Wednesday, December 15, 2010


I guess I am not ready to stop crafting Holiday decorations.  When I started looking through the books for one or two ideas, I found more and more things that I wanted to try ... I warn you, it can be addicting!  Today I am trying some crafts from a Better Homes and Gardens publication from last year:

Christmas Ideas 2009 by Better Homes and Gardens.

Better Homes and Gardens  publishes one of these Christmas Special Interest issues each year.  The ideas I tried for this post were from the 2009 issue specifically.  (To place a library hold on a specific year's copy you will need to contact the library because it is listed as part of a series.)

I like these Special Interest series because they have something for a great variety of tastes and styles (this issue claims to provide "256 easy and elegant ideas for your home"). Also, the projects tend to be relatively simple to execute and use many different types of crafting techniques.

I still had all the scrap booking stuff out on my table from  my post about making holiday cards and tags so I tried my hand at the Tree Tag project first of all.  I don't own the stamp they used but the tree was simple to draw out with my markers.

I was inspired by the tags they showed in "Tag Team" so I made a few more tags using some purchased stickers.

I have had a set of clear glass ornaments in my craft stash for years but never set myself to do anything with them so when I saw the "Custom-Color Ornaments" project I decided it was high time to drag them out.  You swirl diluted acrylic paint inside them to coat the interior and then apply punched out snowflakes (or snowflake stickers) on the our surface.  Yay! Another opportunity to use my snowflake punch!!  The craft is simple and the finished project is very husband really liked these.

I decided to use up the rest of my clear glass ornaments and tried the project I originally purchased them for: marbleizing.  For this project you squirt two colors of diluted acrylic paint inside and swirl it around to coat.  Dry it upside down and you have a "marbleized ornament".  My son really liked photos don't show them off too well though.

Lastly, I made the "Circle of Snow" wreath by randomly piling felt snowflakes of varying sizes on a circular shape.  (The book's project used a foam wreath...I used a sheet of stiffened glittered felt that I already had and which I cut into a donut shaped piece.)  The glitter in the felt doesn't really show up well here unfortunately.

As I am writing this, the Better Homes and Gardens Christmas 2010 issue is being readied for circulation.

It indicates that it has "247 Festive and Easy Ideas for your home" including "39 simple and stylish ornaments."  I'm looking forward to investigating many of those.

Meanwhile, a couple of my colleagues here at the library have been tapping their inner craftiness and have given me permission to share their endeavors.

If you read our ever so fine SciFi blog "The Labyrinth Librarians" then you are familiar with Adam.  While he and I were talking about the crafts I was planning to make this season Adam thought he remembered making pipe cleaner reindeer sometime in his past.  Not one to let any craft opportunity to escape, I challenged him to try making one.  Not one to let any challenge go unanswered, Adam did make one.

I thought that his rise to the challenge was GREAT!!  But, then we decided that the little guy was destined to be Rudolph, so Adam added some bling:

 And there you have it, a blinged out pipe cleaner reindeer by Adam, The Labyrinth Librarian.  We only need a few more, a sleigh and a Santa....Adam, are you able to rise to the challenge again?

Next up in the colleague craft-a-thon is a beautiful display by Mary, one of our Children's Librarians.  During the Fall, Mary created a tree covered with Autumn leaves for our stairwell.  Not yet wanting to see it go, she decked it out for the Winter.  While I was working on my "Quick Felt Holiday Decorations" post, Mary created some felt cardinals to put on the branches of her tree.  She looked through our books for Cardinal pictures to use as a reference and sketched one out.  Once happy with her sketch, she made templates for the individual pieces: body, wing, beak,black thing that goes next to beak..., traced them onto felt and cut them out.

She used a blanket stitch to outline the wing and body.

She sewed the rest of the parts on and added a bead for the eye and put them in her snowed capped tree.

I am so pleased with my colleagues' crafting contributions and thank them for allowing me to share them in my never know what you are going to encounter in this place!  As for me I think I had better start worrying about some gift making ideas pretty darn soon!  Back to our shelves I go, exploring the world of possibilities.  I will keep you posted.  Until then, take a look through the Holiday crafting books at our, or your own library and tap into your inner craftiness!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


When time is of the essence and handmade holiday decorations (or gifts) are needed, crafting with felt can be the solution.  The beauty of working with felt is that it doesn't need to be hemmed...the edges can be left raw.  I love that!  You can work up some lovely pieces, as basic or as elaborate as you like, in practically no time at all.

