Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Craft a Pear From Spun Cotton Batting

My hand sculpted, "spun" (wrapped) cotton pear. Most cotton batting fruits are in fact spun in factories with machines. You can see how this is done in the video posted here. It is very rare to find antique spun cotton fruit that is actually handmade.
      My pear picture above, measures approximately four inches from top to bottom. However, I suggest that inexperienced students craft one of these much smaller than my own. The smaller you make your fruit the less difficult it will be to paint and sculpt it realistically. This is because covering smaller surface areas with cotton and glue is by far a less lumpy affair. Lumps and imperfections can lend a certain realistic charm to your ornament. But I can imagine that this process will drive perfectionists crazy before they are satisfied with the results.

Supply List:
  • cotton balls
  • newsprint
  • masking tape
  • German glass glitter (optional)
  • acrylic paints: yellow, gold, orange, white, green and brown
  • white school glue
  • tacky glue
  • thin wire
  • small soft paint brush for applying the acrylic paints
  • light mixture of cornstarch and water (1 cup water, 1 teaspoon of cornstarch, mixed)
  • acrylic matte gel medium
Step-by-Step Directions:
  1. Crush newsprint into a pear shape and cover this in masking tape. (pictured below)
  2. Unravel many cotton balls so that these resemble fine, thin layers of batting. 
  3. Layer this cotton with white glue onto the surface of your masked pear shape. This will take much time and patience. You will do many layers, perhaps five or six until the pear is wrapped well. Always end with a coat of glue. 
  4. Use your fingers to lightly smear the glue over the surface of the cotton. I have found that your fingers are the best tools when working with these materials instead of using brushes for the glue.
  5. Dipping your cotton or fingers into a light mixture of water and cornstarch may help the process a bit. This mixture helps to smooth out lumps while you work. I only use it when I am working surfaces that measure over three inches across.
  6. Set aside the pear to dry between layers. (Note, this may take several days)
  7. Twist a couple of leaf shapes with wire. (pictured below)
  8. Now cover the inside of the leaf shapes with masking tape. Snip off ends that you do not wrap around the edges. 
  9. Cover the leaves with a layer of cotton and glue.
  10. Shape the veins of the leaves by rolling out long thin pieces of cotton with glue in the palms of your hands. Use tacky glue to paste these to the surface of your leaves. Cover and coat with a final layer of cotton and glue.
  11. Twist stems and vines after covering thin wire with cotton and glue, and allow these to dry.
  12. Dry your pear and it's leaves for several days before painting the ornament pieces with acrylic paints.
  13. Use a hook and a wire to hang the pear while painting it.
  14. I brushed the majority of my pear with yellows and golds. Then I worked in a bit of lime green and orange at either end of the pear. 
  15. Paint the stem brown.
  16. Then I painted the leaves dark green and the veins of the leaves lighter green. Let the pear dry over night.
  17. Cover the leaves and stem with an acrylic, matte gel medium.
  18. Brush on a last, thick layer of white glue and roll the pear into a dish of glass beads. Hang the pear to dry over night.
  19. Hook on the pear leaves and add a cotton covered wire to finish the ornament.
Left a pear often has many colors in the surface of it's skin. It is not merely yellow. Center, look carefully at the shapes of your pears leaves. Do a little research before beginning this project. You may even wish to purchase a few pears from your local market to work from. Right, the water beading on the surface of this pear may be duplicated with German glass glitter.
Pictured above are two close up photos of my pear shape after I have masked the surface completely. (Step 1.)
Left, twist wire into pear leaf shapes. Center, cover these shapes with a thin layer of masking tape. Right, now cover the leaf shapes with cotton and glue. Add the vein details using rolled fine pieces of cotton and glue. Apply these veins with tacky glue. (Steps 7. and 8.)
Above is how my pear looked before painting it with acrylics. (I removed the leaves before painting the pear, then reattached them permanently after the final layer of German glass glitter had dried. )
Craft More Pears For The Christmas Tree:

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Craft Miniature Snow Scene Baubles

