Archives for December 2011

Dress Up Makeup

Shimmer Eyeshadow

As part of the Life Well Lived series, BlogHer asked a few of their bloggers this question:

What is your favorite way to add a bit of sparkle to your holiday look? Is it with make-up, clothing or accessories?

I love to wear the sparkle in my clothes and accessories all year long, so to make the holidays any different, I had to get brave and try out some new makeup.

I took a long hiatus from fancy makeup – like, a decade or so – so I had to go back to the drawing board when I thought about holiday makeup. I wasn’t feeling as adventurous as I did in my twenties. I’m still dutifully studying makeup trends, weighing my tastes, deciding what works for my current mid-30’s face, so I was not about to go all hog wild with all kinds of eyelashes and rhinestones. Plus, holiday parties as a suburban mom pretty much involve midnight games of Rummikub with the neighbors or shmoozing at Bear’s office party with a bunch of nurses in scrubs. Neither one really calls for a huge deviation from the norm.

But I did get to go to one great party this year – the BlogHer Christmas party – and since it was the only for real grown up party I was going to get to go to for ages, I threw caution to the wind and wore fake lashes and everything. It was so much fun to dip my toe into some more adventurous waters, but a little of that goes a very long way.

For a look that’s a little more special than my everyday makeup, but not so much that I look like I’m getting a glamourshot taken, I love to go with a color of eyeshadow that offers a little shimmer. I picked up this palette of MAC eyeshadow and I’ve gone back to it over and over again this season. It’s got variations of all the plums, browns, and blacks that I typically wear, but with some sparkle that takes me out of the typical look. For my midnight game adventures I wear a little bit of the plum along the crease of my eyelid, for my BlogHer Christmas party I wore a whole lot of that copper all over.

It’s enough to make me feel all done up, without making me feel self-conscious about how different I look.

BlogHer wants to know how you shake up your look this season. Add your best tips to tips offered by experts and while you’re at it, enter BlogHer’s current giveaway of a Kindle Fire!


Christmas Break

After nearly two solid months of posting every single day, I am ready to take a tiny little bloggy vacation. Even aside from the usual madness of being a crafter at Christmas, this month has been In. SANE. I’ll fill you in on all that in a while.

In the meantime, I’m enjoying a little traveling to visit inlaws, eating way way way too much junk food, shopping, and plenty of quality time with my favorite buddy.

I’ll be back here on Monday with some recharged batteries and lots more to share.


Christmas Eve Home Tour

Nativity Tree


Nativity Collection 1


Nativity Collection 2


Nativity Collection 3


Our First Christmas


Snowfall Tree


Advent calendars


Christmas Sweets Tree


Woodland Tree


Family Traditions Tree

Merry Christmas and Happy Everything to my friends and readers. Thank you all for keeping me company here and caring about us. Your support means more than I could ever say. I hope that you are surrounded by every good thing this year.


Angel Tree Topper

Angel Topper
Here’s my final piece for this nativity tree. The one problem with doing themed trees is that a beautiful angel topper doesn’t usually fit. But with a nativity theme? There’s no way I was missing my chance.

This angel is another version of a paper twist doll just like the nativity we made here, and the angels we made here, but this one has a couple of twists that make it work as a tree topper.

Angel Tree Topper Tutorial Step 1
A tree topper, first and foremost, needs a way to stay on the top of the tree. And traditionally, that’s through a cone that is underneath the angel’s skirt and fits over the topmost tree branch. For my angel I picked up a plastic dollar store vase to do that job. I used a 2″ bead topper for the angel’s head, and cut a piece of dowel to about four inches to be the right size for her chest.

After painting the angel’s face and hair on, I used hot glue to stick the dowel to her head, and then a whole lot more hot glue to stick the dowel into the crevice at the bottom of the face. I held it in place until the glue got hard so she stayed standing up nice and straight.

Angel Tree Topper Tutorial Step 2
Just as we did for the other paper twist dolls, we’ll need to make arms and a set of sleeves. The arms are 12″ long, rolled up tight with a wire inside, and this time, since this angel is bigger, I glued a couple of wooden beads onto the end for her hands. The sleeves are 10″ long and glued into a tube.

