Thursday, January 18, 2018

Sleigh Bells

Sleigh Bells
by L. Smith

RING out, ye merry jingling bells!
Clear and sweet your music swells
On the crisp and wintry air.
Sending echoes everywhere.
The moon, her shining face aglow,
Sends our shadows 'cross the snow;
And as we swiftly skim along,
I listen to the sleigh bells' song.
The bright stars watch us from the sky
As our sleigh goes gliding by,
Like an undulating wave
Wherein my happy soul doth lave.
Ring out, ye bells! Merrily ring!
Oh, what pleasure you can bring!
So Very joyous is your song:
Merrily, merrily glide along!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

DIY A Bauble Ornament Wreath

A Vintage inspired wreath is easy to assemble if you have plenty of baubles. It takes approximately 80 of these baubles
to complete a full looking 14 inch sized wreath and this is a 16 to 18 inch one. Hannah used newer baubles for her
creation. She is a collector and could not bring herself to deface antique baubles with hot glue.
        My younger daughter crafted this bauble wreath for our home last year and gave it to me for Christmas. So, this year it hung in our dining room! She used several very large packages of new baubles in the following colors: pink, blue, silver and gold. She also included a long garland of small silver beads, a silver reindeer and gold/silver sparkly leaves from a few pics. 
       She started the wreath by selecting a foam wreath form in a large size and wrapping it with a large silk ribbon in blue. Hannah also wrapped a substantial wire in the same ribbon for hanging the wreath and attached it firmly with hot glue to the back side of the form in her second step.
       Then it was a simple process of assembling the baubles with hot glue and around the wreath until she was satisfied with it's appearance. She then hot glued the finishing touches to the bauble wreath, tucking garland, gold leaves and a small reindeer between the baubles with strategic dabs of glue as she went. 
       The entire process took her approximately four hours and caused a few burns on her hands. I loved it and she rolled her eyes as I gushed over her masterpiece. She let me know that she would not be crafting another in the near future and that it would be the only craft she would make for me to post here for a very long time. Hannah is not "a crafty person" and she is always quick to remind me of that little known fact!

Close up photos of this Vintage inspired, bauble wreath.

Kate assembles a retro ornament wreath.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Traditional Gilded Walnut Ornaments

Traditional painted walnuts photographed outside on my patio moss. Next year I will include them on my
German feather tree perhaps? More than likely, my young ones will make off with them before I ever
 get a chance to use them!
Above you can see the boxes I used to spray
paint my walnuts silver and gold in.
       Painted walnuts are very traditional to the Victorian Christmas tree. These ornaments can look so very different depending on how you paint them and what flowers you select for the trimming of the tops of each walnut. I chose traditional Christmas poinsettia in white and red, plus a few silk holly leaves to hot glue to the samples shown here. But these walnuts would be just as lovely painted in pinks and blues with matching trims. You could make walnuts to match your own tree colors exactly, of course.

Supply List:
  • English walnuts
  • metallic spray paints: gold and silver
  • tiny Christmas pics
  • wires for hanging
  • hot glue gun and hot glue sticks
  • cardboard boxes 
Step-by-Step Instructions:
  1.  Make sure your walnuts are clean and free of dirt.
  2. Purchase several pics to cut apart and reuse in the decorative applications on top of each walnut. I chose a traditional poinsettia and holly leaves. 
  3. When you spray paint your walnuts, make sure to do so outside in a well ventilated area. I chose to do so inside of cardboard boxes because it makes it easier for me to clean up the mess. I just break down the boxes and toss them into the recycling bin when I've finished with the spray paint.
  4. Insert the wire hangers and glue these into place.
  5. Hot glue your silk flowers to the tops of each walnut to add a nice finished touch of decoration.
Left, you can see the silver painting on top of newsprint and Right a few close up shots of the old-fashioned ornaments.
More About Gilded Walnuts:

Ornaments From Nut Shells and Thistle Pods

Acorn caps, dried thistle pods and sweet gum balls collected
on a family walk through the woods. Note. I left the acorns
for the squirrels and only took the caps. I waited a few weeks
before harvesting the dried thistle so that the birds would
remove the seeds on their own. The thistle above has been
picked clean of it's edible contents.
       Crafting with nuts, seeds and shells is not only fun for your little ones but it is also very inexpensive. You can take advantage of your local markets in order to stock your craft supply, if you don't have the time or climate to hunt from mother nature's ample supply yourself. I often purchase bags of various nuts, beans and seeds prior to the long Winter months. For every December, I'm sure to be stuck inside with students because of school cancellations, icy roads and extreme cold temperatures and if I have left over material, the local wildlife is happy to feast on the left overs!
       Alternatively, you may prefer to collect a supply of these materials during autumn walks in parks. Young children can collect acorns and acorn caps, dried thistle, seed pods etc... from the fields or paths through the woods. Use these family walks as opportunities to talk about the animals and birds that eat the seeds from the pods and how these are an important food source for them to store for winter. Then collect a few for the family to work with in their Christmas crafts at home. 
       Seed craft can be made to look quite sophisticated, so you need not worry about your older kids becoming bored with this craft material. Enlist them in the discussions about bird habitats so that they become the teachers of their younger siblings. Make this kind of outing an annual event, a family time that they can look forward to every year and that they can repeat with their own children someday.
       Seed shells in particular have one other characteristic that make them an excellent craft material, they are very light weight. Tiny ornaments made from them may be hung on the most delicate branches of a table top tree. So they are ideal for hanging on the branches of a Cypress tree, the antique tips of a German feather tree or even on a collection of pussy willow intended for the Spring celebration of Easter/Lent.
       I will include a series of nut and seed ornaments on both of my holiday blogs this year so that those of you who have too much free time this winter, will find ample ideas for the manipulation of this annual Fall harvest!
       Below is a listing of basic supplies that crafters will need in order to complete the nut shell/pod ornaments I will be posting this winter of 2018:
  1. For adults and children 5th grade and up - a small set of hand tools: pliers, scissors, razor blades, tweezers, tiny clippers etc...
  2. Old fishing and tackle box - plastic for storing tools apart from younger children
  3. tacky, sticky school glue - Although this takes longer to dry, it is by far a superior glue to hot glue! Hot glue looks bad and it is not as permanent.
  4. box of wooden tooth picks and a small bag of wooden skewers
  5. wax or baker's parchment to protect surfaces while you work
  6. empty egg cartons for sticking elements into to dry
  7. fast drying acrylic paints, all colors
  8. acrylic varnish (spray, for finishing projects)
  9. Zip lock freezer bags for storing nuts, seeds, shells in a cold garage or back porch - Remember that these pods and nuts are attractive to insects and mice; keep them in cold storage until they are used and toss out the edible nut parts into the woods.
  10. You will need a tin container for storing your final pieces: cookie tins, old popcorn containers etc... (These containers are ideal for keeping your ornaments free from moisture, insects, and mice. I have kept fragile ornaments given to me that are more than thirty years old, in mint condition inside of tins!)   
Who benefits from nutty plants? Review these articles before taking your next family walk in the woods.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

