I like wrapping Christmas gifts almost as much as I like giving the gifts themselves. It's my time to experiment, to indulge my many different decorating personalities. I can go whimsical, masculine, feminine, elegant, modern...for that moment I get to try on a different hat. It's fun, and I like to think that it adds a little something extra to the gift.
My Christmas decor was all about neutrals and metallics this year, but I do have a few containers of variegated holly in my kitchen which was the inspiration for this gift topper. I've always thought that the leaves of variegated holly were reminiscent of watercolors, so I set out to create a playful paper and watercolor version, using pressed holly leaves to create the templates. I'm using the topper to adorn my son's teachers' gifts, though I think someone other than a second grade teacher could certainly appreciate it, like your crafty friends.
Step 1: Download the holly template and print out onto cardstock (you can either use the painted holly leaves as is or cut them out to use as a template). Trace around the leaves onto textured ivory cardstock or watercolor paper and cut out. (I used the top row of leaves on the template for this topper.)
Step 4: Make a few strokes over the Dark Green with the Emerald watercolor pencil. You won't really see the effect of this when you're making the strokes, but it will lend some variation once activated by water.
Step 6: Fold the holly leaves in half and set aside. Cut a square of red crepe or tissue paper and set aside. Cut off one end of a baby Q-tip, then cut off the narrow tip on the cotton swab to form a ball shape.
If you'd like a third leaf, adhere it below the second leaf. Here I've placed the leaf on top of the stem (rather than behind it) before securing it with the floral tape. This gave it a more dimensional feel.
Download Watercolor Holly Leaves Template
It feels good to finally have the tree decorated. I went all white, with touches of silver, which just works in my living room with the wall color and the quality of light. Admittedly, I was having a moment with gold, but I decided I could get my fill of it when wrapping gifts for other people. Sometimes you just have to go with what works in your home instead of what's trendy.
I made almost every single ornament on my tree, which feels like an accomplishment. Not that I have anything against store bought, but I feel like I've made tons of ornaments for clients over the years and then all I have to show on my tree are dozens of ornaments I've purchased. It was time to remedy that. And in fact, it was so much fun that I'll have to make it a holiday tradition. Maybe not dozens, but a few to add to my collection each year.
Here are some of the ornaments I used, all of them inexpensive and easy to make.
1) The tutorial for the glittered paper stars can be found here. 2) I had lots of clear glass ornaments sitting around from last year, so I filled them with fake snow and and tiny Alder cones from Earth Beauties on Etsy (they look good with sprigs of greenery as well, though you'll want to remove it at the end of the season). 3) I reinterpreted the mistletoe sprigs from my wreath design in white velvet with beads from a necklace I found in my local thrift store. To make an ornament, follow the directions to make individual sprigs and fasten two of them together with white floral tape instead of the green I used for the wreath. Fold the taped wire to the back of the sprigs to form a loop, then trim excess wire and glue it in place with Fabri-Tac. When it's dry, thread a piece of silver string through the loop and knot the ends. 4.) The small star and reindeer silhouette were made from DAS air-dry clay, rolled to about 1/4-inch thickness and cut out with cookie cutters. 5.) I was asked to rework my felt pinecone designs for Mollie Makes 34. While I was at it, I finally made a few wintry versions for myself. 6.) The antler ornament started off as an inexpensive ornament from Walmart. I gave it my own twist. See below for easy instructions. 7) Pom-poms couldn't be easier to make and they remind me of snowballs. I chose a white iridescent yarn which is subtle but picks up the light nicely. 8) The glittered acorns came from a winter nature display that I did a couple of years ago. I painted the acorn bodies white, coated them with a thin coat of Mod Podge, and sprinkled with a fine textured white glitter. When they were dry, I glued them to acorn caps. To turn them into ornaments I simply tied silver string around their stems.
Revamped Antler Ornament:
I love to scout the aisles of discount stores during the holidays. I always pick up all kinds of inexpensive ornaments whose forms I may like, but whose execution doesn't quite fit my taste. That was the case with these antler ornaments from Walmart. They felt too dark and muddy to me, but I bought a bunch, deconstructed them, and gave them a quick whitewash with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint.
1. I cut the twine, which I later replaced with silver string, and used pliers to pull the wired jingle bells from each antler.
2. I dipped a damp paintbrush (1/4-inch flat bristle brush) into white paint and offloaded the excess onto a folded paper towel. With the paint that remained on my brush, I quickly applied a light coat to the entire ornament, leaving some of the underlying color exposed.
3. When they were dry, I strung them individually with silver thread instead of hanging them as a pair.
I'm finally getting around to trimming the tree, two weeks before Christmas. After last year's performance, things are looking up! But this year has been a first. It's the first time in my entire life that I haven't even stopped at a tree lot. This year, I went artificial (and pre-lit to preserve my husband's sanity). It wasn't planned, but I'm so happy with my experience that I thought I'd share.
