Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Christmas Quatrains by George Creel

Again the star dawns in the eastern sky;
Again we hear the shepherd's startled cry
As waking from his midnight sleep he sees
The camels of the wise men sweeping by.

The years have worked their measure of decay.
Where are the inn and stable? Who can say
"This is the spot" or "There the very place
Where the Lord Christ came into the light of day?"

No more chants Caiphas his vengeful song,
And scattered to the winds are all the throng
That clamored for Barabbas, only held
In memory by reason of their wrong.

The weak souled Pilate long has passed away;
Great Caesar, too, is now at one with clay,
Their mighty Rome forgotten save as theme
To keep the grumbling schoolboy from his play.

But still the scent of frankincense and myrhh
Steals down the centuries, and as it were
But yesterday, so sweet and now it seems,
Did Virgin Mary bear the Harbinger.

Let fools with much pretense of wisdom scout
The truth and wag their heads in owlish doubt
Of Great Jehovah's all embracing scheme
Because there is a door they stand without.

Content are we, the children of his hand,
To wait, nor insolently demand,
Assured that in God's own good time he will
Unlock the door and let us understand.

Of all thy gracious gifts, O God Most High,
The dearest of them all is this clear eye
Of faith with which we shrine the miracle
Of far off Bethlehem and time defy.

O Virgin, wert thine eyes less unafraid
Or didst thou shrink, sore startled and dismayed,
When first thou felt that life within and learned
On thee God's precious burden had been laid?

What must have been thy happy, sweet amaze
To see the aureate halo blaze
And from the wide flung gates of paradise
To hear the mighty harmonies of praise!

Loud sang the golden throated cherubim
And all the wheeling hosts of seraphim,
Whose snowy pinions changed to canopy
Of virgin white the heaven's sapphire rim.

Hosanna! Glory to the Son of Man!
O happy moments ere his work began
Of lifting from the world its weight of sin
And making straight salvation's tender plan!

No hint of Pontius Pilate's last decree,
The lonely horror of Gethsemane;
No prescience of thorny diadem
Or shadow from the hill of Calvary.

Humility divine! A manger birth--
The humble stable bathed in holy light--
The Babe upon a truss of straw--the mild
Eyed kine awaked to wonder at the sight!

Alas, still lingers issue of that kine,
The thick of wit, who can detect no sign
Of God in Christ's dear birth nor understand
The marvel of the holy bread and wine.

And sons of doubting Thomas still abide
With us on earth and still the truth deride
Because they cannot grasp his nail torn hands
And see the blood gush from his pierced side.

O shame of shames! The wise men saw on high
God's guiding star gleam in the eastern sky
And straightway journeyed forth across the world,
With ne'er a question of where or why.

They place within the heavens ever hold,
O blessed star, and like those men of old,
May we have faith and hope to follow on
And at our journey's end the Christ behold!

Quick and Easy Christmas Bauble Craft!

This Christmas bauble has a traditional message, "Merry Christmas" and lots of holiday sparkle.
      So your racing around town and you've forgotten to purchase something for your students to craft during their Christmas party. You need something quick and easy that you don't have to think about or plan ahead for? Here is such a craft and any youngster can complete it quickly without too much fuss or mess. This is what you will need to purchase:
  • Christmas ribbon with a greeting of some sort printed on it. 
  • lots of shiny, glittery and festive colorful ribbon chopped up into small pieces
  • glass or plastic transparent Christmas baubles
  • hooks, string or ribbon for the hanging of the ornament
  • metalic permanent ink pens to write a date and name of the student on the outside of the ornament
      To assemble the ornaments all you will need to do is remove the caps and fill them up with the above supplies. Then replace the caps and write the student's name and the year they made their Christmas ornament. Tie on a string, ribbon or wrap a hook around the caps stem and your ornament is complete. 
Here are two excellent Christmas game ideas for 
students to play in their classroom!

Easy Christmas Craft For The Kiddos!

Make a wool Christmas tree with stacked
concentric circles.
      Your little ones can make a bright wooly Christmas tree of their very own this year. Just cut and stack wool circles one on top of the other to make the tree you see here. Of course you will need to thread these concentric circles on a stiff thin wire. Perhaps a long ornament hook will do just fine for this craft. Bend one end of your wire and attach it with a piece of tape securely to a large flat circular piece of cardboard. Add glue for extra sturdiness. Cover the bottom of the cardboard with another felt or wool circle to give your project polish. Now poke each wool concentric circle in the exact center onto the wire until you have just enough wire left to thread through a star shaped button. Hook the top end of the wire around the back of the button; Mom or Dad will need to help with this part.