Angel Tree Topper Tutorial Step 3
Glue the sleeves onto the angels body. I also made her a halo and glued it in place, just as we did for the little version of the angels.

Angel Tree Topper Tutorial Step 4
The bottom of the vase makes the angels waist way way thicker than any other part of her, so wrap some paper twist around and around her torso in a figure 8 pattern until she looks a little more proportional.

Angel Tree Topper Tutorial Step 5
The cone of the vase needs a lot more covering up than any of the framework of our other figures, so I used it as an opportunity to make a huge billowing skirt for our angel. Start by gluing on five pieces of natural colored paper twist, each 8″ long.

Angel Tree Topper Tutorial Step 6
Add another layer of skirt in a rose color by gluing on five more pieces of paper twist, also each 8″ long.

Angel Tree Topper Tutorial Step 7
Now we can start adding the top layer of the skirt by gluing on eight pieces of cream colored paper twist, each 9″ long. When we’re done with the skirt the vase should be completely covered and the rose and tan of the underskirts should just peak through the layers.

Angel Tree Topper Tutorial Step 8
Create the bodice by cutting two pieces of cream paper twist, each 24 inches long, and wrapping one piece over each shoulder. Wrap some gold colored wire around the waist as a belt, and to hold the bodice in place.

Angel Tree Topper Tutorial Step 9
Make the wings in the same manner we did for the small angels. I made these ones out of the natural colored paper twist because I liked the stronger contrast against the cream of her gown. Cut four pieces of paper twist 8″ long. Hold two pieces together and cut them in the shape of half a heart, then glue a piece of wire in the top of one of the pieces.

Angel Tree Topper Tutorial Step 10
Glue the other piece on top to cover up the wire.

Angel Tree Topper Tutorial Step 11
Then glue two wings to her back.

Every year when I complete a new tree I am both sick to death of the theme, and totally in love with the finished project. And every year I say that no tree could measure up. I’m so pleased with how this tree turned out, it gets oohs and aahs from everyone who has been by the house. It’s both a homespun expression of my faith, and a majestic celebration. I hope that I’ve offered you some inspiration in your own Christmas decorating.


Nativity Themed Tree Skirt

Tree Skirt
We did it again you guys. Another year, another themed tree stuffed with ornaments of every shape and size. There’s only a couple of days before Christmas, and there’s only a couple more things to show you. First of all, the tree skirt. In years past I’ve put this part off. For some reason cutting a good circle just infuriates me, so it’s not something I’m eager to do. But since I use cheap artificial trees, a tree skirt is a necessity to not give away my game. It’s time to ovary up and be a woman already.

Tree Skirt Tutorial Step 1
Cut two large circles out of a piece of natural colored linen. I buy four yards of fabric, fold it in half and then cut my circle right to the edges to create two pieces roughly 44″ in diameter. Cut a smaller circle in the middle, and a slit in one side to make an opening.

Tree Skirt Tutorial Step 2
Lay pieces of ribbon around the top layer of the tree skirt and pin thoroughly in place.

Tree Skirt Tutorial Step 3
Take the skirt to the sewing machine and sew the ribbon on, right next to the edge. If your ribbon is thick like mine, it will overlap at the top. Pull back the ribbon as necessary to sew the ribbon in place.

Tree Skirt Tutorial Step 4
Then pin it back in place and sew through all the layers of ribbon.

Tree Skirt Tutorial Step 5
Give your tree skirt a good ironing (although be careful not to melt your ribbon) and pin the two layers together to hold everything in place. Sew bias tape around the edges for a finished look.

Nativity Tree Skirt
The beauty in this tree to me is the contrast I’ve gone back to over and over again. Luxury meets simplicity, gold meets hay, wise men and shepherds, ornate and humble. I used the same fancy ribbon I used in these wise men inspired ornaments to tie the tree skirt in with the tree, but also to offer the high end contrast to the clean and simple linen. A navy satin bias binding grounds the skirt and ties the whole story together.


