December 31, 2012

Sewn stocking craft-astrophe!

I will fess up here: Last year my poor youngest child did not have a homemade Christmas stocking. She was a baby. She didn't mind. I did mind but ran out of time.

I had all the supplies and a whole entire year to complete the stocking. What do you think I was doing on December 23, a mere two days before Christmas? Well, yes, I was sewing a stocking.

The challenge was that the first two stockings were sewn by a friend with a pattern I no longer own. The second was sewn by my mother-in-law with a different pattern that I only bought because one of the stockings had a similar twirling toe. After I read through the directions it was clear to me she really hadn't followed those. So I was on to a construction challenge!

I was so very proud of myself for figuring out how to put it all together so that when you flipped it right side out the little hook was in the correct spot and the cuff showed nicely inside and out and the seams were hidden. I held it up to admire. Then I held up my older daughter's stocking, the one I had been referencing for the construction and was struck with my shocking error.

The stocking of daughter two was nearly twice as wide and undeniably twice as long and I had not noticed until this very moment!

How is this possible? How did I not sense its extraordinary length as a sewed my afternoon away? How could I not have seen how large it was compared to the sample I had right there with me?!

After laughing until I cried I despaired of my craft failure. Then my dear husband suggested that since the goal was a homemade stocking that I had indeed succeeded. He doesn't even want me to replace it with a right-sized stocking and instead wants it to go down in family history as an annual joke!

December 28, 2012

beautiful sky

Oh, take my breath away and humble me so gently, beautiful winter sunset sky.

December 26, 2012

Christmas gifts from the kitchen: chai tea mix

I hope you had a lovely Christmas, dear readers!

My husband had the brilliant idea of gifting jars of chai tea mix last year and we have continued the "tradition" this year. We like to give these small, simple gifts to those who take care of us all year round: our mail carrier, the newspaper delivery family, our pastors, our teachers, and so on. It is a sweet and simple thank you.

Last year we bought some beautiful canning jars. We spent just as much on the jars as we did on ingredients. This year we saved and sterilized the glass jars from my peanut butter addiction, which conveniently have a red lid. Not only were we doing some earth-friendly upcycling, but people did end up with a little bit more chai tea. I am sure they are not complaining!

I stamped the tags at a Pinterest party, where we were experimenting with various crafts and recipes found on the famous website. The original idea was to use the base from celery to stamp roses. The snowflakes on these tags were stamped with a slice of okra. I made the tags themselves from a red paper bag from a store. I already had the glittery stars on wire, which worked especially nice because it could be twisted firmly around the neck of the jar (no ribbon slipping here!).

December 24, 2012

a few of my favorite things

On top of a shelf in the bathroom you'll find a few of my favorite things:

I enthused about them a few weeks ago. A simple and inexpensive item to incorporate into your seasonal decor.

Milk glass.
I really like the look and feel of those little bumps! In my experience, milk glass is abundant and inexpensive at antique stores. Think multiples on the mantle like I did here, especially if your house has white trim like mine.

Bright red against blue.
A color combination that seems to come up in my house again and again!

Little birdies.
Also – I love and adore the art of Genine, who also shares my adoration of our feathered friends. Check out her blog too if you have not before. I am quite sure I have mentioned her before on this blog.

Reused Christmas cards.
A clustered group sharing the red bird theme. As I have written about before, saving and reusing favorite cards is another easy-on-the-earth, easy-on-the-budget way to decorate.

December 21, 2012

beautiful seeds

One lovely autumn day we ventured out of the playground and off the beaten path into a puffy cloud of plant life, all gone to seed but oh-so-lovely to adventure through. The plants were taller than my children so you can imagine the excitement/fear of plunging into this jungle!

December 19, 2012

storing your natural treasures

This is not exactly a craft post and not exactly a home decorating post and I doubt the results are anyone's definition of "art" but I am so excited about this reuse of clementine boxes I just had to share it with you! Besides, all my posts detailing the Christmas gifts I have been crafting since summer cannot be published until they have actually been gifted!

As long-time readers will know, I am a big fan of nature. And this comes through in my home decorating. I think a bird's nest, a seashell, a rock, a piece of coral, some feathers, and some cool driftwood are equally as lovely as some antique milk glass, framed art, or great-grandmother's handiwork.

So, along with my observant and curious little ones, I am often collecting little bits of this and that and rotating which ones are on display. For a while I had things stored in some small plastic containers and stacked in my decor closet. This was a decent solution, especially considering the containers were clear. Then we collected a whole stack of awesome pinecones and I began running into some storage issues.

I know, I know, I could downsize my pinecone collection but look at this garland by Martha in her book Handmade Christmas: The Best of Martha Stewart Living. Pretty sweet, right?

