Archives for December 2009

Paperclay Mushrooms

Paperclay Mushroom

These ornaments wouldn’t have been possible without my Halloween Swap partner Moriah. She made me the coolest paperclay monster ornaments, and ever since I got my hands on them I’ve been wanting to dive into the world of paperclay.

This was a good first attempt. Not terribly complicated, but a good way to start playing with the medium.

Mushroom stem

Start by molding a piece of clay into a stem shape, and poke a wire through that’s long enough to go about halfway down the stem with a few inches left hanging out the top.

Mushroom cap
Mold the mushroom cap. Since there is no end to the varieties of mushrooms out there, you can make this look pretty much any way you want. I made mine by rolling the clay into a ball and then squishing it into a disc shape.

Leave to dry
Run the wire through the middle of the cap, squishing that stem and cap together, and let dry at least overnight, but a couple of days works even better to get that thick stem all the way dry.

Glue pieces together
I had a little trouble getting my pieces completely adhered, so when everything was dry I ran a line of glue around the seam, like caulk, to keep it all nicely together.

Bend the wire
When everything is thoroughly dry, it’s time to take that wire and make your hanger. You just bend that wire into a loop with a pair of needlenose pliers, but if you haven’t done this in jewelry making before, you start by bending that wire way over to the side….

Make the Loop
and then bend it around into a loop. The sideways bend keeps things centered and looking great.

Painting the Gills
The color difference is subtle, but I painted my mushrooms a light khaki color all over, and then I took a thin paintbrush and painted these gills on the bottom with a dark brown. Just regular old acrylic craft paint is all I used.

Speckle Paint
Then I thinned the paint down a little bit with water, and flicked speckles all over the top.

I have to admit, the perfectionist in me cringes a little bit looking at these photos. I wish I knew all the tricks for how to get the lumps and bumps and fingerprints out. But if I waited to try something until I knew all the little secrets, well, I wouldn’t have very much to blog about. That’s for sure.


Ribbon Pinecone Ornament

Pinecone Ornament
This ornament is hardly new. I’m pretty confident it’s been around for generations, in fact. But it’s a standby for a reason. It’s just so pretty!

You will need:

1 medium styrofoam egg
3 yards of 1/2″ ribbon (including some different colors makes a really pretty contrast)
a whole mess of pins (the short little sequin pins work great)
white craft glue
thinner ribbon for the hanger

Pinecone Ornament Step 1

Cut all your ribbon into 1 inch lengths. The very bottom of the pinecone will be visible through the “leaves” (What are those pinecone parts called anyway? Ah! Google says they’re scales!)so we have to cover it by just pinning a piece of ribbon over the pointy end.

I found it worked best to dunk the pins in glue before sticking them into the styrofoam. The kind of foam these eggs come is fairly porous, which means the pins go in easily, but they can also work their way out. The glue fixes that problem.

Pinecone Ornament Step 2
Take one piece of ribbon at a time and fold the short ends up to meet one of the long ends. This should make a little point, and also make it so that all the raw edges are together on one side. Pin this onto the styrofoam, overlapping the bottom covering piece.

Pinecone Ornament Step 3
There’s no right way to do this – remember all that talk from yesterday about nature being messy – and a lot of people like it better when it’s not lined-up-with-a-ruler perfect. After a little bit of practice I found my own technique. You just want to use the scales to cover up the pins and raw edges of what came before it. I kind of positioned them so that the side points of each scale were touching, and then I’d take a half step up and to the right so that the bottom point of the next row would cover all that up. Oh goodness I’m so over-complicating things. Just pin the ribbon points on in a way that covers any messiness.

Pinecone Ornament Step 4
When you get to the very top, things get so tight that the ribbon triangles can be too big to work with. I just folded the edges under before pinning on the last couple of rows.

Pinecone Ornament Step 5
Keep pinning on leaves until you get the whole thing covered, and then pin on a couple more so that the remaining pins can be covered by the ribbon hanger.

Pinecone Ornament Step 6
Pin down one end of ribbon, loop it around and fold the other end under before pinning it in place.

Pinecone Ornament
This could be really pretty made out of all one color, but I love the contrast here just in using different styles of ribbon from the same color family.