A Visit to Bethlehem In Spirit

A Visit to Bethlehem In Spirit
by James Montgommery

The scene around me disappears,
And, borne to ancient regions,
While time recalls the flight of years,
I see angelic legions
Descending in an orb of light:
Amidst the dark and silent night
I hear celestial voices.

"Tidings, glad tidings from above
To every age and nation!
Tidings, glad tidings! God is love,
To man he sends salvation!
His Son beloved, his only Son,
The work of mercy hath begun;
Give to his name the glory!" 

Through David's city I am led;
Here all around are sleeping;
A light directs to yon poor shed;
There lonely watch is keeping:
I enter; ah, what glories shine!
Is this Immanuel's earthly shrine,
Messiah's infant temple?

It is, it is; and I adore
This Stranger meek and lowly,
As saints and angels bow before
The throne of God thrice holy!
Faith through the veil of flesh can see
The face of thy divinity,
My Lord, my God, my Savior!

Sunday, December 3, 2017

DIY odds and ends tree stocking

       Sometimes simple ideas are the most appealing. I made this homespun Christmas stocking from scraps of left over wool and stray beads/buttons from earlier crafts. It was very easy to whip together and I didn't need to visit a sewing shop to acquire any of my supplies.

Above, a grey wool stocking depicting a faux feather tree trimmed with odds and ends from
my button box.
Supply List:
  • scrap wool felt (approx. 1/3 yard)
  • faux tree branches, chenille stems 
  • buttons and beads for tree ornaments
  • scraps for tree stand
  • embroidery needle and a variety of threads
  • dental floss for the hanger
  • red berries for the tips of the faux tree branches
Step-by-Step Instructions:
  1. With right sides facing together, pin a paper stocking pattern on top of your wool felt and cut out two sides of a Christmas stocking. (If you don't have a pattern there is one on this page.)
  2. Determine the side that you will use as the front and using a tiny whip stitch, sew on the chenille stems to look like a feather tree. (see the photo above)
  3. Applique a tree stand beneath it from felt scraps, I used a bit of green with gold floss. 
  4. Sew on beads, Christmas berries and buttons to trim your faux feather tree. 
  5. Sew together the two sides of your stocking with a blanket stitch using embroidery floss in any color that satisfies your taste. I used a ivory to gold variegated floss to stitch up the sides of my steel grey wool stocking.
  6. Leave the opening at the top, but sew around it's edges with the same fancy stitching in order to prevent the wool from unraveling over time.
  7. String together a handful of beads using your dental floss for strength. 
  8. Attach this beaded hanger to your wool stocking and now you are ready to decorate a mantle or Christmas branches with the woolen creation. 

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Sew a traditional chimney stocking

Left, Note the holes at the bottom for attaching him to the stocking. Right, A Belznickle character for my chimney stocking.
       Here is one of several chimney stocking patterns I have created from earlier Victorian designs. It is my own interpretation; obviously, because of the Belznickle! Chimney stockings are not new to  American homes but, alas, as all decorative things in America, they have fallen out of fashion here.
        I, however, am not a slave to what is fashionable; I have more of a curious nature than that. Vintage designs and the history of objects have always been peculiar hobbies of mine. So, here is a pattern to make one, two, or three for your own mantle this Christmas.