Anyway, I had a stack of clementine boxes saved for unknown reasons, or perhaps my faith they might be useful. And then we had some fresh ones that I dumped out. And being that they are made to hold a mound of objects and stack on top of each other, well, they are perfectly suited for storing natural treasures! I still have the clear containers holding smaller items inside of some of these. But larger fragile things, like bird's nests, have found a perfect home in these boxes.

And while I know there are many cute ways to label (I am a graphic designer after all), I was just as happy to use an index card and a stapler. Job done.

December 17, 2012

love this logo

This logo for the Greater Grand Rapids Bicycle Coalition was sent to me at work for use on a many-sponsored piece. I love it. I think it is really a great design, a beautiful and simple merging of letterforms and illustration. Very well-done. If anyone happens to know who designed it, please share in the comments. I would love to give credit where it is due.

Happy sigh – good design does make me smile!

December 14, 2012

in honor of crafters past: a garage sale find

Although I could be wrong, this nativity scene strikes me as homemade. I found it at a garage sale way off the beaten path up north. What good luck to happen upon something so unique! I perched it on a shelf next to our own family portrait.

December 12, 2012

here an evergreen, there an evergreen, everywhere an evergreen

Another little trick I have for filling my house with Christmas is to make full use of any and all available evergreen branches. Mine are leftovers from the wreath making process and scraps trimmed from our fresh tree. If you are lucky enough to have evergreens right in your yard, well, get out there with the clippers!

I like to arrange them in various vases and jars and tuck them in available corners.

This year I also had a fresh batch of pretty pine cones collected from the parking lot of a nearby elementary school. Seriously, can I go anywhere without seeing art or art supplies right before my very eyes? Combined with some branches and a piece of bark from an autumn walk and you get a very artful, minimal arrangement.

Even a small sprig can add a little holiday flair to a year-round item.

December 10, 2012

ornaments = window adornments

I spent a full 8-hour day – no joke – decorating my house for Christmas so you better believe I've got more blog posts to write about it!

One of my favorite things to do with Christmas tree ornaments is hang them in other, unexpected places like doorknobs, cabinet handles, and in windows. I use two tree ornaments in the narrow windows flanking my fireplace. This year I hung a star in the bathroom.

Then I took my favorite felt ornament by the artist Jenn Schaub of Pulled Print Press and hung it above the kitchen sink. My teal glass, an antique jar, and a freebie postcard from when I ordered a gift through Raw Art Letterpress keeps the blue theme going. There is also a repeat of hearts in the ornament, the snowman print, the pink play-doh, and the red glass. And let us not forget the minimalist nativity, a very inspirational craft from my sister-in-law's family. It too coordinates in shaded of red and blue.

A lovely little scene if I do say so myself!

December 7, 2012

December 5, 2012

Mirror, mirror, on the table

Let me show you something that did not work the way I expected it to. Since I am so in love with the mirror above my mantel (as seen here in full Halloween glory) I was inspired to leave it up for Christmas. After crafting my evergreen wreaths (check out this great post where I explain how I do it) I wanted to incorporate the small one above my mantel, like I usually do.

So I dug up some fun ribbons from the basement, tied it to the top, artfully wove the ends of the ribbons through the mirror's frame, stood back, and was, well, disappointed.

I left it up overnight before finally admitting the next day I really did not like it. Here's the problem, folks. The mirror and the wreath are pretty much the same size. So they are competing with each other in a seriously not flattering way. This could work better if the wreath was bigger, framing the full size of the mirror instead of laying on top it. Conversely, this could also work if the wreath was smaller – a miniature adorning the top or a few evergreen branches tucked into the mirror's frame.

In the end, I took down the mirror and laid it on the dining room table, which had become my temporary landing ground for decorations in transition. At the end of the day when I was clearing off the table, spreading out my Christmas tablecloth, and deciding on decorations I realized I really liked the look of the mirror right where it was. Add a glass bowl of antique ornaments and the last of my evergreen branches and the house was complete. Tah-dah!

December 3, 2012

Felt ornaments for kids of all ages!

For the second time, I prepared a Thanksgiving craft for our family gathering (anyone remember ornamental balls?). I was inspired by the book Holiday Crafting and Baking with Kids: Gifts, Sweets, and Treats for the Whole Family. Of course, our actual intention was to get the grown-ups crafting too!

Because this involves cutting felt with fabric scissors it is not the best craft for the littles. However, one of my nephews who is only 3 years old was happy to arrange scraps and even glued them himself. The 4-year-olds had mixed interest. The older kids actually really enjoyed it. On the second day of crafting, we even saw some out-of-the-box formats – large rectangles, fringe, tassels, and, eventually fake moustaches!

The premise is very simple – take a felt circle, cut out various felt shapes, and glue them on. The instructions suggest using a hole punch to create a spot to thread the ribbon through. We found it easier to just pinch the fabric and make a small snip with the scissors. The sparkly, fancy, beaded ribbons were a hit embellishment option.