Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Candy Cane Tutorial and a Holiday Vignette

It's Day Two of the week's festivities here at Art as Usual! And as promised, I have not one- but two tutorials to share. So depending upon my time constraints this might be a two post day.:) Today we're going to focus on the Peppermint Candy Trend. If you missed yesterday's post where I introduced this and other trends of the season, you can read about them here.The color scheme for this trend is, as you might have guessed, red and white/cream. So the items I've chosen to create a vignette with are red, white, with a bit of cream thrown in. My vignettes are bits of counter or shelf around my house that I can create a grouping of seasonal items on. I like them to be just out of the way, but still visible by the high traffic areas. This way I still get to enjoy them without having to move them around too much. And, unlike a table centerpiece, they never get bumped and can stay as they are all season long. To create this vignette, I thought I'd try pairing this trend with an old frame I had lying around and some old glassware. So we're tossing in a bit of vintage as well. It's a richly layered look that is still really fun and whimsical.

Peppermint Candy Holiday Vignette
Items used:
Old frame
Old milk glass vase
Chipped red glass pedestal bowl
2 sprigs artificial big white ball like berries
1 sprig artificial red berries
6 shatter proof ornaments plus candy cane (Martha Stewart at Home Depot)
"Noel" stitched wire wall art (my shop) OR fresh greens door hanger with a bit of ribbon

First- Start with the frame and add a nail to the back if you want to hang something, like the art or door hanger from it.

Second- Add the glassware, and hang art or evergreen door hanger from frame. Position glass in front of frame as shown.

Third- Arrange the sprigs with the white balls inside the milk glass vase. ***Tip= When working with permament flower stems it's not always necessary to cut them. If you need to, then use a heavy duty wire cutter or metal shears. I've found that I can usually bend them to the length I need and there's the added plus that this helps it hold it's position in the vase, once inserted, as well.***

Fourth- Add one of your sprigs with the smaller berries to the vignette by simply laying in front of frame. I bent the end of the sprig over so it's partially covered by the frame. You could choose to simply trim to length with wire cutter here as well.

Lastly- Bend red berry branch so that it will hang over the top and right edge of the frame. Place stem behind frame or you may want to use some heavy duty packing tape and just tack the stem to the back of the frame where desired. Cut a small piece of the white berries from the 2nd sprig and tuck behind frame as well.

At right you can see the alternate version of this vignette, where I hung a small evergreen door hanger from the frame instead of using my stitched art as a focal piece. It's a fun alternative to having a wreath inside. I used a few more bits of the 2nd white berry branch I had and cut them apart. I stuck these bits into the door hanger. I also cut off the ribbon and pine cones that came on the door hanger and tied my own red grosgrain ribbon to it. Easy, quick and very very Peppermint Sweet!

Wire and Fabric Candy Cane Tutorial
Tools and Materials
16-gauge anondized steel wire
Piece of red and white fabric
Wire Cutter
Needle Nose Pliers

Step One: Pull a 14" or so length of wire from your roll of wire, wiping with a cloth or towel as you pull to remove oil. Create a bend in your wire about 3" from cut end of wire. Create another bend in wire about 2" from cut end of wire to form a  "u" shape. 

Step Two: Run your hand up the wire til you're about 6" from your "u" and create a hook. This is the inside form of your candy cane. Bend wire to create a right angle. An 1" from that bend the wire up at another right angle. This establishes how wide your ornament will be.

Step Three: Follow the curve of the wire you've already bent to create outside of candy cane. Make sure you stay about 1" or so away from inside of candy cane. Come down to bottom and when you reach the bottom bend wire up.

Step Four: Next start to wrap your wire around your candy cane shape. This gives dimension to the piece. Be careful not to wrap the inside form too tightly though or you risk a making your candy cane a little too skinny in spots. When you've wrapped the form once, follow your initial wrap job all the way back to the bottom.

Step Five: Cut your wire leaving about an inch excess. Bend this cut end in for safety. You can leave your candy cane as is now or you can go on to Step Six and add fabric.
Step Six: Using your scissors, you're going to cut a strip of fabric to wrap your wire form with. To get a strip that's long enough from a shorter piece of fabric I will begin to cut my strip about 3/4" wide but stop cutting at about an inch shy of the end. Flip your fabric and begin to cut a second 3/4" strip along your first. This will create a length of fabric that is twice as long as the size of your fabric piece. For this project you only need the strip to be about 24" long. 

Step Seven: Tie one end of your strip to one end of your candy cane and begin to wrap it around and sometimes through your wire armature. If you'd like to knot it in places you can. When you get to the opposite end of your candy cane tie your strip to the end, knot and then trim excess leaving a tail about 1" long that you can then tuck up into your form. *Tip: When I wrap the wire form with the fabric strip I try to match the direction of the wire that is wrapping around the simple form. 

