Mixed Media Necklace + Holiday Decor

necklaceI have been organizing my art room and basement craft stash this winter, in an effort to purge what I don’t need, use what I have, and make room for cold day play with my kids.  I discovered some fun unfinished projects in this process.

necklace.1My mom gave me a couple bags of Hand-felted Wool Felt Balls  a couple years back and I had made a few things with them, but they had mostly been pilfered by one of our cats as extremely entertaining toys.  I also came across my recycled paper beads I had made during a paper making lesson I taught my middle school students back in North Carolina.

The beads are simply paper pulp squished into bead shapes, which then dry, and are coated in Mod Podge, Gloss Finish. I used a small drill bit and drilled holes in each paper bead, alternating them with the felted balls.  The felted wool balls are easy to string as beads, just use a sharp needle.  I also added a couple pieces of coral with holes in it, found on a trip to Key West.  Now I just have to keep this necklace out of the reach of our cat – he has already nabbed it and dragged it down to the basement once.  I am not sure what the allure of these felted wool balls are to him, but he cannot resist them!

garland.2
Other things that have been keeping me busy – Christmas decor!  I used some more of the felted wool balls to create a simple garland for the chandelier.

garlandOne of these days I am going to do something about that chandelier – I am still not a fan of it.

mantelThe mantle is decorated with my odds and ends.

We started a new holiday family tradition – picking up our tree via cargo bike!  It was a chilly but perfect day, we biked to a tree lot just off one of the bike trails in town.  Eric let me ride it back – it was a little squirrely to ride, but much easier than I thought it would be.  Now our tree is up and decorated, though a little top-heavy – our youngest is still in the destructive phase.

My current favorite holiday decor – I finally got my deer skull hung up and decorated with a set of battery-powered lights.

What’s your favorite holiday decor or tradition?

DIY Origami Paper Garland

A friend of mine gave me a package of lovely origami paper this summer and it’s taken me this long to do something with it.  We finally managed to get Christmas out of the boxes and up around the house this week.  Now that we are in a new house, I have to reconfigure all my decor for the holidays.  It’s nice to have a little more room to spread out the cheer.  The cheer moved into the dining room this year in the form of glass ornaments and a simple DIY paper garland made from origami paper.  

 I started with the square origami paper and then cut them in half, using my paper cutter.  One could also fold them if you wanted your garland to be two-sided.  I stacked them up according to the in order in which I wanted them to appear on the garland.

Then, I ran them through the sewing machine using a simple straight stitch through the middle of the triangle.  I used festive gold thread to complement the gold theme throughout the origami paper.  Be sure to leave a little space between each piece of paper to allow for movement and hanging abilities of the garland.

The finished design looks festive, though I am thinking that this garland plus the ornaments may be a bit much.  Like I said, I am still figuring out how things work in this new place – perhaps the garland will find a new home today.  Sometime in the next few months that chandelier will get a makeover.  I have bright plans for it.

Easy DIY Holiday Card Display

For years I have been using this ribbon to display my holiday cards – I always keep it in the dining room of our home so that the cards can be enjoyed throughout the season.  It is fun to watch the photos and images of the holidays fill up the ribbon.  This is the year I will have to expand to a couple more ribbons, they were overflowing last year!  

This was an easy project to make.  I simply took a large white satin ribbon (it happens to be the sash from my wedding dress) and attached a red and white snowflake bow to the top.  I created the bow with wire-lined ribbon that I hot glued together out of two loops.  Then, I simply tape the cards onto the ribbon to display.  Each year I roll up the ribbon and store it away, hence the lovely wrinkles seen in the first photo.  
To attach them to the wall, I use these handy 3M sticky tabs.  They make it easier to remove the ribbons at the end of the season and prevent paint removal.  Happy decorating! 

Sweet Gum Wreath

The sweet gum tree can be a thorn in the side of any homeowner.  They are a mess and quite difficult to  clean up – clogging many a leaf blower.  However, they are a crafter’s delight.  I first encountered these seed pods when I was in kindergarten in New York.  My teacher brought a bag of them into class and had us glue toothpicks into the holes.  We then spray painted them gold and gave them to our mothers as Christmas ornaments.  My mother still gets hers out every year and they grace a table or buffet top.  
This wreath stems from that very project.  When I moved from the Midwest to North Carolina I found these gumballs all over my neighborhood and I quickly put them to use for a pretty wreath for my front door.
Simply hot glue gumballs onto a wreath form.  Spray paint silver, gold, or any other desired color.  Hang with a ribbon.  