Paper mache bauble halves are perfect supplies for this
vintage bauble craft.
      Craft enthusiasts have been assembling miniature snow scenes inside of all kinds of baubles for more than 100 years. Sometimes you can find little snow scenes inside of: hollowed out eggs, recycled Altoid containers or any number of tiny boxes. I used both a plastic bauble half and three paper bauble halves that I purchased from my local hobby shop for this project.
      There is really very little work involved in the crafting of these sweet little snow scenes, especially if you have a stack of old Christmas cards on hand. Children ages nine and up will enjoy pasting in all of the elements and be overjoyed with the ease of crafting ornaments with such professional results. 
      Parents and teachers, however, must do a little leg work in order to make the craft transpire smoothly with minimal frustration. Take a quick peek at the cards you have on hand and make sure to collect or purchase miniatures that compliment the card's themes. Snow scenes are by far the easiest to collect for because miniature deer and trees are typically sold in hobby stores around Christmas time for these kinds of craft projects. 
      You will definitely have more success purchasing miniatures online than in finding these supplies inside shops. This is because crafts are trendy just like anything else and this project is considered a bit too old-fashioned by many folks. However, vintage is in and I predict that the supplies will become more varied and abundant within the next few years.

I made four snow scene baubles with three
 old Christmas cards.
My Supply List:
  • translucent white glitter
  • white school glue
  • paper pulp (premix)
  • tacky white glue
  • tiny figurines (dear, carolers etc...)
  • tiny bottle brush trees
  • old Christmas cards (landscapes, city scenes)
  • cotton balls 
  • tiny stickers
  • mica chips or miniature mirrors (for ground cover)
  • wire for hooks
  • hallow bauble halves (plastic or paper, I used both)
  • acrylic paints; white and blue
      Here I have also made a tiny snowman for the plastic deer to romp around on my chilly evening view. Did you know that deer are most active during evening, night and twilight hours? The blanket of snow here is made from white paper pulp that anyone can purchase in a craft shop. It comes in a large bulky bag, but it goes far when sharing it with a whole classroom of students. To prevent your paper mache baubles form being misshapen during the drying time of this craft, give your little students each a bowl to keep the wet ornament in while they are working. Let the ornament dry inside the bowl overnight.
      This tiny snow scene is my favorite because it is so blue. It helps to cut a series of slashes on the edges of your card clippings in order to make then fit nicely inside of the bauble shape. Also the smaller the scene, the easier the fit.
      The success of this miniature view was sheer dumb luck! I just happened to have a tiny set of carolers in my old stash of holiday miniatures. When I came across this tossed Christmas card of a German village at Christmas time, I knew that it would make a perfect ornament vignette. I cut the card down and pasted in the scene, added white paper pulp, pressed in the caroling figures with a bit of glue and dusted my snow scene with glitter.
      I pasted in a larger clipping of a tree and painted a pale sky into the background of this little view. Then I added little penguin stickers a plastic tree and paper pulp for snow to the foreground. I pressed mica chips into the paper pulp for the pond (If you can not find mica chips, use a tiny mirror.) and added a final dusting of glitter to the entire interior.
      To apply cotton batting the the backside of a bauble half made from plastic, you will need to first rough it up with a bit of sandpaper, cover it with white school glue, unravel the cotton balls and press them into the glue. add another coat of glue and cotton then add a third final coat of glue. Press the glue into the cotton batting with your finger tips.
Here you can see the back sides of my snowball baubles.
 I applied glitter to three of them and cotton batting to one.
See More Snow Scenes Inside Ornaments:

Friday, July 25, 2014

Pin Together a Victorian Sequin Bauble

A Victorian inspired bauble decorated with green
sequins, white pearl beads, gold braid and
decorative ribbons.
      This sequin pinned bauble is reminiscent of the Victorian Era. The Victorians were known for adding many layers of frills to decorate surfaces of novelties and ornaments. All you need for a craft such as this is a variety of trims: ribbons, pearly beads, sequins, gold braids and two packages of straight pins, white glue and a Styrofoam bauble.
      This ornament was made with a pear shaped Styrofoam ball, narrow side turned down.
      Use a permanent ink pen to mark off sections of your Styrofoam ball so that the design that you choose to replicate is evenly spaced on all four sides. You will be covering the ball completely so do not hesitate to mark it up in order to guide yourself through the first steps of the process.
      Start by pinning the ribbons first and whenever you push a pin into the ribbon or sequin, dip it into a bit of white glue so that your design will stay in place.
      Next pin the gold braids. You may wish to add a bit of tacky white glue to the back of these just to ensure that the braid is firmly adhered to the ball's surface. Don't forget to keep dipping your pins into the white glue as you work.
      Lastly, pin the sequins and beads into the bauble and pin into the top a fancy ribbon for hanging.  This Victorian Christmas ornament craft is a very simple activity with lovely results!

