Saturday, November 26, 2011

Handmade Christmas Ornaments

I have a bunch of left over scrap silks and fabrics from my various craft projects and wanted to find something useful for them. So I made hand-made ornaments to gift this Christmas. This photo tutorial will show you how to make your own. Enjoy and Happy Holidays!

Pick out some fabrics that you have on hand. Anything from a pretty napkin, to an old soft shirt will work perfectly. I'm using some old silk scraps that I practiced marbling on last year.

Items you will need:
1. Fabric
2. Scissors
3. Pretty Ribbon
4. Needle and thread
5. Stuffing. I'm using fake snow, $4 a bag at Michaels craft store.
Pillow stuffing works great too. You could even use cotton balls if you had a lot on hand.

Fold your fabric so its ugly side out. And cut out two circles.

You should have two circles of fabric stacked ontop of each other with the pretty sides facing each other on the inside. Then using your needle and thread, stitch around the outside edges. If you have a sewing machine you could of course use it and work a lot faster. I'm a horrible seamstress. Truly I'm terrible. So if I can make these few simple stitches, I promised you can too. If you can thread a needle and tie knot you can make this work. And if you can't do those things, just find a friend who can.

I losely stitched around the outer edges, about half an inch from the edge. Go all the way around the circle, leaving just an inch un-stitched. You need this little opening because you'll need to reach in and pull the pretty side out, and then complete the circle of stitches and tie your ending knot so the thread doesn't come out.

You can see in the photo above, I've left just a little space so I can turn the piece inside out.

Then finished off your stitches.

Next it's time to use the stuffing/filler. Simply place some stuffing in the middle of your circle, pick the ugliest side because it's the outer layer of fabric that will be most visible on your ornament.

Then gather up the corners, sort of like you're making a won-ton.
Yummmy, fried won-tons...

Securely grab the tops. You can wiggle your finger down into the stuffing to make sure it's nice and secure in the bottom and none of the stuffing is sticking out of the top. Then using a piece of ribbon, tie it nice and tight into a small little knot so it doesn't fall apart. Sorry I don't have a photo of this, but I needed both hands to tie the knot around the top.

Next it's time to make the loop of ribbon allowing your ornament to hang from the tree.

For the loop of ribbon, simply cut a string, as long or as short as you'd like. Make sure it's long enough to comfortably hang from a tree branch.Then stitch the ends together. It doesn't need to be perfect, you could even hot-glue or duck-tape it if you prefer.

And then it's time for the most difficult part--stitching the ribbon loop to the inside, top part of the ornaments so it hangs straight. I say this is the most difficult because it's easy to prick yourself with the needle. I certainly stuck myself a few times. I'm sure there is a better way to do this, but this was a fast project and I wasn't worried about making it perfect. Just make sure you attached the loop securely so it won't rip out.

And you're done! You can add some extra pretties such as this metallic gold ribbon for some extra sparkle. I just tied the gold ribbon around the neck of the ornament.

I'll brief re-explain it again with this second ornament to make sure you've got the steps down.

Step 1: cut out two matching circles of fabric.
They don't have to be perfect circles. Mine certainly weren't.

Step 2: stitch your two circles together, ugly side out. Leave an inch open so you can pull it right-side out with the pretty fabric on the outside.

Step 3: After pulling the pretty side of the fabric out through the open hole, finish off the stitches and tie a secure knot in the thread.

See above how non-perfect my circle is? It really doesn't matter.
You just want to have smooth, rounder edges vs sharp, jagged or square edges.

Step 4: Place the stuffing in the middle of the circle.
Don't forget to pick the ugliest side as the outer piece will be the most visible.

Step 5: Gather up the edges and tie the neck off with a tight knot of ribbon. Again, you can wiggle your finger down to push the stuffing to the bottom of the ornament so it doesn't stick out above the knot you'll tie around the neck.

You can see in the image above the tight little knot I made with white ribbon around the neck of the ornament.

Step 6: Create a loop of ribbon to hang your ornaments by. Use whatever method works best for you. Stitch, glue or duck-tape. Then affix the loop to the top part of the ornament.

