Honoring the Gift: Three Wise Men Get a Bit of TLC

Making something from scratch has its rewards. We all like new and shiny things. Honoring the past, though, also has its rewards. I love the challenge of bringing something back to its former self, especially when it has history and meaning.

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Three Wise Men, Originally crafted by Laura’s Aunt and Mother

My friend Laura grew up with these treasures: three wise men, lovingly crafted from the remnants of home-made holiday dresses. Laura’s aunt and mother followed a craft idea of the day. Each of the wise men started with a brown glass beer bottle. The head is a silk Christmas ball, popular in the sixties and the crown is the top half of a Styrofoam coffee cup. Sequins and felt are used for the eyes, with jewelry findings decorating each crown. I think they’re charming

These wise men are in remarkably good shape after nearly fifty years in and out of storage. But as with any well-loved object, they needed a bit of TLC.

Here’s what Laura has to say about these family heirlooms:

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My restored wise men on display in my home. I particularly love their sparkly new eyes which stand out better than the originals.

My Mother, Donnetta, and her sister Anita created the wise men when I was about six years old. I remember watching them work, knowing  the wise men must be precious because of the way my Mom handled them. I wasn’t allowed to touch them. They made two sets, one for each house. I looked forward to their appearance each year for the holidays. I was in awe.

After years of hosting many homey family Christmases, my Mother passed away in 1997.  The Christmas decorations remained with my Father until he  passed in 2012. At that point my sister and I divided up the decorations and I was lucky enough to get the three wise men. They were in rough physical shape (which I never noticed until then) and I was in rough emotional shape. I packed them away for a few years until I was able to open the Christmas box. Wonderful memories spilled out.

It was then that I found out a lot more about the wise men, and their history became even more meaningful for me. Nana (Mom and Anita’s Mother) had a box of notions and buttons for collecting miscellaneous strays and broken bits for future use. My Aunt became a professional seamstress and added a fabric scraps and bric-a-brac box. Unfortunately, I did not inherit the crafty gene.

Finding a picture of the three girl cousins was my first clue. Anita made velvet Christmas dresses one year for me and my sister Karen and for her daughter Claudia. Mine was the purple velvet dress. She saved the scraps of the three dresses, eventually using them for the wise men. Bric-a-brac remnants from her various sewing projects became the trim, broken jewelry the jewels on the crowns, and out-of-fashion hatpins that my Nana wore in her younger days adorned the tops of the crowns. They created these treasures from family belongings! I loved them even more.

When I began to examine them closely I laughed out loud. They made the wise men out of  beer bottles! Who knew? I soon found the magazine article they’d saved detailing the project with a Styrofoam cup as the base of the crown and a plain ornament as the head. Now I was laughing for several reasons: something I’d considered so valuable turned out to be made from common materials; the materials were from memorable family possessions.  My family didn’t drink a drop of alcohol, so I could only imagine the scene as my Mom and Aunt asked their friends to save some beer bottles.

I wanted these precious wise men restored to their former glory. I asked my dear friend Alys if she would take on the project because I

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My beautifully restored wise men in their custom storage box, Capes are held down to prevent wrinkles, and cushioning supports their delicate neck. Hat pins are up off the packing and protected.

know she enjoys this type of creativity. I knew she would return them to their original form as closely as possible.

Am I ever so grateful to Alys! I have no idea what “fray check” is, and the repaired hole in the purple cape is done so well I never would have noticed it. I couldn’t have begun to do the level of restoration that Alys did.

On the day she returned them to me they arrived in a beautiful, custom box. She box is the perfect size and it has a magnetic closure. She thoughtfully added cushioning to protect the crowns and the capes are held down to stay unwrinkled.  This way they’ll last in good condition for many more years. What a wonderful surprise.

Alys, I can’t tell you what it means to my heart to have them back to full glory and displayed in my home again at Christmas time. I know that my Mom and Aunt are smiling about it too. Thank you from the bottom of my heart and my warm-Christmas-memory soul!!!!

I wanted to honor the original design as closely as I could, using modern-day materials but keeping the original design in place.