More Victorian Sequin Baubles:

DYI Corn On The Cob Cotton Batting Ornament

My finished cotton batting corn on the cob.
      If you have never made a cotton batting ornament before, this is a nice little project to begin with.  In it you will learn the most basic skills needed in order to complete a cotton batting Christmas ornament.
      I know that some of you may think this is a strange subject for a Christmas ornament, however, it is very ordinary to see one or two corn cobs hanging among the branches of a glass collector's Christmas tree. To find a cotton batting one is not so very ordinary, at least not until now. Perhaps it will become traditional to those people learning this old craft? Only time will tell.

Supply List:
  • cotton balls
  • white school glue
  • tacky white glue
  • newsprint
  • masking tape
  • wire for hanging
  • yellow, gold, green, white and brown acrylic paints
  • tiny paint brush
Step-by-Step Instructions:
  1. Crush the newsprint into a small narrow cob shape, approximately two inches long. (pictured below)
  2. Wrap this newsprint form in masking tape.
  3. Insert a wire for hanging at the wider end of your cob. Tape and glue in this wire firmly.
  4. Unravel a couple of cotton balls and take a very tiny piece between your finger tips with a small bit of glue and roll this wad into a tiny ball. (picture just below) 
  5. Repeat this process until you have made approximately twenty of these kernel sized balls.
  6. Use the tacky white glue to begin sticking one, two, three kernels side by side in a spiral pattern at the very tip of your corn cob. Press these kernels together as you go. Take your time and let these dry as you go. It helps to work near a warm light or heater. As long as the tacky glue is holding the kernels of cotton batting together you can proceed to add to your "cob."
  7. As your cotton cob kernels multiple you will be able to deduce how many more of the kernels are needed. Perhaps thirty more depending upon the size of your wrapped form. This is different for every project.
  8. You will also need to keep squeezing together the kernels adding additional ones with tacky glue and then as these dry add a couple of more layers of white school glue to the surface of the corn cob. 
  9. After you have covered the cob, layer a few fine strips of rolled "narrow, leaf shaped" cotton for the "husks." glue these directly to the top of the ear of corn, twisting them around the wire hook.
  10. Let your finished cob dry overnight.
  11. Paint the corn cob using multiple yellow and gold colors on the kernels. Use a very tiny brush to get down inside the cracks with paint. 
  12. Use greens and browns to paint the husks.
  13. Let the cotton batting ornament dry and then seal it with a acrylic gel (Matt finish) to keep your ornament looking clean over time. 
  14. Store your cotton batting ornaments between white tissues inside a tin box with a tight sealing lid. These boxes are the types used to store butter cookies and sometimes candies.
The beginning of a corn cob, cotton batting ornament. Left, unraveled cotton ball.  Center, a masked corn cob.  Right, are the rolled cotton kernels before they are pasted to the surface of the corn cob.
This is what your corn cob should look like prior to painting it. I have photographed it from different angles so that you may get an idea about how it looks "in the round."
Related Content:

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Bend and Twist a Cotton Batting Bird Cage

      This is without a doubt one of my favorite ornament crafts. It is much simpler to make than it appears. I will be hanging this little bird in a cage on my both my Easter and Christmas trees this year.
      Mushroom birds come in all colors and are very fragile. You can find them in hobby shops and floral shops.
      You will need to store your cotton batting bird cages in sturdy tin containers in order to preserve their shape and to keep the mushroom birds from being crushed.

