Handmade Holiday

I almost let this month go by without sharing some of my seasonal creative projects. This time of year is particularly busy and rich with making. Several years ago, I committed to making ornaments and holiday cards for my family. And every year I have more ideas than I can possibly pursue within the time and budget constraints. Although I admit to getting more stressed than I would like, I actually really enjoy my tradition of a handmade holiday.

The card itself was simple this year – a family photo taken on our property by Else Kerkmann. I printed and mounted the photo onto heavyweight cardstock, trimmed the corners round, and punched holes so I could attach the ornament with ribbon. The ornament was made from polymer clay cut into an evergreen tree shape. Sage and juniper sprigs were pressed into the soft clay before baking and then also tied to the final gold metallic-glazed piece. My 7 yr old loved working with the polymer clay and so I helped her make some heart ornaments adorned with red ribbon and a bell for her teachers.

In addition to a holiday card and ornaments, I often make a few seasonal decor items. This year included an outdoor “Joy” sign made from sage and juniper twigs tied with copper floral wire, as well as indoor lights strung up to express the same sentiment. I also made a little “Tomten” (Scandinavian gnome) with a body handsewn from t-shirt scraps, a faux fur beard, and wet-felted wool hat and booties.

I hope your holiday is a joyous, handmade one.

Binding of love…

The wedding of a dear friend prompted a collaboration with three others in our women’s circle. One took luminous photos of the ranchland that is the literal grounding force for the newlyweds. The second hand painted a complementary layer of floral and textural patterns in rich metallics and natural hues. The third created a unique essential oil for the couple. My role was to create the book and protective sleeve. When I received the painted photographs, already folded in half, I had no idea what I was going to do. I have never made a book before. But I knew I only had one shot at getting the design right, so I decided to create some mock-ups. My experiments (not pictured) turned out to be crucial in finding the right design solution. A traditional codex binding would put stitching down the center of each painting; Simply gluing the paintings front to back seemed risky and might create warped pages. Searching for ideas in books and on the internet, I happened upon the star fold binding technique. Nested, folded pages in varying lengths are put together to create a book that fans into a star pattern; each painting can open fully without any binding stitches down the center. The added bonus is that the book itself is a sculptural piece.

A traditional codex binding would put stitching down the center of each painting. Simply gluing the paintings front to back seemed risky and would likely create warped pages. Searching for ideas in books and on the internet, I happened upon the star fold binding technique. Nested, folded pages in varying lengths are put together to create a book that fans into a star pattern; each painting can open fully without any binding stitches down the center. The added bonus is that the book itself is a sculptural piece.

Watercolor paper was cut to a size a couple inches longer than the paintings, folded in half, and stitched into a traditional codex. The paintings were then glued to the forward edges of pages. I used museum board and metallic scrapbook paper for the cover and stitched the cover to the pages using copper wire. The heart charms represent the bride, groom, and the bride’s two children from a previous marriage.

For the sleeve, I wet felted natural brown and beige alpaca roving, incorporating a small pouch for the essential oil.

I am so happy with the outcome. It is as uniquely beautiful as the couple who received it.

Back to the stars…

There are certain materials that are my comfort zone – my star materials. You’ve seen them here. Felt. Paper. I even own the domain paperandfelt.com just in case I ever choose to focus and create exclusively with those two materials. I do love them. They are stars that I reference and return to over and over in my creative making.

This geometric star is inspired by traditional Finnish straw ornaments called Himmeli. (The root word “himmel” means sky or heaven in German, Swedish or Norwegian.) The foundation of the Himmeli is the triangle. Tying varying lengths of straws into triangles, and then combining the triangles into 3-dimensional structures, you can create all sorts of beautiful sculptures. Made of tightly rolled magazine paper threaded on silver floral wire, this unique wall decoration is light enough to hang on a pin. I have used it to display tillandsia (air plants) and it even was the star topper to our tree last Christmas.

Look around the internet and you’ll see a variety of traditional Himmeli made from natural straw, and contemporary Himmeli made from metal tubes or colorful, plastic straws. May you find the inspiration you need to create your own.

Today I write…

I have been neglecting my blog recently; not for lack of making, but for a lack of focus on what to say about what I make. Writing meaningful posts does not come as easily to me as making. I am more prolific than profound as a maker. And I have sat with that pronouncement and procrastinated too long because of it. So today I write – not because I have anything really important to say, but because I want to model to those dear to me that faced with a challenge, I do not settle. I change “I can’t” into “I can and I will.” Because it is not easy. Because it is challenging. Because that is the stuff that makes us grow.



One 4x4x8 cedar post…


We recently adopted a two-year-old cat from the local shelter. And since cats need to scratch things, I decided to make a scratching post – because why buy, when you can make? So I simply wrapped the base of an 8 ft long cedar (untreated) wood post with a couple spools of sisal rope. Since sisal is a natural material, the spools were slightly different colors, which I only noticed when I started wrapping with the second one. I used poultry wire staples to secure the rope. A locking wheel is attached at the base of the post to make it easily portable to different locations in the house. Both the wood and the sisal are great scratching surfaces. But unfortunately, we have since discovered that our cat prefers to scratch leather – in particular, my husband’s antique club chairs. So this scratching post will soon be redesigned and wrapped in leather.
An 8 ft long post is taller than necessary for a cat scratcher, so I sawed 30″ off. I used this piece to make a lawn dice game and a couple candlestick holders. Thanks to a local maker space called DIYCave, I had access to all the tools I needed to cut, sand, and drill to make the dice and candlestick holders.