Sew a Vintage Yo Yo Clown to Give As A Gift

I discovered this little vintage, yo yo clown stuffed inside a bag of fabric remnants in a resale shop. What a unpredictable yet happy purchase I had made!
      Young students can make a small yo yo clown to give to an even younger sibling (ages three to five) at Christmas. You don't really need fancy gadgets to make yo yos. In fact sewing these little round fabric puffs used to be the activity of young inexperienced sewers back in the day. However, sharp needles can prick so I wouldn't encourage very young children to experiment with the process. Boys and girls in fourth or fifth grade may certainly give it a try. 

Important Tips:
  • Keep some Bandaids, peroxide and a couple of thimbles on hand, just to be on the safe side. 
  • Make sure that all of the needles used in a project made by a younger family member are brand new. 
  • New sewers need to be guided by an adult in order to complete the project. The project takes two, a parent and a preteen working together!
Supply List:
  • three circle stencils
  • fabric scraps (laundered and machine dried)
  • scissors
  • one finer needle and matching threads or quilter's thread
  • one large embroidery needle
  • embroidery floss for facial features
  • 1 skein of red yarn for pom poms
  • 36 inches of red ribbon for collar trim
  • 2 inch wide cardboard strip
  • cotton batting filler
Step-by-Step Directions:
  1. Prepare your fabric scraps if you have not already done so for former projects. The fabric needs to have it's sizing removed in the laundry. Plus the fabric should also be preshrunk. By laundering the fabric you will prevent shrinking and tearing in the future should you ever need to wash the toy after baby handles it. This preparation also prevents bright dyes from "bleeding" onto lighter colored fabrics in the wash.
  2. Cut circle templates or patterns whose diameters measure: 1 inch, 1 1/2 inches and 2 inches. Trace and cut out 28- 1 inch circles, 32- 1 1/2 inch circles and 17- 2 inch circles from  your scrap fabric for the clown's body. An additional helpful video for this project is by Wendy Harbaugh.
  3. Thread and knot your needle to begin sewing your first yo yo. Holding the wrong side of the fabric circle up, use large stitches to turn down the raw edges as you work around the inside of the circle. Then gather the edges together and gently pull them to the circle's center to make a puff. 
  4. Now work the needle through the the gathered edge on the right side of the fabric to reinforce the gathering, tightening it up as you go without sewing through the gathering to the right side of your yo yo.
  5. Backstitch over your work and snip off the thread. Set the yo yos aside for stringing later.
  6. Make four red pom poms measuring approximately 2 inches in diameter. Wrap yarn around a piece of 2 inch wide cardboard at least 50 times, pass a small piece of yarn through the center of this wrapping and remove the cardboard. Tie the yarn tightly to bind together the twisted mass and then clip all of the loops to make your pom poms. Be sure to trim the pom pom in order to make a more uniform looking pom pom for your doll's hands and feet. Click here to view a video that demonstrates how to make a pom pom with your hands.
  7. Use a thick thread to string the body together. Knot the end of your thick thread and string it first through one pom pom and then thread together 16 - 1 1/2 inch yo yos for each leg. Then take the ends of each of these threads used to string the legs and insert them into the eye of a large embroidery needle. On this combined threading add the 16- 2 inch yo yos. Stringing carefully through the center of each. After completing this stage of the stringing, neatly tie off the threaded ends and then sewing them down firmly to the last yo yo's right side. You should have one 2 inch yo yo left that was not strung onto the torso of your clown. 
  8. String together a pom pom and 14 - 1 1/2 inch yo yos for an arm. Repeat for the second arm. Attach each arm using the stringing thread to the last 2 inch yo yo of the torso.
  9. Take the remaining, left over 2 inch yo yo and neatly attach this on top of all of the exposed threads at the end of the clown's torso. This will hide this part of your stringing ends. You may choose to sew this yo yo down through the back side of the top yo yo in order to make a firmer finish.
  10. Now cut a strip of any fabric 2 inches wide and 27 inches long for the ruffled collar of the clown. Fold a ribbon over one raw edge concealing it and run a straight stitch on top of the ribbon. 
  11. Gather this collar piece and whip stitch it securely to the end yo yo piece where the head of the clown will be attached.
  12. Cut a 4 inch in diameter, circular, solid colored piece of fabric for the clown's head. Gather this large yo yo's edges as before and finish the puff. Stuff cotton batting through this yo yo's small hole with the tip of your scissors until his head is filled firmly. Take a pencil and draw a face and embroider his features as you prefer. Attach the head using a slip stitch to the top of the clowns collar.
  13. To sew the clown's hat, cut a very long triangular shape, sewing together the longest two sides. Attach this to his head turning under the raw edges of the cap as you use a slip stitch to attach the hat to his head permanently. You can cover this edge with a bit of extra red ribbon used to make the collar. 
  14. Make a tiny pom pom for the tip of his hat. Stitch it on firmly babies may try to eat!
More Christmas crafts made with Yo Yos.