Faux Bois Ornaments

Faux Bois ornament

I think any crafter worth her salt keeps abreast of what Martha Stewart is up to, and if you keep even half an eye on her, you have to have seen faux bois. She seems to be on a one woman* campaign to bring this style to national prominence.

*One woman with many many minions, but still.

Faux Bois is basically a fake wood, and although it started as a specific kind of antique, it’s now used to refer to anything with a faux woodgrain pattern on it. You can find it on bathroom accessories, or carpets, and even entire blogs devoted to it. It’s kind of popular, is my point. And a perfect fit for my woodland tree.

At last years post Christmas sale, I snapped up a bunch of brown ball ornaments, knowing that the beginnings of this tree was percolating away in my brain somewhere. Then I picked up some of Martha Stewart’s flocking powder available at Michael’s. It’s great stuff and totally addictive. Imagine tiny little velvet fibers you can stick anywhere to make things fuzzy. Oh man, I think this may become just as much of a standby for me as the glitter is.

Before we start, a word for the panicked crafters. I do not draw. Yet. So don’t think that unless you have fine art skills or can pipe a pastry bag like a pro that you can’t do this craft. A woodgrain pattern is EASY! I promise! And even if you mess up, guess what, you just made it more authentic. Nature is messy. Instead of saying, “Mine looks messy.” Repeat after me. Say, “Mine looks *Organic*.”

Faux Bois ornament Step 1
With a decent craft glue, draw an elongated oval. This is the knot in the woodgrain. I put a dot in the middle because the knot pattern can get really tiny, and that was the way I decided to deal with that. I used Martha Stewart’s craft glue because hers has a really great thin applicator tip. I had to stop a couple of times to wash it out – it gets clogged somewhat easily – but I got a much thinner line than I would have any other way.

Faux Bois ornament Step 2
Draw more lines radiating out from the knot. You’ll notice how sloppy my glue application is. Bumpy, with lots of waves. When the glue dries clear and you’re just left with fuzziness, you won’t see any of that.

Faux Bois ornament Step 4
Add additional knot shapes, of varying sizes, to take up all the space around the first half of the ball.

Faux Bois ornament Step 3
There’s no wrong way to do this. A woodgrain pattern is just a series of concentric ovals, so draw straight lines, draw crooked lines, whatever, it will look like woodgrain if you just toss in the occasional knot, and they don’t even all have to have a dot inside. It’s ORGANIC, remember?

Faux Bois ornament Step 5
When you get half of the ball all glued up, shake the flocking powder over it, and shake off the excess. Make sure you shake it onto something you can use to gather it up. The flocking powder likes to clump, so I basically had to dump the whole bottle out every time I used it.

Let it dry, then repeat with the other side of the ball.


2009 Year of Pleasure #49

Sugar Cookies

Bear made sugar cookies and I can’t stop eating them. Having a husband who bakes is the best thing and the worst thing ever.


Wire Birds Nest Ornament

Brown Bird's Nest

I found the idea for these gorgeous things off of the blog of one of you commenters. Forgive me, I’ve lost the link. I searched and searched, but it’s lost forever. The mysterious commenter found this tutorial at Just Something I Made.

I debated with myself if it was cool to post a tutorial after Cathe Holden did hers. I’m still not certain if I’m right to do so, I tend to be cautious about respecting others work, but I did a couple of things differently and my finished project looks different enough from hers to make me think it’s worth sharing. But obviously I’m ambivalent about it. At any rate, the idea was not mine, but the way I went about it was. So…bah. Overthinking.

Birds Nest Tutorial Step 1

I started with 16 gauge beading wire, and three beads that measured about 1/2″ wide. Cut the wire to measure around 4 feet long (these measurements or totally not precise. I basically cut the wire I had into three pieces and got to work. You could cut more or less and be just fine).

Thread the beads onto the wire, and bend one end into a loop to keep the beads in place.

Birds Nest Tutorial Step 2

Using that first loop as a starting point, bend the wire around to make a coil for the beads to rest on.

Birds Nest Tutorial Step 3

Bring down one bead at a time, then bend the wire around in a full circle, then bring down the next bead, loop the wire around, and bring down the last bead. I think with the bigger beads it helps to have the wire in between them to keep things from just collapsing inward.

Birds Nest Tutorial Step 4

Then I wrapped the wire around and around and around and around. My style is always influence by midcentury design, so I loved the space age look I was getting by keeping things loose.

