Tuesday, December 12, 2017

A labor of Christmas love...

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.

(I really beached the color out of this picture trying to lighten it up on my computer...the colors are beautiful and really saturated.  This is "5 golden rings" and I sent both of them to my sisters, so no picture on the tree...)

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!

Happy dance!!

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.

It also came with a product flyer for their monthly ornament club...charming.

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.

In stitches,
Teresa   :o)

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Fake snow for a southern Christmas...

We have had a busy month!  We had a bad storm on a Saturday evening that blew down about 20 trees before Thanksgiving.  A couple were over the driveway, so we had to cut ourselves out on the following Sunday (don't look at my fingernails...).  I've been cutting and dealing with trees ever since!  Then, there was holiday company...for longer than just Thanksgiving.

It has been hard, but somehow I have managed to carve out some time to make Christmas ornaments for us and family.  This makes up for no time in the quilt cave.

I saw something like this snow scene ornament on Pinterest, but it involved glitter, which I try not to use.  People say glitter is the Herpes of the craft world, and I agree.

I just happened to see these tiny styrofoam balls near the craft foam at JoAnn's (which aren't much better than glitter, but sea creatures don't eat them...yet).  I think it is used to give homemade "slime" some texture.  Yuck.

So, I decided to make ornaments for my younger sisters of their kids and a couple of my daughter.  I wanted a sort of specific pose so I had my husband pose.  I wanted to take a picture to text to my sisters for photo-taking guidance.  My brothers' kids are too old for such nonsense.  

My husband obliged, and became my model.

They are supposed to look like they are playing in the snow.

He is such a good sport...

So, only sister #1 so far has followed instructions and sent me pictures.

Asa's turned out pretty well, even if my picture did not...

And quite seriously, I could not help myself from making the following...


I had an old picture of my daughter playing in a leaf pile and thought that I would try it for the first ornament to perfect (ha-ha) the technique.  None of the pictures from making the first couple of these ornaments turned out, too dark, so I made a few more ornaments to show the details, in case you want to make some, too.

The only big mistake I made was not allowing enough border around the posed pictures and they were too big for the 90mm (3-1/2 inch) ornament I wanted to use.  So, would you believe I took pictures of pictures to get the right size?!?  Crazy!

If you are going to make these, take a few shots at different distances from your subject.  Or just go through your pile of extra pictures to see if something you already have will work.

Step One:

I used a 90 mm (3-1/2 inch) "flat ball fillable ornament" (from either www.factorydirect.com or www.craftoutlet.com and there are certainly other sources). 

These snap apart to play with, then when you are finished you just put a little glue to secure it where the two halves are put together.

You can also use a regular completely round fillable ornament, or other available shapes.  They just need to snap open for these to work.

This following example is 70mm because the other older picture of my daughter that I found was too small (the Dogwood tree blossoms look like snow on her hands...go figure).

Step Two:

Fussy cut the image, leaving HAND EXTENSIONS and a lot of extra photo for the BASE.  Omitting these areas, cut carefully with small, sharp scissors.  

Cut a plastic disc that fits the ornament from template material or any scrap of clear or opaque plastic, like a milk or produce container. 

Don't use the outside of the ornament for tracing this template because of the thickness of the ornament wall...it will be too big.  You can start with this diameter, then trim down carefully to fit.

Place the plastic circle over your image and center appropriately, the hands should be almost to the edge of the circle, with extensions extending beyond ornament.   Draw around the circle on the image with a fine tip marker, both on the base and the arms.

Cut THE BASE ONLY,  just inside the ink mark.  


Center and glue the base.  I used my Roxanne's Glue baste for this (a good use for that needle applicator and the fact that it is thick, thick, THICK and dries fairly quickly).  Aleene's would probably work as well.

When the glue is secure enough to not come unglued, I bend the hand tab extensions back at a right angle (I use my large tweezers for this) just inside my ink mark, trim them to about a half inch.  I then glue them to the inside ball half, just deeper than where the two halves pop together.  

You can see this (sort of) in the bottom right of the following picture.

You should put these in place before applying glue in case you need to crease the extension a little closer to hand.  I usually have to do that, then use my tweezers to "round" the end to conform to the inside curve of the ornament.
Step Three:

Here comes the snowfall!  I place the second half temporarily in place and stand it up to check to see if I have the right amount of snow...more than an Alabama dusting, less than a Michigan blizzard.

Then I try to get all the snowballs out of the way again.  You don't want them to stick to the glue from the inside while closing and containing the snow storm when you add the other half of the ornament.  

It will still look cute, even if some do stick.  If you have trouble with static electricity where you live, you can wipe the inside of the ball with a dryer sheet.

Using little dots of glue, only on the area where the two ornament halves meet (about a half inch apart), get ready to stick together.  I also add glue on the two halves of the hanging extension.  Do this carefully so as not to disturb the snow balls.

If you don't overdo it on the glue dots, and keep them on the rim where the two halves intersect, snowballs sticking will be less of an issue.  

People generally over-glue everything!

I stick the two halves together and carefully secure with a rubber band for a while.  Then I attach a string or ribbon for hanging and glue a little bow or something on each side at the top (for that I use my glue gun).

Even with sister #2's prodding, sister #3 did not send me the desired poses, so I had to get creative.

I left an extension tab on Eliza's head and a little wider base due to the composition of the picture.

Ta da!

And again, I could not help myself...waste not, want not.

This may be my favorite one!  

You ALL have pictures with some legs in them, don't you, LOL!  I'm just sayin'...

I also used the same kind of ornament ball to make simple picture ornaments.  I use a picture on each side (glued together before inserting).  Here is one side of one of Riley.

I had some leftover confetti red hearts, which I added...

Then both sides of sister #1 and husband...

And sister #3 and her husband...

I am way behind on email and questions...I will catch up in the next few days!

In stitches,
Teresa   :o)