Thursday, January 22, 2009

Three little green trees

After I had taken down some of my Christmas decor for the season, I got to thinking that I should have taken more photos. So I hung these little green trees back on the chandelier just long enough to take a picture of them. Here's how they looked during the Christmas season:

In addition to the trees, I hung bows of wide plaid ribbon and little gingerbread men from the chandelier. The gingerbread men are just made from recycled brown paper bags. I pressed the paper after cutting the bags apart and then cut gingerbread men shapes from it. I stitched them together on the sewing machine with a layer of batting in between 2 shapes for each ornament. I added details with shiny dimensional paint.

I made these little trees quite a few years ago. They were made from a kit someone had given me -- a kit they had bought for themselves and never got around to use. It was an ornament kit from Yours Truly, a company based in Atlanta, GA. The bright green calicoes have a retro look, and the trees turned out taller than I was expecting them to.

The first Christmas after I made these, I did put them on the tree, but I really didn't care for them as tree ornaments. For quite a few years they were just relegated to a box of ornaments and not used. Last year I noticed their nifty retro look and thought they would look neat hanging from the chandelier. I had first tied on the plaid bows, then the gingerbread men. I thought the trees might add a nice touch, and was pleased with the way they looked with the other items.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Making Christmas ornaments

I simply love crafting Christmas ornaments. I've been making them for years. One ornament particularly stands out in my mind. I crafted it from felt years ago from a pattern in, I think, a McCall's Christmas Make-It Ideas. The ornament was either two or three hearts of varying sizes strung vertically on a thread. It was pink -- not the best color for a Christmas ornament, I'm thinking now -- but how I labored over that creation. Each size of heart was cut twice, and then the thread sandwiched in between the two, which were glued together. The effect was like that of a mobile, in that the hearts swayed and turned on the thread in the air currents in the room. I made this project when my children were very young, and as I recall it took me an entire day. Another project I did back in those days was crocheted ornaments I found the pattern for in a newspaper. A Christmas tree was one of the designs I made. These were crocheted from dark green yarn and then colorful French knots were added for lights.

As my kids grew older, I was always on the lookout for ornaments they could make. For a few years I taught art at a Christian school, and made countless ornaments with the students there at the Christmas season. In later years I made many ornaments for an annual October craft fair at my daughters' school. It was always fun, as Christmas drew near, to look at my stash of Christmas magazines, as well as the new issues, to decide what ornaments I might make. Oh, the fun of sending off to Home-Sew for the makings for some of these -- Christmas ribbons, cords, laces and trims! It was truly a special and wonderful part of my Christmas season.

Now I often look back on ornaments I have made and wish to make more of them. But there's never enough time. This year, I plan to work on ornaments all year round. One project I hope to do this week is to sit down and plan what ornaments I will make and to locate all the patterns and instructions. Then I will take note of any materials I might need to buy. I believe I can probably make a good many ornaments just with materials I already have on hand. How inspiring that thought is!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

More on gift tags from old Christmas cards

Last year, I posted on this simple idea, but I thought I would publish this again and add to it a little bit, along with a photo of some of my tags.

One of the most obvious and easy ways to use your old Christmas cards is to make gift tags from them. There are a couple of ways to do this.

Sometimes you can use the entire front of a card as a tag, if it has enough blank space to write the to/from information. These are especially nice for family members -- for example, you might have a card front that says "Merry Christmas to a Dear Granddaughter." This is a natural to paste to the top of your granddaughter's Christmas present. These can add a real decorative element to a package wrapped in a solid color like red, green, blue, silver, etc.

The other way is to cut shapes from your old cards to make tags.
You can make simple shapes like rectangles, squares or circles. Current, Inc. sells a set of tag templates which work very nicely and has quite an assortment of shapes. A book of children's Christmas stencils would also work well. Of course, you will want to make sure that your design elements from the Christmas card are centered or otherwise placed strategically on the tag before you cut it out.

Once you have cut your shapes, you may want to embellish your tags with glitter glue or dimensional paint, or you can brush white glue over them and sprinkle with glitter. Another thought is to use some of the lovely glitter glazes available. They come in varying colors and some have little glittery shapes like stars in them. I found these in the same aisle with crayons and markers; at least that's where they are in my Wal*Mart.

Next, you can punch a hole in each tag and add some red or green string or gold cord to make a hanging tag. If you embellished the tags, you will want to make sure the glue (or glaze) is dry before adding the string or cord.

Here are a few of the tags I have made in the last couple of years.

