Category Archives: DIY

The Adventures of a Sizzix Big Shot Newbie

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Every once in a while I stumble upon something that changes my creative life forever.  My most recent life-changing find?  A Sizzix Big Shot machine.  Yes, I know – personal die cutting & embossing machines have been around for some time.  I’m definitely on the late freight where this tool is concerned, and might’ve continued on as I was – unaware and missing out.  Luckily for me, I was hired to work at Ellison – the makers of Sizzix products.  Woo hoo!

Since late May I’ve been thoroughly immersed in the world of die cutting and embossing and I LOVE it.  And though I’ve gradually been learning the things Sizzix  machines can do and cut, I haven’t had the chance to do much crafting lately.  I’d been given a machine starter kit so I could get familiar with how everything worked back in May, but aside from a test run my first week I hadn’t had the chance to do much.  That changed this past weekend.

I pulled out an assortment of my art and crafting materials, and gave the machine a whirl.  I tried cutting an assortment of materials, and also did a quick DIY project.  I made some tags using a die, some chipboard, and Washi Tape, and will share that project on Tuesday – so stay tuned!

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Materials I Cut with My Big Shot and a Steel Rule Die:

Cardstock
Artist canvas
Watercolor paper
Sand paper
Metal embossing sheets
Fabric (cotton and lace)
Wire Mesh
Specialty paper (washi paper, etc.)
Felt
Photos
Mat board
Vintage ledger paper

Steel Rule Dies can also cut these materials:
Leather
Aluminum can
Magnet sheets
Cork
Crafting foam
– anything you can cut with scissors!

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Die Cutting Rocks!  Why?
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Dies cut perfectly.  No trying to follow your traced shape, over cutting, or under cutting.

You can cut multiple layers of materials at once depending on what you’re cutting.  For example, I can cut 6-8 layers of cardstock in one pass, depending on the paper.  I was also able to cut three layers of thin chipboard in one pass.  This is a huge time saver!

The creative possibilities are endless.  In addition to the machine and dies cutting a wide variety of materials, you can use the machine in oodles of creative endeavors.  Here are some projects you could use this kind of machine on – just off the top of my head:

Cards
Scrapbook pages
Collages
Garlands
Party Decorations
Invitations
Tags & other gift-wrapping elements
Journals
Enhancing bulletin boards
ATCs (Artist Trading Cards)
Food packaging (gifts)
Bookmarks
Banners
Mobiles
Jewelry (including pins & pendants)
Quilting
Wearable Art

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I was able to cut 18 tags at once by stacking 8 pieces of paper and running them through the Big Shot. Woo hoo! Quick and easy!

Embossing, too?  Yes!
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My Big Shot also embosses, which allows me to customize papers in infinite combinations by mixing different embossing folders with different colors and types of paper.  Such fun and such variety. :]

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I Wish I’d Had One Sooner…
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Some of the DIY projects I’ve posted here on this blog over the past three years would’ve benefitted from using this machine.  They would’ve been quicker and easier – no doubt about it.  Here are a few of the projects I could’ve used my Big Shot on if I’d had one back then:

Aluminum Star Ornaments
Cards from Scrap

The Tip of the Iceberg
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I’m definitely a newbie when it comes to all the Big Shot can do, but I’ve seen enough to be impressed and excited by the possibilities.  I haven’t even mentioned chemically etched dies (like Thinlits & Framelits) stamp-to-cut, or embossing diffusers in this post.  Just wanted to share the bit I’ve learned and experimented with.  If you aren’t familiar with this kind of machine, and are a crafter or artist, you may want to check it out.

I hope you have a wonderful week!

Warm regards,
Melody

*Disclosure: I was given a Big Shot and some dies free of charge, but there was no request, suggestion or expectation – verbal or implied – that I do a blog post in exchange for the product.  I’ve created this post of my own accord because I’m excited about the possibilities. :]  The butterfly die I used in the post is one I purchased – it’s from the Tim Holtz Alterations line.  I also purchased two of the embossing folders above – the bubble wrap pattern, and the beehive pattern.

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DIY: Vintage Button Pendants

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As you likely know by now, I LOVE vintage buttons.  I collect them, and have a box full of them.  I love using them in both art and craft projects, and have featured some of my button projects here in the past – like the button bracelets I made earlier this year.  Given my penchant for vintage buttons – and for necklaces/pendants – I truly have no idea why it’s taken me this long to make vintage button pendants. Silly me!

