I have been working on a labor of love. Christmas love.
My step-mother made an incredible set of ornaments in the late 1960's, right before her first two daughters were born. They were most likely from a kit sold at the time.
When my step-mother came into my life in 1973, I was twelve years old. She definitely saved me and my little brother (and my Dad), in so many ways. My Mom had mental illness and was abusive and things had been hard for a while. I saw these ornaments the first Christmas I spent with her and my Dad and my brothers and step-sisters.
It was magical. She made Christmas and birthdays special. There was a simple tree and these ornaments were on it. They were amazing...I couldn't take my eyes off of them...the way the sequins glittered in the tree lights. Then the ornaments disappeared through three major moves my parents made over the next 20+ years. I thought they were gone forever.
Fast forward to when they moved to this property in Alabama in the mid-1990's. Most all belongings were moved into a new metal Qnonset hut on the property while they cleared some of the land, built a cottage and subsequent large home over the next seven years, all while practicing medicine. I am not sure how they did all this!
About fifteen years ago, I was helping my Dad as he started sorting through boxes in the Quonset hut (unfortunately there are still some boxes to go through...sigh). Most stuff was kept, some stuff donated, and some things thrown away. I found a hastily-packed, crude small, corrugated cardboard box containing these ornaments!
The box had not been properly sealed and they were not in great shape. Some had been nibbled on by mice...to the point where they could not be saved. They smelled mousy. All the plastic stars to which the motifs were glued had become brittle and broken. Only one ornament's star was still in tact, and that was one where the felt part was heavily chewed.
I think those mice were probably crapping sequins...
I was sad about their condition, but asked to hold onto them, hoping I could bring them back to life. Lee told me I should just throw them away. They have been sitting in one of my closets ever since, rediscovered when I was packing for our recent move.
The theme was the 12 Days of Christmas, and there had originally been two sets. Only eighteen survived.
For years, I have been looking for replacement plastic stars and a method to perk them up and restore them. I was also looking for the confidence and courage to touch them.
I have done a lot of different crafts and ornaments, but never any stuffed, embellished felt work...with sequins and/or beads...especially from a kit.
Every now and then, I would look on the Internet to try and find replacement stars. A couple of months ago I found the exact star online, but they encased in glitter...ouch!
There were no "crystalline star" version anywhere on the Internet that I could find. Of course they were an imported item and it was hard to tell much about their quality from the sketchy descriptive photos provided.
So I ordered the stars and while waiting for delivery (and confidence and courage) and started replacing sequins, doing a little reparative stitching, and some spot cleaning.
It took a while for the stars to arrive...now I know the meaning of "a slow boat to China..."
The worst part was picking the remaining pieces of brittle plastic and glue from the backs. The felt used from the kit was of poor quality.
Everyone uses too much glue.
Sometimes the glue removal was "surgical" as I would have to trim the felt bulk a little to cut it loose.
I have chosen some ornaments for me and chosen some for my sisters, which I am going to mail this week with the new ornaments I made for them.
It was worth the effort. I love them! They are kind of retro and I think it is interesting to see them with the other homemade and various ornaments on my tree.
Stopped and waiting for a long train two weeks ago, I was looking through Pinterest on my phone. I saw a picture of one of these ornaments! The link went to Ebay and of course the item was no longer available.
I started to get curious about whether or not an intact kit for the same ornaments could be found on Ebay. You can find freakin' ANYTHING on Ebay. I mean, there will be quilt kits in my stuff when I am dead and gone, so why not?!?
I took a guess that the Bucilla Company produced and sold the kit. I found a lot of vintage (and new!!) Bucilla kits on Ebay, but not this one.
I almost gave up, but finally found one! It was made by the Lee Ward Company. Anyone ever do a project produced by them??
I ordered it.
It came yesterday. It is definitely vintage. The single sheet of instructions has browned, there is a musty smell, and the pre-stamped felt is the same crappy quality...but I love it!
I will most likely replace the felt with good quality wool felt. I can trace the stamped patterns on the crappy felt...maybe some time when I am stopped by another long train. LOL.
And tacky glue is included...it looks like it has separated, LOL!
And look! A tree skirt can be made from the motifs! Interesting...could be applique with fabric. Interesting...could be enlarged slightly. Hmmm...
But what is really interesting and confusing is that I think the kit makes 24 motifs but there are only 12 stars. They are supposed to be glued together with the star between them! I wondered why the second set of Lee's was a mirror image!
I will enjoy my selection of ornaments on my tree for now and properly store my "new" kit until I have time to figure out what I want to do.
Oh, and the hilarious thing? Bucilla STILL makes kits and www.merrystockings.com sells them. They have stockings, ornaments, wall hangings and even some stuff for Halloween, etc.
Very kitschy and very retro!
Again, like all those years ago, I will sit in my great room only illuminated by my Christmas tree and enjoy how the sequins glimmer in the tree lights. I will remember happy Christmases from the past and the new memories we are making now.