Left, Stitching through the cardboard to attach the Belznickle. Right, The backside of my chimney stocking.
       Chimney stockings are usually stuffed with candies, nuts and/or small toys. This is in part because they are a bit more narrow than other Christmas stocking designs. Chimney stockings also  have a Christmas character either poking out of the top of the chimney cap or through a fireplace depicted at the bottom of the stocking. My version here does not have a fireplace at the bottom, only a suggested foot. But I will include other versions of stocking patterns on this blog that will show you how to make a variety of interpretations in the future if you are interested in these.
       You will need to purchase "brick" novelty print online for this sewing craft, for the fabric stores in the U. S. do not carry it this season. Perhaps we may start a trend here and brick or stone novelty prints will make a come back? But for now, you will need to search fabric suppliers online.
See how long I've made the chimney stocking? Most of these designs are very long and nar-
row. It's up to you to decide just how long you wish the stocking to be. I include the lower
boot half in the pattern and the snowy piece above, but you must extend the length of the
chimney part in accordance to your own tastes. The face mold that you acquire to use on
your Belsnickle or Santa figure will also effect your own version of this stocking design.
Supply List:
  • novelty cotton print of brick (1 yard)
  • needle and matching threads
  • cotton batting or white felt or faux white snowy fabric
  • Sculpey clay
  • press mold mask
  • paper clay
  • wood glue or hot gun glue 
  • masking tape
  • acrylic paints: flesh tones, red, brown, eye colors, white etc...
  • acrylic sealer or Mod Podge
  • stiff cardboard
  • pattern (below)
  • embroidery needle or nail
  • dental floss
Step-by-Step Instructions:
  1. First you will need to cut out the "figure" of the Belznickle from a stiff piece of cardboard. The stiffer, the better. Some of you may even choose to use a thin piece of wood alternatively. 
  2. If you use cardboard, cover it completely with masking tape.
  3. Then you will need to acquire a press mold of St. Nick. These are very common in the United States in hobby shops. If you cannot find one of these you can make one of your own. Click here to see a video and get directions for press molds.
  4. I use Sculpey for making my Santa face molds, in part because Sculpey is very durable and waterproof. You do not need much for this project; a very small block of it will suffice.
  5. After baking the clay face in an ordinary oven, let is cool and then glue it to the cardboard cut-out figure. See pattern for positioning.
  6. Now mix your paper clay according to the directions from the manufacture. Spread this out around the face mask and over the entire surface of the cardboard cut-out, excluding a narrow strip at the bottom of St. Nick's coat. (see pattern) 
  7. After the front surface of your coat dries, turn it over and repeat the process on the backside of St. Nick's coat. Let it dry.
  8. Take your sharp nail or large eyed embroidery needle and make a series of small wholes across the bottom of the exposed cardboard strip so that you will be able to sew the figure of St. Nick into the top of the finished chimney stocking.
  9. Print, trace and cut the stocking pattern onto your brick, novelty cotton print, front sides facing together, because you will need two pieces exactly alike. Sticklers may wish to line up their bricks. Don't forget to add a half inch seam and to also position your pattern at the bottom of the folded fabric. This because you will need to determine how long your chimney stocking will be on your own. (see pattern)
  10. With right sides together, allow for the seam and sew a straight stitch by hand or machine around the stock foot and up. Leave an opening where St. Nick will be sewn into the top, peeking out from the chimney as he slides down it. 
  11. Sew a strong loop six or seven inches long and approximately 2 to 3 inches wide to attach to the backside of your stocking. This loop may be made from the brick fabric or the snowy white fabric. (whichever is stronger) Attach it the the backside of the finished stocking before sewing the Belznickle in place.
  12. I've included the curvy piece of pattern for a snowy top to add to the top edge of your chimney stocking opening. Cut this from a white felt or some other fuzzy white fabric.
  13. I used a blanket stitch to attach the snowy applique buy any stitching would be nice.
  14. Now sew through the backside of the finished stocking through the cardboard holes to attach St. Nick, leaving the front half of the stocking open to insert candies or nuts. Use a heavy thread, embroidery floss or even dental floss to do this with. The heavier the thread the better the wear of the stocking over time.
  15. You may also choose to reinforce St. Nick to the stocking with a bit of hot glue.
A Chimney Stocking pattern by kathy grimm. Free for personal craft use only.
 Property of

The Befana Fair in Rome

       In Rome the season of making gifts corresponding to our Christmas comes twelve days later, and the gift-bringer would not be called Santa Claus or Saint Nicholas, but Befana, a gruff little old woman. Perhaps she is in some way connected with the old woman of whom the legend is told that she was sweeping out her house when the Three Kings rode by with gifts for the infant Christ. " Come," they said, " and see the Bambin Gesu." She said she would when she had finished her sweeping. But though she took her gifts and started, she was too late then, of course, so she gave the presents to good children and bits of charcoal to those who had been naughty. The name is really a short form of Epifania, the Feast of Epiphany, and it is given both to the gift-bringer and to one of the most extraordinary popular festivals ever invented to amuse children and to turn grown people into children. It is a night fair opened every Eve of Epiphany in the great square called Piazza Navona, where long, long ago one of the Roman emperors, Domitian, once had his race-course. In the days just after Christmas workmen begin to bring out from queer underground storerooms all the lumber and other material needed for setting up booths and decorating the square for the Befana. From year to year it lies somewhere, ready for use at a moment's notice, and when needed it is suddenly produced without confusion, marked and numbered, all ready to be put together and regilded, or repainted, or hung with acres of bright-colored draperies. The Romans are masters of the art of managing public displays and change the empty, windy square as if by magic suddenly into a great oval street of booths enclosing the whole circus-shaped space. At dark on the Eve of the Epiphany the Befana begins. The hundreds of booths are choked with toys, and gleam with thousands of little lights. In the open spaces the moving crowd of children, parents, and grandparents grows closer and closer between sunset and midnight, and every one is splitting the air with some sort of whistle, horn, or trumpet. Noise is the chief need of a successful Befana, and the first thing every one buys who comes must be a tin horn or one of the grotesque little figures made of painted clay, always with a whistle in some part of it. Their very ugliness is attractive, and they are daubed with a kind of bright and harmless paint of which every Roman child remembers the taste so long as he lives. Round and round the crowd moves in a stream of young, old, and middle-aged, all blowing horns and whistles with a ridiculously solemn persistency, bent on making all the noise it is possible to get out of one small toy. Now and then they stop to buy at some booth, or to greet a friend; one group attacks another with a specially strong burst of noise almost too much to stand when shrill whistles are brought close to ears, and there are shouts of laughter when the party which can make the most hideous noise drives off the other half deaf from the din.
       In one long-remembered year, in the old English Protestant church about a mile away, the organ was rebuilt and the organist, a practical Anglo-Saxon, had the useless old pipes sold at the night fair for the benefit of the church. The braying of the high cracked reeds was frightful and never to be forgotten.
       Thousands upon thousands of people throng the square; even under the clear winter sky it is not cold; the flaring, smoking, wind-blown torches throw strange shadows down upon the old women who behind the booths sit warming their skinny hands over earthen pots of glowing coals. They look on without a smile on their wrinkled faces while their sons and daughters sell little old women of clay, the very images of their mothers, to passing customers. And there is no confusion, no accident, no trouble, there are no drunken men and no pickpockets. But Romans are not like other people. J. C. Dier, 1911.

