Christmas Crafts Part 1: Giving Credit Where Credit is Due

Braided Bead Necklace

I made this lovely beaded necklace for my mom thanks to ECABI’m not even going to give you directions, follow hers. They were perfect.

The one piece of advice I will give here is to get your materials from a bona fide bead store. I love JoAnn as much as the next girl, but sometimes it just doesn’t cut it. A necklace this beautiful deserves a little respect.

Hand Painted Mugs

I’ve also been drooling over Wit & Whistle lately, specifically her incredible hand painted mug.

I knew Emily and Kyle needed mugs, so I bought a few from Crate and Barrel (rather than finding them at a thrift store which was my original intent, again a little respect). The only other thing I needed was Porcelaine paint outliner. I found that at Blick. Here’s how they turned out:

My advice: take your time. I did a small section, let it dry, did another small section, let it dry, etc. Spreading out the process helped me not smudge the paint as I went. I also did some searching to find other patterns that I liked so they wouldn’t all be the same.

Lessons Learned

Over Christmas, we’d show my nephew Luke how to roll a ball and once he was bored with that, he would figure out how to throw it or kick it on his own. He just needed a starting point.

Such is learning a new craft. Get to know new materials and you might be surprised what you can come up with on your own. My first attempts at these projects look exactly like the originals. But I have lots of ideas about how to alter that necklace now that I know the basic braid concept. And I can’t wait to find some other dishes to paint on. (Hey! That sounds like a great idea for a blog post…)

The point is, try stuff. Even if it looks exactly like the pattern you’re following. Use it as a springboard, and be sure to give credit where credit is due.

Next up, you guessed it! Christmas Crafts Part 2, the slightly more original ones.

The Friendly Beasts

I’m a little embarrassed to be posting this publicly. Although Alex is used to being on stage, I’m not one to sing for an audience. But Alex and I had fun recording this little song (animal noises and all), so press the play arrow in the audio player while you watch the slideshow below…

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Of all of the gifts Alex and I made this year, this book and song combo for 2-year-old Lukey was probably the most fun to work on. I love Alex’s whimsical drawings, and this might become an annual tradition, even if we just keep the books around for us. I uploaded the pictures into slideshow form here, but we actually gave him a printed book compiled on Shutterfly…

Here’s how to get more out of Shutterfly.com than a plain old photo book (muah ha ha!):

  • Choose a song or story, or write your own. We loved the simplicity of The Friendly Beasts.
  • Write and illustrate. While Alex drew, I wrote down the words of each verse.
  • Scan each page. We used our nifty home printer.
  • Go to shutterfly.com and upload the scanned images (just like real photos).
  • Place them in the correct order, and viola! A printed book on your doorstep in 3 days.

I feel pretty lucky to have a husband who knows his way around GarageBand AND a sketch book. I certainly don’t, so he gets lots of credit on this project. But even if you know nothing of software or sound editing, make this idea yours.

  • If you can’t sing, read a story out loud, or skip the recording altogether.
  • If you can’t draw, use real photos or have a kid in your life draw pictures for you (they’re not as scared as adults of not being good at something).
  • If you’re home printer doesn’t have a nifty scanner, take your pages to FedEx.

Make it a family project and I promise you’ll have an enjoyable Crafternoon. Especially if it includes a fire in the fireplace, hot chocolate with a little something extra, and 10 episodes of Parks and Recreation. Not kidding.

Island of Misfit Toys

In an effort to save some money (two weddings and a baby on the way: “somewhere between ouch and boing!”), my family opted to keep Christmas gifts simple this year. You better believe there are Schmunks crafting across the country as we speak.

But I’m here to tell you something that most craft blogs don’t: making stuff is hard.

Family, here is what you WON’T be getting for Christmas this year:

  • Jenn and Daniel, you won’t be getting these beautiful glass mugs etched with your monogram that turned out so sloppy I had to cover them up with chalk board paint that turned out as a big black nasty mess. Sorry.
  • Emily, you won’t be getting what should be classy ornament balls that actually look like mini pumpkins made of cheap sparkly white felt.
  • Mom, you’ll be getting version 3.0 of your gift because it took a few tries and color changes to get it right.
  • Kyle, you’re getting the best 4 out of 6, what that 4 is must remain a secret.

So kids, what have we learned today?

Well, I’d say a few things. Let me narrow them down into some crafting don’ts:

  1. Don’t take your frustration out on your new innocent husband.
    It’s not his fault that the paint gets blobby under the tape. Just say thank you when he drives you to Joann AGAIN in the stick-shift car you can’t drive yet.
  2. Don’t work on uncovered surfaces.
    Especially when working with acidic glass etching cream and drinking hot chocolate.
  3. Don’t buy cheap sparkly white felt no matter how loudly its calling your name.
    Period.
Oh yeah, and don’t quit. You might have to scratch part of or a whole project. (Anne Lamott calls these “shitty first drafts.”) Project books and blogs make things look simple, otherwise you wouldn’t even bother to try. The truth is it might take a couple of do-overs before it turns out right. And when it does, it’s quite satisfying.
Merry Christmas!

Default consumer.

I’m easily inspired. I’ll admit it. Cliche as it might be, the moon, Anthropologie displays, the violinist in the subway, a kitschy corner bar, a bowl of homemade chili, they make me feel all warm and giddy.

I heard once that we are meant to be both consumers and creators. I am by default a consumer. I sit in front of a computer all day with design, moviesblogsphotos, music and ideas at my fingertips. Inspiration requires only a click. Consuming is easy.

But creating? That’s what excites me most. It makes me feel awake and productive. It gives purpose to inspiration.

So here I go, starting a blog that’s main goal is to encourage creators, especially those who never thought they could be.