More Funny Little Yo Yo Clowns: 

This Year, Join In Our Affordable Christmas!

"A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity." Proverbs 17 : 17

      The angels' song, "On Earth Peace, Good Will Toward Men," can also be translated "peace to men of good will." This version is timely, as well as correct for the Greek. For peace can and shall come to men of good will, and it cannot come to men of bad will.
      Who is the man of good will? It is he who has a choice of happiness, of righteousness, of goodness for all men. It is he who desires that men may be blessed, and who tries to make the desire effective. The man of good will does not hate. Neither does he incarnate hate in any weapon offensive or defensive. He is free from revenge, and is full of forgiveness for the penitent, He may not forget injuries, but, what is more important, he is eager to make injury the occasion for helping the offender to overcome the evil within the heart or will out of which the injury sprung. He is capable of mighty indignations, but he does not suffer himself to be conquered by them. Without being impassive, he is calm in the face of wrong, and he is very patient, being more willing to be the victim than the agent of evil. His hatred of all sin and his love for the man who, despite his manhood, is guilty of sin, are alike strong and lasting. He is free from suspicion, he thinketh no evil. He loves his neighbor, not only as himself, but even more, being more eager to do justice then to receive justice.
      The qualities and elements which constitute the man of good will also constitute the commonwealth of good will.
      Such a commonwealth is a commonwealth peace. Willing good to others, others will good also to it. Armaments in such condition have no longer any function to play, and they melt away. The battle flags are furled. Wars cease and rumors of wars are not heard. Men become brothers in mutual service and happiness, as they are brothers in origin and destiny. Charles F. Thwing

      Every year Journey Church, St. Louis gives to Mission St. Louis' Affordable Christmas. What a happy celebration these parents are given through the ever expanding hearts of the volunteers and contributors of this program. Come share God's joy with the children of St. Louis this year by visiting Mission St. Louis here and at their website here.

Every year we learn more and more about our neighbors and friends. We learn how to encourage, prosper and invest in others through kindness, education and joy.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Tutorial for Weaving Christmas Stars With Yarn/String

Left, my ten pointed, woven Christmas star. Right, a traditional eight pointed woven star ornament in reds and greens.
      This Christmas star ornament craft reminds me of a flat Japanese temari. It is actually a very old, traditional craft; I remember my art teacher showing me how to wrap these same stars when I was a school girl in the 1970s. It is an excellent introduction to simple weaving for older elementary students.
      The process can be made more or less complicated depending upon the age and or experience of the person producing the ornament. I took the idea a step further and invented a star wrap pattern of my own as well. The nice "how to" video below was made by an art teacher for her classroom students. Given the detailed nature of the weaving, I recommend that you watch the video while you craft your own star versions. Although the process is simple, it seems more complex when reading instructions for the method. For this reason alone, I'm going to recommend that you watch the video before attempt to follow any instructions that I include here.

Ms. Gentry made this nice weaving video for her 6th, 7th and 8th grade students.

