Sunday, January 20

Homemade Christmas

This year I went all out on the homemade Christmas gifts. I bought quite and few things too (and shopping for great deals online is a lot of fun), but I'm really excited about the things that I've made.

The Men

For the men in my family I made hand warmers. All of them like to go hunting, and I figured it might be nice to have these reusable hand warmers that they can pop in their pockets. They were really easy to make, just sew little squares of polar fleece together and fill with rice. Then you heat them in the microwave for under a minute and they stay warm for up to an hour.

I found a gray fleece on sale at Hobby Lobby that had red, white and black dots. I figured that was enough of a pattern to not look boring, but not so overdone that it wasn't masculine.

The Women

All the women all got homemade vanilla extract. The recipe is really easy, you just need rum, vodka or everclear that is at least 35% proof.  I used everclear since that is what a friend uses for hers. Then you take a whole vanilla bean, slice it down the length of the bean and toss it into a sterilized jar. I used old jars I had saved, like from jelly or salsa. I just boiled them for about five minutes before using for the extract. Pour your liquor over the bean, screw the lid on tight and shake. Then put the jar in a cool, dark place (like a cabinet) for two months and "agitate" weekly.

I think the rule is roughly one bean per one cup of liquor. Once the extract is ready you just top off the jar as you use the extract and add a new bean when the old one dissolves.

Once the extract was ready I printed out labels (I just used colored paper and glued them on), painted the lids with metal paint (already on hand from another project) and tied ribbon around the top. I think they turned out really cute. My main concern was wrapping them, so I sealed each jar in a ziploc baggie, then put a lot of packaging material around them in the box. Then I marked which way was "up" on both the box and the wrapping paper.

Dear Old Dad

My dad's gift is a little more time consuming. His walls are so bare and he had mentioned that he liked the art pieces with a bible verse integrated into the art. So, I attempted something new that I found on pinterest. I went and got a canvas and scrapbook paper and covered the canvas in a collage of paper.

For this project I dragged my friend Grace Grothaus along for advice on what materials to buy. She suggested using Liquitex Gloss Medium and Varnish to glue the paper down. I put a layer of the varnish on the canvas, stuck on the paper and then painted more varnish over the top. One thing to keep in mind during this step is to wrap the paper all the way around the canvas before the varnish dries since afterward the paper will be less malleable. 

So here's what step one looked like:

Personally if this is what you were going to see with the end product, it would never make it onto a wall. While there are parts I like, the overall effect is too scattered and chaotic. If I were to start over I would probably stick to squares of color or cut each piece much smaller instead of the wild shapes I used. It also occurred to me after the fact that I could have used fabric instead of buying a book of scrapbook paper for $20. I have plenty of scrap fabric.

Step two required me to track down sticky letters to spell out the verse. Grace suggested ordering the verse from Lithaprint, but when I tried contacting them I didn't have any luck getting in touch with a person. Instead I just bought the letters you would stick to your mailbox. You just stick the letters to the collage and then you're ready for step three!

Step three is what makes the piece come together. While I did stick to a color scheme for the collage (bold colors, mostly reds and blues) the third step is to paint over the whole canvas. I chose a gold for this part.

Once the paint is dry you go back and pull off the sticky letters and end up with the collage visible where the letters were. So it looks something like this:

I was frustrated some of the paper pulled away when I removed the letters. Another reason fabric would be a better medium, it wouldn't tear like the scrapbook paper did.

After I repaired some of the damage I coated the entire canvas in a clear coat and voila!

What do you think?

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