To hang this ornament you can either create an "S" hook of the 16-gauge wire or you can simple hang it on whatever you want it to decorate.  Hope you enjoyed the tutorial! I'll be back tomorrow with more Holiday Goodness! :)

Monday, November 29, 2010

'Tis the Season Kick Off Post

'Tis the Season to be Merry and to kick off the season I thought I'd do a week of decorating ideas and tutorials.Today I've got a few decorating trends to tell you about and then throughout the week I'll have tutorials that will illustrate fun ways that you can incorporate these trends into your holiday decor this year. SO if you're looking for some seasonal inspiration I'd love to have you follow along this week. I've also a secret surprise for my blog and facebook fans at the end of today's post- just to say thank you and to help kick off the merriness!

Seasonal Inspirations: Trend Report

Trend #1:Woodland Wonderland
Forest inspired decor has been huge this last year or so. Now, birch branches, birds, mushrooms, owls, and fawns, among other things have all found their way into seasonal decor as well. This is a natural look that makes the most of the simple beauty and colors inherent in natural objects. It's also all about textures; and twiggy nests or branches are a sweet detail to add to your tree or wreath. If you decide to add some of this trend to your decorating this year you might want to go foraging for birch branches, mixed greens, and pick up some permanent accessories like red berry branches and maybe a couple of cardinal's. I particularly like the bright red of these accessories when they are coupled with flocked branches and white birch. The red and white against the dark green of the Christmas tree or Christmas wreaths create a beautiful contrast.

Trend #2: Go Green
Chartreuse green! Green on green with a little extra gold to accent are a classy take on the monochromatic craze. Keep the color palette simple and the shapes and textures take center stage. It works in mixed media and it works here too. I've decorated in this style in the past and I really do love how elegant it is. It really doesn't take much either, a few chartreuse ball ornaments tucked here or there, some green-gold berry branches, look great with variegated garlands and wreaths.

Trend #3: Poinsettia Power
The red and green combination just screams Christmas and can be kitschy or artsy depending on how you spin it. The poinsettia trend makes the most of this complementary color combo by placing big leafy red flowers against a background of deep green. It draws attention while still seeming fairly natural and not overdone at all. If I were to go this route this year I might pick up a few permanent poinsettia sprays from my local craft store and simply insert the sprays into the tree here or there. Poinsettias are so large that they can be seen from a distance and still identified so I might incorporate a few of these into my front door wreath to great effect. There's a lot of bang for your buck here.

Trend #4: Fabulous Flocked
Personally this is the trend that I'm loving the most right now. Last year I added icicle ornaments to my tree and hung crystal snowflakes in my front window. The white is taking the ice trend just a little bit further by focusing on heaps of snow, fresh fallen flakes, and snowballs. Lots and lots of snowballs! The flocked look can also be incorporated into the woodland trend as fresh fallen snow weighing down your tree's branches. Or you can couple it with the Peppermint Candy trend that's next!

Trend #5 Peppermint Candy Cute
I took my son with me to the wholesaler and this is the tree vignette he loved the most. Really it's fun, whimsical, red and white, and so so sweet- what's not to love about it? It's really easy to try this trend this year since Martha Stewart came out with a line of really affordable ornaments that come by the 50, 75, or 100 count that fit in perfectly with this trend. She even has cute little wrapped candy ornaments, and oversized candy canes to push your wreath or tree over that line of way too cute. Most of the items in this line are also shatter-proof (i.e. plastic) so they make the perfect addition to your outdoor decor. I mean who wouldn't love a pot of spruce tips with a big ol' candy cane or two sticking out of it?

Trend #6: Handmade Happiness
This is the trend I love the most and the trend that my ornaments seem to fit the best. It's whimsical, lovely, and one of a kind. This is another trend that kids love. Especially since the ornaments they've handmade over the years fit in perfectly on this tree. God's eyes from camp experiences past, school projects, they all enrich this look. Last year all the Starbuck's had wreaths made of yarn balls, this is a great example of the handmade trend.
These are the trends I've been spotting this season and this next week I'll show you some ideas for making affordable and homemade accents and ornaments. I SO can't wait!! I'd also LOVE to hear which of the trends above appeals to YOU the most. What color combination's are you drawn to? Are you classic or whimsical in your seasonal design? Please leave a comment!

