The cutest ornaments: Almond shell birds

My handmade holiday ornaments for last year were these little almond shell birds, and they were a big hit. I followed the instructions pretty much line by line, but instead of shellac to seal my almond shells, I used a matte Delta Ceramcoat sealant that I had left over from a wood painting project. I made at least 10 of these little guys and am happy to have a few left over to hang on my tree this year.

We even held a little photoshoot for a few of them:

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During the outside portion of the photo shoot, we were photo bombed by my favorite photo bomber. Do you see her?

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Acorn jingle bell ornaments

Simple hand-embroidered ornaments

Hand-painted wooden ornaments

Beer cap ornaments

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Acorn jingle bell christmas ornaments

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I whipped up these simple Christmas ornaments as gifts for my friends and family. I had the grand idea that we would harvest local acorn caps to use, but they ended up being too small for the bells I found at Joann.

 

They were pretty simple to make. It went something like this:

  1. Find acorn caps to order on ebay since our local caps were too small.
  2. Paint the acorn caps with gold, green, and red glitter paint.
  3. After they dry, glue the bells into the acorn caps. I found hot glue to be the easiest to work with, but reinforced it with some Elmer’s in the gap around the bell, if it existed.
  4. After that round of glue dries, attach matching embroidery thread to the stem by tying it and then add a bit of glue for security.
  5. Once that dries, tie the thread onto a loop of ribbon. I varied the length of thread so that the bells would hang at different lengths.
  6. Optional – add a small coordinating bow to the ribbon loop.

And done!

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A quick & easy holiday gift – felt coasters

A very short post to show you one of the gifts I made for my family this Christmas – felt coasters. I came across a blog post about geometric coasters by Ciera Design on Pinterest that inspired me. However, cutting all of the individual hexagons she uses became overwhelming right away so I created my own larger designs.

I used my paper cutter to cut 4″ x  4″ squares out of a stiff felt fabric. I then created paper patterns that I traced with marker onto the softer contrasting felt pieces so that I could cut them out by hand. I used a fabric glue to glue down the contrasting pieces on the stiff coaster bottom.  Below you can see a sampling of the coasters I made. I created 6 sets in all. Still have to make myself a set!

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Simple felt hand-embroidered ornaments

I’ve gotten into the habit of making ornaments each year to give to my family as gifts. Last year I made simple hand-embroidered felt ornaments after seeing this post from nini on Pinterest. Once I got started, I ended up making two kinds, one with 3 hearts like nini made and another with just 2 hearts.

Embroidered ornaments, one uses 3 hearts and the other uses 2 hearts.

Embroidered ornaments, one uses 3 hearts and the other uses 2 hearts.

To make these ornaments, I used the following supplies:

  • Off white felt fabric
  • Red embroidery floss and appropriate sewing needle
  • Red ribbon
  • Vanishing fabric marker
  • Paper to make a pattern, pins, scissors

The first step was to create my heart patterns. I made two different sizes for the two ornaments. I used the elementary school trick of folding my piece of paper in half and then drawing half of a heart and cutting it out to make sure that my patterns were symmetrical.

The two different heart patterns for the ornaments

The two different heart patterns for the ornaments

Next, I pinned down the hearts and cut the fabric.

Pinning down the heart pattern to cut the fabric.

Pinning down the heart pattern to cut the fabric.

I used the large pattern for the ornament with two hearts and the small pattern for the ornament with three hearts.

I used the large pattern for the ornament with two hearts and the small pattern for the ornament with three hearts.

Once the hearts were cut out, I used a vanishing fabric marker to draw the word I wanted to embroider on each heart. The ink vanishes quite quickly, so I drew each word right before embroidering.

Drawing the word before embroidering.

Drawing the word before embroidering.

Next, I used a simple backstitch to embroider the word.

Embroidered words for the ornaments.

Embroidered words for the ornaments.