Supply List:
  • cotton balls
  • white school glue
  • wire cutters
  • 2 wire gauges (one heavier than the other but approximately the same thickness)
  • a "pick" of winter white berries
  • mushroom bird, blue
Step-by-Step Directions:
  1.  First you will need to unravel a few cotton balls. spread a bit of glue onto the wire and wrap thin pieces of cotton around the wire stem. After wrapping several wire lengths in this way, I roll them between my palms with more glue to make the application smooth. I work with lengths of wire approximately 24 inches long.
  2. The spiral wire (pictured) is of a heavier gauge than all the rest of the wire used on the ornament. I do not measure out the length of it. I simple shape the bottom of the bird cage in a spiral shape until I am pleased with it's appearance. Then I take this same wire cut a short piece of it to hook across the bottom of the spiral to keep it sturdy as I wrap the rest of my birdcage.
  3. The remaining parts of the project are wrapped using a lighter weight cotton covered wire. As you can see from the photos below, I took a piece of wire and wrapped it in the shape of an arch, approximately 8 inches in length, and hooked this wire to the underside of the bird cage's bottom.
  4. Wrap a second wire identical in length the opposite direction and then add a bit of glue and wrap cotton to the top of your arch where the to wires meet. Every time your wires are hooked and/or touch you should wrap and glue a bit of cotton at this point in the process. Do not do this prior to this point because you will need to make adjustments to the arched sections to ensure these look the way you wish them to.
  5. Now glue and wrap bits of fine cotton over the hooked pieces of wire on the edges of the spiral.
  6. Next, you will need to wrap the bird on a swing. I used a wired mushroom bird for this ornament. Cover the wire on the bird with cotton batting and white glue. before you twist it onto a piece of "u" shaped wire. Twist the bird into a "seat"
  7. Now hook both ends of this little "swing" at the top of your developing wire cage.
  8. Again, cover these hooked areas with a bit of cotton and white glue.
  9. Now you are ready to wrap another piece of wire around the outside of the birdcage and hook it around your arched wires to suggest a wall for your bird cage. I sometimes repeat this step if the bird cage is taller. But this particular one is shorter and I don't think it will look as nice to add more wire. 
  10. Cover these hooked areas with a bit of cotton and white glue.
  11. Bend a decorative pick of white berries over the top of the arch and again, cover these hooked areas with a bit of cotton and white glue.
  12. Finish your cotton batting, wire bird cage with a fancy, cotton wrapped hook.
Left, wrap and twist spiral shape out of the heavier gauge wire. Next add a cross brace to the underside of the wire spiral using the same stiff wire. Center, hook over the top of the spiral an arch shaped piece to suggest the dome of a bird cage. Right, repeat the same step in the opposite direction.
Left, bend a "u" shaped wire to create a swing for your mushroom bird. cover the wire connecting the bird to the swing in cotton batting and glue as well. Center twist the bird's wire around the swing and adjust it to look as though the bird is seated onto the wire swing. Right hook the swing piece onto the connecting arched pieces so that the bird dangles below.
Left, now bend the cage's walls around the arched wire pieces. Center an old-fashioned white berry pick. Right, I've finished the ornament.
More Bird Cages to Hang From Your Tree:

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Craft a Belznickle Head, Patchwork Stocking Ornament

      For many years I have designed little stockings to hang from my children's Christmas trees. These are extra special because of the time and care it took to handcraft the faces. The old patchwork came from a damaged quilt remnant that I hadn't the heart to toss out.
I have yet to add the loops to the top of these stockings but they are finished enough for you to see how these stockings will look hanging from our Christmas tree.
Supply List:
  • Fur trim
  • patchwork scraps to sew the small stocking with
  • grey felt for the hood
  • embroidery floss for the stitching and braided cord
  • Acrylic paints: black, blue, red, gold, white, and two variations of flesh toned paint, if you are intending to paint a mask.
  • Flesh toned oven bake clay for the mask. (optional)
  • white paper clay if you plan to paint your mask
  • A face push mold (sold in hobby shops)
  • white tacky glue
  • acrylic gel sealer to preserve the face
  • embroidery needle
  • scissors
  • The pattern included with this project for the stocking and the "hood" of my Belznickle.

