Sunday, September 29, 2013

Christmas in September: Paper Stockings

After a four-month hiatus from my Christmas in [Insert Month Here] series, I am returning to it with a very fun project creating paper Christmas stockings.  These can be used as decorations, as package toppers, or as gift card holders.
The idea comes from Volume 8 of Handcrafted, a Stampington & Company publication from 2012.  I made several changes to Catherine Matthews-Scanlon's techniques:  First, I chose to keep the edges of my stockings straight rather than using pinking shears, simply because I liked the look of it.  Second, I used paper exclusively, rather than bonding fabric to paper using a product called Heat 'n Bond Lite, because I wanted to use what I already had rather than purchasing any new materials.  And finally, I created ribbon loops for hanging the stockings, rather than using wire, because I thought the wire would surely tear my paper creations.
The first thing I did was create a stocking template from white cardstock.  You can use online inspiration for the shape of your stockings; just do a search for "Christmas stocking templates."  I then used the template to cut paper stocking shapes from various old books, including musical scores, a typography book, and, appropriately, an old Christmas publication.
Then the creative and fun part begins:  determining embellishments for the front of the stockings!  I chose ribbons, lace, and buttons as my embellishments, and used a combination of Fabric Fusion, gel medium, and stitching for adhering items into place.  Here are a couple "work-in-progress" shots of my tabletop:
After I have the embellishments in place, I take the front and back of the stocking over to my sewing machine, and stitch around the edges, leaving an opening at the top, of course.
An evening of playtime has given me six fun Christmas stocking creations to use when the holidays roll around.
Now that it's just about October, we all know that Christmas will be here in the blink of an eye!
This project made a delightful mess in my art space.  I thought I would show you the un-retouched mayhem of my table when I finished these six stocking last night:
It only took about five or ten minutes of tidying to return my table to its normal state:  workspace open in the middle, controlled chaos on the outside perimeter:
Have you gotten your holiday preparations underway?  What is the first thing you try to take care of?  Share with us in the comments.  And take a moment to visit Patty, over at Patty's Pretty Things, who has managed to keep up with her All-Year Holiday preparations much more diligently than I.  She's been posting some wonderful Christmas crafts every month this year!
To see previous Christmas in [Insert Month Here] posts, check out these links:

February:  Book Ornaments
April:  Confetti Tags

Friday, September 27, 2013

Scripture Journaling

I have discovered a way to introduce my "creative side" to my interest in daily Bible study.  Somewhere in my Pinterest wanderings, I ran across the concept of SketchNotes.  As I explored additional links, I found all sorts of people engaged in scripture journaling, using a combination of words, images, symbols, and designs to reflect the meanings of the Bible verses.
When I first decided to try it for myself, I used 2 Corinthians, chapter 4, which was the focus of my Thursday morning women's Bible study group at the time.  All I knew when I started was that I wanted a banner across the top, sections divided by solid and dotted lines, and an image of jars of clay.  Beyond that, I had some creative figuring to do!

I began a Pinterest board entitled "Scripture Journaling," where I pin sources of symbols and drawings, and examples of other people's sketch notes from their scripture studies.  I also do Yahoo searches for things like, "drawings of strength" or "symbols of God's glory," and I get all sorts of ideas for images to use in my notes.  You can see by the page included here that it's not all about drawing, but rather about figuring out how to organize and arrange the content of the passages.
I have found that the great value of this kind of scripture journaling is the actual process of creating the pages.  While I can certainly review the text by looking over my notes, I really internalize the message by working through the creative process of how to represent it on the page.  I have to really dig deep to be sure that I am linking ideas accurately, and truly representing all that is there.
I have continued scripture journaling backwards through 2 Corinthians, and have notes for chapters 1 through 4.  I plan to then work forward along with our study, until I hopefully have a set of visual scripture journaling for the whole book.

I will confess that every time I sit down to do a new chapter, I am convinced that I will not be able to figure out how to represent it in visual notes.  And yet every time, once I stick with it for awhile, the representations develop across the page, and I find the process very satisfying, both to my need for creative expression and my need to spend time in God's Word.

I invite you to give this process a try for your own spiritual and creative practice.  I will share the pages I have made for other chapters in 2 Corinthians in the coming days.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Mail Me Some Art!