For the ornament with two hearts, I matched them up and then did a simple stitch around the edges. I found it easiest to add the ribbon for hanging the ornament if I positioned the ribbon before I finished sewing the hearts together. I also used some scrap felt in the middle of the ornament to add a bit of “puff”.

Sewing the edges together.

Sewing the edges together.

One side of the larger ornament.

One side of the larger ornament.

Side two of the larger ornament.

Side two of the larger ornament.

For the ornament with three hearts, I sewed together the straight edges of the smaller hearts so that they formed a sort of triangle shape. I also used the red thread to to attach the three hearts at their apex and then looped the hanging ribbon around that thread. This also made it so that you don’t see the back side of each heart when you look at the ornament from the top.

Ornament using three hearts.

Ornament using three hearts.

The ornaments were well received by their recipients last year 🙂

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Pet-proofing the Christmas tree and decorating the tree stand

Ok, so there’s really no such thing as pet-proofing a Christmas tree, but at least I can keep it from being knocked down. Our fake Christmas tree is short, only about 5 feet tall, so years ago we made a 4′ x 4′ platform about 18 inches tall to raise the bottom of the tree so that the entire tree can be seen from outside the window. After our dog and a foster dog collaborated to knock the tree off the platform one year, we quickly anchored the base of the tree to the platform using some large U shaped bolts. So now each year before we assemble the tree and put down the tree skirt, we tighten the U bolts around the three legs of the tree stand to make sure that nothing will happen to the tree laden with our precious ornaments.

This year we broke out the tree stand in our new house and I realized that the cloth covering I sewed for the stand years back no longer worked. It was designed to go on the stand when only 2 sides of the stand could be seen. Now, you can see 3 sides of the stand. I took a quick trip to Joann fabrics to pick up some white eco-fi felt to cover the stand and some decorative garland accents to make it less plain. I then cut the felt to have enough to cover the entire 4′ x 4′ top of the stand, with a bit of overlap on each side (more on the side that no one can see, since I didn’t cover that with a “skirt”). I cut rectangles of felt to hang from the top of the stand to the floor, with a bit of extra so that I could fold it over at the top. I fastened the tree stand skirts with my staple gun and then added the garland to each side, also fastening with the staple gun. We then cut the felt on the tree stand where the U bolts went though and proceeded to fasten the tree and decorate it. Now if only I could keep the cats from getting their fur all over my nice new white felt….

Overall view of the tree, tree stand, and white felt and garland used to decorate the stand.

Overall view of the tree, tree stand, and white felt and garland used to decorate the stand.

Close up view of the tree stand. You can see how the felt is simply folded over at the top and secured with a staple gun. The bottom of the felt is already wavy from cats crawling under the stand. It's amazing how difficult it is to avoid having pets in my pictures at home.

Close up view of the tree stand. You can see how the felt is simply folded over at the top and secured with a staple gun. The bottom of the felt is already wavy from cats crawling under the stand. It’s amazing how difficult it is to avoid having pets in my pictures at home.

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Make your own wooden Christmas ornaments!

*This post was originally published in 2011 on Pretty Handy Girl and I’ve been saving it to share with you this year!*

Every year, I make some percentage of my gifts rather than buy them. At first I started out with grand ambitions and would pick one or two recipients to get a labor-intensive gift like a crocheted afghan. In the last few years, I’ve scaled my efforts back and now make small gifts for multiple recipients. I typically will make a handful of one style of gift to boost my holiday time efficiency.

This year I started thinking about what type of ornament I could make from materials I had lying around. I settled on ornaments made from branches we cut off our trees a few years back. Basically, I cut thin slices of the branches, added a painted Christmas design and a ribbon for hanging and they are ready to go!

So you’re probably wondering how you can do this too… Well, you’re in luck because I’m ready to share!

Step 1: Cut your wood slices

Find a branch with a diameter of 2 – 3 inches (or large enough to fit your design) and cut thin slices. I used a reciprocating saw with a 9” wood blade on it to cut slices about an inch thick.  I just have a photo of the saw, but remember to securely clamp your branch before starting to saw it and to wear safety glasses while operating the saw.

