christmas card stringy thing

The finished product. Not great if you've got a kid that walks and grabs.

The finished product. Not great if you’ve got a kid that walks and grabs.

Pete’s started calling it a “card tree” but I don’t think it’s really an accurate description of this thing I just created out of necessity. When we lived in our old apartment, a lovely third-floor number in an old three-family that had been redone and was quite quaint, we had tall wainscoting in the kitchen that was a great spot to tape up our Christmas cards. They just kind of got taped around the room and became instant decorations that were fun to look at.

Last year we were in our new-to-us house for the first time and we didn’t know what to do with those cards anymore. We tried taping them to the edge of the staircase but they just kept falling down. When people sat down on the bench that’s in front of the stairs, the cards would fall on their heads. It was a hassle.

This year, I decided that I had to create some kind of card solution because I just love displaying them! Cute little kids and adorable pets and pretty illustrations and sentiments…cards are the best. Mail is the best. Luckily, the bare basement door is the perfect place for display where everyone will get to see them (the door is in a high-traffic open area). So, I found the perfect spot, but…for what? I roamed around A.C. Moore for about a half hour before the gears started turning. I like teeny tiny clothespins, so I wanted to use them. So how about just a string with the cards hanging on them? But that seemed too easy (although it would probably be prettier…a garland of cards! Maybe next year…). I opted instead for a vertical display: strings hanging freely from a dowel, dripping with holiday cheer. Yay! It was crazy easy. I also got to use the glue gun, a task I truly enjoy.

Materials! Some wood, some ribbon, some twine, and some glue. And don't forget the tiny clothespins! Now that I'm thinking about it, a nice thick twig with twine would work well, too.

Materials! Some wood, some ribbon, some twine, and some glue. And don’t forget the tiny clothespins! Now that I’m thinking about it, a nice thick twig with twine would work well, too.

Glue the ribbon to the wood. Cover that sucker. Don't worry about it being messy on the back.

Glue the ribbon to the wood. Cover that sucker. Don’t worry about it being messy on the back.

Tie the twine however you like. Knots, bows, beads...who knows? I encourage creativity! I'm a fan of bows, myself. I added a dab of hot glue to tack it down.

Tie the twine however you like. Knots, bows, beads…who knows? I encourage creativity! I’m a fan of bows, myself. I added a dab of hot glue to tack it down.

Tiny clothespins!

Tiny clothespins!

My helper elf.

My helper elf.

And that’s it! How do you display your holiday cards?

…by the door frame with care

It’s here!

It’s really here!

Here at LftPR, Christmas officially begins the day after Thanksgiving. I mean, I like Thanksgiving and all, but there’s something magical about Christmas that no other holiday can match. It’s a combination of all kinds of wonderful things: the smell of pine trees and gingerbread, the taste of candy canes swirled in hot cocoa, the brightness of lights on a dark winter evening. And, being the morning person I am (really!), no other morning can match the joy of Christmas morning. I don’t care how old I get, I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of it. Oh! And Christmas carols! You absolutely cannot forget those. I mean, real, beautiful, hymn-type Christmas carols. Yep.

New stockings. Wish we had a mantel for them, but the door frame's good enough. :)

Merry little stockings!

Anyway, in honor of the beginning of this season of magic and miracles, I decided it was high time I made us some Christmas stockings. We already had stockings, but they weren’t…well, they weren’t just right. Memories of stockings at Christmas inevitably turn to my awesome mother, who cross-stitched wonderful scenes onto all of our Christmas stockings. She’s working on one right now for Pete! Each one is different and perfect in its own way. It didn’t feel quite right to go from that wonderful tradition to some mass-produced stockings that didn’t have much heart (if you have a mass-produced stocking and love it, that’s good, too! We’ve got lots of store-bought Christmas stuff!).

 

I used the old stockings as a basic template, but extended the length of the toe a bit. The foot of the old stockings was kind of stumpy. I also tried to give the ankle a little definition.

"Spongebob! It's not the boots, it's the boot-y! Erm, the person wearing the boots."

“Spongebob! It’s not the boots, it’s the boot-y! Erm, the person wearing the boots.”