Painted Porcelain Angel Ornament

Porcelain Star Ornament
This was one of the very first ornaments I made for this tree, but it is also the fastest, so I could save it for any last minute decorators out there. I see these paintable porcelain ornaments at Michael’s every year, and every year I talk myself out of trying them. But not this time. I do NOT consider myself a painter (yet, anyway. I’m working on it.) so don’t be turned off if you’re not either. This is an extremely simple design and I’ll walk you through every step of it.

Porcelain Star Ornament Tutorial Step 1
Using a medium sized brush, make two little swipes. A J, and a backwards J, to make the outside edges of the angels skirt.

Porcelain Star Ornament Tutorial Step 2
Make one more swipe down the middle to fill it in, and add a little more paint to get a more solid color.

Porcelain Star Ornament Tutorial Step 3
To make the angel’s arm, swipe your brush in a C shape, letting it trail off delicately.

Porcelain Star Ornament Tutorial Step 4
Fill it in with a little more paint to get better coverage.

Porcelain Star Ornament Tutorial Step 5
A few little dots of peach to make hands and feet, and a larger dot at the top for the head. Add a little bump for the nose.

Porcelain Star Ornament Tutorial Step 6
A straight line connects the mouth and the hand for the neck of the horn, and then the mouth of the horn on the other side of the hand is just a sideways hershey kiss.

Porcelain Star Ornament Tutorial Step 7
Since I’m not a regular porcelain painter, I wanted to buy as few colors of paint as possible. So to get the color for the hair I mixed the gold and the peach together, then made little swoops with my paint brush to make angel’s curls. Add a couple of layers of this for good coverage.

Porcelain Star Ornament Tutorial Step 8
Make the wing by painting half a heart. If you brush the paint on with short strokes it will make it look more like feathers.

Porcelain Star Ornament Tutorial Step 9
Then just a little embellishing. A gold ribbon around the hem, a golden halo, and a couple of little swoops to highlight the arm. And you did it. You’re a decorative painter.

Porcelain Star Ornament Tutorial Step 10
Because I have the hardest time not glittering something, I spread a little white glue on the edge and sprinkled glitter all over it.

Porcelain Star Ornament Tutorial Step 11
These porcelain ornaments come with a hanger already attached, but I wanted to make it look a little more ethereal, so I tied a great big bow out of a piece of tulle and attached it with a little hot glue, and then let the ends hang long down behind.

Maybe I’m projecting, maybe painting is just intimidating to me, but anything is achievable if it’s just broken down into enough steps. This little angel is so simple that anyone, even I, can paint it, but it still looks fancy enough to celebrate.


Paper Twist Angel

Paper Twist Angel Ornament
Just like yesterday’s ornament inspired a whole nativity, and the needlefelted animals inspired another nativity, this paper twist nativity was inspired by this little angel ornament. I knew that I needed to add some angels to this tree, and when my friend handed me that great big bag of paper twist, I knew how to do it. And then I liked it so much that I expanded it (again) to a whole nativity, and a special surprise still to come.

Paper Twist Angel Ornament Tutorial Step 1
Each angel will call for:
Cream: 24 inches
Natural or flesh colored: 5 inches
White: 20 inches

Unroll all your paper twist, and brush a little gold paint onto the cream paper. I water mine down to keep it subtle. Let that paper dry while you work on the next couple of steps.

Paper Twist Angel Ornament Tutorial Step 2
Since this ornament will be hung, you don’t have to worry about making it stand up. So all you need is a wooden bead for the head, and a small dowel that will fit through the hole. I actually used bamboo chopsticks from the dollar store because they were thin enough and easy to cut to the length I needed.

Thread a ribbon through the hole in the bead and tie a knot at the top to keep it place. Tie another knot in the ends for it to hang on the tree.

Paper Twist Angel Ornament Tutorial Step 3

To make the halo, wrap a piece of wire around the bead and twist the ends. Use a tiny bit of glue to keep it in place.

Paper Twist Angel Ornament Tutorial Step 4
Cut another piece of wire just shorter than the piece of natural colored paper twist. Place it on one end of the paper and fold the ends in to hold it in place.

Paper Twist Angel Ornament Tutorial Step 5
Roll the paper up tightly to create the arms and glue the ends down to hold it together.