Step 2: Sand your wood slices

The reciprocating saw left a rough finish so I used sanding blocks to create a smooth surface. I first used a very coarse grain sandpaper to get the surface level and then a fine grain sandpaper to create a nice finish. The sanding blocks were very handy – I held the block still while moving the wood slice to sand the surface.

Step 3: Drill holes for small eyelets

This is as easy as it sounds. Use a small drill bit to drill a hole in the top of your wood sliced and then screw in a small eyelet. This will allow your gift recipients to hang your ornaments. You can pick up small eyelets at any home improvement store.

Step 4: Create your designs

I like to create my own linocuts (a print-making method) so I decided to create reproducible designs by basically making holiday stamps for my wood slices. You could also simply buy stamps or paint a design if cutting your own stamps isn’t your thing.

I started by drawing my designs on paper – a snowflake, a Christmas light bulb, and a Christmas tree. I traced the outline of my wood slices so that I would be sure to create designs that fit on the slices.

After that, I transferred the design onto my carving blocks.

And then I used my speedball cutter to carve out my designs.

Step 5: Get that design onto your wood slice!

Whether you make your own stamp, buy a stamp, or paint your design free hand, it’s now time to get the design on to your wood slice. Because two of my designs were meant to have two colors, I used a paintbrush to apply my paint to the stamp before stamping the wood slice. Of course, before doing any stamping I first tested my carved stamps to make sure they looked how I expected and also tested the amount of paint that need to be applied. The snowflake design only used a single color so I used a small brayer instead of a paintbrush to apply the paint.

I found that it worked best to lay the stamp on the table, place the wood slice on top of it, and press down with firm (but not hard) pressure. This helped transfer the paint to the wood even if some small ridges remained after the sanding step.

The trick is getting the right amount of paint on the stamp so I recommend practicing on paper for a while before moving on to the wood slices. If I painted the paint on too thick, I would first light place the stamp on paper to absorb some of the extra paint. Of course if you are just painting directly on the slices you can just jump to that step! I made one freehanded design of a snowman for a particular snowman lover in my life.

Step 6: Embellish your designs

Because I felt that my Christmas bulbs and trees turned out a bit plain, I broke out some leftover red glitter glue to embellish them. For the red bulbs, I painted on the red glitter glue. For the trees, I added little dots to signify tree decorations.

Step 7: Seal your ornaments

I wanted to add some sort of sealant coat to my ornaments for protection. I settled on Mod Podge because I had some at home. Experimentation taught me that I couldn’t use a sponge applicator to brush on the Mod Podge or it would smear the paint even though it was dry. Instead, it seemed that using a paint bush to dab the Mod Podge on top of the paint worked the best.  When first applied, it looks somewhat white but it does dry clear.

Before drying:

After drying:

Step 8: Add a way to hang those ornaments

I used ribbon to create a small bow at the top of the ornaments and also to create a loop so that the ornaments can be hung. Hooray! They are complete and ready to be gifted!

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Personalize your stockings with beads and wire!

A number of years ago, a friend gave me an awesome idea of how I could personalize our stockings WITHOUT using glue and glitter like we did when I was a kid. It took a bit more work than glue and glitter, but every year I get out our stockings and smile because I love them so much.

Here’s how you can do this too:

1. Get some flexible wire. You need to bend it into letter shapes. I used cursive writing for our names. The wire should be flexible enough that you can just form it with your hands and cut it with scissors.

2. Form the letters. Include little loops at the end so that you can put thread through the loop and secure it to the stocking.

3. Put small seed beads on the wire. I used a red and white pattern to match our stocking.

4. Use red (or other appropriately colored) thread and secure the letters to the stocking. I used the start and end of the letters to do this.

5. Add other buttons and beads that match. You can see the little snowflake buttons that I sewed on.

6. Hang them and enjoy 🙂 Happy Holidays!