The library has a new Christmas book that is full of cute holiday decorations, ornaments, and stocking ideas all crafted from felt.  The title and the cover art grabbed my attention:

The book includes information regarding the various types of felt,  basic needs for working with felt, as well as an overview with diagrams of some very basic embroidery stitches you might use to embellish your pieces.  A brief description of how to use your old wool sweaters to create your own felt is also provided . (If you have shrunk any of your sweaters accidentally then you already know how to create felt and now you will have an idea of how to put them to good use.)

There are 45 projects described in the book. The projects are designed by different people which I like because it usually means that, while they share the standard set out by the author, they are not all the same style, ie. there's a little something for everyone.   To test the instructions I decided to make the Christmas Candy Garland and the Holiday Hoot ornament.  Templates for all the projects are provided in the back of the book.  My first discovery was that the templates are not full-sized, however each one states the percentage you need to enlarge it by so you are not left completely guessing.  It does lead to a little extra copying though and for me anyway, some quality time spent with my copier as I tried to figure out where to place the template on it so it would print the enlarged image fully on my paper... hmmm.

I started with the Holiday Hoot ornament designed by Lisa Jordan, and found it was definitely a quick and easy project.

To start, I cut out the required pieces of felt and applied a small dab of fabric glue on back of each piece to tack it in place.

Sew pieces in place with coordinating colors of embroidery floss using the whipstitch.  Then sew body pieces together using darker brown floss and the blanket stitch. When you reach the center of the head, insert and tack in the hanging loop. Continue sewing until about 1" is left and insert desired amount of stuffing.

Finish sewing to the end and there is your Holiday Hoot ornament all ready for the tree.(It's much cuter in person...)

Next I tried out the Christmas Candy Garland designed by Esther Coar.  I picked it because it looked really pretty in the photograph but seemed really simple to make.  And it turned out to be both of those things, however I can not photograph it nearly as well as the book's photographer did (also, mine is still too short to show much draping as it is still in progress at this time).

The instructions and list of items needed is (purposely) vague since you will be determining how long you want to make it.  None-the-less, you start by cutting strips of red and white felt. (I can see the value of investing in a rotary cutting tool!) You need twice as many red as white, it doesn't explain why - but I determined that I needed to double the red because it is thinner than the white.  Then you stack the strips together with the white on top, with the white staggered forward a little (for a more solid center in the candy).

Roll the strips, keeping the long edges lined up.

Place pins to keep candies from unrolling until you need them.  (The instructions indicate you might want to sew the ends to hold them in place prior to stringing them but I found that the beads held the candy together just fine - I just had to remember to remove all my pins!)

Also, while the instructions didn't say to do this, I trimmed the edges to even them after I pinned them since the layers seemed to "crawl" as I rolled them.  I used waxed dental floss to alternately string the candy pieces with red and white pony beads.  You will want to make sure the needle goes through the stitched (or pinned, as in my case) end of felt and the candy center.

Tie hanging loops on the end and hang.

You'll have to trust that it looks MUCH better in reality.  Sorry I couldn't get a truly effective photo ... maybe once I get it to its finished length so that I can get more "swoops" going I will be able to post a better picture.

Other projects I really like and hope to try are the Stitched Gift Tags, Snowflake Coasters, Sorta Swedish Stockings, and the Merry Little Ornaments.  I haven't worked with felt for years really and I found this to be a fun set of projects.  I encourage you to try your hand at it as well - many of the Holiday books and a number of periodicals feature felt crafts.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


Thanksgiving is over and the Holiday season is upon us once more.  Here at the library our Holiday books (seasonal fiction as well as non-fiction such as crafting, cooking and traditions), music cds, and Christmas films are out of storage and reside on a special table dedicated to our seasonal items. They have actually been out of storage for a while now since many crafters like to get a head start on their projects, or at least planning for them.  (Mind you even though they usually live in storage, they are ALWAYS accessible to check just need to ask one of our staff members to retrieve them for you, no problem!)