A little Italian girl talks about La Befana and visits 

Making Christmas Dolls in A French Factory

Doll making in a French factory, 1908.
       Does it seem to you that it would be a delightful business to make hundreds of thousands of dolls every year? H'm! Does this huge kettle of bad-smelling mush make you think of the dainty, smiling dolls in the toy-shop window? Dolly is made, though you would never guess it, of chopped up bits of old kid gloves and pieces of cardboard boiled to a pulp in a gum made from the horns of goats. And here is a man shoveling sawdust into a kettle half full of boiling water. Now he is turning the mass into a big mixing trough, adding one shovelful after another of the gluey mush. The machinery creaks and turns and cuts and slaps as this mixture is kneaded into a composition pulp. Now he is carrying some of it in a hod, for all the world like sticky mortar, to a weighing table! Sweep! it is spread out in an even thickness. Clip! down come the knives which part it into the right quantities, and it is swiftly pressed and molded to the shape of a body, an arm, or a leg. In one factory alone the parts of as many as forty thousand dolls are thus made in one day, and the ugly, greenish shapes set aside to harden. Another day they pass quickly under the brushes in the painters' hands after which they have the more familiar rosy pink color, and dolly can now be put together except for the head.
       Of these dolls the heads are to be of porcelain. Once for all, long ago, some artist made the model of which many duplicate molds stand ready. Into these molds liquid porcelain clay is poured; before it hardens the openings for the eyes are cut and tiny holes made by which it can be joined to a body. After the molds are opened, as the rows and rows of little heads stand in metal trays, a painter comes by, covers them with a glaze-wash, tints the cheeks and outlines the brows and lashes. Now into the oven goes the tray for hours of slow baking. But even with the head sewed on we have but a sad looking dolly, both blind and bald.
Crafting wigs for dolls, France, 1908.
       If all goes well, the eyes and the wig come next. The eyes are not made in this factory at all. They come from Germany, and it would probably give you a queer, scared feeling to see the making of them. Look into this long, dark room, and when your eyes are a little used to the strange shadowiness, you will see that down its sides there are rows of tables, before each of which sits a woman with a blue-flame gas lamp in front of her. At little distances are retorts of glowing molten glass, and each woman dips her short glass tube into the melted glass, and, keeping it soft by the help of that weird blue flame of the blowpipe jet, blows a little oblong globe which she colors white for the eyeball, and then upon it paints a pupil of blue, brown, or black, as the doll-makers may have ordered. The musical click which you hear all the time is the sharp stroke which breaks the finished and cooled eye from the glass rod, letting it drop into a box lined with cotton by her side. This boy coming out has been collecting them, and it makes us shiver to see those hundreds of eyes rolling uncannily at us from the bottom of his basket. Come away!
       A wig for an inexpensive doll is an easy matter; the chosen strands of hair are laid along a double thread, which passes below one strand and above the next. This thread makes the " part," and under it is stuck a bit of paste- board by which the wig is fastened on. A quick-fingered French woman can turn out over a hundred dozen such wigs in a day. And with the wig dolly is made at last.
       Her clothes, of course, are a separate matter, just as yours are ; there are dolls' shoemakers, and dolls' dress-makers, and the elaborate completeness of dolly's outfit depends only upon the price one is willing to pay. J. C. Dier, 1911.

 Doll factory in England, 1968.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Craft Raspberries from Cotton Batting

       These tiny raspberries ornaments are perfect for beginner level crafters to try sculpting from cotton batting. Like the corn on the cob or pea pod from earlier posts, these may be successfully completed with very little time, money, or experience. I hung these tiny delights on my German feather tree this year.

 Supply List:
  • cotton balls (unraveled)
  • white school glue
  • tacky white glue
  • newsprint
  • masking tape
  • wire for hanging
  • green, purple and blue acrylic paints
  • tiny paint brush 
  • transparent glitter (optional
Step-by-Step Instructions:
  1. Crush the newsprint into a small ball shape, approximately 1/2 inch long.
  2. Wrap this newsprint form in masking tape.
  3. Insert a wire for hanging at one end of the ball. Tape and glue in this wire firmly.
  4. Unravel a couple of cotton balls and take a very tiny piece between your finger tips with a small bit of glue and roll this wad into a tiny ball.
  5. Repeat this process until you have made enough tiny balls to cover the newsprint wad completely.
  6. Use the tacky white glue to begin sticking one, two, three tiny balls etc. side by side from the top to the bottom of your raspberry shape. Press these peas together as you go. Take your time and let these dry as you go. It helps to work near a warm light or heater. 
  7. Let your finished raspberry dry overnight.
  8. Twist unravelled cotton batting around the stem using white glue to make it adhere to the wire as you go.
  9. Shape a few tiny petals at the top of each raspberry out of more cotton batting. Let it all dry overnight.
  10. Use your acrylic paints to color the cotton and let this finished ornament dry.
  11. Seal the acrylic raspberries with a acrylic gel (Matt finish) to keep your ornament looking clean over time. 
  12. Store your cotton batting ornaments between white tissues inside a tin box with a tight sealing lid. These boxes are the types used to store butter cookies and sometimes candies.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Paint Santa's peppermint express for the Christmas tree

Left, The sample wooden flat before it was drawn on, Right, I applied a drawing to the little engine using a soft number 2 pencil.
       The wooden train cut painted here was purchased in 2017 from a local hobby store in my home town. This project is the first of many that I have decided to upload at my Christmas hobby blog. Young students may use my ideas and drawings here to help them think about how they would like to paint a design for either this exact wooden train or any other similar woodcut of a train they may have among their craft supplies.
       I decided to draw Santa as my conductor. I painted the wheels like Christmas peppermint candies and gave the engine a snowy rooftop. The traditional red and green Christmas colors were also used to paint the engine's body parts. 

Here is my design idea for this particular wooden cut-out. You can make one just like it or,
just draw your own engine design for painting.
Left, bend a wire for the back of the ornament. Add a little glue and masking tape to hold it into place.
Center, now draw around the ornament on top of a piece of Christmas wrapping paper.
Cut out your shape and glue it to the backside of the ornament.
Right, papering the backside of your ornament hides the wire and tape.

Mixed Media Strawberry Ornament

My funny strawberry has a face made of clay that must be hardened in the oven before gluing to the masked newsprint shapes.
       The Victorian's loved to sculpt faces on fruits and other inanimate objects. You may have seen something like this idea when viewing blown glass ornaments of fruits and candles? I love the humor of this sweet nostalgic idea. Here you can try sculpting your own versions similar to mine shown above and described below.