Chick’n Stir Fry + Easy DIY Holiday Linens

Who doesn’t love all the pretty holiday decor out in the stores right now and all over the web?  I love prints and holiday sparkle as much as the next gal, but I hate buying these things knowing I could very well make them.  I know, I know, here comes that curse again.  I had quite a bit of holiday fabric left over from my Advent Calendar adventures and decided to turn it into something useful.  
This is attempt #1 – a candy covered dish towel.  My mother and mother-in-law have gotten me hooked on fancy and pretty dish towels.  I never thought much about the dish towels I used – always picking up a pack at Target until we bought our current house.  For some reason, it clicked and I started to look for more intriguing patterns, motifs, and holiday-themed prints. 
Simply use an existing dish towel in a size you like as a pattern.  Trace around it, or use the measurements.  Cut the fabric and then using an iron on high heat, fold and press the edges once and then once again to prevent fraying and then sew edges.  See two photos below if you need a visual. 
I used gold metallic thread and gold ric rac for a little extra flair on this towel’s edge.  These would be great homemade extras for hostess gifts, stocking stuffers, wine bottle wraps, or just for sprucing up your own kitchen.  
The top seam is frayed and needs to be finished.  The far left seam has already been finished.  
The bottom seam here has been pressed and sewn once.  The seam on the left has been pressed, sewn once, pressed again and sewn a second time.  With slick fabric, like this satin, I like to sew twice.  You will only see the last seam on the top side of the fabric. 
This sparkly number is all set to grace a table.  

Table runners are an easy way to add something extra to a table.  They work really well in houses with young children – we keep this on the end of the table away from Greta.  It is currently under the table top tree. 
This was Monday night dinner for us – Chick’n Stir Fry.  That’s fake chicken stir fry.  It was Monday night, so I heated up the skillet and didn’t even bother to get the wok out.
Heat a couple tablespoons of peanut oil.  Then, stir fry 1 bag of frozen mixed stir fry veggies plus 1/2 a bag of frozen broccoli florets
When the veggies were hot, I added in 1 bag of Gardein Chick’n Strips.  Cook until hot. 
Meanwhile, bring water in a sauce pan to boil.  Add 1 serving Soba noodles and cook for 3 minutes.  Drain noodles.  
Add soba noodles to veggie mixture.  Mix well and add sauce of choice.  Serve hot.  
I used a sauce packet that came with the Gardein chick’n strips – it was too sweet for my liking though. Next time, regardless of the day of the week, I will just make my own sauce.  

DIY Felt Garland

This wool felt garland is ridiculously easy.  So easy I cannot imagine why anyone with scissors and a sewing machine would ever shell out $25 or more for a garland in a store. 

I had a pile of triangular felt scraps left over from another project and so decided to put them to good use.  More about the other project later.  
I needed a few more scraps to complete the garland.  I started with a felted red sweater, and cut it into a rectangle with my rotary cutter.  
Next, I cut sections on the diagonal – like so. 
Then, I cut vertically – like so. 
You will be left with a series of triangles.  
Then, simply sew the triangles together.  Let the machine run for a few stitches between each triangle to allow room for extra thread.  This way, when you hang the garland it will twirl and move a bit.  I opted for gold metallic thread for a little more of a festive look.  
This garland is easily adapted to other shapes, colors, materials, and thread.  The basic concept is: cut, sew, hang.  
Happy sewing!

Scotch Short Bread + Easy Table Top Tree

There have been too many sick days in our household as of late.  This past weekend after plenty of naps, a trip to the science center, the last of the Christmas shopping, and some craft time, I found time to bake.  This recipe is in my top 5 favorites for Christmas.  It is an easy to make and easy to please recipe with only 4 ingredients.  
This one comes from the Joy of Cooking.  I love the format of this cookbook – so easy to use!  I did a little digging on Scottish Shortbread and discovered that this treat is centuries old, but has evolved over the years from an oatmeal and yeast creation to the flour and butter treat it is today.  It was originally quite expensive and eaten at Christmas, weddings, Hogmanay (New Year’s) and other such holidays. 
Sift together 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup sifted confectioner’s sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.  
When I do use salt, I love the Kosher salt. 
Sifting is essential to this recipe – it gives these bars a creamy texture. See before and after?  
Next, cream 1 cup butter.  
Blend the dry ingredients into the butter.  Pat the stiff dough into a 9 x 9 inch ungreased pan.  
Press the edges down.  Pierce with a fork through the dough every 1/2 inch.  If the dough is too sticky, refrigerated until chilled and stiff again.
Bake in a 325 degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes.  Edges should be slightly browned.  I did not have a 9 x 9 pan, so I just stopped the dough short of the edge of this pan.  
Cut into squares while it is still warm.  
In other news, the band saw Eric bought in a yard sale earlier this fall has turned out to be quite useful.  He created a tabletop Christmas tree for me.  
He used a large dowel rod for the center.  He then cut smaller dowel rods at various lengths for branches – shorter for the top of the tree and longer for the bottom of the tree.  He drilled holes with a corresponding drill bit for the dowel rods.  He then simply tapped the dowel rod branches into place with a hammer. 
He used a square of wood and drilled the large dowel rod trunk into place.  
I decorated it and it was ready to go.  Now if I can only keep cats away from it…