kids select multiple herbs. Here’s about how much you want in your amulet in total:

tissue and herbsNext, bunch the tissue around the herbs and slide the bundle into a mini organza drawstring bag. Roll up the herbal list and slide it in the bag too. Tighten the drawstring and tie a 30″ piece of ribbon or string around the top of the bag. Hang the amulet around your neck.

finished amuletThat’s it! You’re now ready to repel bad spirits, fight curses, attract money, and scare away thieves! At the very least, you will smell quite, quite interesting.

Many thanks to the Savory Spice Shop in Princeton for donating the dried lavender in the photo! Mmmm…lavender…

Let Us Ride

let us rideDon your finery and trot the countryside on a beautiful, ornate steed! And if you happen to see a sturdy little pony named Fritz, don’t forget to stop and say hello!

We read Fritz and the Beautiful Horses by Jan Brett (HMH Books for Young Readers, 1987). Once upon a time, there was a walled city that was famous for it’s beautiful horses. But outside the city lived a plain little pony named Fritz. Fritz wanted to be like the beautiful horses, but no one was interested in a pony with a shaggy mane, fuzzy ears, and a whiskery muzzle. That is until one day, when the bridge is threatening to collapse and the children of the city are stranded on one side. The beautiful horses are too flighty, skittish, and snobbish to cross the river and take the children to safety. But Fritz, being both gentle and kind, is more than willing to help. Now, the walled city is proud of it’s beautiful horses…and it’s hero pony.

You’ll need:

  • A 2.5″ x 22″ strip of poster board
  • 1 sheet of tissue paper (mine was 19.5″ x 11.5″)
  • 1 goose quill
  • 1 large embossed foil seal
  • 1 pony head template, printed on 11″ x 17″ paper
  • A 11″ x 27″ piece of white poster board for head
  • 2 rectangles of white construction paper for ears (approximately 2″ x 3.5″)
  • Construction paper for mane and forelock
  • 2 wiggle eyes
  • 2 black dot stickers for nose
  • 2 strips cut from a manilla file folder (approximately 0.75″ x 9″)
  • 2 small embossed foil seals
  • A 41.5″ piece of PVC pipe for stick
  • A 35″ piece of ribbon for the reins
  • Hole punch
  • Packing tape
  • Stapler, scissors, tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

If you’d like to make a jingling tassel for your bridle, you’ll need:

  • 1 book (mine was 6″ long)
  • 12′ of yarn, plus a separate 3″ piece
  • A 9″ piece of curling ribbon
  • 1 jingle bell

 We’ll start with your noble hat, and then proceed to the pony with optional jingle tassel!

hatFirst, use the markers to decorate a strip of poster board. Circle the poster board strip around your head, then remove and staple. To create the poofy top to your hat, lay a sheet of tissue paper flat on a table.

hat step 1Gently lift and pull each corner of the sheet to towards the middle, gathering the corners together like this:

hat step 2As you can see in the above picture, the tissue paper sheet now has 4 “points” sticking out of it. Fold those points towards the center of the sheet as well.

hat step 3Your tissue sheet is now fully bunched. Carefully drop your hat band on top of the bunched tissue paper, and reopen the bunched edges until they meet the inside of the hat band. Staple the tissue paper around the interior perimeter of the hat band.

hat step 4Flip the hat over and tape a jaunty feather to the outside. Stick an embossed foil seal over the shaft of the feather to compete the look.

hatUp next…the perfect pony!

ponyFold the large rectangle of white poster board in half to form a smaller, 11″ x 13.5″ rectangle. Then, place the pony head template (shown below in red for better contrast) onto the folded poster board. Make sure that the nose of pony is lined up with the fold in the poster board. Cut along the template, leaving the “nose fold” intact.

pony templateNext, shape two ears out of the white construction paper rectangles, color the insides with markers, and staple each ear at the bottom.

earsThen staple or hot glue an ear to each side of the pony’s head.

forelock 1To create a forelock, make a 1.5″ cut down the fold of the head, directly between the ears.

forelock 2Fringe a small piece of white construction paper. Slide the fridge into the cut and secure it to the interior of the pony’s head with hot glue. Repeat on the left side.

forelock 3To create the mane, fringe a piece of white construction paper (use a 9″ x 12″ piece for a long mane, or a 4.5″ x 12″ piece for a short mane). Secure the mane inside the pony’s head, along the neck with hot glue. Repeat on the other side of the pony’ head.

manePunch a hole on each side of the pony’ mouth. This is where the reins and tassel will loop through.

reinsTime to decorate! Hot glue two wiggle eyes onto the head, and create nostrils using black dot stickers (you can also skip these materials and simple use markers to draw the eyes and nostrils). If you’d like a curly mane, wrap the construction paper fringes around a marker or pencil.

To make a bridle, decorate 2 manilla file fold strips with markers, and attach them on both sides of the head with tape or hot glue. Add a pair of small embossed foils seals at the bottom. If you have time, bring out the Bling Bin to add some extra flourishes, wind some curling ribbon through the mane.

ponyYou can see reins and a tassel in the above photo, but don’t put them on just yet! It’s time to attach the pony’s head to the stick. Open your pony’s head. Lay the stick on one side of the head, making sure that the end of the stick is 1.5″ away from the fold. Use packing tape (not regular tape) to attach the stick to the neck. Use at least 4 pieces of packing tape to make it really secure.

attaching stickThen, close the head and put a few staples into the base of the head, around the stick.

close up of stick staplesThread a ribbon through the holes in the pony’s head and knot it behind the stick. The jingle bell tassel dangling from the pony’s bridle is purely optional, but I have to say the kids LOVED them. I prepped the tassels in advance. To make a tassel, wrap yarn around a book (my book was about 6″ long).

tassel step 1 Cut the yarn off both ends of the book. You now have a little pile of yarn like this:

tassel step 2Knot a piece of curling ribbon around the middle (curling ribbon is easier to thread through the opening of the jingle bell)

tassel step 3Fold both sections of the yarn downwards and knot another piece of yarn around it like so

tassel step 4Trim overlong pieces of yarn off the sides and bottom of the tassel and you’re done!

finished tasselThread a jingle bell onto the curling ribbon, then thread the curling ribbon through the holes your punched in your pony’s head. Knot securely. Your pony is finished, climb on and ride!

If you’re still not feeling the decadence, may we suggest a cape? Attach a large piece of tissue paper to your shoulders using two embossed foil seals like so:


flying rider