Saturday, January 30, 2016

Christmas Crafting

I have this annual problem as the holidays approach, which is to build laughably long lists of projects to make as gifts for friends/family.  It is not so much that I have more ideas than my schedule allows to make them, it is more like I have more ideas than time exists in which anybody could make them.  Even if I had no job, no responsibilities, and no housework, I could not complete all the projects I think of because I have just Too Many Ideas.

Thanks a lot Pinterest!

(and magazines, and crafting books, and supplies handed down to me by Mom...)

Even when I make my list "realistic", I never reach the end.  Once school starts in September, it is just an out of control train of activity, from school sports to Halloween events, to kid's birthday, to Thanksgiving, to Christmas.  Woo Woo! (that was a train whistle)

This year, however, I refocused my energy, lightened up my schedule by replacing huge Halloween and Birthday events with smaller get-togethers, and came up with a few portable craft ideas which I could work on at sports events.  With those changes, plus joining a craft club to keep me focused and pretty much abandoning all TV watching, I found myself able to accomplish a respectable amount.  (though still not All The Things)

Embroidered towels - this idea came to me from wandering through the craft store's embroidery section.  It was a tradition in our house to have sets of towels embroidered in the corners (one set of which I still own and use, which was embroidered by my mom)  I wanted to incorporate some Zentangle in my gifts this year as well, so this seemed a perfect fit.  I drew the tangle pattern on paper using a thicker pen, making it roughly the size of the embroidery hoop.  I transferred the pattern using carbon paper, and then embroidered away.  There was another towel which I neglected to photograph before giving it away, and a fourth which is still in the hoop because I didn't finish it in time for Christmas.  This is the project I brought with me to G's sporting events to work on in between her playing. 

I love doing the paint-your-own ceramics, and have saved many painting idea/inspirations on Pinterest.  The set of plates is for a neighbor of mine... I'd painted a platter for myself a few years ago which shows a tree bent in the fall, the leaves blowing off.  She compliments it highly every time she comes over, so I decided to do a set of plates for her from a similar inspiration.  The set of plates depicts one tree in the changing seasons (in case the theme isn't obvious)  The vase below was painted for D for Christmas, inspired by designs I've seen on Pinterest.  I do like the way the clouds came out.  I suppose I did a weather theme without really realizing it.

Last year I bought up two sets of Melissa Frances glass ornament dome kits, and put them to use this season.  In my efforts to find a tiny nativity scene worthy of the pretty glass, I discovered French Feves... teeny tiny porcelain figures usually used to bake into an epiphany cake in France.  I bought a few kits on Etsy (straight from France!) and also a few individual feves which really spoke to me.  The ornaments above were inspired by and made for individual friends of mine.
I made my own French Feve parrot ornament for myself (unfortunately it dropped during our un-decorating of the tree, and the dome is now cracked, the parrot is laying down.  I'll repair it next year)  I made the bear ornament as my annual bunco ornament exchange contribution - this one was inspired by (and supplies purchased at) my favorite craft store/money pit.  It had originally been opened by my good friend, who immediately recognized that I must have made it, and we made eye contact from across the room.  Then it was sadly stolen from her (but by another friend who really appreciates bears, and really did adore this little guy)  I happened to have picked up duplicate supplies, with the intention of making a bear dome for myself (because Cute Bear!) but instead I used the supplies to make a duplicate for my good friend.  I suppose that could be considered "cheating" the bunco exchange, but people also declare where they bought their ornaments in case anyone wants to buy something they saw, so... all is fair in my opinion.

The craft store was sold out of the adorable bears, so I needle-felted myself a little cardinal and set him into a dome ornament for myself instead.  (This was my project for our December crafting club meeting)

I am most proud of the two sets of coasters I made for D for Christmas.  The idea came to me early on... I've attempted several types of tile coasters in the past, all with poor results, but after a little research I found people had been able to create the look I was going for using resin instead of modpodge like medium, so I headed to the art store for resin kits.  There I found actual coaster kits, with holders and all, just above the resin.  It's like they knew I wanted to make coasters!  
I made two sets, one with 4 images from Jamaica, and one with 4 images from Kauai.  Printing, trimming, and gluing the photos onto the coasters was easy.  I painted over the photos with a layer of mod-podge as well, however the paint strokes did show a little in spots, so I wouldn't recommend doing that... just glue them down all the way to the edges really well, the resin will coat the images nicely.
(I regret that I didn't take photos during this process... I really had to sneak it in without D noticing, so I had very little time in which to work)
The resin did not smell nearly as much as I thought it would, though I still did the resin part inside a bathroom with the vent fan going and a window open just in case.  I set the coasters on small wooden blocks inside of the lids of banker's boxes (to catch the drips), mixed the resin, and poured.  I did the 8 oz kit, which was well more than I needed for the 8 coasters.  After pouring the resin and smoothing it out, gravity pretty much does the rest.  I tried and tried to scrape the drips off the bottom of the coasters, but it kept dripping and once it was set, the bottoms of the coasters had bumpy resin bits.  
My solution to the resin drips on the bottom was to put the scraping blade on my Xacto knife and pop them off, which also took off some of the white paint on the coaster.  (note: use the scraping blade like a planer, scraping away from your body, NOT the pointy one... I started with the pointy one, it slipped and stabbed me in the thumb)  My original plan had been to attach little felt feet to the bottoms, however with the paint scraped they looked beat-up.  After starting to paint the bottoms (which looked uneven at best) I realized that I could just cover the entire bottom with felt instead, so that is what I did.

Here is a close-up of my favorite coaster - notice the teeny tiny helicopter in the shot :)

Outside of gifts, I also worked on my own projects... completing two buildings for my Christmas village.  A little house (colors somewhat based on our own house colors)

The gingerbread bakery (because SO CUTE!)

My village has expanded in size, now requiring a larger space and more lights.  
Inspired by a friend of mine, I hang my Enterprise ornament over the village.  I've often joked about making an Away Team for my village, and this year I decided I should paint some villagers with Star Trek uniforms, as my Away Team incognito.  I was unable to start that project this year, but I already have a Riker and Westly in mind for next year.

I managed to paint just one ornament for myself this year... a little black-capped chickadee who happens to be a Gryffindor.  (I am nerding out our Christmas stuff in subtle ways)

Done back in in the fall... I also gifted out jars of home made jalapeno/anaheim chile jelly, made from peppers grown in pots in my yard.  My grand hope this year is to have a proper garden again, with herbs galore, so that I can return to gifting home grown items to friends again.

Thursday, January 28, 2016


After several years with little to no attention paid to my blog, I've decided to get back into blogging again, but in a different direction.  To that end, I've wiped the slate clean and am reconstructing my site.