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Materials used

Blue Wise Man:

I trimmed the fraying edges of the velvet, then added fray check along the new, clean edge. I added a strip of blue, see-through ribbon along the front of the bottle to prevent further fraying. It worked out fairly well.

Purple Wise Man:

The gold trim and the corner of the cape were badly damaged. I found a close match for the original trim and replaced it along the cape’s edge. To avoid disturbing the neckline, I kept a half-inch of the original trim, then added the new trim below. I patched the hole using a swatch from inside the crown, matching the nap of the velvet as best I could. It looks shiny in the photo, but in person it’s far more subtle.

Red Wise Man:

The third wise man needed eye surgery and a few replacement jewels along the front bodice, but he was otherwise in good shape.

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Missing an eye and a few sequins, but otherwise in good shape

After steaming out a few of the storage wrinkles, I added new hat pins to each of the crowns. I found these beautiful pins last summer when I was traveling in Edmonton, Canada. My friend Kelly works for Urban Scrapbook, and writes a regular blog feature called Kelly’s Korner. We popped into the store and there they were on the counter. Serendipity!

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I found these pre-made at Urban Scrapbook in Edmonton, Canada. They’re perfect!

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Updated crowns

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Three Wise Men Refurbished, Posing in My Garden of Course

A Crafty October So Far

You should see my desk. It looks like a Whirling Dervish came through. I’ve hauled out paper and pens, circle cutters and glue, rubber stamps, ink pads and ribbon. It’s been a crafty October so far.

Crafting and a tidy work space do not go hand-in-hand. Unfortunately I do not have a dedicated craft space so I make do. I’m crafting using the corner of my desk, a small pop up table and my in box. Since Mike is out of the country for ten days, I called squatters rights on his side of our shared desk as well.  After repeatedly misplacing, then later unearthing my reading glasses, I’ve added “granny chain” to my shopping list. In the midst of all this chaos I’m having a blast.

Earlier this month, I took a class with my sister at The Island Creative Escapes. During the four-hour class, we learned a variety of mixed-media techniques while creating a “Haunted Pumpkin Patch”. You know me and pumpkins.

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“Haunted Pumpkin Patch” mixed media class by Richele Christensen

Designer and blogger, Richele Christensen, lead the class. She’s a project manager and designer for Tim Holtz. All of the products are available through an assortment of Tim Holtz products. They provided a kit for all of the attendees, and then we shared a basket of inks and other tools.

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Mixed media detail (top half)

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Mixed media detail (bottom half)

We came home with a cute mixed media canvas and a variety of ideas along with a leftover sheet of rub-on decals and a packets of paper ephemera. Those leftovers were my starting point for a rainy day afternoon of card-making. Yes…it rained!

When our boys were young, I hosted a Halloween party every year for the neighborhood children. It went on for nearly a decade. So in addition to the leftover ephemera pack from class, I have Halloween-themed rubber stamps, materials from a teacher’s supply store, and an assortment of paper from the make-and-take crafts.

Decorated pumpkins: Halloween 2008

Decorated pumpkins: Halloween 2008

I used these over-sized shapes for the inside of the tri-fold cards:

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Leftover Halloween shapes from the teachers supply store, scored, cut and placed on the inside of a tri-fold card

This is what the cards look like when closed:

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Tri-fold cards: Black card stock, spider web Washi tape, Tim Holtz vintage cat ephemera

I had fun making my own envelopes.

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Leftover bat shapes and assorted paper get a new life as envelopes for some of the cards

I like the way the scrap of lace looks over the purple paper. I had just enough for one card.

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This scrap of black lace was a bow on our class supply kit. I wrapped it around a scrap of purple paper, added a dangling spider charm and attached it to a black card. Scraps of the same paper decorate the envelope. The ghost is inside.

There is something to be said for loosening up on a practice card or two. I often have a hard time getting started, then an equally challenging time stopping. Who wants to fold laundry when a role of Washi tape is calling your name?

I moved from idea to idea, using the supplies and tools that I have on hand. At last I was in the zone.