Birds Nest Tutorial Step 5

Of course, if I just left it looped it wouldn’t exactly stay in place, so I had to bring the wire up through a few layers at a time as I was looping so everything would stay together.

Birds Nest Tutorial Step 6

To finish it off I brought the wire to the back and made another loop so there were no sharp bits poking out.

Copper Bird's Nest

I also made one out of copper wire and faux pearls. Then I just used a wire ornament hanger to hang it from the tree.

These look so great on the tree. It’s a nice way to bring a splash of color and sparkle to a very brown and green tree.


Woodgrain Ornaments

I failed my way to success making this ornament.

Woodgrain Ornament

I knew I had to use wood somehow, but I don’t have the cool power tools – just the boring ones, so I turned to the art of marquetry. It’s something I’ve never done but long admired, so I bought a bunch of different kinds of wood veneers and started cutting things into animal shapes, but every time I tried to turn a sharp corner, I’d split it right along the grain. I think I have a bunch to learn about marquetry.

I pulled out the circle cutters I use in scrapbooking and just decided to keep things easy on myself.

Woodgrain Ornament Step 1

For each ornament, cut 2 large ovals out of wood, and 1 large oval out of cardboard. Glue these pieces together with the cardboard in the middle, and let dry with something heavy on top. The wood will warp just like paper when it gets wet, so you need to make sure it dries really flat.

Woodgrain Ornament Step 2

Cut a whole bunch of ovals in a whole bunch of sizes, out of a whole bunch of different woods. Contrast is really important here, so make sure that your woods aren’t too similar in tone.

Woodgrain Ornament Step 3

Then just combine different sized ovals in different wood tones until you get an image you like. I liked letting some ovals go off the edge, and then I’d trim those when the glue was dry. Put something heavy on top and let it dry flat. Do the same thing for the other side.

Woodgrain Ornament Step 4

Use a small drill bit to make a hole for hanging, then thread a piece of ribbon or fishing line through.

It took me a lot of failed attempts and scraps of wood, but I think I got it at the end. It brings in that great wood look to my woodland tree, but I don’t think it’s SO modern that it looks out of place with everything else.


Terrarium Ornaments

Terrarium Ornament
My mediocre photography skills are always put to the test when there’s glass involved. I hope you can see through the glare to tell that this ornament may just be my best idea ever.

Terrariums were all over the crafty blog world a couple of years ago, but they didn’t do much for me. :shrug: You can’t be into everything, I suppose. Here’s a great post about Maggie Mason’s succulent terrariums to get you familiar with the concept.

A big challenge for me with this tree was how to incorporate all the different materials you’d find in the woods, without just gluing everything on a styrofoam ball. I did some of that, but for a tree to be interesting, you need either everything the same, or loads of contrast. So I kept thinking, “How can I use dirt? How can I use rocks? In a way that would actually be pretty.?”

Then I saw these giant glass ornaments at Michaels. There’s probably 5″ wide which gives you an opening that’s about 1 inch, which is just big enough to shove things through.

Terrarium Ornament Step 1
Shove a bunch of dirt through the hole until it’s about 1/4 full. I used a potting soil I had in my shed.

Now here we need to address the difference between doing this in an ornament and doing this in a big glass jar that will never move from your counter. If you tried to put these away for the year, all the dirt would slide to the back and you’d be left with a big stirred up mess.

Terrarium Ornament Step 2
I took some white glue and watered it way down so it’d be easy to squirt and easy for the dirt to absorb it. Then squirt away, making sure to get the very edges, but taking care to avoid the glass. It will dry clear, but you’d still see a smudge on the glass.

Terrarium Ornament Step 3
Then I added a couple of different types of moss, and squirted glue all over the top of that too.

Terrarium Ornament Step 4
Then you just put in some miscellaneous pretty forest bits. It can be a little bit tricky to find something small enough to fit through the hole, so look for things that can easily be cut apart. I went to the section of the craft store that carried floral picks for wreaths. There was some good stuff to choose from, and on a much smaller scale that the stuff in the rest of the floral department. I just tossed in some clippings off a faux pine branch, a couple of fake berries, and because I can never resist the glitter (and I’m hardly going for verisimilitude here) a glittery plastic branch of something or other.

These ornaments will be heavier than average, so make sure that you pick a sturdy place to put them. I also opted for wire ornament hooks instead of my usual fishing line. The wire makes it easier to get a really secure set up.