Supply List:
The first coat of paint is green because it is the compliment
to red on the color wheel. The stems will remain green and
so will the petals.
  • newsprint
  • masking tape
  • paper mache pulp
  • acrylic paints: green, yellow, red, white and black
  • glitter in green and red
  • acrylic sealer
  • wire for hook
  • cotton balls
  • face mold
  • wood glue
  • Sculpey clay 
  • paint brush
  Step-by-Step Directions:
  1. Wad newsprint into a strawberry shape and then wrap it with masking tape.
  2. Push a bit of Sculpey clay into a small, face mold. Many hobby stores sell these near the oven dry clays, paper clays, craft molds etc... Remove the clay impression and bake it on a glass dish in the oven for ten minutes according to the package instructions. 
  3. After the clay face has cooled. Glue it onto the waded strawberry shape. To make sure it dries properly wait for the mask and glue to harden onto the newsprint form overnight.
  4. Tape down a long wire hook just above the face mold where ever you wish the strawberry stem to be located.
  5. Prepare the paper mache pulp. Read instructions on the package carefully. Smooth the mixed pulp over the remaining surface of the strawberry. Be sure to cover the connection between the taped wire stem and the top of the strawberry head generously with the pulp. Let the paper pulp dry in a warm part of your home or in the sunshine outside.
  6. Use a bit of unrolled cotton ball and white glue to shape the stem and tiny petals around the base of the stem. Let this cotton stem harden before painting the strawberry heads.
  7. Now cover the strawberries with a fast drying acrylic green paint. Because the first coat is green, which is the compliment of red on the color wheel, the strawberries will appear more dimensional after painting.
  8. Now use a small paint brush to dab around the stem and petals where you want the red, fruit flesh to begin.
  9. Add a bit of white to the red and layer another coat of red wash onto the berry, covering the clay parts entirely as well.
  10. Apply some green and red glitter.
  11. Don't forget to paint the black seeds on your strawberry head before using an acrylic sealer to finish off the ornament.
Here are my strawberries prior to painting. The stems and petals are made of molded cotton batting, while the flesh of the strawberries is made of paper pulp and Sculpey clay.
More strawberries for the Christmas tree:

Monday, November 20, 2017

Craft A Miniature Sweetgum Ball Wreath

A tiny sweetgum ball wreath on a iron lattice
       Decorate a Fall twig tree with a set of sweetgum ball wreaths like this one or leave the ribbon off and slip these tiny wreaths over a brass candle stick or two to place at the center of your Thanksgiving table. Either way will look festive and be inexpensive for holiday decorating.

Supply List:
  • hot glue gun
  • ribbons in fall colors
  • hook for hanging
  • kernels from dried Indian corn
Step-by-Step Instructions:
  1. Clean six sweetgum balls free of dirt and insects.
  2. Hot glue these into the shape of a small wreath. 
  3. Pull off dried kernels from a piece of Indian corn. These kernels come in a wide variety of colors: russet, yellow, white and brown.
  4. Fill random whole of the sweetgum balls with glue and quickly push the dried kernels into those holes.
  5. Wrap a wire around the wreath for hanging and cover this with the ribbon.
Left, Sweetgum ball wreath and ribbon. Right, Close up photo of the dried kernels
glued randomly inside the gumballs to add a bit if color and different textures.

 More Crafts Using Sweetgum Balls:
 Recycle Sweetgum Balls:

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Refinishing a small carpenter's workbench

Above is a repainted workbench and play tools perfect for any three to four year old toddler.
       Above is a small wooden workbench that I purchased for only $6.00 in a resale store. All I needed to do was repaint a few select parts: drawers, trim and workbench top. I also glued a ruler to the top counter as well.
I'm amazed at how often I find children's toys or furnishings tossed out by parents simply because they are
unwilling to apply a little paint to freshen their surfaces.
       Here you can see the workbench prior to the refinishing. Someone thought that a bit of messy paint would ruin this perfectly sturdy carpenter's cart/workbench. I sanded the counter top, removed a few useless attachments and filled a few holes with wood putty. The painting took only a few hours after carefully masking off the areas that I chose to leave unfinished.
I left many of the surfaces unfinished. All I need to do is seal the surfaces with a clear lacquer to finish this project.
A side view of the wooden workbench, with the drawers open.
Build a Child's Workbench:

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Take a Peek Inside The Grimm Playroom

Just one wall of children's furniture in the Grimm family playroom. The rug beneath the cradles and highchair is braided in burgundy, red, ivory, grey and Colonial blue colors. I have recently striped, sanded and repainted the cradle you see in the far lower left hand corner. Soon I will add a bit of folk painting to it and post the design on this blog.
       Last March I posted a DIY Play Kitchen Stove Top & Oven project featuring my latest addition to a child's kitchen. Here I have photographed the oldest child furnishings built by my husband's great grandfather. Carpentry was a hobby for him I believe. I refinished his two pieces, a pantry on the far left and a dining cupboard on the far right. My husband's mother and aunt played with these when they were very young and so did my children.
      The pantry was painted yellow and converted into a doll closet and the cupboard was covered with decals, applied by a very precocious, blond toddler. So after the last group of young family members grew out of the furnishings, I decided to refurbish the lot. I did a bit of research at the internet archive and discovered adult furnishings similar to these in catalogues dating from 1910. To my surprise I found my furnishings to be exact replicas of a pantry and cupboard kitchen combination! So I decided to refinish the doll closet, now a pantry, and the child sized cupboard as a matched kitchen set in Colonial blue, one of my favorite colors. I left the counter top of the cupboard with it's original stain to match a few other pieces of stained doll furnishings that I have collected over the past five years. 
       The center dry sink pictured above is a flee market find.  I paid only $8.00 for it. I had to refinish the sink with grey enamel paint because it had rusted and I thought this would be unsafe for future play. I painted the cabinets below with the same Colonial blue as my older pieces. You can see there is a missing trim piece just behind the sink. Eventually, I will cut a new one to match (probably this winter) and then stain it.

