Handmade Christmas Cards

December 19, 2016

Painted Christmas card, and ornament tree

Painted Christmas card, an ornament tree

I am getting fewer Christmas cards with each passing year, probably a reflection of my giving fewer cards as well.  Still, one of life’s joys is finding personal letters in the mailbox.  So in my limited way, I’ve tried to spread some joy by painting and sending off a handful of Christmas cards to my family and a few friends.  The rest of you will have to find comfort and joy via these images over the internet.  My digital good wishes are no less heartfelt!

Evergreen forest

Evergreen forest

Merry and Bright

Merry and Bright

Decorated Christmas tree

Decorated Christmas tree

Ornament tree

Ornament tree

Snowman ingredients

Snowman ingredients

Holly tree

Holly tree



“We have eyes, and we’re looking at stuff all the time, all day long.  And I just think that whatever our eyes touch should be beautiful, tasteful, appealing, and important.”
— Eric Carle

Painting by Eric Carle, acryllic on Tyvek, Tacoma Art Museum

Painting by Eric Carle, acrylic on Tyvek, Tacoma Art Museum

In keeping with my resolution to drive less, my niece, a friend, and I made a day trip to Tacoma by bus to see the Eric Carle exhibit at the Tacoma Art Museum.  Carle is a well-known, award-winning children’s book illustrator, so I have been familiar with his work for a long time.  I enjoyed reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See to my daughter when she was very young.

Print of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Tacoma Art Museum

Print of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Tacoma Art Museum

I was so enamoured of Carle’s illustrations that I adapted some of them into applique for a handmade quilt.  Carle’s stylized, simple shapes were perfect for copying as appliqued patterns.

Handmade appliqued quilt of Brown Bear, Brown Bear

Handmade appliqued quilt of Brown Bear, Brown Bear (2003?)




The Tacoma exhibit, “Beyond Books:  The Independent Art of Eric Carle,” presented another side of Carle as artist.  It included some of his wood block prints, framed paintings, amazing works on painted Tyvek, and even handmade greeting cards for (lucky) friends.  Now I am even more impressed by Carle’s talents.

The exhibit runs through July 7, 2013.





Humble Keepsakes and Customs

December 17, 2012

“It comes every year and will go on forever.  And along with Christmas belong the keepsakes and the customs.  Those humble, everyday things a mother clings to, and ponders, like Mary in the secret spaces of her heart.”
— Marjorie Holmes

Handmade paper ornament

Handmade paper ornament

“To perceive Christmas through its wrappings becomes more difficult with every year.”
— E. B. White

“Maybe Christmas, the Grinch thought, doesn’t come from a store.  Maybe Christmas . . . perhaps . . . means a little bit more.”
— Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas

The largest part of my Christmas doesn’t come from a store.  My keepsakes are handmade, for the most part.  And yes, they are humble, like this paper cut Scandinavian horse ornament I made this year from instructions I found in Mollie Makes Christmas:  Living and Loving a Handmade Holiday.

Or my traditional holiday wreath, made from rosemary sprigs from my garden.  For me, simple is best.

Homemade rosemary wreath

Homemade rosemary wreath

“Snowflakes spill from heaven’s hand
Lovely and chaste like smooth white sand.
A veil of wonder laced in light
Falling gently on a winter’s night.”
–Linda A. Copp

Paper Star Snowflake

Paper Star Snowflake

Several years ago one of the gift wrappers at the University Bookstore in Seattle was making these holiday snowflakes (or they could be stars, I guess).  She gave me a photocopied set of instructions, original source unknown.  I’ve been meaning to make some of these snowflakes for holiday decorations, but until now, I never got around to it.

My finished snowflake hangs in my kitchen window, a lacy wonder that lets in the light.

Here are step-by-step instructions for making your own paper snowflake/star:

Fold each square in half to make a triangle.  Then fold in half again.  And again.

Fold each square in half to make a triangle. Then fold in half again. And again.

You need six square of paper.  I used 5 x 5-inch squares.  Fold each square in half along the diagonal, making a triangle.  Then fold in half again.  And again.


Cut slits into each triangle.

Now, keeping the little triangles folded, cut four parallel slits on the solid side.  Cut almost all the way across.

Open the paper squares and press flat.

Open the paper squares and press flat.

Open each piece of paper back into a square and flatten with your fingers.

Cutting some of the inner square just to free two corners.

Cutting some of the inner square just to free two corners.

Next you will bring two opposite points of the inner squares together in a sequence.  In order to do this, you will first have to cut the corners free along one long diagonal fold line.  (Leave the other points/corners so that they are not cut all the way through.)

Starting with the smalled inner square, fold two points together and tape.

Starting with the smallest inner square, fold two points together and tape.

Starting with the smallest inner square, fold two opposite points together and tape into a cylindrical shape.

Turn the square over, and bring the points of the next larger square together.

Turn the square over, and bring the points of the next larger square together.

1. Turn the square over.  2.  Bring the opposite points of the next larger square together and tape.  Repeat steps 1 and 2 until all of the opposing points have been taped in the center.

You've finished square one!

You’ve finished square one!

Your square should now look like this.  You need five more.  Start folding and taping!

Staple three sections together at a point.

Staple three sections together at a point.

