Monday, October 31, 2011

Hoo’s Your Owl Daddy?

Right in time for Halloween, I completed another Martha Stewart project from her book, “Martha Stewart’s Handmade Holiday Crafts.” 

Every year, we carve pumpkins at my dad’s house and it’s not something that I take lightly… I want to have the BEST pumpkin (and more often than not, that’s not the case).  Isn’t it neat how I make everything a competition? 

Martha has a project titled “Carved-Pumpkin Owls” and they looked super cute, even if the instructions are a little daunting (power drills, wood gouge???).

Before you actually begin the project, you must determine what kind of owl that you want to make, because that in turn determines how many pumpkins/gourds you need.  I went for a petite little owl (I’ve always wanted to be petite, but at 5’10”, that’s a pipe dream).  Therefore, I needed three pumpkins, one regular-sized one, and two small ones.  The remaining instructions are as follows:

Tools (drill with 5/8" bit, knife, wood gouge, measuring teaspoons)

1.      You cut a hole in the larger pumpkin and scoop out the guts (make sure to keep the seeds… YUM) 

2.     Drill holes for the eyes in the larger pumpkin with a 5/8” bit

3.     Cut a hole in the top of each smaller pumpkin that is slightly larger than the eye holes for the bigger pumpkin and scoop out the guts.  At this point, I had to use measuring teaspoons in order to get inside the tiny pumpkin (read my previous comment about not being petite myself).

4.     Drill a hole in the bottom of the smaller pumpkins, but be careful not push too hard and break it (oops, I did)

5.     Take four lights from a battery operated set of lights, rubber-band them together, and then push them through each eye hole.  I let the remaining lights just hang in the pumpkin and added another set as well.  Martha advises wrapping them around a glass jar and securing the wires with tape, but why?  That’s an extra step and doesn’t guarantee that you won’t burn the place down.

6.     Use toothpicks (I broke mine in half – on purpose this time) to attach the smaller pumpkins to the larger one over the eye holes

7.      Use a wood gouge and make graduated rows of “feathers” in the skin of the pumpkin.  I wanted to make mine a little more exaggerated and accidentally removed the skin. Grrrr.  So, I pulled a Tim Gunn from Project Runway, and “made it work.”

Larger pumpkin with eye holes and feather gouges (prior to my accident of removing the skin), and  one of the two smaller pumpkins that I used

8.     Finally, I used left over pieces from my hubby’s pumpkin and fashioned the ears, nose and feet.

It’s cute.  Not as cute as Martha’s, but such is the story of my life.  Rarely cute, and never petite.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

‘O Halloween Tree, O Halloween Tree, How Truly Ugly Are Thee’

You’ve done it again Martha.  I managed to spend HOURS of my precious time on a craft that is more blah than blah.  How is that possible?  Oh, I’ll show you.

I try to stick to the Encyclopedia of Crafts book that I’m chronicling, but I was desperate to get some Halloween decorations up, so I chose a craft that Martha (yes, we’re on a first name basis) has on her site. 

It's titled ‘Bewitching Tree Decoration; ’  however, I think that's a misnomer.  More like an 'Incredibly Boring Tree Decoration.'  If you check out the picture from the link, it’s ridiculous how misleading the scale is.  I thought that I would be putting together paper pumpkins about the size of a fist.  Notsomuch.  They’re more like the size of a chestnut. 

The directions call for you to print out a template onto cardstock, and then make a template from it, and painstakingly, trace around it to make seven total pieces.  (Or you can get smart and do a print screen on the computer of the template, crop it, and then paste it several times using Publisher or Word.  This way you can print the template directly on to the cardstock; no tracing at all.  You can thank me later).

You then stack up the pieces and use a micro-puncher to create a hole through the stack.  Next, you use paper fasteners, or brads, and fasten them all together.  After bending them, you gently pull apart the pieces of paper to make an orb. 

For me, there was absolutely NOTHING gentle about pulling apart the pieces of paper.  I tried the whole, “lick your fingers to get a better grasp on the paper” move; I tried cursing; I tried putting it down, walking away and then reattempting... You name it, I tried it.  

I got a few done, but after seeing the final product, I abandoned it completely.  

Well, that's not really true.  I spent at least a couple more hours fiddling with the template... enlarging it, putting it on different colored paper, cutting out hundreds of pieces, only to have the same problem over and over again.  THEY ARE UGLY.

Here are a couple of shots of the worthless product…

Orange pumpkin ornament
Gray pumpkin ornament

Here are my original Halloween trees... I added some spider webs to go with the pipe-cleaner/acorn spiders that my friend Christine made
Next, I did a craft from the ‘Martha Stewart's Handmade Holiday Crafts: 225 Inspired Projects for Year-Round Celebrations’ book that I just purchased.  It’s a template for a spider web (woo fricking hoo).  

I thought it might be cute to hang them on the wall... until I made a couple and found that the only way I would display them is if I held a preschool in my house and could lie and say that the kids made them.  

I won’t go into the instructions because it’s not worth it; trust me, it's not.

Looks like something you made in grade school, right?

At this point in my holiday decorating, I was feeling less than satisfied, so I made a couple of my own decorations inspired by this picture

The first was a goth topiary.  I have many topiaries on hand, and a fair amount of black spray paint, so I just needed to go to JoAnn's and purchase some Mardi Gras beads. 


I spray painted the beads, and the topiary and shortly after drying, I took my glue gun and glued the beads in a circle around the topiary.  I finished it off with another coat of spray paint and then placed it in a black pot with some green moss.

The other decoration was a black raffia cone with spiders on them.   The inspiration photo used a Grapevine tree, but I didn't read it closely enough and when I went to the store, I bought a floral form tree instead.  Since I had some raffia on hand, I figured that I could give the cone some texture by wrapping the raffia around it.  I used a glue gun to adhere it, (while burning the crap out of my fingers), and then spray painted it black.  I felt like it was missing something, so I also glue-gunned on some of the pipe-cleaner/acorn spiders that I mentioned above.


Almost finished product

Almost too life-like spider
Much better!

Here is the updated Halloween vignette, including a new and improved Halloween tree (sans the heinous pumpkin ornaments).

I spray-painted some branches black, then placed them in a mercury glass apothecary jar and added some moss on top. Much better!

Lastly, because it’s been so long since I blogged, I wanted to share a couple of other things that I've been up to.  They were both for my niece Coco, who just turned two.  The first project is an apron that I sewed to go along with the mini kitchen her parents purchased for her birthday.  I am NOT an accomplished seamstress, by any stretch of the imagination, but I am proud of the outcome.  I used a pattern, but switched up the fabrics and added some embellishments!

The other project was a monster-like bookend.  I made one for Coco’s first birthday, and wanted her to have a matching set.  It’s a cute little guy, don’t you think?