Paper Twist Angel Ornament Tutorial Step 6
Cut a 4″ piece of the cream paper twist, and glue the edges together lengthwise to create a tube.

Paper Twist Angel Ornament Tutorial Step 7
Thread the arms through the tube and pinch in the center. Use a little hot glue to keep that pinch in place.

Paper Twist Angel Ornament Tutorial Step 8
Use a little more hot glue to stick the arms onto the body.

Paper Twist Angel Ornament Tutorial Step 9
Cut three pieces of cream paper twist 4″ long and use hot glue to stick them around the waist.

Paper Twist Angel Ornament Tutorial Step 10
Cut a piece of cream paper twist 12″ long, and then cut it again lengthwise. Wrap on piece over each shoulder, gluing under the armpit to hide the body.

Paper Twist Angel Ornament Tutorial Step 11
Wrap a piece of wire around the waist a few times for a belt.

Paper Twist Angel Ornament Tutorial Step 12
To make the wings, begin by cutting 4 pieces of white paper twist 5″ long. Cut them into a wing shape by cutting just as you would if you were cutting a heart out of a folded piece of paper. For a little more stability, glue a piece of wire into the top of that curve.

Paper Twist Angel Ornament Tutorial Step 13
Then glue another piece of the wing over the top of it.

Paper Twist Angel Ornament Tutorial Step 14
Glue two of those wings to the middle of the back, and your angel is ready to fly.

The wire in the arms allows you to position them however you like. You could have your angel bringing a present, or praying, or, like my angel here, spreading some good news to some shepherds.


Papercut Circle

Papercut Circle Ornament
When I started this project, I thought making a whole nativity themed tree would be plenty. And then I kept on going and made a whole bunch of full nativity sets. Each time it was because I enjoyed the ornament I made so much I just couldn’t stop the inspiration. This papercut tree came after I had cut out 12 of these ornaments, which were originally inspired by this great ornament by Patricia at A Little Hut. I thought her use of a cardboard ring from a roll of masking tape was just brilliant recycling, and it inspired me to use a cardboard ring as a frame for my own papercrafting idea.

Papercut Circle Ornament Tutorial Step 1
I didn’t happen to have any empty masking tape rolls lying around, so I had to make my own cardboard tube. I got a 3″ mailing tube to do the job.

Papercut Circle Ornament Tutorial Step 2
To measure a straight cutting line all the way around, I used a piece of ribbon and matched up the ends. This ribbon was an inch wide, so it worked perfectly to trace both ends and get the size I wanted.

Papercut Circle Ornament Tutorial Step 3
After much trial and error, my favorite way of cutting off the rings was to slice through them with an exacto knife.

Papercut Circle Ornament Tutorial Step 4
But no matter how neat I tried to be, the edges were still pretty ragged. Luckily cardboard sands clean really easily with just a few swipes of sandpaper.

Papercut Circle Ornament Tutorial Step 5
Paint the inside and outside of each cardboard ring. I painted the inside a metallic brown color because I loved the slight sparkle and contrast it provided. It’s just a little touch of something.

Papercut Circle Ornament Tutorial Step 6
Poke a hole through the ring with a needle and thread two ends of ribbon through. Tie them into a knot to make your hanger.

Papercut Ornament Pattern
Download this lovely pattern I made for you, totally for free because it’s Christmas and I love my readers. Just click on that image to go to flickr and you can save it to your computer. When you print it, print it at 8 1/2 x 11 to get it sized for the 3″ wide tube.

Papercut Circle Ornament Tutorial Step 7
Cut the image out with a sharp exacto knife. The only thing to know about this step is that you shouldn’t cut the ground part. That’s a little confusing in the pattern, but if you look at my ornament you’ll see that the sheep are cut out, and then the rest of the ground stays.

Papercut Circle Ornament Tutorial Step 8
This is a pretty delicate pattern, so chances are you might accidentally cut through something you didn’t intend to. Never fear. Just flip the paper over to the back side, cover your accident with a piece of tape, and then cut back along the lines of your papercutting so the extra tape gets sliced off.