Step 7: If you want, add some extra decorative ribbon that festively hangs down for a little extra holiday bling. And your done! Handmade ornaments ready for your tree or to give away as special gifts. Happy Holidays!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Hot Toddies and Bonfires

Fall is my absolute favorite season. This past weekend I feel like I got to take full advantage of the glories autumn has to offer. I spent a cool, sunny afternoon helping to collect firewood with my hubby. Then we had a massive bonfire. Grilled out, watch the embers and sipped on adult hot cocoa. The next morning Nick kept the fire going and we had coffee by the warm embers. It was like camping out but with the luxury of a hot shower and a down comforter. Later that day some friends came over and I painted this quick study of our backyard in oils. It's always fun to paint outdoors--it's a good excuse to really make a mess. By the end of the afternoon I was covered in greasy paints. This painting is more of a study than a finished piece. But sometimes all you want to do is get your hands a little dirty with some creativity in nature.

The evening turned in a beautiful night. Clear skies, lots of stars and another massive bonfire. We lit about 50-70 candles of all shapes and sizes and placed them everywhere so we could see to cook up a feast. It was so beautiful, surrounded by so many candles in the dark, I wish I had taken a picture. My friends are quite the chefs and when Scott and Nick get together the food is an event. They cooked shrimp, delicate thin steaks, chicken and delicious pan fried Pad Thai noodle cakes in cast iron skillets and make-shift grates over the logs and flames. We had sweet potatoes wrapped in foil cooking in the embers. And of course, more yummy adult hot cocoa. The hot toddies were delicious so I'm sharing the ingredients for you to try one yourself.

Per mug:
-A shot of Meyers rum (any dark rum will do)
-A shot of Baileys
-half a packet of hot cocoa mix
(or the whole packet if you like it really sweet)
-fill with hot water and stir

And I added a Hersey's chocolate kiss in the bottom of of each mug just for a little extra love.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Falling for Acrylics

I've never really painted with acrylics much in the past. They just don't have that vibrant luminosity that oils do and they don't mix nearly as nicely. But while traveling, and knowing that I had just a limited amount of time, I've been really enjoying the perks of acrylics. For one, they dry so fast that I can create entire paintings in an afternoon. Secondly, they are much less expensive than oils. And thirdly, they are water based so I don't have to worry about toxic turpentine with baby Emma around. Emily still had some large white walls that needed filling so I painted this 3-canvas Almond Blossom painting for her new dining room wall.

The painting was inspired by my old favorite, Van Gogh. It was so much fun to make that I'm thinking of doing another version in oils. This was my first triptych painting (three separate canvases painted to look like one painting) and I love the puzzle look that it created.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Painting with Emma Rose

I'm currently in California. I flew out to LA to see my college roommate marry one awesome guy. It was a beautiful wedding and I got to visit with some favorite old friends. After the wedding my even older elementary school best friend picked me up for a few days visit out in southern California. I've been spending the whole time playing with baby Emma Rose. My friends recently moved into a new house and they had a lot of big open spaces on their walls. There's nothing I dislike more than giant white walls so we, and by we I mean me and miss Emma Rose, decided to paint a picture. I knew we wouldn't have much time so I picked an easy old favorite. My "Forest at Dawn" but this time done in acrylics rather than oils so the layers would dry in time. I'm sharing a step by step photo journal of how it's painted so you can try one for yourselves at home. It's actually a very easy, basic painting made by layering colors in organic tree-like shapes.

We started with a large canvas and 4 tubes of Acrylic paint. Yellow, Orange, Red and Burnt Umber. Emily already had some white paint white for the moon. And we needed 2 brushes. One really big one to lay in the large swatches and a skinny thin one for the trees. Acrylics are water based so you'll also need some water to thin the paint down and clean your brushes and some paper towels always come in handy. You'll also want something to mix the paint in. I just used aluminum foil wrapped around a platter but plastic plates work really well too.