Left, the refinished doll closet is now a Colonial blue, kitchen pantry. As of yet, I need to add shelving behind the long, narrow door.
Today it houses a black furry hobby horse, child fishing poles, and car mats. I use the drawers to store the girl's plastic animal toys for now.
This blue eyed, red headed, toddler doll sits with her soup in a very old doll high chair. What I love most about this piece ...
someone attached the tray to the chair with old dresser drawer knobs.
Above left is the cupboard that once was decorated with decals. Center, it is now used to store tiny tea sets,
figurines and silver plated tea/server sets. All of these small things were purchased for mere pennies at second hand stores.
I wonderful $8 dollar purchase from a local flee market. It looks like it was built at the same time as the two pieces that flank either side of it,
but it is a much newer furnishing. The tea pot on the sideboard is made of tin, there is an old wire basket for eggs and an old-fashioned
 toy telephone next to the sink as well.
We call this little doll our kitchen mother. I love her stripped skirt,
 gauzy apron and pale pink shawl. She watches over all the babies
in the Grimm nursery and efficiently tucks in their covers at
 night so that they will sleep soundly.
A needlepoint that once belonged to my husband's mother.
She finished it for her mother but had tucked it away inside
 her sewing basket for years. I stretched it carefully and put
 it into an old walnut frame to match the children's furnish-
ings. Text, "Bless This House O Lord We Pray." She would
 be pleased to know that someone small can appreciate it now.
More Old-Fashioned Playrooms:

Saturday, September 23, 2017

The Dreamer


If in the greenwood of a dream
I sit as still
As still may be, and hold my breath
And listen, till

Soft rustlings of a leaf I hear,
A whispering bough;
Catch a swift, guarded glance that darts
From a branch - now

If in that greenwood wild and sweet
I stay so still
As if a breath would wreck the world.
If I wait, till

I hear a soft, soft sound that seems
Scarce sound, but more
The thinking of a bird that first
Is murmuring lore

Half-way remembered by his throat -
Catching a note
Before he flings to melody,
Be-starred, remote -

There in that woodland, while I stay
Unmoving, come.
If I am grown into the moss.
Things that were dumb.

Songs of remembered, unchanged dreams
Float close to me;
Souls that were hid slip out from flowers,
Leap from each tree.

But when I move to snatch, to trap
A song, a soul -
With the first finger's-breadth I stir.
Lost is the whole!

The Christmas Road of Salem

       The only way to visit old Salem of the old South is with a child's heart for luggage. Otherwise this old town in the middle of North Carolina may lie before your eyes actual enough, with its old streets, its old houses, its old Square, its old Home Church as its inmost core, and Salem may welcome you with the gentle, unobtrusive courtesy pecularily its own, but unless you have learned the wisdom that knows how to put away grown-up things, you cannot really enter the Christmas city.
       In Salem of all places I have ever seen, it is easiest to drop from one's shoulders the crippling pack of maturity and become once again a little child stepping along a Christmas road. Of all places it is easiest in Salem to forget the jangle of faiths and of no-faiths that have deadened our ears, to slip away from the clamor of an age proud and fevered as ancient Rome, and to listen to the confidence of old carols ringing along moonlit dreamy streets, mysterious with the black of magnolia and of boxwood, or to hear floating down from the church belfry high up under the stars the silver melody of the ancient horns which, better than any other instruments, express the soul of the Moravian church. A most musical religion it must seem to every visitor who yields his spirit to the spirit of Moravian Salem. Not only the church liturgy but also the everyday life of the community is keyed to old tunes that date back, some of them, to the Bohemia of five centuries ago, and were familiar in Moravian households in the days when John Huss was martyred for the beauty of his faith. There is a spell on southern Salem, the spell not of a dead past but of a living one, constantly revitalized, so that as one walks these uneven red-brick pavements, one is haunted by memories of long-past Christmases, thoughts of those far times, when in secrecy and fear, the Hidden Seed kept its feast of candles and of anthems, thoughts of happier festivals in Saxony where young Count Zinzendorf offered the heretics the refuge city of Herrnhut, thoughts of brave long-ago love-feasts right here, when a tiny, intrepid band of colonists sang its Christmas chorales in the midst of endless miles of wilderness, while wolves nosed and howled at the cabin door. Along with these Moravian memories come thronging recollections of one's own childhood Christmases in all their unforgotten wizardry, so that here in Christmas Salem, I seem to be walking again the midnight aisle which leads through a great wood of fir trees looming black beneath high stars.
       Just as at five years old, I am aware again of mystery and danger and bewilderment lurking far off in the forest, but along the Christmas roadway, there is no fear, only joy and magic, for it lies straight as a shaft of silver through the black wood, and along it troops of youngsters go dancing onward. At the instant that the children pass, each dark, bordering fir tree becomes bright with tinsel and candles, and along the spicy twigs gay little bells stir and tinkle. From time to time there come snatches of happy chants echoed among the tall dim trunks. Since the wayfarers are children, they know that the soft, unearthly radiance upon the road before them is the long beam from a star not yet seen because it hangs so low above a stable cave, and they know, too, that their silver path is leading all child feet toward that star. Small difference for children between that spirit-light of Bethlehem and the merry twinkle of Christmas-tree candles. For them, readily enough, their own carol-singing mingles with the voices of herald angels, and even Santa Claus, himself, all ruddy and kind, may steal to the stable door and gaze in on a divine baby. Even so is Christmas faith and Christmas fancy interwoven in old Salem, where white-headed men and women still have their Christmas trees, and still with their own hands construct beneath the green boughs, the wonderful Christmas " putzes," for while we who are visitors must retread in stumbling unfamiliarity the Christmas path, the Moravians of old Salem have always kept straight and clear within their hearts the child-road toward the star.
       When, a few days before Christmas, I arrived in Salem, people told me I had missed what for Moravians is always the opening key to the Yuletide season. For unnumbered years there has always been sung on the Sunday before Christmas the anthem of " The Morning Star," written in the latter seventeenth century, and set to music in the nineteenth. Although I never heard choir and congregation unite in its mighty joy, I seemed, during my two weeks' visit, always to be catching its echoes, as if the strains of Christmas minstrels had come floating back to me where, unseen in the distance, they had passed on before along the silver-lit highway, so that the words and the music of "The Morning Star " voice for me the innermost spirit of a Moravian Christmas.
       The anthem has both the quaintness of old Germany and the vigorous confidence of the new world, so that the old words and the new are equally expressive of the unchanging faith of present-day Salem, while the music vibrates with the sheer child-gladness of its praise.