Papercut Circle Ornament Tutorial Step 9
Fold those tabs over and use them to glue the papercutting inside the cardboard tube.

The papercutting is fragile, but the great thing about using the cardboard tube is a frame is that it not only shows it off, but it also protects it. If you install the papercutting towards the middle of the tube, it will even be protected when you pack it up, barring anything pointy coming near it.


Needlefelted Nativity

Needlefelted Nativity
I just couldn’t stop myself once I got needlefelting. I was enjoying the stabbing process so much, and I was so in love with the results of my animals, that I knew I needed to expand and do an entire nativity set. It was actually a whole lot easier than the animals.

Needlefelted Nativity Tutorial Step 1
Partly to keep it easy on myself, and partly to make sure that the figures could stand up on a table by themselves, I kept the bodies really simple by making them into a cone shape. Mine are just under a foot tall, but the only time size matters here is for consistency. I spent the majority of my time felting the bottom of each cone to get a sturdy, flat, bottom.

Needlefelted Nativity Tutorial Step 2
I wanted Mary to kneel, so I started by making a shorter cone, then I added some more wool on the bottom of one side to be her knees. The result is a bit of a squat L shape.

Needlefelted Nativity Tutorial Step 3
I had a lot of fun dressing all the different wise men in different ways, so when you make your sleeves you’ll want to have a plan. If you want it to be part of a tunic, then make them in the same color as the body. If you want your wise man to wear a jacket, then make your sleeves a different color. Either way, just roll up a bunch of wool roving and felt it to make a couple of tubes. Remember to leave some of the wool on one end unfelted to attach the sleeves to the body.

Needlefelted Nativity Tutorial Step 4
Felt the sleeves in place, just below the top of the cone to create a bit of a neck. You can felt your sleeves into a shoulder shape by felting more heavily in one area, creating a little bump.

Needlefelted Nativity Tutorial Step 5
To make any kind of loose flowing clothing, you just have to make a felted sheet, and then drape it or cut it as necessary. I felted a piece of wool just as wide as the body and long enough to wrap from the back to the front, then cut a slit in the front to create the two sides of the vest and to make room for the neck. Some light felting at the sides and shoulders sticks the vest in place.

Needlefelted Nativity Tutorial Step 6
The head is always the most intimidating part of making figures, but you can do it. For starters, just felt a flesh colored ball, leaving some loose wool at the bottom. I made this wise man have a prominent chin by making one end of the ball a little flatter than the other.

Needlefelted Nativity Tutorial Step 7
Use the unfelted wool as a handle as you make your face. All you have to do is push the needle in to the wool a few more times in order to give some shape to the face. Punching the needle in a skinny U-shape pushes enough of the wool up to make a nose, and felting some small white circles in place will naturally create ridges that would surround the eyes.

Needlefelted Nativity Tutorial Step 8
Add some dark pupils to the white eyes you made, and make a mouth by felting an indented line.

Needlefelted Nativity Tutorial Step 9
Add a couple of eyebrows.

Needlefelted Nativity Tutorial Step 10
Then you’re ready to attach the head to the top of the neck by felting that raw wool you’ve been using as a handle.

Needlefelted Nativity Tutorial Step 11
Add hands to the end of the sleeves by making a couple of flattened disks. The wrists are made when you attach the hands to the sleeves by felting a little more wool roving on the end.

Needlefelted Nativity Tutorial Step 12
I gave this wise man a head scarf by making another felted sheet and draping it over his head. A few punches of the needle through the top of the head makes it stick in place.

Needlefelted Nativity Closeup
I had so much fun giving each of these different figures a little different look. One of the wise man has a turban and a cape, another has gray hair and an embellished tunic, Joseph has a scarf and Mary has a shawl, and baby Jesus has a manger made by felting a couple of rectangles on top of each other. Once you realize that each piece is just a simple shape – a sphere, a cone, a rectangle, an oval – you can make any shape you want. And work out a whole lot of frustration while you do it.