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I recently sat down to try making my first batch of pendants, and ended up making over 20.  Yep, I’m hooked!  Not only will these little beauties add a lot of options to my “jewelry wardrobe”, I love the idea of wearing some of the very bits and bobs that I love so much.  It’s much better than the buttons sitting in my box. :]  Button pendants are easy to make, and are so versatile.  And while I chose to pull buttons from my vintage stash, you can certainly use new buttons as well…

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Materials
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Buttons
Bails (I purchased some at a bead store, and some on eBay – photo above)
Wire clippers
Sand paper
Quick-set Epoxy, E6000, or a permanent jewelry adhesive of your choice

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Instructions
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1.  Decide which buttons you want to combine to create a pendant.  I used as little as two, and as many as four. Make sure they’ll stack together well.
2. Cut the shanks off the back of any buttons that have them.

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3. Sand off any remaining pieces of the shank if desired.
4. Stack the buttons together and glue them together with your permanent adhesive.
5. Glue a bail on the back of your bottom-most button.  Let dry completely.
6. Wear and enjoy!

Here are some of the pendants I created…

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Please let me know if you have any questions, dear readers.  Happy Creating!

Warm regards,
Melody

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DIY: Cambria-Inspired Driftwood Necklace

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I love driftwood – pieces that have been stripped of their bark and worn smooth by the sea.  This necklace’s foundation consists of two such pieces of driftwood – pieces I gathered on the beach in Cambria.  Cambria is a town on California’s central coast, and its slogan is “Pines by the Sea.”  It’s a charming, small town that combines a unique mountainy feel with that of a beachside community and I love it.  It’s my home away from home.

Not only does Cambria have pines and lots of driftwood, it’s also home to many deer.  I’m always entranced when I catch sight of them, and some of the gift-related stores in town feature antlers in one form or another.  And while I love these antlers and love the town they bring to my mind, I don’t want to have a real rack of antlers hanging about since I couldn’t be sure if they were obtained in a Bambi-friendly way.  They also don’t quite go with the decor here at home in Southern California.  :]

So, I love this necklace for two reasons.  Not only does it remind me of Cambria because that’s where I plucked the driftwood from the beach, but also because these two pieces of wood look a bit like antlers to me.  This simple and inexpensive statement necklace is a fun and animal-friendly way to embrace Cambria and some of the town’s natural beauty.

I’ve opted to keep this necklace very simple and natural, but there are many ways you could enhance this DIY jewelry project.  Whether you paint or burn designs into the wood, add beads and charms to your design, or even add more pieces of wood, the sky’s the limit!  It’s all a matter of personal preference.

wood

Materials
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Driftwood – 2 small pieces
Fine sanding block or sand paper
Thick/sturdy pin, very thin nail, or something similar to poke holes into the wood
Epoxy (I used Devcon 5 Minute Epoxy)
Thin wire (I used 32 guage)
2 screw eyes: #216 – 1/2″
Silver chain (my chain measures 22″ long)
2 jump rings (optional)

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Instructions
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  1. Sand any rough, scratchy edges with a fine sanding block or sand paper
  2. Decide how you’d like your wood pieces to lay out and where you’ll join the two pieces
  3. Poke or drill a hole through the two pieces of driftwood – work slowly and carefully to avoid splitting the wood
  4. Apply epoxy to the appropriate spot of the bottom piece of wood, then insert the stick pin through the holes in both pieces of wood, to ensure they’re properly aligned while the epoxy sets
  5. Sand any extra epoxy from around the place where your two wood pieces are joined after the pieces have set
  6. Thread your wire down between the two pieces and out the bottom. Wrap the wire around the two pieces to bind them in a way that appeals you and twist the ends together at the back when you’re done.  Trim wire ends.
  7. Attach screw eyes to the back of the tops of the two wood pieces – one on either side.  (You may find it easier to first start each hole with a push pin, as I did)  You’ll need to screw them at an angle, so they lay flatter to the surface of the wood instead of being completely perpendicular
  8. Attach your chain of choice to the screw eyes with jump rings, or attach your chain directly to to the screw eye as I did – by opening the screw eye with pliers, slipping on the chain, and then closing up the screw eye.

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What Do You Think?
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I’m thinking about adding a small piece of soft sea glass to the bottom of this piece.  It would hang off the end where the two pieces of wood are wrapped together with wire.  What do you think?  Should I add a piece of glass, or leave it as is?