Supply List For Both Star String Projects:
  • multiple skeins yarn, spools of string and embroidery floss
  • cardboard
  • tacky white glue
  • ruler
  • scissors
  • large sharp embroidery needle (for 2nd star version)
Left, 10 pointed, original star template but I made modifications
to it so that crafters only need to poke a needle through one
 layer. Right, the square template glued together for the eight
 pointed star version.
      Cut out 2 squares of equal size from the cardboard and glue these together, one on top of the other, to form an eight pointed star. (Left)
      If you are making the second star pattern version depicted below, I have provided a pattern for you to print out and trace around below. The second star only requires one piece of cardboard per ornament. You will also need a sharp embroidery needle to poke holes into the cardboard.
      Once your eight pointed cardboard shape is dry, you may proceed to wrap it with the first selection of yarn/string.
      Keep in mind that this weaving project has only a finished front side for young students who have limited experience in sewing or weaving. For every wrap that these students make, they will need to "tie off" their yarn strands on the back of their cardboard templates. However, if you are making these stars and have more experience with a needle, you can make your woven stars two sided. Simply snip, tuck, glue and hide the ends of your wrapped design as you proceed through the steps. I used a large embroidery needle and a bit of tacky white glue to hide my yarn ends as I wrapped.
First wrap step for both woven string stars.
      Above I have included a photo of the first wrap around each of the cardboard star patterns. On the left you can see that the floss is wrapped between each of the ten points on my own version of this craft. On the right I have completed the first wrap for the six pointed star described in the teacher's video above.
Above you can see me weaving a large embroidery needle in and out of the holes made just beneath my star tips.
      After wrapping the 10 point star with blue embroidery floss, I simply repeated the same wrap with yellow. Then I proceeded to make two sets of holes using the sharp tip of my embroidery needle beneath each of the ten points of my star. I wrapped multiple colors of floss in a herringbone stitch through the lowest hole. Then I used a whip stitch to create the feather like tips of the outer points of my star by threading through the upper hole.
The second wrap of the eight pointed star, back and front photographed.
      The second wrapping of the eight pointed star is photographed above. On the left, I show the back side of my work. Note how I have added tacky glue to hold the center crossing ends in place while I work. Also, see in the second wrapping how I have a strand of floss crossing in the back. I will cut this away after I wrap a third and fourth time over the green floss. This will not harm my weave because it is trapped beneath top layers. Keeping the backside clean of crossing strings will make it attractive enough to be a two sided pattern. Just right, above in the photo you can also see traces of tacky glue on the edges of my cardboard template. This glue helps to keep my weaving in place over time and it will also dry transparent.
Left, third wrap. Next, fourth wrap. Middle, fifth wrap. Far Right, sixth wrap.
      The photograph above depicts the 3rd through 6th wrapping sequence for the eight pointed star. After completing these steps, I threaded a finer needle and stitched a cross stitch pattern in green over last top square of my design. I attached a green tassel to the bottom to finish the look.
My tassels for these ornaments were made from embroidery floss. I have also included a simple video below that demonstrates the basic method that I used.
Click to download the largest file, 10 point star shape template.
 I made small tassels via a similar method shown in this video.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Victorian Snowball Garland Tutorial

Craft a playful snowball garland for your own Christmas tree. Garlands like the one shown above were hung on Christmas trees in American homes during the Victorian era.

Unravel white cotton balls before wrapping the
egg carton cups.
 Supply List:
  • white cotton balls
  • paper egg cartons
  • white school glue
  • white tacky glue
  • dental floss
  • needle
  • scissors
  • white or translucent beads/bugle beads
  • two hooks
  • translucent glitter
Step-by-Step Instructions:
  1. Collect and cut apart the cup shapes from paper egg cartons. I used 13 for this particular garland but it doesn't really matter how many of these your choose to include. 
  2. Pull out a relatively long piece of dental floss and thread it onto a needle. Make sure that this needle is thin enough to thread floss through your bugle beads. It is important to use dental floss instead of thread for this process. It is by far more resilient.
  3. Thread two or three extra long bugle beads and then one larger white bead before centering a portion of the dental floss across the egg cup. 
  4. The egg cup should have a continuous beading of tacky white glue squeezed around the top edge of cups lip. See the pictures below.
  5. Now gingerly take a second paper egg cup and press it on top of the glued edge. You can add a bit of white cotton batting to help seal this uneven seam around the two egg cups. 
  6. It take only a few seconds for this seam to bond well enough for you to keep working. String another few bugle beads onto the other side of the finished snowball shape and repeat this process until you have the number of egg carton "snowballs" that you want on your garland. See pictures below.
  7. Wrap the remaining ends of the dental floss around a wire hook for each end of the garland. 
  8. Glue approximately half of the wire hook to the inside of each end paper egg cup before gluing together the end snowballs of the garland. Let the garland dry thoroughly.
  9. Unravel white cotton balls before wrapping the egg carton cups.
  10. Spread white school glue with your finger tips over the surface of each cup and wrap cotton batting onto the surface. Repeat the process until you are happy with how the snowball looks.
  11. Coat the last layer with white school glue and sprinkle translucent glitter onto the wet surface. Let the garland dry.
Detailed photographs of the snowball garland craft. Far Right, see how the garland is threaded and assembled at the same time.
The egg cups do not need to fit together perfectly. Making snowballs is not an exacting process. Have fun, it will stick.

Here is the end result. I think this garland looks best on a silver and white tree. It is also an authentic inclusion to a Victorian tree. The garland is so light weight that it may even be hung on a feather tree!

More Snowball Ornaments: