Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Bookmarks from old Christmas cards

Here's a fun and easy craft project to make use of those beautiful Christmas cards you just can't bear to throw away. I learned to make these bookmarks a long time ago -- probably a good 30 years ago -- and had forgotten all about them until I found these four in a box at my parents' house. I believe I'd given these as little gifts to my parents and two siblings, but there they were, stashed away in a box, unused. I was happy to be reminded of this idea!

These two old bookmarks were made with landscape-type scenes from Christmas cards.

One of these is made with a pretty photo of a lantern from an old Christmas card. The other is a depiction of the three wise men. You can see that bookmarks can be made from cards that have either a horizontal (like the first two) or a vertical design (like these).

To make these bookmarks, you first cut rectangles from old Christmas cards, the approximate size you'd like the bookmark to be, rounding the corners a bit. (The end product will, of course, be a bit larger because of the crochet stitches surrounding it. The ones I made were about 4 and three-quarters inches long and about 2 and one-quarter inches wide.) I made mine a double thickness by cutting a matching rectangle from the blank back of the card -- plain white card stock or a color would work too. If the card stock the Christmas card is made from is really sturdy, one would not need the second rectangle.

Then, holding both rectangles together, you punch holes with a small paper punch -- those in the photo are about an eighth of an inch -- at intervals all around the bookmark. I punched holes at quarter-inch intervals.

Again, holding both rectangles together, simply use crochet cotton and a small hook to single-crochet around the bookmark, starting at the center top of the bookmark and putting 3 stitches in each punched hole. I think that when I try this again I will put an extra stitch in each corner. When you get back to the beginning, join the last single crochet to the first one with a slip stitch at the point where you started, but do not fasten off. Instead, chain enough stitches to make the size loop that you want -- it looks as if I chained 20 or 22 stitches -- and then join with a slip stitch at the starting point to form a loop. Make a tassel with crochet thread and add to the loop.

There are a few changes I would try if I were making these today. I would try using red, green, or another color of crochet cotton instead of just white (I'm sure that's all I had back then). I also have a sport weight of variegated Christmas yarn with a glint of gold that would be very pretty for this. Also, there are so many neat charms and embellishments available now. I think I'd try adding a charm to the loop at the top instead of a tassel.

(It probably goes without saying that I would not cut up lovely old vintage cards for these. I have scanned all of my old cards -- so if I wanted to use vintage card designs for these bookmarks, I would print my scanned images out on card stock and use those to make the bookmarks.)

I'm inspired now! As soon as my crafting of Christmas gifts is complete (there are still some family members we've not yet exchanged with), I'm going to try making a few of these with last year's cards. Hope others have fun with this idea!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

About the heart on that rag garland...

Just another thought I wanted to add. Several people have asked me about the red felt heart that I have hung from the center of this garland. As I mentioned in the post, I bought this a number of years ago at Cracker Barrel, after Christmas. I didn't buy it specifically to go with this garland (although it does go perfectly!) but rather, I bought it because I thought it would be easy and fun to make these ornaments. I just added it to the garland on a whim one year and liked how it looked. For those who would like to try making their own holly heart ornaments, here's how they appear to be made.

Basically, it's 2 red felt hearts either fused together, or possibly made with the adhesive-backed felt and the two just pressed together. They are blanket-stitched around the edge in green. Green felt holly leaves (which appear to be double thickness as well) are machine-stitched in place. In the center of the three holly leaves, there are 3 red pompoms for holly berries. A thin red cord has been threaded through the top of the heart and knotted for a hanger. Red crochet thread would work as well.

Maybe this will be the year I make some of these! I'm determined this year to work on Christmas things all year long. I seem to say that every year, but I really, really hope to do so in 2009.

Monday, December 22, 2008

In my real Christmas kitchen...

I've just posted this over on my other blog, but I know that not everyone who visits here reads my other blog, "Across My Kitchen Table." So I thought I would share it here as well, for a peek into my real (as opposed to virtual) Christmas kitchen. Welcome!

This little display on my kitchen island (really an old formica-topped desk built by my dad) sums up so much of what I feel about a Christmas kitchen. The Christmas bandanna underneath it all is one I bought many years ago with just such a use in mind. The little "oil" lamp is from a dollar store and the Merry Christmas ribbon some I bought at Walmart a few years back. The two Gooseberry Patch books, Christmas Pantry and Comfort & Joy, fit perfectly in my kitchen this time of year. The pantry is stocked with plenty of cookies, fudge, and apricot fruitcake, and the makings for many other food gifts. And I find my kitchen at Christmas time to be truly a place of comfort and joy.

The "ribbon candy" is really ornaments, made by my daughter Joanna last year. I love the way she packaged them to look like real candy -- and I enjoy them as much (or more) as part of a display like this as I would hanging them on the Christmas tree. The cookie cutters are some of my favorites, and the oversized teacup is from the Mitford snowmen collection. (I found it in a consignment shop a few years ago.) The little rolling pin recipe holder with the candy cane handles was a gift from my granddaughters, and the recipe is a favorite from my dear friend Marilyn. I found the package of vintage light bulbs when we began cleaning the attic this spring, and saved them for just such a use as this.