Check out some of these beautiful creations:

Dawn at Petals. Paper. Simple Thyme

Kelly at Kelly’s Korner

Pauline at The Contented Crafter

Reporting From the Boomroom

I’m visiting my dear friend Boomdee in Alberta, Canada. She works for The Urban Scrapbook, and is on deadline for her monthly page layout.

with petals and petals in the boom room

Working her magic in the Boomroom with Petals the cat looking on

Urban provides a kit each month, filled with patterned and solid-colored paper, ribbon, and other embellishments. She kindly brought home a second kit of papers, so that we could make coordinating pages together. The “Urban Girls” create a layout for the store once a month.

My intentions were good, but when you’re sitting across from your Boomdee Bestie, artistic crafter extraordinary, it’s intimidating. I opted instead to watch her work and to record the process.

She started with a series of papers spread in front of her, and decided on a featured photo. Aren’t we adorable?

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On the steps of a friend’s log cabin

Using a stencil, she added Gesso to her base page,

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White circles stenciled on to heart patterned paper with Gesso

then splattered bits of black acrylic paint for texture and interest. From there she built up paper layers, starting with black card stock, then adding pink and a third layer of patterned paper.

After adhering the three layers together, she did something unexpected: she went to her sewing machine and laid down three rows of black stitching using buttonhole weight thread.

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Sewing black thread for texture and interest

Using a die cut of the word bliss, she cut one from a sheet of pink paper, then using the same die, she cut part of the actual photo. I love the effect. Using double-sided tape, she created a border on a white piece of paper, then added pink glitter. She attached the photo to the glittered frame, then offset two pieces of patterned paper for a layered effect. Meanwhile, she used spray dyes to color a piece of off-white seam binding, then stitched down the middle with the same black thread.

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Almost done

She gathered the seam binding into a small puddle of sorts, then added a heart-shaped chipboard to the top.

The layering continued, using chipboard, crystal dots, glitter, unfolded and dyed paper cording and finally tissue paper.

I’ve been writing this in real-time over the last four hours, punctuated by a late-night snack and a glass of something with bubbles. We’re having fun and I’ve learned so much more by observing then if I had attempted a page on my own.

urban scrapbook page layout

The Reveal

I’ll write more about my visit when I’m home next week. Mike and the boys are in San Jose keeping the cats fed and the birdbaths full. I miss them of course, but I’m having a wonderful time. As luck would have it, my hosts have a pair of cats of their own.

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Blossum and Petals

You can see more of Boomdee’s work at Boomdeeadda and The Urban Scrapbook where she writes a bi-monthly column, Kelly’s Korner.

Nuvo Crystal Drops

BoBunny paper line

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Snoopy in a Snow Globe

Growing up in the late sixties and early seventies, we all looked forward to the once-a-year Christmas specials. Long before Netflix and DVRs, if you wanted to see a Christmas special you had to be in front of a TV at 7:30 pm sharp. We didn’t always have a TV so we would often watch at a friend’s.

My favorite Christmas specials included How the Grinch Stole Christmas and the iconic A Charlie Brown Christmas. I related to Charlie Brown’s underdog status. I went to school with unkind girls like Lucy. But the real joy came from the wonderful scenes with the ever-confident Snoopy and Woodstock. Snoopy’s scenes, animated to Guaraldi’s extraordinary music, are what made it special.

So when I decided to reprise my snow globe this year, Snoopy and Woodstock made it to center stage.

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Snoopy and Woodstock ornament

Several years ago, my friend Marcia gave the boys an acrylic globe. We’ve used it as a terrarium for a while till the plants outgrew it. Another year we filled it with round, silk ornaments. It’s also beautiful unadorned.

Two years ago I made my first snow globe with Snow-in-a-can, a gift from my friend Kelly.

This year I filled the bottom of the globe with a scrap of poly fiberfill. I added a piece of cardboard cut to size. For some added sparkle, I covered the cardboard with a piece of iridescent cellophane I saved from last year. It once wrapped a plate of brownies from a friend. It reminds me of ice under a sunny sky.

Snow globe collage A - E

Snow Globe: Setting the Stage

I opened a packet of Snow-in-a-can, added water and voila. I rolled a few tiny hobby shop trees in the snow to set the scene.

