Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Super-Easy Christmas Craft - Simple Paper Covered Tree

I used to be addicted to magazines.  I liked having reading material that was easy and fun, and showed up every month. I started in college with Glamour and Cosmo, then progressed to InStyle, Oprah and RealSimple. I think that's code for "I got old".

In recent years, I've been drawn to crafty magazines. But not Martha Stewart Living, for some reason.  It just doesn't inspire me.  I can't put my finger on exactly why. Maybe it's that her crafts and food are so time-consuming and scream "if you can't be perfect, why bother trying?". I don't need that kind of discouragement! 

I recently made an exception to my no-paper-subscriptions rule to buy a year's worth of Cards magazine, which is just LOVELY.  It's stunningly-photographed handmade cards, one per page.  It has a little bit of how-to content, but is mostly just a GREAT idea book. In addition, it's so inspiring and gorgeous that I'd love to get published there someday.  It's part of my Mondo Beyondo list.

Craft magazines are RIDICULOUSLY expensive when you buy single issues (if you can find them at all). I guess they have such small circulation, with a specialized audience that will pay. So I try not to indulge very often.

I picked up 'Paper Creations' last month because it had a really cool-looking paper Christmas tree on the front.  I had about 2 minutes to make my selection before Trillian started toddler-mauling all the nice magazines at Barnes and Noble.  So I grabbed it and we left.

It turns out the magazine is not really my style.  Lots of overly ornate cards and crafts, with a more vintagey, "busy" feel.  I'm more of a simple girl myself.  Also, the production quality isn't as nice as cards, but for $6 vs the $20 single issue price for Cards (!), I guess that's why.

All was not lost, though, because the Christmas crafts on the cover were neat-o and super-easy.  I loved the paper-covered tree on the front, and found a variation of it inside. 

So the next time we went to Jo-Ann Fabric & Crafts (a regular occurence when they send me xx% off your total purchase coupons!), I bought the (minimal) supplies needed.

And a couple of weekends ago, I got my craft on, while BabyT played nearby, and occasionally came by to ask "What Mama Doing?"

I had originally wanted to make the tree on the cover, with the looped bits of paper, but realized that would be hard to store after Christmas without crushing the loops.  So I chose to make a tree that was covered in flat paper instead.

Materials and Methods
  • Styrofoam cone shape (these appear at Christmas time), about 12" tall, but any size could work
  • Cool Christmas or winter-themed patterned paper, preferably not cardstock but lighter weight
  • Quilting pins with pearlized ball ends (longer is better, I chose 1.5")
  • Sequins or little beads (optional)
  • 1.25-1.5-inch circle cutter or automagic die-cutting machine like the Silhouette

1.  Cut out a TON of circles with your circle cutter or die cutting machine, no bigger than 1.5" diameter.  Cut out a lot, then cut some more.  Nope, more than that.  I needed about 100 to cover my 1 foot tall "tree".

2.  Get into your zen mind.

3.  Start pinning paper circles to the Styrofoam tree shape.  Start at the bottom, and stick the pins in the middle of the circles. Overlap them slightly so that you cover the Styrofoam.  You may have a few gaps which you can fill in later, but should be able to get pretty good coverage if you overlap them by about 1/3. 

4. When you've gone around the bottom, start another row and overlap the bottom row to achieve full coverage.  Do this some more, and then some more, until you've covered up the whole thing.

5. Fill in any small styrofoam gaps by pinning large sequins or beads onto the "tree".

6.  That's it!  You're done!  Join hands and dance around your cool little tree.  Or not.  Just kidding.

Tips and Tricks
  • Plan the rough order of circles in advance.  I had only one piece of the evergreen tree photo paper, so I interspersed it with a shiny red pattern to look like "ornaments" and then had to finish with some white glitter paper at the top to look like "snow".  Of course, you don't have to make it look like a tree - people will get the idea anyway.

  • Lighter weight paper will curve around the tree better.  The glitter cardstock I used at the top is pretty but shows more creases and was less forgiving, especially when pinned at the narrow top of the cone.

  • Remember that you're working with paper - make sure your hands are clean and dry and that you don't handle or reposition each piece of paper more than absolutely necessary.  It'll start looking grungy pretty quickly otherwise.  But you can move circles around if you're careful.