" Morgenstern auf finstre Nacht,
Der die Welt voll Freude macht.
Jesulein, O komm herein,
Leucht in meines Hertzens Shrein."

       When in stanza two, music and words swell out into grandeur it is as if, out of the black forest mystery of life, some hidden joyous congregation suddenly pealed forth a psalm to the mounting Christmas dawn:

" Morning star, thy glory bright
Far exceeds the sun's clear light ;
Jesus be, constantly.
More than thousand suns to me."

       For the holiday guest there slowly emerges upon that glamorous woodland roadway of his child memories a silver-lighted city, gradually shaping into the everyday reality of actual Salem. As I look out from the window of the little gray cottage that harbors me, there become sharply etched against the mistiness of dreams the tall water-oaks of the old red-brick Square, the domes of boxwood against old walls of buff stucco or of brick, the stretching flat white rows of gravestones holly-trimmed, the white belfry of the Home Church, where in Christmas week I heard little boys, high up there in the soft December sunshine, sound the trombone announcement of death. So unobtrusive and yet so sweet were those strains out of the sky, so blent with the Christmas air, that I listened to them for some time, supposing them merely carol-singing floating out from some home where the family had regathered for Christmas.
       On one side the little cottage looks forth on the sunny graveyard where Moravians keep their dead too close to life for any sadness, and on the other it nestles to the prouder, taller buildings of the Square, laid out in the seventeen-sixties by founders who established Salem as the central city of their Wachovian grant of seventy thousand acres, to be built and to be kept a city meet for their faith. The solid eighteenth century houses still remain, skilfully adapted to modern usage, or unobtrusively altered. Half of Salem traces its ancestry back to those earlier days, and all of Salem keeps alive, both in family life and in public, the traditions and the customs of its unforgotten builders.
       Perhaps it is only in our own South that so gentle and half-romantic a faith could have found so gracious a flowering as is typified in the Easter and the Christmas customs of this Salem of North Carolina. There is a blending of native warmth and glow and kindliness in the spirit of this Southern Province of the Moravian Church. The first colonists came seeking a mild climate and friendly neighbors, and found both. For a hundred and fifty years Salem has been true to its first purpose. Long ago it was a little refuge city of peace in the wilderness, and still, today, it offers its benediction for all who seek to penetrate beyond the mere externals of a locality into the inner sanctities of tradition.
       Long ago a brave little band kept to their secure daily round of work and worship amid perils of Indian attack and the backwash of Continental armies, and freely gave their hospitality to everyone that asked it, and today the mind of those first settlers still dominates and molds the life of the city. Yesterday and now the people of Salem have possessed both the art of shrewd adjustment to the contemporary and the power to withdraw from all its fever and conflict into the peace of a child-faith. With quaint literalness those early founders looked upon themselves as all members of one family, and today one of the strongest impressions of any visitor is that of a great household, close-bound in sympathy, and all turning toward the old Home Church as to a central hearthside, while up and down the worn old streets there moves the form of one still young at eighty, who in himself is host and shepherd and father of all the city.
       One wonders if the inhabitants of Salem fully realize their high privilege of living in a community which both expresses their religion and preserves the finest traditions of their ancestors. In these bewildering days it is the lot of most idealists to live in a solitude, unable, amid the surrounding mists, to distinguish the shapes of their fellow believers. But in Salem people have the sacred advantage of dwelling with those who constantly share and reinforce each other's faith as naturally as they have shared each other's childhood and each other's memories of the old Infant School. Probably Moravians do not dream with what strange nostalgia a visitor listens to persons who treat God conversationally, who talk of Him as spontaneously as a little boy speaks of that splendid comrade he calls Daddy. Normally enough, naturally enough, has the Moravian spirit been able to strike deep roots in our own South, for in our South religion is still a custom unquestioned, and leisure can still be found for an obsolete, old-world culture, and intellect still bows in reverence before the soul. In old Salem of the old South there can be no blur upon the radiant confidence of the Christmas story, no smirch upon the silver purity of that far-lit path toward Bethlehem's cave.
       In Salem I feel myself to be sometimes in Cranford, sometimes in Barchester, while all reminiscence of those two familiar home-towns of the fancy is touched by an atmosphere sacred to Salem. From one window of my room I can gaze up the long, silent avenue, forbidden to all vehicles, that skirts the high ivy-hung picket fence of the graveyard. Even in December the graveyard grass is vivid in the sunshine. I am so near that I can almost see the crimson berries of the holly wreaths laid on the little flat marble slabs. Cedar Avenue lies as a white path at the heart of Salem. On one side of it are gateways whose sunny arches, blazoned with texts of hope, stand bright against the shadowy spruce and cedar massed beyond the triumphant marching lines of the little gravestones. Along Cedar Avenue I have watched a funeral procession move with confident tread, while the trombone strains floated forth delicate and clear upon the New Year's morning.
       Another window of my room looks toward the old Square, toward the Bishop's home beside the Bishop's church, toward the aging buildings that still bear names witnessing to the deep Moravian reverence for the family as a holy entity, - the Sisters' House, the House of the Single Brethren, the Widows' House. In the cavernous cellar of the most venerable of all these buildings I was shown, one afternoon, the mysteries of the Christmas candle-making. In those great, white-washed catacombs one peers into dark, haunted corridors through wall arches three feet deep. The floor has the stone flagging that was laid a hundred and fifty years ago. In the long kitchen of the Single Brethren the great, hooded fireplace with its built-in Dutch oven stands intact.
       Here, in precisely the same molds and with precisely the same methods through unbroken generations, have been made the famous Christmas candles of Salem. The molds hold, some of them, six candles, some a dozen. Into the manufacture last year went two hundred pounds of beeswax and fifty pounds of tallow. From the first melting to the final polishing each candle requires an elaborate process of handwork. It took two women six weeks to make the candles, achieving, as they did, six thousand five hundred of the slender wisps of green wax familiar to everyone who has ever known a Salem Christmas. The decorating of the candles, as well as the dipping, is a matter of far tradition. According to methods of cutting and of pasting long in use, each candle is encircled by an outstanding fringe of scarlet paper before it is at last stuck in its hole in one of the long trays and borne off to be kept for the love-feast of Christmas Eve. To visitors and to Moravians take the preparation of the candles is symbolic; when Salem trusts to alien hands the making and the decorating of its Christmas candles, Salem will not be Salem any more.
       A simple, vital reverence for tradition is as characteristic of each individual home as it is of the larger home life of the church congregation. In the tiny cottage that offers me hospitality there is a little wooden rocking chair carefully treasured. One turns it up to find on the bottom, in a handwriting too alive ever to be forgotten, these words, "This rocker was used by mother to rock all her nine babies to sleep from 1828-1844. Keep it in the family." There lies on this little chair a touch of that personal, homey immortality that the home-going dead must value, - and yet it is only a little wooden rocker, tawny drab, and finely lined like an old parchment - or an old face. It has no arms, therefore had no bumps for little heads. It has spreading legs and rockers, and on each rocker is painted a bunch of fading wild roses.
       All the little home is gentle with old memories. Each morning at the close of breakfast I listen first to the daily reading from the Moravian Textbook for the year, the custom of the Text-book dating back to Count Zinzendorf, and after the Text-book comes the reading from birthday and memory books. As I listen, a kindly past made up of small family events becomes vital for me, the guest. Yet the little cottage is alive to the present as well as to the past. The neighbor children blow in and out all ruddy with ball-playing. The Moravian is a children's church, its services crowded with jolly youngsters, seated as happily beside their parents as seedlings grow around a tree. To Moravian children the story of a children's Friend is no dead tale. The rosy seven-year-old Harold who comes flying so often to our door has a hearty affection for Santa Claus, but with that Other he is even more familiar. A few weeks before this last Christmas a little playmate died. Harold was puzzled by the sorrow of the grown-ups and protested, "But Louise has gone to Jesus, and she will be there for His birthday." Winifred Kirkland, 1924
Bethabara Moravian Church Christmas Lovefeast in Winston Salem. 