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Rolling a tiny tree in some artificial snow

Santa’s sleigh came together using a pair of felted stickers.

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Felt hats become a small sleigh

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Tiny hobby shop trees rolled in “snow” and a sleigh made from craft supplies

Our darling snowman is one of the tiny ornaments we bought our first year of marriage. His scarf is a gift from Kelly.

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The wee snowman is an 20-year-old ornament. His red scarf is a gift from Kelly and Alyster the Gnome

Here is the snow globe all put together. Now sit back and enjoy the falling snow, brought to us by WordPress this time of year.*

 

snow globe Mouse and Alys

Photographed outdoors to get the good light. The snow globe now sits in our living room. Mouse sits wherever he wants to because he’s a cat.

snow globe with Mouse talking

Mouse always has something to say

*WordPress should figure out a snow alternative for our blogging friends in the Southern Hemisphere.

Wild About Washi Tape

Have you joined the Washi Tape craze?

Washi tape gift box

I first spotted this colorful tape on a wall at MyMaido, a Japanese stationery store at Santana Row. An artist used the strips to make a small mural. Though intrigued, I couldn’t see myself using it in that way.

Over the next few years the colorful tape started popping up in crafting stores, the Scrapbook Island and on Pinterest.

The tape has been around since 2006. In a nutshell, it’s masking tape made beautiful. It’s easy to apply and easy to remove. According to Tofugo

Washi is made of up the Japanese characters 和 (wa) which means harmony and is often used to symbolize Japan, and 紙 (shi) which means paper. So put them together, and it means Japanese paper. Unlike western paper which is made from tree pulp, washi is made from Japanese shrubs. Washi can be made of almost any plant, but is typically made from ganpi, kozo, mitsumata, or sometimes hemp. Washi is known in the west for the beautiful designs that are printed or painted on it, and its differences from other papers through its light weight and textured feel.

I’ve always loved stationery, especially stickers and tape. It’s hard to describe the appeal, but it’s been there my whole life. I bought a couple of rolls of Washi tape at Scrapbook Island to use on a card, but then the rolls sat in my craft stash on standby, wondering what to do next.

Now I can’t get enough of it. The prices have come down while the variety of colors and prints has multiplied exponentially. Some of the earlier tapes didn’t adhere as well, but that’s improved too.

My friend Kelly uses colorful Washi tape to outline her gorgeous package labels. I capitalized on her idea and do the same. I also like using it to cover the ugly markings on a reused box before shipping.

My friend Stephanie crafted a gorgeous card using the tape, and from there, inspiration struck: I used a similar pattern to cover a plain brown box with a friend’s favorite colors before sending it as a gift.

No room is safe from this tape. Several years ago I hung a framed magnetic board inside a kitchen cabinet to keep phone numbers and coupons at hand.  Eventually the frame broke from constant use. I re-framed the board with Washi Tape, then added a few contrasting strips like a shelf under the cards.

Washi tape magnet board

Framing a magnet board

When I converted my son’s bedroom into a guest room this fall, I spruced up the wall lamp shades with postage-themed tape. It really added a nice finishing touch and was fun to do.

Washi tape lampshade

A bit of lampshade bling

It was nice receiving this free letter-opener in the mail but it’s not much to look at. I covered the advertising with Washi tape, beautifying an otherwise utilitarian object.

washi tape letter opener

Beautifying my office supplies

Even the tiny house in my fairy garden got a new set of floral Washi tape drapes.

Can you tell I’ve been having fun?

How about you? Do you have a favorite something that you just can’t get enough of?

Newly Hung Washi Tape Drapes

Newly Hung Washi Tape Drapes

Pilates and Cards of Destiny

playing card gift detail

Elizabeth’s initials between glass beads

Moving your body is key to good health. In addition to getting plenty of shut-eye, exercise gives you energy, strength and endurance. It’s also terrific for your heart, your lungs and your soul. For as long as I can remember I’ve been a mover. I joined the gymnastics team in high school, then moved on to dance in college. Tap was my favorite. After college I took Jazzercise, then picked up running as well. I hiked and even took a few belly dancing classes.