Step-by-Step Directions:
  1. First you will need to acquire patchwork scraps, sew them or purchase patchwork fabric from the sewing shop. These little stockings are sewn from old patchwork scraps that I already had on hand. Patchwork is also sometimes sold for the constructing of baby blankets, however, some of you my enjoy making your own patchwork. Visit Carolyn Wainscott to see how she she sews a patchwork Christmas stocking.
  2. Below is a pattern that you may download and print to use for a stocking similar to the one pictured here.
  3. I used a blanket stitch to sew together the two sides of my stockings. You may wish to craft the Belznickle's head and attach it to the stocking prior to this step. I did not do this because I made the small Christmas stockings prior to deciding to add the Belznickle head. 
  4. Slip a piece of wax paper between the two stocking halves before gluing the Belznickle mask on top of the front side of your stocking. This will prevent the glue from seeping through the fabric and sticking the two sides together while the mask dries.
  5. I made my mask by pressing paper clay into a half press mold. The mold that I used was purchased from a hobby supply store. The mask measures roughly 1 1/2 inches both up and down.
  6. The paper clay dries relatively fast, but I waited for the mask to dry overnight before gluing it on to the stocking.
  7. Below you can see the colors of acrylic that I used to paint the mask with: black, blue, red, gold, white, and two variations of flesh toned paint. I am aware that some of you do not have the confidence yet to paint ornaments. If this be the case, I recommend that you use a flesh toned low firing oven clay for the mask. Then add suggest a few facial features with fewer colors. Let your acrylic paints dry for an hour.
  8. Next, you will need to use tacky white glue to paste on the fur beard. You can use any kind of fur that you prefer for this procedure. I cut out a small "u" shape of fur to attach to the chin of my Belznickle and then added strips of fur to the inside of the felt hood attachment after sewing it to the stocking. (see photo process below)
  9. The felt hood is constructed by sewing together two end pieces and then attaching this strip to the stocking over the top of the Belznickle's head. Leave a bit of room above the head approximately one inch so that the Belznickle will look as though his head is inside his hood.
  10. stuff between his furry hair and the felt hood a bit of cotton batting and then glue with tacky glue a few strips of fur to the inside of the hood. (pictured)
  11. Now you are ready to trim out the rest of the hood with a few blanket stitches and a cord for the ties on his hood.
  12. Coat the mask with acrylic gel to protect the face from general wear.
  13. Add a cord made of extra scrap fabric or calico to hang the stocking from the tree.
Left, the paperclay mask is dry and glued to the patchwork stocking. Center, you can see the variety of paints that I used to paint my small masks with. Right, the masks have been painted and now I am ready to glue the fur onto my Belznickles faces.
Left, the fur trim beards have been glue both to the mask and the stocking material. Next, the felt hood brim is sewn to the patchwork stocking with a strong straight stitch. Center, I then glue down my Santa's bangs and tuck inside a bit of cotton batting to keep the hood stiff. Right, glue in the final grey fur strips to the upper, inside edge of the hood.
stocking pattern by Kathy Grimm

Decoupage Retro Papier Mâché Baubles

      I found this uniquely shaped, six sided ornament at a hobby shop on an after Christmas sale one year. I decided to use pages from an old sampler gift wrap book to decoupage each side of my ornament. You can also cover papier-mâché baubles such as this one with recycled Christmas cards, wallpapers, scrapbook papers or even photographs if you would prefer these to my own idea.

Supply List:
  • Mod Podge
  • soft brush
  • white school glue
  • a hexagon shaped papier-mâché bauble
  • retro/vintage wrapping papers
  • sheet of white typing paper
  • scissors
  • pencil 
7 Easy Step-by-Step Directions:
  1. Select the papers you wish to decoupage your prefabricated papier-mâché bauble with. I chose some original vintage/retro Christmas gift wrap from an old sampler book I had on hand.
  2. Use scratch paper, preferably white, to make a template from your six sided bauble.
  3. Press the paper firmly against the edges of one side of your papier-mâché bauble in order to capture a "creased" template for your ornament.
  4. Now use a pencil to trace a pattern where ever the creases have been made from the original papier-mâché form.
  5. Cut out the template and hold it up to the ornament making slight alterations to the template where ever you need them. 
  6. Place the template on top of your fancy papers and trace around it. Cut the first three shapes slightly larger than the second set of three so that no imperfections in your template will be noticeable as you glue the shapes to cover the sides of your hexagon ornament. Decoupage three sides first leaving every other side blank. Let these sides dry.
  7. Decoupage the last three sides and cover the finished ornament with a final coat of Mod Podge.
More Decoupage Christmas Ornaments:
Detailed photographs of my retro papier-mâché bauble.