I've had wonderful artists and friends send me the most fabulous mail art over the past few months, and I have been woefully remiss in responding to them as I should.  Slowly, slowly, I would like to catch up, both by featuring all the Mailbox Love here on the blog, and by reciprocating with some Mailbox Love of my own.  Thank you for being patient with me, my friends!
A super-fun way to ensure a happy mailbox is to participate in one of Karen's swaps over at Mail Me Some Art (MMSA).  She provides new and varied projects and themes, and there truly is something for everyone.  Most recently I participated in the postal-themed ATC swap and the handmade envelope swap.

I think anything postal-themed deserves a closer look, so here are some close-ups of the latest ATCs in my collection:

This beauty came from Leslie:
And I thought the back of it was almost as delightful as the front (I never pay as much attention to the back of my ATCs as I think I should, and Leslie has inspired me to try!):
This bit of postal perfection comes from Rhoz:
If you check out her blog at Full Circle, you will see even more postal and non-postal loveliness!

Lynn sent me this ATC that appealed to my love of orderliness and grids:
If you check out her blog at Sunny Room Art, you will see that she is ALL about postcards, ATCs, mail art, and swaps!

And from Julie I received this ATC with an adorable vintage baby image and other fun postal embellishments:
If this isn't enough postal-themed ATC goodness for you, please visit the ever-creative and postally-inclined Pamela of Cappuccino and Art Journal, where in this latest post she's whipped up even more ATCs and other goodies to send and to swap.

Here is my handmade envelope loot:
It's hard to tell here, but Ellen's envelope, with the keys at the back, is a full twelve inches long!

Kelsey's envelope is made from a page of Time for Kids magazine, and includes Hello Kitty and cupcake stickers, so you know that's a hit with my younger daughter!

I have to give a special shout-out to Christie, who included a lovely, color-coordinated ATC with her envelope:
And Currie included her artful business card:
I have just signed up to participate again in the Great Big Stitched Postcard Swap hosted by Beth Kempton of Do What You Love.  This will be my third year to participate, and because I absolutely love the look of stitched paper, it is a natural fit for me!  If you want to sign up, the process is quick and easy, and you have until October 16 to get your postcard in the mail!

Postally yours,

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Because I Didn't Have Enough Stuff Yet...

September is Garage Sale/ Yard Sale/ Flea Market heaven around here!  
Last weekend, my family and I came away with loot from the Media Garage Sale Days
and today we headed to a local community college for a fantastic annual flea market.
The market is held on a tiered parking lot, so we start at the top, and work our way 
down hills and stairways to get to the bottom of the lot.  
I heard plenty of people disparaging the things that people were selling, with one man 
vehemently chastising his girlfriend for wanting to buy other people's junk.  
Personally, I thought most of the tables were pretty awesome!
My girls love to rifle through all of the cars that are for sale.  At one place, a man had 
a couple of BIG cars marked "free"....jackpot for my little tomboys!
I was looking for some things based on projects I've been pinning on Pinterest lately.  Plus, I have a hard time passing up glass bottles, as you might have noticed!  So, here are my flea market purchases:
Glass bottles, a tin, two folding yardsticks, a bag of vintage photos, and a set 
of vintage cookie cutters--all for less than $9!

I am perhaps most pleased with having found a $3 Lite Brite board for the girls!  
I have fond memories of playing Lite Brite with my sister.  I wasn't sure my girls were 
old enough to be able to do it, but they spent the afternoon happily working together--
yes, I said "working together"!--on a couple of the Lite Brite pictures.  
My husband also bought the "Charlotte's Web" movie (the 2006 version, not the 1973 
animated favorite from my childhood!), so we enjoyed that this afternoon, as well.  

I think I am fortified enough with weekend fun and family time to boost me into this new week of drop-off and pick-up schedules, doctor and dentist appointments, and some major housekeeping tasks around here!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Upcycled Gift Bags

In order to justify all the time that I've been spending on Pinterest lately, I am making a concerted effort to take action on some of my pins.  That means creating the projects, practicing the lettering, trying out the tangles, and making the recipes.  You might remember that I recently created a tiered organizer based on one of my pins.