May your Christmas kitchen be a place like this... filled with sweet old memories and new ones being made... a place where you and your family find joy and where others find comfort too... a place from which your light shines forth to encourage friends and neighbors at this blessed season.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Another favorite Christmas card!

Here is another very favorite card of mine. It was sent to us by our daughter and husband one year. It's so neat because her memories of winters past definitely did include building snowmen, skating fast, and sipping plenty of hot chocolate after both activities!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Rag Garlands

Last night I put up the rag garlands over my kitchen window and corner cupboard. It occurred to me that others might like to make some of these, so I searched here in my Christmas kitchen to see if I had ever posted directions. Apparently not! So I thought I would take a minute and put them up here now. I made these many years ago, and they are still in great shape. Here's what to do:

For a base, use either jute twine or heavy rug yarn. Mine are made on dark green rug yarn and I like that better because the color just blends in with the rag strips and even if they shift a bit it doesn't look as if there are any bare spots. Make the length of the yarn or jute as long as you want your garland to be. 4 to 6 feet is a good length, but do measure if you want to put your garland in a specific spot. Just hang the yarn up there, let it drape down as it will when the garland is hanging, and cut the base material to length accordingly.

For your rag strips, you may use homespun or Christmas prints or anything else you like. You need more than one color or design. A combination of 3 is ideal. It will take approximately 2 yards of fabric for a 4 to 6 foot garland. My kitchen ones have a green/white plaid, a green Christmas print and a red pin dot. Cut or tear the fabric into strips 4 inches long by 2 inches wide. I tore mine and like the look, but the cut ones will fray over time and working with them, too.

Now just tie the strips onto your yarn or jute, alternating colors of fabric. This is a very relaxing project to work on in the evening because it takes very little thought or work. I have also worked on these while waiting at the doctor, dentist, or waiting for someone at the airport.

(I've read about the idea of tying one of these garlands to a string of lights or even tying the fabric strips directly onto a string of lights to make a lighted rag garland, and have always thought it a neat idea, but must note that I don't know for sure how safe this is and have never tried making one of these. Maybe this will be the year.

The photo shows the garland over my kitchen sink window. From the center point I have hung a nifty heart ornament purchased at Cracker Barrel after Christmas a few years ago.

Have fun with this idea!

Friday, December 12, 2008

A red Vermont farmhouse

Here is another beautiful Christmas card featuring a painting by Fred Swan. I just admire and appreciate his work so much. Hope others enjoy this as much as I have. Notice the sled in the doorway to the shed!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Another favorite...

Today I thought I would share another of my favorite Christmas cards. This one features a painting by Vermont artist Fred Swan. The painting is called "Walking to Town" and I just love it. It's one of those paintings one could just get lost in. You can almost feel the cold New England air and feel the falling snow. Happily, "Walking to Town" has also been made into a counted cross-stitch kit, and I own the kit! One of these winters, I'll get the stitching done and keep "Walking to Town" on my wall all year round.

Monday, December 08, 2008

A favorite Christmas card from years gone by

So much for my intention of posting here every day in December! Obviously, it's not happening! My life is much too busy right now. As for Christmas preparations, I've made some fudge, baked some cookies, and done quite a bit of decorating. Plenty more to do, however!

For today, I just want to share one of my favorite Christmas card images. This is a card I've had for years. I bought a package of them years ago and this is the last one. I scanned it so that I wouldn't lose it. I just love this illustration, by artist Kathy Lawrence. It reminds me of my own children at these ages, and one of the little boys looks a great deal like my nephew Chad as a young boy. Hope all of you will find this card as delightful as I do!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

And another favorite...

Here is another favorite ornament, this one handmade. Years ago when my daughters were at a Christian boarding school, their school held a craft fair in the fall. I always loved crafting ornaments for that fair, and this paper twist angel is one I made at that time. Ever since, I've wanted to make more of these because they really are very cute. Maybe this will be the year... who knows?

To the left of this ornament is one depicting a dog in a picnic basket. Someone gave that to my husband one year. To the right is one of my easy handmade Victorian-style ornaments made from cardboard, wrapping paper and trims.

I forgot to mention that we did get some of our decorating stuff out of the attic on Sunday, and I hope to have at least the dining room partially decorated by Thursday when I have friends coming over for tea, mulled cider and Christmas cookies. I have loved the way my fall decorations looked this year, but it's December and time to move on!

A favorite ornament

I'm hoping to post here every day of the Christmas season, but missed December 1, so am going to post twice today.

Here is a favorite ornament of mine which I bought years ago at an after-Christmas sale at Cracker Barrel. It depicts a fluffy-tailed mischievous squirrel hanging onto and peeking through tree branches which spell out the word "Joy". Sometimes this ornament hangs on the tree, other times it hangs in a window or doorway. Wherever I hang it this little squirrel makes me smile!

To the left of the squirrel is an old-looking newer ornament from a set I bought at an after-Christmas sale at Target, I believe. The colors and sheen of this ornament make me think of the old-fashioned ribbon candy my grandmother always had on her candy table at Christmas. To the right of the squirrel is a candy cane ornament made from tri-beads.

Have you begun your Christmas decorating yet? I've put my ribbon board up in the front hallway and filled it with the usual vintage cards, and placed the "December" illustration from a Tasha Tudor calendar in its frame in the hallway, but so far that's all the decorating I've done.

Happy December, everyone!