After that it was actually pretty easy. I cut two pieces for the front and back, and then two pieces for a lining. For the front piece I also sewed in a stiff interfacing, so the stockings would keep their shape as they hung. I wasn’t too worried about making the seams face each other on the inside (so that there would be no visible seams), since our old store-bought stockings had visible seems AND they were fraying pretty badly. I thought to myself, “If they can sell this crap, I can surely be excused for doing it in a homemade project.” Of course, I did try to one-up them a bit, by serging the seams to prevent frays.

Sergin' it.

Sergin’ it.

Truth be told, I don’t usually serge the seams of anything I make, mostly because it can be time-consuming. It makes a project take twice as long (unless you have some wonderful advice, which I would love to hear). But, I wanted these stockings to last a good long while, and I figured this was a good way to ensure it. Not only that, but they do look more professional and tidy.

Adding some pizazz.

Adding some pizazz.

It was important to me that these stockings be personalized, in the sense that they were stockings we felt were very us. I had a hard time picking out fabrics. To match or not to match? Whimsical or classic design? I really liked this fun, bright tree pattern, but I couldn’t find anything else that didn’t look stupid with it. But maybe I shouldn’t care if they go together at all? Basically, I had a devil of a time and went up to the cutting counter about four times, only to turn around each time and try and decide on something else. The problem was that I liked so many fabrics! Such a shame you only need one stocking. At any rate, I got two that go with a lot of the decorations we already have, are still really cute, and also coordinate. There’s a part of me that LOVES a mismatched Christmas (and believe me, lots of our stuff is mismatched), but for two things hanging next to each other…I don’t know. I just couldn’t bring myself to do one in bright oranges and blues and the other in muted maroon and sage. Meh.

As you can see from the picture, I also bought pom-poms and buttons and trims that I felt would make the stockings look cheerier.

The hardest part, sewing-wise, was the cuff. I made both a little too long so the circumference was bigger than the stocking, and all in all it was pretty annoying.

The first step is figuring how how you sew the damn thing. Inside out? Right-side in? It took some doing.

The first step is figuring how how you sew the damn thing. Inside out? Right-side in? It took some doing.

To fix the circumference problem, I puckered the cuff at the opposite edge of the seam, figuring that when I folded it over, it wouldn’t be too noticeable. Luckily my bet paid off!

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

Except for a few minor mistakes that I won’t mention, I think they came out pretty good! Santa will have some nice new stockings to fill this year. I also really like the way they jazz up the living room. They have a lot more personality than the old stockings!

Will you be making anything homemade this holiday season?

P.S. Check out my friend Julia’s blog post for Goodwill Industries on using thrifted items to make your own stockings! How timely! You can also see her personal blog here, or buy some beautiful handmade Christmas presents from her Etsy shop.

the long road to gingerbread day

As some of you may know, my parents host a huge gingerbread house-building party every year. It takes weeks to prepare for the event. All the gingerbread must be baked from scratch. When you’re planning on building 40 or 50 houses, that’s a lot of baking that needs to get done!

Since they began hosting the party (more than 10 years ago!), my dad has taken on the role of gingerbread baker extraordinaire. This year, with two extra parties to worry about (library parties! for the public!), upwards of 80 houses need to be baked. What that really means: 160 roof pieces, 160 wall pieces, 80 back pieces, and 80 front w/door pieces. Since lots of those houses are destined for my place of work, I figured the least I could do was to try and learn the trade to help out.

The humble beginnings of a few beautiful gingiehouses.

Today was my first solo attempt. I still have some things to figure out. My dad uses special rolling pin rings to keep the dough at an even thickness. My rolling pin is much smaller than my pans, so using the rings just kind of cut into the dough I was trying to roll out. I think it’s a matter of practice, really, but I ended up taking the rings off (as a result, a few pieces ended up much too thin, breaking when I tried to remove them from the pan).

A semi-happy accident. It was tasty!

Today’s single batch of dough yielded 8 end pieces, 8 walls, and 2 roofs. That’s not terribly good, but I think next time will definitely be better. Baking gingerbread houses is a lot like working with clay to produce pottery. You have to expect some amount of failure, but the payoff for success is huge. Not only that, but it allows you to work on the disciplines of patience and perseverance.

A sheet of walls: success!

Here’s to continuing the spirit of thanksgiving (and just giving in general) throughout the whole holiday season.

Do you have any favorite holiday traditions? Let me know below!

Happy Sunday!