Paper Twist Nativity

Paper Twist Nativity
Sometimes having your friends and neighbors know you as a crafter is a bit taxing. People ask for favors that are way more time consuming than they realize, they offer to pay you pennies for something that took you months to make, they think they’re being supportive by volunteering you for things you have no time to do. And yet, sometimes it really pays off. Such as when a friend decides to clean out their craft cabinet and give you all their supplies. I’ve been given tubs of paint from former tole painters, fabric from failed sewers, and this time, yards of paper twist from someone who couldn’t remember why she bought it in the first place.

My mother-in-law Sally is a nativity collector like me, and she has a gorgeous nativity made out of paper twist. She made it even more fabulous by styling it in a beautiful basket, so I figured I’d use my gifted paper twist to make something like the nativity set I’d been admiring for so many years.

Paper Twist Nativity Tutorial Step 1
To make the foundation for your figure, go to the unfinished wood aisle of your craft store and pick up a 12″ dowel, a 2″ wheel, and a 1 1/2″ ball topper. Make sure that all of the holes are the same size so that the dowel can fit inside the holes of the wheel and the ball. Attach them together with a little wood glue.

Paper Twist Nativity Tutorial Step 2
Paint a man face and a lady face on the balls. I’m not by any stretch a great painter, but part of the charm of this is a primitive look, so don’t be afraid to try. Check youtube for some simple illustration tutorials if you want a little more hand holding.

Paper Twist Nativity Tutorial Step 3
For a Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus, here’s what paper twist you’ll need:
Natural or flesh colored: 4′
Peach: 9 1/2′
Rose: 9 1/2′
Baby blue: 27″
Dk Green: 27″
White: 24″

Unwrap all of the paper twist. To give it a fancier look, lightly glaze with watered down gold acrylic paint and let it dry.

Cut two 12″ pieces of the natural colored paper twist in half. Cut a piece of wire just under 12″ and roll the paper twist tightly around it. Glue the ends down.

Cut a 10″ piece of the peach and the rose to make a set of sleeves for Mary and for Joseph. Glue the edges of the long sides together to create an open tube.

Paper Twist Nativity Tutorial Step 4
Thread the arms through the sleeve, pinch it in the middle, and use hot glue to fix it the the dowel to create the arms.

Paper Twist Nativity Tutorial Step 5
Cut eight 10″ pieces out of the peach for Joseph and of the rose for Mary. Wrap each piece, one at a time, around the dowel at waist level, hot gluing as you go.

Paper Twist Nativity Tutorial Step 6
Glue one end of a 12″ piece of natural colored twist to the back of the arms and wrap it in a figure 8 shape around the neck and the waist. Build it up to make a chest in proportion to the head and skirt, and glue the other end down.

Paper Twist Nativity Tutorial Step 7
Cut a 24″ piece of peach for Joseph and rose for Mary, then cut each piece down the middle lengthwise. Lay each piece over one of the shoulders to make the bodice. Glue under the armpits to hide the chest, and wrap a piece of gold wire around the middle to make a belt.

Paper Twist Nativity Tutorial Step 9
For Mary’s scarf, cut an eighteen inch piece and a nine inch piece of baby blue paper twist. Cut the same measurements out of dark green for Joseph. Glue one end of the shorter piece to the back of Mary’s head.

Paper Twist Nativity Tutorial Step 10
Glue the middle of the longer piece to Mary’s forehead.

Paper Twist Nativity Tutorial Step 11
Then bring the rest of the paper to the back, fold to make it look like it’s draping, and use hot glue to keep it in place.

Paper Twist Nativity Tutorial Step 12
Baby Jesus’s head is a small wooden bead with a couple of little closed eyes painted on, then wrapped and wrapped and wrapped in the white paper twist. Use hot glue to secure the head in place and to stick the end of the paper to the back.

Paper Twist Nativity Tutorial Step 13
That wire we put inside the arms allows us to bend Mary’s arms forward to hold Baby Jesus. Hot glue baby to Mary’s chest, and then use more glue to keep her arms in position.

I finished my set off by displaying them in a basket, but the wooden wheel on the bottom allows these little figures to stand up on their own. I had enough paper twist to make two sets of this little family, so I thought it would make a great Christmas gift for one of my readers! Leave a comment and I’ll draw a winner on Christmas Eve, and this little family could be part of your celebration next year.