Once you have completed all six sections of the snowflake, take three and match up at a point.  Staple at this point.  Repeat with the other three sections.

Finished paper snowflake

Finished paper snowflake

That’s it!  Your paper snowflake/star is complete.

Hanging snowflake

Hanging snowflake

Wreath made from the pages from a discarded book

I no longer do a lot of decorating for the holidays.  I try to keep things simple and choose just a few ways to make the holiday season special and memorable.  This year I’m making some decorations from deconstructed books.

Wreath made from paper cones

My first project was this wreath made from the pages of a discarded book.  First I rolled several pages into cones, and then I stapled them onto a wire wreath form.  I started with three cones in a row, and then overlapped the next three cones, and so on, around the form.

Standing trees made from discarded paperback books.

Detail of folded trees

Each of these standing trees was formerly a paperback book.  I didn’t use a pattern, just began cutting with a scissors — starting with the horizontal cuts — and then trimmed and folded each page to get the desired shapes.  I hope to end up with a small forest on our fireplace mantle.

I’ve written about other holiday papercraft projects over the years.  If you’d like to see more, check out these links to past posts:


Consider this -- conversations with local artisans and craftspeople

I follow a number of blogs, and one of my favorites is The Handmade Librarian who writes about things I love — books, crafts, creative people, libraries, do-it-yourself projects . . . Her post of March 29th, 2012 was such a treasure that I felt I should pass it along to you as a special gift.

Jessica Pigza, the Handmade Librarian, writes about Nick Hand’s new book, Conversations on the Coast:  “Over the last few years, Nick has been at work on a bicycle-based project somewhat akin to slow food and slow fashion. The Slowcoast project was built around Nick’s biking journey along the coastlines of England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. Along the way, he stopped often to meet and record the work of local creative makers and designers. The results of his explorations are twofold: a series of short documentaries recording interviews with artisans, and a book called Conversations on the Coast.”

If you follow the links to the Slowcoast Project, you will find a real trove — about 100 short (4-1/2 minute) slideshows and interviews with a diverse mixture of people.  All are engaged in creative and interesting work, for example making baskets, growing daisies, farming, making cheese, designing clothes, etc.  You can link to the slideshows here.  If you admire handmade things, hands-on craft, and local, independent businesses, you will find much to delight you in these presentations.


P. S. Quite by accident I came across another project focusing on short videos about Brooklynites who make things by hand.  “Made by Hand” is a project from the bureauofcommongoods.com, and you can like to the videos here.

My Latest Quilting Project

February 3, 2012

“Any day spent sewing is a good day.”
— Author unknown

Twilight Village place mats

“Our lives are like quilts — bits and pieces, joy and sorrow, stitched with love.”
— Author unknown

I finished piecing and hand-quilting another project, two placemats.  The pattern is called “Twilight Village” and I found it in The Thimbleberries Book of Quilts by Lynette Jensen.  The placemats will be a gift for a young couple as they start their married life together.

Detail of house and star blocks

Signed by the quilter!

Work is Love Made Visible

January 25, 2012

Thimble on hand-quilted table runner

“Work is love made visible.
And if you cannot work with love
But only with distaste, it is better
That you should leave your work and
Sit at the gate of the temple and take
Alms from those who work with joy.”
— Anonymous

I like the notion of work as a sign of love — the meals I cook for my family, housecleaning, yardwork . . .  Whenever I do hand-quilting, I feel that I am stitching with love and that those feelings will bind me to the recipient of my labors.

I spent last week on a new quilting project — a table runner adapting the Zipper pattern I found in The Modern Quilt Workshop by Weeks Ringle and Bill Kerr.  The cold, snowy days made perfect weather for relaxing inside with a sewing project.  This small handmade item is destined for a wedding gift.

Searching for coordinating prints from my fabric stash

Cutting the pieces and arranging them

Sewing on the dining room table

Pressing the seams as I go along


Methodical stitching

Finished table runner


Handmade Button Bracelet

April 13, 2011

My handmade button bracelet and reflection

I’ve been admiring my friend B.J.’s button bracelet, which she made several months ago.  Then she gave me some cord (it is a special cord with a line of plastic inside) and thread so that I could try to make one of my own.  I’m pleased with my first attempt, although I like B.J.’s bracelet better — I think her buttons are positioned closer together for a tighter finished bracelet. 

Here are some photos of my bracelet in process, so that you can replicate the bracelet, too.

Choosing buttons with shanks from my button supply

Fold a length of cord in half, and anchor your first button at the folded end. From here, you will place buttons between the two cords and sew the cords together around and through the buttons.

The back side of my finished bracelet. You sew a loop at the end for a fastener.

Handmade Money Plant Wreath

February 11, 2011

Simple wreath of seed pods from money plants

The book Fairie-ality Style: A Sourcebook of Inspirations from Nature by David Ellwand is one of the most gorgeous over-sized books that passed through my hands recently.  I loved the colorful photography and whimsical creations made of found materials in nature.  And I was inspired to make my own simple wreath of money plant seed pods after seeing one in the book.

Fairie-ality Style book by David Ellwand

Sample page from Ellwand's book

Page showing wreath made of the pods of a money plant


Seed pods from Lunaria annua, money plant

I love the translucent pearly pods.

Detail of wreath hanging in my kitchen window