This simple project is a fun way to keep your kids busy on snow days -- and I personally find that doing a project like this, even all by myself, is very relaxing and a great stress reliever. Have fun with this idea!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Foldable fabric baskets

Here's a project I've made several times and thought others might like to try also. You've probably seen baskets similar to this in gift shops in varying prints and sizes. We see them often in gift shops here in New England and I always admired them, but would often tell myself, "I could make those...". I came across some instructions for these in an old magazine, but have tweaked them quite a bit.

The baskets are great to hold lightweight gift items or a set of coasters or napkins for giving. They also make a nice serving basket or a container for napkins on a buffet table.

Here's what the finished product looks like. I love the vintage-looking fabric on this one and how the background looks like birch bark. The fabric is not actually old; I bought it at Jo-Ann's several years ago.

To make a foldable fabric basket, you will need:

2 11-inch squares of fabric
8 5 1/2-inch lengths of 3/8” ribbon* in color to coordinate with fabric
1 5 1/2-inch square of plastic canvas**
4 pieces of plastic canvas**, each cut 2 1/8 x 5 1/2 inches

Here's what to do:

1. Fold and press under 1/2 inch on all sides of the fabric squares.

2. Pin the fabric squares together with the WRONG sides facing.

3. Pin the ribbon ties in place between the two layers of fabric. Position two ties on either end of each side of the square, placing them 5 1/2 inches apart.

4. Topstitch close to the edge on THREE SIDES ONLY of the pinned fabric squares.

5. On the fourth side, topstitch only through the ties, leaving the 5 1/2 inches between the ties UNSTITCHED. (This is so you can insert the plastic canvas reinforcements into the basket.)

Here is a very rough sketch that shows how the ties should be placed.

6. Insert three of the smaller plastic canvas pieces to form three sides of the basket. Stitch to enclose these pieces.

7. Insert the 5 1/2-inch square of plastic canvas to form the bottom of the basket. Stitch to enclose this piece.

8. Insert the last small piece of plastic canvas to form the fourth side of the basket. Topstitch to close the opening on the fourth side.

At this point, the basket looks like this:

9. To form the basket, tie the ribbons on each corner into a bow.

* Instead of ribbon, you may prefer to use a similar width of bias tape or even make your own matching fabric ties. Ribbon is easiest.

** I think the folding baskets you can buy are reinforced with cardboard, and you could certainly use heavy cardboard if you prefer. I use the plastic canvas so that the baskets could be washed if necessary, or at least spot cleaned more safely.

Have fun with this idea!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Mini flour sack dish towels

A few years ago, I made embroidered day-of-the-week flour sack dish towels for my 2 daughters and my daughter-in-law. They went over well and I know that one of my daughters uses hers all the time. They are decorative and also work very, very well for drying dishes.

This year I got to thinking about my granddaughter who has a toy kitchen, and I came up with the idea of making some mini flour sack dish towels for her. Then I thought a little more about it and realized she would probably want to actually use them for helping Mommy. And likely, her big brother might want one, too. So I made some.

For the regular flour-sack towels, I buy them in a multi-pack at Wal*Mart and then cut each one in half and hem the cut edges. For the mini towels, I cut them in quarters and then hemmed the cut edges before stamping on a transfer. I just used transfers I had on hand for these, and was very pleased with how cute they came out.

Do you have children or grandchildren who have a toy kitchen -- or who just like to help Mommy? These might be a fun idea for them!

Stuffing a stocking for a baby

In 2006, I crocheted five of these stockings for the five grandchildren we had then. In 2008, two new grandchildren were born who needed stockings too. Now, I didn't necessarily intend for these stockings to be the ones they would hang up on Christmas Eve -- the stockings are quite small (and stretchy too) and also the design has a lot of holes in it. I just thought they would make a nice decoration and would be something that they could always keep which had been made by Grammy. Two of my grandchildren are using these as their regular stockings, and that makes me happy too!

Anyway, for the new ones this year, I found myself in a hurry to get them stuffed and no good ideas for what to stuff them with. Last time I gave these to infants, I used things like teething toys, little slippers, etc. But this time I hit upon the bright idea of just buying a package of baby socks and wrapping each pair individually in tissue paper to stuff the stockings. I bought a package of 8 or 10 cute girly socks for the granddaughter, and the same amount of athletic-type socks for the grandson. This really went over well with the parents, who thought it was a clever way to stuff a stocking.

Maybe someone else could use this idea as well! It might even be a fun gift at a baby shower.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year to all!

I'd like to wish all of my friends a very happy and healthy 2009! It's my fond hope that I'll be spending much more time here in my Christmas kitchen in the coming year. There are so many recipes I want to try, so many craft projects ongoing, so many Christmas ornaments I'd like to make... I'll get here as often as I can, I can say that for sure.

God bless you all, and Happy New Year!