(obviously you can mix yellow and red together to make your own orange. But I knew I'd be covering a large canvas and would need the extra paint so instead of buying extra yellow and red and just bought a tube of orange.)

You start by laying down a layer of yellow across the top with the big fat square topped brush. Leave a little round blank space for the moon. Then add in your orange. Mix some of the orange with the yellow to create a pale orange. Lay in a band of this orange with your big flat brush. Turn the brush sideways and paint in downward strokes to create the distant tree line. As you move down the canvas intensify the color to be pure orange with no yellow.

Then repeat this same process moving down the canvas with your red. Mix the red with the orange for the lighter top shade and then use just the red for the bottom most part. This light to dark effect is what makes the painting look like the sun is just rising behind the forest. You can paint in the white of the moon as soon as the yellow sky is dry.

Once you have the background laid in you can start with the tree details. You'll want to switch over to your small thin brush for the trees. You create the detailed trees by drawing long simple lines with the dark orange that overlap the lighter oranges and yellows. Then for the "branches" simply paint horizontal dashes and run down the length of the lines. I often angle them so the tips of the branches flair upwards. Be careful to vary the placement and thickness to create a more natural look. When painting nature you don't want things to look perfectly proportional or even.

I used the Burnt Umber for the closest trees. They are in the foreground so they are bigger and taller and more detailed. At this point you should also mix some of the dark brown with the red and layer in some dark foreground areas with your big flat brush. Careful not to create the dark areas all over in an even pattern. You want to create some variance so it doesn't look the same all the way across the canvas.

After you lay in the darker, more detailed trees you are done! You can add birds in the sky if you'd like but Emma and I decided to keep it simple today. We are surprising Marco, Emma's daddy with this large painting tonight. We hope he likes it!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Mushroom Foraging

Fall is finally here in North Carolina. I love this time of year. It's the season I wish would last forever. Cool pleasant days, excitingly brisk evenings, little humidity and the most gorgeous colors everywhere. I've been spending more time outdoors with the cooler weather and have noticed all sorts of mushrooms popping up in the woods around where I live. So today I decided to take a painting break and go mushroom foraging. Below are pictures of my bounty.

I was really lucky and found two treasures. My mushroom finds range from very poisonous, like liver failure poisonous, to just a tummy ache bad for you, to not poisonous but not very tasty to delicious and a rare gem. I'm not a mushroom expert and would love some corrections or comments from more knowledgeable foragers.

This bright red capped mushroom you see growing is one of my rare finds. It's commonly called a Caesar's Mushroom and is considered a delicacy in Italy. It has a poisonous twin so I won't besampling this guy just in case I'm wrong. I saw the bright red peeking out from underneath some dark leaves while on a walk today and you can imagine my surprise when I unearthed the whole thing.

My second tasty find were these wild Cinnabarre-Red Chanterelles. I LOVE chanterelles. Whenever I see them in bulk at Whole Foods I'm tempted to buy a whole cart full. I've always loved mushrooms. I must have been such a strange child. I love them so much that as a kid I collected scratch and sniff mushroom stickers and plastered them all my bedroom walls. I canremember smelling the stinky stickers and wishing that I could eat mushrooms every day. Weird, I know. I've done some research online and am confident that these beauties are true red chanterelles and I'm going to be sauteing them in butter and salt for a tasty snack.

I also found plenty of poisonous and not so tasty shrooms. Some that looks like sponges and coral, some with purple hues, and more red and orange topped mushrooms that I have yet to identify. I found lots of Death Angel Mushrooms which if consumed will cause liver failure and death if a liver transplant isn't possible. But don't let that scare you from mushrooms! Even ifyou aren't a fan of eating these fabulous fungi, everyone can appreciate their visual color and texture.

It's the next day. I cooked the Chanterelles and they were so delicious I went back out with my mom to see if we couldn't find some more. Further back in the woods we found red gold. A forest floor of these beauties. We picked just a bag for dinner tonight, Red-Chanterelle bruschetta with truffle oil. There's lots more where these came from so we will be happy to cook some for you to try, but we aren't sharing the hiding spot!