Yesterday, I made upcycled gift bags out of food boxes that were headed to the recycle bin.
All you have to do is select your box, punch two holes at the top of each side, and tie on a ribbon.  Add some tissue paper and gift, and you have a unique, upcycled gift bag.
So, my question to you is this:  If you received a hostess, birthday, or Christmas gift in one of these bags, would you think, "Wow, what a clever idea, and so kind to our environment!"  Or, would you think, "Wow, why is this lady unloading her recycle bin on me with this trash?"
I could see opinions going either way, and would love to know what you think!
My little girls thought they were a great idea, and wanted one right away.  I told them they would have to wait for their birthdays or Christmas!  

My five-year-old asked a very good question:  "Are you going to leave them like that, or decorate the sides?"  That gave me the idea that the boxes could be embellished with decorative paper, paints, and other collage elements.  I suspect that if I did that, though, it would just look like a food box that I glued a bunch of paper to!  I think some of the charm is in the original packaging.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Garage Sale Days

Every year, I look forward to this weekend in September, when the neighboring town of Media, PA, holds their Garage Sale Days.  We park our car anywhere, and find ourselves within walking distance of scores of garage and yard sales throughout the community.
My husband and I can measure the changes in our lives by the Garage Sale Days:  we started out going on our own, then moved on to pushing our babies in strollers, and now we find ourselves grabbing hands and calling out "wait!" and "just look...don't touch!" and "move over; let those people by on the sidewalk!"
But the efforts are worth it, for the chance to see all kinds of great loot--from junk to kitsch to vintage.  Most people price their things to sell, though some clearly mis-take their garages for antique shops and attach hefty price tags to the items they are supposedly trying to unload from their homes.  I picked up two little baggies of buttons to purchase, nearly missing their $12 and $25 price tags.  Needless to say, they went right back into their basket.
Another great side benefit of the Garage Sale Days is a chance to get a good look at the interesting architecture around town.  My husband and I have daydreamed about living in Media since before we settled in our current home.
And what is the nearly universal appeal of doorways and gates?  It must be some primeval symbolism that we are all innately drawn to!
We were hoping to teach our children some principles of money management by taking a dollar from their piggy banks that they could choose to spend however they wished.  That would have worked out great, but people ended up offering them most items they showed interest in for free!  The girls each came home with a bag of loot that they spread out in the family room to inspect.
And what about Mommy?  I did not come home empty-handed, of course.  I am the happy new owner of a small, wood shadow box, purchased for a dollar, and ten new glass bottles, a dollar apiece.  Score!
I hope your weekend is as sunny and gorgeous as we are enjoying around here!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Back in the Groove

I took an unexpected blog break this past week, and I thought I would catch you up on what I've been doing all this time.

For starters, I had the great good fortune to attend a reunion of my cousins in Michigan.
My cousins on my Dad's side of the family.  I got to hold the newest
member of the family!  (We're at the bottom of the steps.)
Several of our aunts and uncles came by over the course of the weekend, as well, so it felt more like one of the old-fashioned family reunions I grew up with.

I mentioned on Facebook that the gathering was exactly what I was hoping it would be.  There was plenty of small talk and silliness, but also lots of time for heart-to-hearts to really catch up on each other's lives.  I have a cousin in the Foreign Service, serving in Afghanistan, who happened to be home on a three-week leave, so she was able to share her absolutely astounding experiences in that country.  I have another cousin who recently went on a three-month vacation to South America, which was so interesting to hear about.  There were recently-ended relationships to discuss, and recently-beginning relationships to celebrate.  Everyone had jobs to discuss and explain.  Old family stories were rehashed.  Much beer and wine was consumed by the bonfire each night.  Getting to bed by 2 a.m. was considered early.

I had a couple stolen moments for doodling around.  I didn't expect to fill too many pages in my sketchbook, but I came away with one Zentangle (while folks were watching football) and one lettering experiment (sitting on the sun porch before others had woken up for the day):
Once I got back home, I faced another milestone:  my little girl, my first-born, my five-year-old, headed to kindergarten!  No doubt about it, I can feel the roiling layers of anxiety beneath my calm and confident exterior.  I am experiencing significant disbelief (as is she!) that she will now be going to school every day for years and years and years!
Here's Katy, taking that first step into kindergarten.
Back to school is also the season for taking care of all those annual doctor and dentist visits.  I splurged on a new pair of glasses, since the ones I had been wearing are now about 18 years old!  Here's a look at my new frames:
Hopefully now, with the school year underway, I can get myself back into a steady routine of blog visiting, art-making, and posting.  I hope you'll come along!