You don't have to be a knowledgeable crafter, rolling in the bucks, or have oodles of time to be able to craft homemade holiday decorations or gifts from the heart.  Many books address quick to create holiday decorations and even gifts that use a limited number of supplies, many of which you may already have on hand.  I will be exploring these possibilities over the next few weeks.

First up: Christmas Cards and Tags.

It seems to me that as soon as Thanksgiving Day is over, and mail service has been resumed that the Holiday cards start pouring in.  I swear some people must write them prior to Halloween!!  I am not that organized.  We have many books that address card making, but one in our Christmas collection caught my eye:

Christmas Cards - 100 Fast & Festive Cards & Tags , by Elizabeth Moad

This book provides a number of projects ranging from the very quick, "uh oh, out of time" to the more involved, "no worries, I have lots of time."  A description of basic tools and techniques is provided up front.  Hints and tips are sprinkled throughout, as well as options for slight adaptions. Great photographs with step-by-step instructions are provided and each project has a complete list of materials needed. As the title suggests, projects include ideas for gift tags as well as cards.

Although I am guilty of not sending cards out in recent years, I might try some because I agree with the beginning of the introduction in this book:

"The giving of Christmas cards is the time-honoured way of sending festive goodwill to loved ones, friends and colleagues.  These simple items have the power to strengthen family ties, renew acquaintances and even heal a breach in a personal or business relationship.  by spending just a little time and effort on a handmade card, you have the opportunity to make them individual and extra special, and therefore the recipients are sure to appreciate them even more."

I tried a couple of the projects so I could get an idea of how complete the instructions are (I wouldn't want to recommend a book with lousy instructions after all!).  The first project I tried was the "Brilliant Baubles" card. It was broken down into eight steps.

The first three steps were pretty darn elementary.  They were instructions for copying and cutting out the templates and baubles as well as tracing the designs onto the backsides of the baubles (you can see them in the photo below.)

Steps four and five covered pricking evenly spaced pin holes along the traced lines from the back side.  (Well mostly evenly spaced...)

One of the baubles required a tool I do not own: a "4-needle pricking tool", which is basically 4 needles secured in a square pattern in a holder (the photograph that accompanied the step had a picture of it, fortunately, so I could see what they meant.)  I decided I did not need that design detail. I just used my singular needle on all my baubles.

After pushing the needle into the cardstock a couple of times, the pain entering my fingers and palm opened my mind to the probable usefulness of the appropriate tools.  I created a needle holder of my own by pushing my heavy upholstery needle (from the eye end) into a cork.

Here are my baubles with their pinprick details.  The one on the far left has not been done yet - the lines have been drawn on it but the camera did not seem to pick them up.

Step six was more fun (and less painful) than pricking holes.  In this step I was instructed to apply gold paint detailing to each bauble. I used a gold paint pen to do this.

Step seven said to draw lines resembling strings for each bauble on the face of the card with a silver pen.  My silver pen had dried out so I glued gold cording on the card instead ... crafting often involves improvisation!  

Finally in Step eight, the baubles were affixed with foam pads (so they stand out? - it didn't say why).  My project is complete:

After finishing that card I dabbled with some of the other projects in the book.  I purchased a snowflake punch tool which I love. You could use the punched out shapes on cards, tags, strung together as a garland or an ornament, add them to packaging like confetti - there is no limit!  It was so much fun punching the intricate shapes out in no time that I think I could go nuts punching snowflake shapes out of all our scrap paper.

Here is a card that I made inspired by the "Simply Snow" instructions in the book:

I made a few gift tags as well:

I think I prefer making the tags - I know I always need tags at the last minute - I could whip up a few and have them on hand for that last minute crunch. Some of the tags could be affixed to a card for another look.  As a matter of fact, the "Rudolph the Reindeer" tag shown above was actually a card project from the book - I prefer it as a tag.

Overall, this was a fun project (especially using the snowflake puncher!  I might have to buy some other shapes and play some more!)  It was simple and I could easily see it as a project that you could do with a group of friends or your family...a nice way to spend time together and get something done during this busy season.  And remember, cards don't have to be for Christmas only, once you have the techniques or general ideas in your head, and some supplies on hand, cards can be created for any of the holidays - why not?  Just re-read that introduction and put any holiday's name in place of Christmas!

Check back soon - next I will be exploring the use of felt for ornaments, decor and gifting ideas.