  • If you have a die-cutter, use it.  Punching all those circles by hand was NOT putting me in the Xmas spirit, that's for sure.  But I needed to do it where I could keep an eye on T so the die cutter wasn't an option.  Learn from my mistake :)

  • Older kids would probably dig this craft.  Younger ones will probably poke their eyes out with the pins.  Be safe, yo.

  • The volume of a cone is 1/3 times the area of the base times the height.  You don't need to know it for this particular craft, but it might come in handy some other time.
Um, if you're out there in Internet land, could you leave me a comment?  I'm just curious if anyone is reading :)  Extra credit if you make your own tree.  Super-duper extra credit if you post a link to a photo of your tree.  Minus points if you spam me.  :)

Friday, December 2, 2011

Christmas Sweatshop Craft 2010 - Paper Photo Ornament - Experiment 6

Now that it's December, I feel like it's ok to post Christmas-related projects.  I didn't want to be one of those people pushing Christmas before the turkey leftovers have been consumed.

Last year was when I started collecting papercrafting supplies, at first just to finish BabyT's baby book (which is *still* not done and she's 2 now). With all those supplies, I also wanted to make something little that I could slip into our holiday cards.  Since I love sending regular greeting cards rather than the one-panel photo cards everyone else sends, I figured this craft should include a small photo of us.

On the very excellent blog Christmased, someone commented about a family tradition to have a crafty project that they all participate in, to give out to others. Inevitably they'd end up working on it till the wee hours, hence the name "Christmas sweatshop craft". I love that, so I'm stealing it for my title. 

I decided to make small paper ornaments that people could hang on their Christmas trees.  Since it had to fit inside a card, it needed to be flat, so I decided on a round shape with a little cap to look like the top of an ornament ball.  I had to make at least 45 of these, to fit my Christmas card list.  Since I was so excited about this project, I started in early December, so I didn't go into panic mode during this project.  Hooray for being a project manager in real life.  Sometimes it does pay off in unexpected ways.

Paper photo Christmas ornament 2010
 This was pretty easy to make, and would have been even easier (and neater!) if I had used my Silhouette machine to cut out the ornament circles.  I just wasn't thinking about it at the time, since my machine was brand new!
  1. Using the Martha Stewart Circle Cuttermanual circle cutter, I cut approximately 3.5 inch diameter circles - for each ornament I cut one from holiday themed patterned paper and one in plain cardstock.
  2. I printed the photo I wanted using the Windows Photo Viewer.  I printed them wallet-sized on 8.5 x 11" photo paper and cut each one to about 2 inches square. 
  3. I used my Fiskars squeeze corner rounder punch to round the edges of each photo.  (This takes a while when you have 45+ photos!).
  4. I stuck the patterned paper circles to the cardstock circles using Mod Podge Decoupage Glue
  5. I used double stick tape to adhere the photo to the patterned paper side of the ornament (once the glue was dry on the ornaments, about a day later just to be sure!)
  6. I used the Silhouette machine's software to design the ornament top - it's just a rectangle welded to a circle, with another circle inside.  I then had it cut out all 45 of these, while I sat back and had a diet Coke.
  7. I covered both sides of each ornament top with some matte Mod Podge decoupage glue, to strengthen them.
  8. I stapled the ornament top to the ornament with a colored staple.  They were surprisingly hard to find, but I eventually tracked them down at Michael's.
  9. Using embroidery floss, I tied a small loop to each one so the recipients could attach an ornament hook.
  • Rather than decoupage glue, use a Xyron machine, or just strong double-stick tape to adhere everything
  • Use an electronic die-cutting system if you've got one to cut circles quickly and more accurately
  • Skip using Mod Podge to "strengthen" cardstock on simple projects like these.  Plain heavy cardstock should be fine, or use a clear page reinforcement if it's the right side.
  • Use Photoshop elements to place the photos in the *exact* size needed on the page, then you only need simple cutting and corner rounding.
  • Write your last name and year on the back so you and others can remember your cute project long into the future. (Assuming they don't immediately recycle it...)
  • Make at least one extra to keep for yourself!
  • Don't sweat the small mistakes - people will be charmed by the fact that you made them something.  Unless they're super-critical and mean.  In which case, they don't deserve one anyway.  So there.
  • When making a bunch of the same design, do it assembly-line style after making the first proof-of-concept: cut all circles, glue all, staple all, etc.