Mindful Doodling

How often do you find yourself at one of those paint-your-own-pottery stores? If you have young kids like me, it is at least once a year. You would think a creative person like me would love such an opportunity. But I don’t for various reasons, including dissatisfaction with the finished piece. So I usually sit and watch my kids while they happily paint another bowl, mug, jewel box, or figurine. But when I went with an extended family group, it seemed inappropriate to not participate. So I chose a simple plate, a small brush, and black paint and just started to doodle.

The act of doodling is freeing. No form or figure is required. It does not have to BE anything. And the black/white format freed me from any color clashes (because we all know those powdery paints never look the same as the vivid samples after firing.) Mindful doodling is slightly different than just random doodling. I am watching lineweight and balancing the patterns as I go. There are no rules, yet I am following my instinct for what feels right; just enough marks to fill the plate. And for the first time ever, I actually really like the finished piece.

Woolly jewelry…

Winter is lingering here in Central Oregon. Skies are gray, snow is falling, and temperatures are hovering around 30 degrees. Warm layers and outerwear are still the required clothing, so wool jewelry is a perfect accessory. Using natural, cream-colored alpaca wool roving and yarn, I made a wrist cuff, earrings, rings, and necklace by combining the processes of wet felting, needle felting, and hand stitching. Minimal, modern, and monochromatic – this set of wool jewelry adds a gesture of warmth to the winter wardrobe. Some items are available in my Etsy shop.

Handmade Hearts…

As a maker, you would think that I never buy commercial Valentine cards. In a perfect world, I would make all holiday and event gifts, cards, and decor by hand. Now just imagine that. Not happening. I buy things like most everyone else, and for the same reasons. Time, resources, personal tastes, etc. So this year I bought Valentines with cute erasers for my 6yr old to give to her classmates. And then I felt guilty. How many cards are actually saved? What is the real lasting value? I bet all of these end up in the trash or recycle bin. In our home, we have amassed quite a collection of (unused) erasers and pencils from every holiday and birthday. Too much stuff.

So I returned the Valentines and erasers to the store, then sat down with my daughters to create special hand made hearts using supplies we already had at home.

The first is a transparent heart filled with glitter and iridescent paper hearts inscribed with sweet phrases. The plastic for the heart was cut from packaging for a bed linen set. We used a sewing machine to stitch the edge in pink thread, but handstitching would be extra special.

Next, we made a 3D heart ornament using a hot pink paper that we had collected from a recycling bin. Using a paper punch, we cut 14 hearts, folded them in half, and glued them together. We added the ribbon before gluing the final sides.

Finally we cut up an old, dark pink, wool sweater that we first felted by washing and drying hot. Felted wool can be cut without unraveling. We used a sewing machine to stitch around the edge with pink thread, filling the heart with polyester fill that we had saved from an old stuffed animal. “Love” was handstitched onto the heart with cream wool yarn.

I can never assume that these handmade Valentines will be saved or cherished any longer than a storebought one. But I’m OK with that since the resources we used were either on-hand, or upcycled. The real value is the experience of making them and giving them away. That is a lasting, joyful memory.

Origami Coffee Scoop

I recently acquired an unlikely but exceptionally effective Aeropress espresso coffee maker that consists of 3 simple plastic parts. I do still miss the hum of our old Expobar espresso machine that died, but this new set up makes an awesome Americano and has the added advantage of being portable for camping or travel.

The only problem, albeit a small one, was that I needed an efficient way to transfer the coffee grounds from our grinder to the Aeropress. I wanted something reusable, easy to wash and simple to store. The idea for a fused-plastic, folded scoop was born.

I have made things using fused plastic in the past. The process for fusing plastic is very simple, although it can be a challenge these days to find plastic shopping bags. As you can see from the photos, there is only one store I frequent here in my town that still uses plastic bags. I cut off the seams and the handles of 4-5 bags and stack the flattened layers of plastic between two sheets of parchment paper. Using an iron on medium heat setting, press firmly and evenly across the pile of plastic. The plastic will quickly melt and shrink into a solid sheet of plastic. Keep ironing, turning and flipping it occasionally, until the sheet of fused plastic is no longer visibly shrinking. Once the plastic cools, you can trim off any irregular edges.

To make my scoop, I trimmed the plastic sheet into a long rectangle. Then I folded it in half in both directions as well across both diagonals. The open, creased rectangle is laid under the spout of the grinder to catch the grinds. By pinching half of the long rectangle together, a scoop is formed on the other half, making it easy to pour the grinds into the coffee press. The fused plastic is durable, easy to wash, and dry, and fold to store away.

What have you created out of necessity – the mother of invention?