Years of injuries started to take a toll. I spent more time with physical therapists than I did on the trail.

Then I discovered Pilates. The exercises keep my back supple and give me the strength I need to work. The classes are challenging but that’s also what keeps them interesting. Keeping strong means I can continue to organize clients.My work involves a lot of bending, lifting and twisting. I attend two, one-hour classes a week and have stuck with it for a decade.

Tru-Balance Pilates Fitness

Elizabeth Cassidy owns and operates a Pilates studio in the Willow Glen community of San Jose. I have her to thank for the improvements to my posture and strength. Many of her students come to her with injuries. She has an innate understanding of how the body works. She’ll take one look at you and say “your back is out” or “what happened to your foot?” Even in group classes, she finds ways to accommodate our individual needs.

When Elizabeth’s birthday rolls around, I like to do something special. She’s passionate about cards and has her destiny cards displayed in the studio. She studied the science of cards in a destiny workshop with Robert Lee Camp. She made a copy for home, but damaged it in a move. That’s what inspired this gift. Now she has a second set to display at home.

destiny cards

Elizabeth’s Destiny Cards

I bought a few tools and some beads with guidance from Laura at Sew Beadazzled. Getting the holes just right was the most challenging. Once all four corners of each card had holes, I joined the rows with easy-bend rings. Laura said to open the rings in a twisting motion, instead of prying them apart. I’m sure I saved myself hours with that little tip.

Elizabeth taped her set of destiny cards to the studio wall, but these cards needed to hang free. After some thought, I bought a thin dowel, had Mike cut it into two pieces, then covered each piece with playing card-inspired Washi tape. I tried a shoe string, some ribbon and even considered more rings to hang the entire thing from the top but none of those options were quite right. Then I pulled out a black and white eyeglass lanyard from my craft supplies and yelled “Eureka!”…or something like that. With that in place I called it done.

I bought a large polka-dotted gift bag and added cards and butterflies to the mix.  The gift card is a series of playing cards hinged together with Happy Birthday spelled out in black vinyl letters. (I forgot take a picture). I made an envelope using an over-sized vintage envelope from my friend Donna’s vintage booth.

It was lots of fun creating something new and different with only a general idea of where it would lead.

gift bag close-up

Gift bag close-up

vintage playing card envelope

Vintage, over-sized playing card, made in to an envelope

Vintage, over-sized playing card

Vintage, over-sized playing card, reverse

Have you tried something new lately, something you wouldn’t normally do? Please share in the comments below.

Monday Musings

We’ve been dusting off the garden furniture and hanging our shade sails.  Summer is on the way. Temps shot up overnight, with a high of 90 degrees (32C) in the forecast. There’s a dry wind blowing as well, making if feel more like July than April. It’s a bit strange.

I (mostly) played hooky today, enjoying lunch on the patio of  The Left Bank with my friend Laura. I made phone calls in between our get together, but overall had a relaxing day.

left bank april 2015

The Left Bank, Santana Row

Yesterday I put the finishing touches on Laura’s birthday gift, a set of greeting cards and gift tags made using the Couture line of paper by Graphic 45.

Now that the birthday girl’s opened her gift, I can give you a little peek.

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Graphic 45 cards, vintage trim

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These shoes aren’t made for walking: Jet rhinestones by Kaiser Scrapbook, Couture paper by Graphic 45, vintage red seam binding from Green House Supply

Graphic 45 gift tags

Gift tags: Graphic 45 Couture paper and tags, vintage seam binding, Kaiser Scrapbook rhinestones

I trimmed the box and some of the cards with vintage seam binding from my friend Donna’s Antique Row booth. She sells a variety of ephemera with a changing selection, so it’s always fun to go look (and buy).

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Box trimmed with vintage seam binding, topped with Graphic 45 Couture

box detail

Box detail

In other garden news, I’m still trying to decide what to do with our garden swing. It’s in a sorry state thanks to the nest-building squirrels. I’ll share more about that in another post.

I hope your week is off to a terrific start.