Feathered Ornaments

This years new tree has taken on about five different permutations in my head. I originally had it in my head as an “Exotic” tree, and at the time I was thinking of feathers and animal print, paying homage to South Africa where Bear spent a couple of years and I’ve always had a deep affinity for. But the more I thought about it, the more I was afraid of it getting tacky. You know that lady with the big hair and four different animal prints in her outfit? I didn’t want a Christmas tree that looked like that lady.

So then I thought about adding ornaments that were influenced by places in the world that were exotic to me – India, Morocco, Africa, China – but as I started to plan it I kept coming up with ideas that were a whole lot closer to home.

So I’ve changed my focus and instead of an Exotic tree, I’m making a Woodland tree. A tree that looks like the animals in the forest got together and decorated something for their own party. Wood, moss, leaves, berries, birds and their nests, pinecones, little forest creatures, I’m loving how it’s turning out.

And it all started here:

Feather Ornaments

I have a garage full of craft supplies from failed business endeavors, and one of those boxes is full of feathers. I bought pounds and pounds of feathers years ago for these feather topiaries I was making. I still think it was a wonderful idea, but this was pre-etsy and every time I tried to sell them people just gave me this look and asked, “but what are they for?”

To be pretty! Is it that complicated? Ahem. I think I have some lingering bitterness to work through.

Anyhoo, I long ago donated all the feathers that were just plain old dyed chicken feathers, but the really good ones I just couldn’t bear to let go of. This is what I was always coming back to when I started thinking about an animal print tree.

Feathers sewn together

When you buy good feathers, this is how they usually come. Sewn together in a long row. Even the ones I’ve bought at Michaels come this way. This will save you a whole lot of trouble.

Wooden Discs

For the ornaments, I got these 1 1/2″ wooden discs and stained them with some wood stain I had lying around. These will just cover up the messy ends.

Cover the back with hot glue.

Back of Ornament

I cut off about 5″ from the big row of feathers, leaving the sewing in tact. You can cut smaller segments off the 5″ piece, or, if you’re fast, you can just stretch the whole piece around to touch itself, and stick those ends in the glue. It’s important to really stretch those feathers or else you will use up a whole lot more feathers than you need to. Not only will this cost a fortune, but it won’t look great either.

When that glue cools, I just stuck it in the branches of the tree.

The feather garland is even easier. I cut small segments off the big row of feathers, maybe 1/2″ wide, maybe a little bit bigger, and then glued the segments together.

Gluing Feather Garland

I spread hot glue all over the ends of the feathers, and then I’d take the next feather segment and overlap it with the last. It couldn’t be simpler. Just watch out for hot glue peeking through the feathers. It’s been years since I had a good hot glue gun burn, but boy howdy is that streak over.

The cats are going a little bit crazy over this new tree. I think by the holiday I might be willing to give one of them away.


2009 Year of Pleasure #48

Wet Concrete

Gosh how I love the smell of wet concrete. It smells so clean and sharp. I don’t get it much here in San Diego, but it always reminds me of growing up in Seattle. It smells like childhood.

It poured buckets here yesterday. Sunny on Sunday, monsoon on Monday, and now we’re back to needing sunglasses. I think it was God’s birthday present to me.


Mynah bird

I’ve been working hard on Christmas stuff and I’m doing fairly well. Christmas shopping is done, Christmas making not so much. But I’ll get to that later this week.

Today is my birthday – 31 years old. I was thinking about doing a big introspective post about how great this year was and how it really changed everything for me, but I think I’ll save that for New Years. For today I want to give you the gift of adorableness that I get to live with every day.

Atti’s a little bit speech delayed as a result of his disability, but you wouldn’t know it based on how much jibber jabber comes out of this little guy all day. He’s got the T and K sounds down, so everything he says includes those, but it’s pretty funny how everything he loves most – kitties, kisses and tickles – can be expressed with just that much skill.

This one is my favorite. I don’t know where he picked this up, it just sprung naturally out of his little positive spirit. It is the best thing ever to be mid conversation and have Atti back me up with one of his emphatic Yeah!’s. He’s very agreeable.

He always says it just like that too – full bodied. Like he’s ready to provide the muscle behind whatever scheme I’ve got going that day.

This kid is pretty darn great.