A couple of years ago my son picked out a kitten to join our family. We love Miss Lucy, but she's an absolute nightmare around the Christmas tree. She shares the same level of persistence that my son has and after endless weeks of her trying to climb the trunk of the tree, I'm usually at my wit's end. I try locking her out of the living room, but since that's her domain, she's not at all happy about that solution. Then of course there's trying to eat the pine needles, also a big problem. I hadn't quite figured out what to do this year, but I admit that the thought of her was dampening my enthusiasm.
At any rate, I had the good fortune to try out a tree from Tree Classics. In my head, I sort of thought it would be a second tree, to dress up my dining room, not to replace the primary tree. I was also a little nervous about whether it would look fake, but hey, I had nothing to lose.
I was pleasantly surprised to find out how much artificial trees have changed, the better ones anyway. Specially molded branch tips look just like the real thing (and the branches that don't look real, but add fullness, are concentrated in the interior where they aren't obvious). My tree came in three parts, the branches released from hinges, and I was able to put the entire thing together without one bit of help from my husband. After the basic construction, I spent about an hour fluffing and shaping the wired branches to get the form and spacing I wanted (a perfectionist's dream!).
Miss Lucy immediately set out to investigate and spent a couple of days thinking about whether she could climb it, but she quickly became bored and has stayed safely below the branches in the weeks since. Yes, I notice there are a few loose pieces of yarn on pom-pom ornaments she's clearly been playing with, but that I can live with. Anyway, my husband and I agreed that it was perfect for our living room (I chose a narrow style so that I wouldn't have to move furniture around, which is also problematic for us each year) and we opted to forego the real tree.
So what about the smell of fresh pine that you inevitably miss with an articifial tree? I invested in fresh greenery for other parts of my house, along mantels, in vases, hanging on walls, and in bowls. I also purchased some essential oils in fir and holiday blends to put in my diffuser.
One other thing to mention, whether you go artificial or not, is a nifty little tool called the Light Keeper Pro. lt fixes most broken light sets, finding the damaged bulb for you and repairing it. I tried it on a string of broken lights I had from last year and it worked like a charm. It's the perfect tool to have around for a pre-lit tree that would be difficult to replace the light strands on.
Next up - handmade ornaments to make for any tree.
The slim silhouette of this tree is perfect for city apartments and smaller rooms, like I have. I wish I'd had this for my New York apartment!
See how realistic the branches look up close? I also decided to give my tree a dusting of snow. I love this artificial snow. You mist the tree with water, sprinkle on a little bit, and then it dries. What does eventually fall off is natural and non-toxic.
This week has just flown by. Seriously, where are the elves when you need them?!
I spent most of my week prepping for the holiday workshop at Anthropologie last night, which was a lot of fun. I had all kinds of wonderful greenery flown in from the Pacific Northwest, decidedly better than what I can get here in New Orleans, and everyone made a wreath to take home.
It's a simple idea, but I think one of my favorite parts about doing these workshops, aside from meeting new people, is seeing what creative interpretations emerge from the same basic supplies. I always end up learning something or walking away with a fresh perspective, or just feeling creatively recharged. Holiday spirit + creative energy = 4 cups of coffee.
But today, it's back to the real world where dozens of eggs await transformation for Easter, it being spring in the magazine world. I need to finish decorating my Christmas tree and utilize the bounty of greenery I have left over, start working out my Christmas baking, make liqueurs...hey, none of that sounds bad! It's going to be a good weekend after all. Who needs elves anyway?
But before I get started, here are a few things from around the web that have inspired me this week.
I think we can all agree that Nelson Mandela's passing leaves a hole in this world, but his words and deeds stay with us.
It's been a blue Christmas so far with 100 Christmas Blues.
Why didn't I think of this?! A DIY for an etched snow globe.
Bacon jam. This just needs to be made, right?
I love the presentation on these little orange cakes.
Have a wonderful weekend. I'll see you here next week.
As a kid I was never much for Rudolph, enchanted more by snowmen and snowflakes, a complete fantasy in New Orleans. But as an adult, I can't seem to get enough of Rudolph's less colorful companions, especially during the holiday season. And while I thought I'd be sick of antlers by now, I can't get enough of those either. It's just enough rustic to warm my city heart.
I ordered this antler print from Natural Curiosity on Society 6 and decided to forego the traditional framing (for now). I trimmed it, mounted it on pearl cardstock, then again on a textured paper. I hung it from a vintage hanger that I found on Etsy, wired some evergreen sprigs to the hanger, then hung an air-dry clay star ornament from the branches and added a short (5-foot) batttery operated string of starry lights (you can hide the battery compartment by taping it to your wall with painters tape behind the photo or use the 3M Command Picture Hanging Strips, which I use all the time and never damage my walls).
A simple, seasonal vignette from Paige Knudsen Photography
I'm not always given to whimsy, but I love this clever interpretation of taxidermy from Jennifer Rizzo.
Washi tape taxidermy from First Sense
Free Rustic holiday tags (along with a nice woodgrain printable) from Volume Twenty Five