I’m hoping this post will inspire you to create something with materials you’ve gathered from a favorite place.  Whether you use wood, stones, shells, or something else entirely, inspiration is all around! Please let me know if you have any questions, dear readers.

Warm regards,
Melody

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Patriotic Vintage Doily Wreath

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Happy Tuesday!

I recently changed up my wreath – you know, the one I’ve decorated for Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Spring thus far.  (Well, I also did a St. Patrick’s Day version, but guess who forgot to take a photo before switching to spring?  Ack!)  This incarnation features red, white and blue.  The wreath was switched up in time for Memorial Day, and will stay this way until after the 4th of July.

To create this look I pulled some blue doilies from my stash, as well as some red and white “bullseye” doilies.  I decided to add some simple foil stars and a bit of white ribbon to finish it off, and love the look. Because I pin the doilies on each time with T-pins it’s easy to take off the old doilies and add the new ones.

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What do you think?  I hope you like it.  Please let me know if you’ve been inspired to create a doily wreath of your own…

Warm regards,
Melody

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A New Crocheted Wreath Variation: Spring!

I’m continuing to modify the crocheted wreath I created back in December – it’s so easy to do since the doilies are just pinned on!  Thus far I’ve shared two versions: Christmas and Valentine’s Day.  Today I’m showing my newest version: Spring!

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I used crocheted doilies and floral pot holders in purples and yellows, and love how the wreath turned out. Two of my favorite flowers are irises and daffodils, and the color scheme of this wreath reminds me of those two flowers.
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I didn’t make this a “strictly Easter” wreath since this version is likely to hang until June, when I’ll work on creating a 4th of July-themed wreath. So this wreath uses spring colors, but doesn’t include bunnies, chicks, or eggs – though I was tempted because I love all three of those things!
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Spring begins tomorrow, so I’d like to wish you a Happy Spring a bit early.  If you live in a cold climate, I hope you enjoy nicer weather.  :]
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Warm regards,
Melody
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Crocheted Valentine’s Wreath

valentines_wreath

Hi, y’all!

Remember when I shared that Vintage Crocheted Wreath back in December?  The one I hung for Christmas?  Well, in that post I mentioned that it would be easy for me to modify the wreath for different holidays or themes throughout the year.  By pinning my doilies and potholders on instead of gluing, it was super easy to take some of the pieces off and add new pieces to create a Valentine’s Day wreath.  This version is all red, white, and cream, and I think it’s darling.

I’ll likely make a new version of the wreath for the spring, and will share that new wreath with you in a month or two.  In the meantime, do you have questions, comments, feedback?  I’d love to hear from you…

Warm regards,
Melody

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DIY: Cork Pendants

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Corks are pretty awesome.  Not only can you stamp with them and make them into place card holders, you can make them into jewelry as well.  What’s that, you say?  Jewelry?  Yep!  I decided to try and make some pendants from wine corks, and am very pleased with the results.  I think this project is incredibly versatile, and I love the idea of up-cycling.

Plus, you can likely use little bits and pieces of your existing creative stash (provided you’re into arts and crafts) – small pieces of your favorite papers, ribbons, fabrics, and a few other goodies.  I only had to buy one thing (screw eyes), and bet you can make these pendants primarily from things you have on hand already, too.

Suggested Materials
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Corks – I used real corks from wine bottles (versus plastic/foam corks)
Paint, gesso, or acrylic ink
Paint brush
Ribbon
Fabric
Thin Decorative Paper
Wire
Beads
Sequins
Sequin Pins
Screw Eyes
Straight Pins
Cord, ribbon or chain to hang the pendants from

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Directions
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  1. Apply color to cork, if desired.  (I used black acrylic ink, purple acrylic ink, and white gesso)  Let dry. Wipe some color off with a dry paper towel when the cork is nearly dry if you’d like a slightly mottled surface.
  2. Select materials to embellish your cork with, and decide on how many “decorative bands” you’ll have.
  3. Cut materials to proper size.  Corks are 2″ long on average.  If you’ll have just one type of decorative material, cut the piece slightly narrower than the cork is – end to end.If you’ll have two different decorative bands, cut each piece to 1/3 the length of your cork.  If you’ll have three different bands, cut your strip to approximately 1/4″.  Each strip should be long enough to wrap around the cork twice, which is approximately 6″.
  4. Pin one end of your ribbon/paper/fabric down with sequin pins, wrap the remaining length around the cork, and secure the ends with more pins.  You can add sequins or beads onto this “closing pin” if you’d like to add a bit more pop.
  5. Embellish the bottom by affixing a bead or bauble with a straight pin.
  6. Attach a screw eye to the top.  This will allow you to hang the pendant from a chain or cord.

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Attaching the ribbon to the cork with pins

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Pinning the ribbon closed, with sequins added

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A bead and silver finding are attached to the bottom with a longer, silver straight pin

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After the screw eye is attached at the top, the pendant is strung with a ribbon hanger

VERY Versatile
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Not only can you use these pendants in different ways – by wearing them, hanging them from your car’s rear view mirror, or using them as ornaments, you can also make them in very different ways.

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MILAGROS & COLORFUL FIBERS
cork_pendant_milagros2* 
In this variation I drilled a hole through the pre-painted cork, threaded it onto some cool fibers, tied some extra fiber pieces into a tassel at the bottom, and added wire and milagro charms as the cork’s embellishment.
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GOAL PENDANTS
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I made these two corks into Goal Setting & Reminder Pendants.  I’m a big believer in setting goals and taking action, and I thought that writing my goals and working it into a pendant would be a great way to stay focused on that goal.  Wearing the pendant is a reminder of what I’m working towards – a way to keep my aspirations close to my heart.  Literally.  :]
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To make these Goal Setting & Reminder Pendants you’ll just need to write your goals down, and attach your text layer to the cork when you pin down your ribbon/paper/fabric.  Just make the paper that you write on a bit shorter than the decorative/outermost layer that goes on top of it.
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PAPER & BEADS

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RIBBON & BEADS

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INFINITE POSSIBILITIES!
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There are so many ways to modify and customize this project.  I’m glad I have several more corks to work with!  Questions?  Comments?  I’d love to hear from you, dear readers…
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Oh, and by the way, I’ll be launching my Etsy shop soon and will be listing some Cork Pendants for sale. So, if you like these pendants, would like one of your own, and know that you won’t get around to making one for yourself, please keep an eye out for my shop’s launch announcement! :]
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Warm regards,
Melody
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Making Button Bracelets

colorful_bracelet

I’ve been wanting to make button bracelets for the longest time.  Why?  I love buttons, and love the idea of making jewelry out of them!  I also may have a small of a collection to choose buttons from, so it’s a great way to make use of one of my favorite things.

button_box

Okay, so I actually have a photo box full of buttons sorted by color.  But really, who doesn’t?!  Kidding. Yes, I have a thing for buttons.  (The glass bowl in the upper left corner contains buttons I bought last week but haven’t sorted by color and put away yet.) I finally got around to ordering a few different types of bracelet blanks, and made my first two button bracelets.

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There are many tutorials about how to make these bracelets online, so I won’t go into super explicit detail, but here’s an overview.

Materials
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materials

Buttons
Bracelet blanks (I purchased mine online, here – two different types)
Aleene’s Jewelry & Metal Glue or a similar permanent adhesive
Wire cutters
Sand Paper

Directions
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  1. Select the buttons you plan to use, and get them ready for gluing.  If your button has a shank on the back (like the the buttons on the bracelet left did), cut them off carefully with the wire cutters.  If any of the shank remains, sand the bottom of the button on the sandpaper until the bottom is level.
  2. If you’re going to layer buttons (like the buttons in the bracelet on the right) glue or sew them together before glueing the bottom buttons to the bracelet blank.
  3. Decide on the order you’d like the buttons in, and glue them on.  Let set if need be – depending on the type of the adhesive you use.
  4. Wear and enjoy, or give as a gift!

bracelets

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Do you have any questions, dear readers?  I hope you like my first two Button Bracelets.  I can’t wait to wear them, and to make some more!

Warm regards,
Melody

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It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas!

star_tree

I really enjoy decorating for the holidays, and was excited to change things up a bit this year.  We usually decorate with the same items and theme, and I decided this year would be different.  Why?  I guess it feels like I missed out on celebrating some things this year since I didn’t dress up for Halloween and was sick on Thanksgiving Day with a nasty headache.  So, when it came to Christmas I decided to go big.  I’m feeling particularly festive since I’ve been cleared by the doctor for full use of both my hands.  Hurray!  It was a real pleasure to decorate our home for the holidays, and I hope you enjoy what I came up with.

Doilies Everywhere!
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As I mentioned in my Doily-Inspired Mandalas post, I’ve collected a number of doilies over the past few months.  One of the lots of doilies included several identical white doilies, and I decided to make a garland with them – to hang over a doorway.  I also decided to use some of the larger doilies for wall decor.  But first I had to stiffen them. Armed with a mixture I made by cooking cornstarch and water, I did just that.

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The eight white doilies are linked together with old-school brass brads.  I added some ribbon bows and vintage silver candy molds to add some “pop”.

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These three large doilies look nice alongside the window, and the silver floral trim that I glued in the center really added some sparkle to otherwise flat pieces.

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This view is from the bedroom, showing the backside of the garland – looking towards the tree.

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Our tree has to be elevated up off the ground because of our pet rabbits, and I decided to use a table cloth that my mother-in-law cross-stitched years ago for our “tree skirt”.  I love the look of it, and it has a lot of sentimental value.

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Our main tree, lit.  I left our typical hand-painted tin Mexican ornaments off the tree this year, and used lights, glass bulbs and snowflakes instead.  I already had all those things though – the only things I purchased were the doilies used elsewhere in the room.

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I found this vintage tinsel star at a thrift store in Kansas in 2009.  Cost?  A mere 75 cents!

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This smaller green tree sits atop our bookshelf.  If those star ornaments look familiar, it’s because I shared how to make them in a DIY post last year: Aluminum Star Ornaments!  The star atop the tree is – yep, you guessed it – another stiffened doily.  I glued an old rhinestone earring into the center of the star to add some oomph.  The tree’s base and the the top of the bookshelf were “doilied”, too. :]

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Here are the little tree and wreath that I put out in the studio, in the corner next to (and above) my desk.  Tinsel rules in the studio this year, but I still have doilies under the tree and under the tiny baby Jesus.

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And of course, here’s the Vintage Crocheted Wreath I shared on Tuesday – which is hanging on the inside of our front door.

I wasn’t kidding when I said there are doilies every where!  The look I was going for is Modern Vintage, which is how I often describe my artwork – particularly my collages.  I love vintage, but want to keep it “clean” and interesting – and I don’t want it to look too saccharine.  Pretty, unique, and a bit unexpected – those are words I’d like used to describe this year’s decor.  Do you think I succeeded in keeping a bit of an edge?

Do you have a theme that you work with when it comes to your holiday decor, dear readers?  I hope you’ll comment and share.  Oh, and if you’re interested in the recipe/process for stiffening the doilies with cornstarch, just let me know.  I’d be happy to post a link in the comments to the page I referenced when I worked on the doilies.

Warm regards,
Melody

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Vintage Crocheted Wreath

completed_wreath1

Back in October I saw a super cool wreath idea on the blog 20 North Ora.  “Ms. Ora’s” wreaths were made with vintage crocheted potholders and doilies, and I just loved the idea of using beautiful needleworked items in a wreath. So clever!  I found the doilies and potholders I needed to make the wreath on eBay and followed the directions on the 20 North Ora blog post with just a few exceptions.

1. I did use a straw wreath as instructed, but covered it with inexpensive white acetate ribbon instead of lace.  The wreath I selected is 13″ in diameter at the outer edges.

2. I didn’t use any glue, I just pinned the doilies on with T pins. I like the idea of being able to take this wreath apart and re-make it in a different color scheme/pattern if I want.

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Straw wreath covered with ribbon

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Crocheted pieces laid out, ready for pinning

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Pinned, before the bow was attached

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I think vintage needlework is lovely and am pleased with how well the three round pieces and three square potholders came together on this one wreath.  I just added a simple bow of aged and tattered lace to finish it off, and it was ready to hang. What do you think?

Personally, I really love that this wreath idea is so versatile.  By mixing different colors and patterns you can make themed wreaths for any occasion – Christmas, Chanukah, Valentine’s Day, Spring, 4th of July, and more. Or just choose colors and patterns that will appeal to you year-round and skip the seasonal reference!

completed_wreath2a

Oh, and by the way, if you happen to have any vintage crocheted potholders similar to those on my wreath, aren’t using them, and want them to go to a good home, please keep me in mind! I’d be happy to adopt them.  :]

Warm regards,
Melody

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