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Capturing the veiled lady in cotton...

Cotton batting veiled lady mushrooms.
       Even though the veiled lady mushroom is not common to Missouri, I thought it an unusual addition to my woodland Christmas ornament collection. It grows in Asian climates primarily; read more about it at Wikipedia.

Spray painting an onion sack.
Supply List:
  • paper mache pulp
  • white school glue
  • newsprint
  • onion bag
  • white spray paint
  • grey drier lint
  • white cotton balls 
  • newspapers
Step-by-Step Directions:
  1.  Clip off the ends of an onion sack, stretch it out on top of newspapers or cardboard and spray paint it white to mimic the indusium "skirt" of the veiled lady mushroom.
  2. Chop up a clean paper egg carton. Trim and keep the bell cap shapes for the tops of your mushrooms.
  3. Insert a small wire up through the tops of the caps for hangers. Tape these firmly into place.
  4. Crush the newsprint into stalks and glue these to the inside of the bell cap shapes. 
  5. Add a small amount of water to paper mache pulp to spread on top of the caps and also the underside of where the stalks and caps meet. Let these dry completely before continuing the project.
  6. Glue the onion sack along the outer edge of the cap. Layer more paper mache on top of the netting that you do not wish to be seen. Let the dry.
  7. Unravel the white cotton balls. 
  8. Alternate the white glue and cotton batting in fine layers over the stalks and underneath the bell caps. 
  9. Layer the glue and dryer lint on top of the cap until you are pleased with the patterning.
  10. Apply the white glue over the entire surface of the veiled lady, excluding the indusium, until you are satisfied with the mushroom.
From egg carton to recycled mushroom forms.
Slow motion of the veiled lady growing
 with strange alien music.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Grandpa's Wooden Morels

The finished painted morels rest on a mossy bed
just outside my kitchen door.
        Grandpa took a trip to Kentucky this last weekend. He visited the Shaker Village, The Kentucky Folk Art Center , Noah's ark, The Creation Museum, and quaint restaurants etc... He brought back these three hand-carved, wooden mushrooms for me to paint. He wanted them to be painted as morels and to display them under a Christmas tree, of course! 

Supply List:
  • tiny soft paint brush
  • acrylic paints: burnt umber, a redish tan, and creamy white
  • wood varnish 
  • eye hooks (if you plan to hang them on a tree) 
  • a soft sponge or soft rag
Step-by-Step Instructions:
  1.  Make sure your mushroom blanks are clean, free of dust and dirt.
  2. Select the burnt umber acrylic to paint the deeper pits and ridges of the morel cap. Load the small brush with paint at the tip only and randomly place the ridges over the entire surface of the cap only. Let the caps dry.
  3. Layer random washes of a reddish tan water color over the surface. Let dry
  4. Paint the bottoms of the stems burnt umber. 
  5. Paint the underside of the caps burnt umber.
  6. Water down the creamy white acrylic and brush this over the surface of the wooden morels. Rub some of the paint off quickly with a soft sponge or soft rag. Let the morels dry.
  7. Brush the surface with a thin coat of wood varnish and let the wooden fungi dry overnight.
  8. Screw in the eye hooks to hang these natural looking ornaments on the tree or leave them without hooks and put them in a woodland display underneath your Christmas tree.
Purchase Wooden Mushrooms:
Left, the unfinished balsa wood mushroom blanks. Right, the first coat of paint.