OK- Ready for the big secret? To help Celebrate the Christmas Season I've a coupon for my etsy shop, Bird From a Wire, good for 20% off any item in my shop this week. To take advantage of this just type in the coupon code CHRISTMASFUN1010 at checkout. Enjoy!!!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Giving Thanks

Tis' the day to eat turkey and stuffing, watch the Macy's Parade, spend time with family, and take naps. It's also the day to say thank you.
Give Thanks banner by Brandywine Designs on Etsy

Thank you to you- for coming here and reading my thoughts or viewing my tutorials. I really appreciate it!
Thank you to my family for giving me the time to spend here and for having patience with me as I try to find balance between my roles of wife, mom, daughter, friend, and artist.
Thank you to my friends for encouraging me, especially when I feel discouraged.
Thank you to my editor and publisher for making this a year I'll never forget.
Thank you to all the other aspiring artists/moms/creative types for walking with me this year, I so appreciate your companionship.

And Thanks to God for giving me this life and for bringing so many wonderful people and experiences into it. I will ever be grateful.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Appreciating the Chance to Slow Down and Play

This weekend was busy with a speaking engagement/wreath demo on Friday, the Handmade Mn show on Saturday, and then today I have a Kindergarten Thanksgiving craft to present and make with the kids in my son's classroom. THEN.... wait for it... wait for it.... I'M DONE! I'm so excited. :)

Because of my schedule of late, I've seen how the busy times really 'cause us to appreciate and enjoy the not so busy times. It really is a gift to see it. On Saturday my husband stayed with me at the craft sale. Most people would not have anticipated or enjoyed sitting with their spouse at a craft show for 7 or 8 hours but my both my husband and I did. It was such a contrast to our usual rush. My son now LOVES his Saturday mornings in a way he never did before, because now Saturdays, where he gets to sit on the couch and watch t.v. in his pajama's, are such a contrast to the rest of the week-with it's hurry hurry hurry to get out the door. So as busy as the last few weeks have been they've really created in me an anticipation of being able to slow down and spend some time without the to-do list pressing upon me.
My Pre- Christmas Christmas Present!

Still I like to relax by doing something meditative, like reading or knitting. I've been longing to knit lately. It's the repetitive nature of it, the hand motions you repeat, and the way you can let your mind wander. I really do enjoy it and haven't made the time for it in the last year.

Besides needing the Rx that knitting gives me I've seen some really fabulous knit wear lately that had completely been stoking my needles, and I've also found an old friend's blog about knitting that's whet my appetite further. It's a great blog and I love her voice. She's fun and witty and talks a bit about her life and her knitting. Again, it made me want to pick up those sticks and string and just play.

This morning my mother in law called and reminded me that my Christmas package should arrive today. She wanted to wait and send it so it arrives today, when everything's done and I can enjoy it. What is it??? Yarn, and a knitting book by my favorite knit designer ever- Louisa Harding. I'm so excited to toss aside the wire and fabric and immerse myself in something different for a little while. So when she told me what she was getting me for Christmas and said she wanted to send it early I knew right when I'd want/need it. It comes today. Yay!

But I'd like to know, how do you find a balance? Do you? How do you relax and regain some equilibrium of the spirit? Please leave a comment and share with us your personal Rx for these busy times.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Beaded Wire Snowflakes- Tutorial

With the snow earlier this week and non-stop Christmas music playing over Pandora I think I've finally achieved that Christmas Spirit I've been lacking til now. It's fun and wonderful and I rarely stop smiling. Which, if you saw my to-do list, you would consider nothing less than a Christmas Miracle. I know my husband does. Despite all the work getting ready for the events last week, and my big Handmade MN show this weekend, I am loving it all. So to spread a little of the Christmas Spirit I thought I'd show you how to make my favorite Beaded Wire Snowflakes. So go grab yourself a mug of hot cocoa, a peppermint stick or two, and sit back, relax and Enjoy the tutorial. :)
Beaded Wire Snowflakes Tutorial
Gather Your Tools and Materials:
Roll of 16-gauge steel wire (Grip-rite)
Roll of 19-gauge steel wire (darice)
A few sparkly silver or blue beads
Needle nose pliers (garage)
Wire cutter (somewhere around)

Step One: Bend one end of  your 16-gauge steel wire in and under so that the cut end is blunt against the rest of the wire. *This is important to do right away whenever you're working with wire because it will protect your hands from getting too scratched up.* In this tutorial it's also a nice design element.

Step Two: Measure from the bend end of your wire 6 1/2" or so and cut your wire from the spool. Then bend that end of the wire to match your other end. In the beginning it might be hard to gauge where to make that bend so it matches, but if you just let your fingers do it, they'll find a rhythm and your bends will start to be consistent. Just don't worry about it too much if they're uneven.

Step Three: Repeat to create a total of 6 of these pieces. Then, grip two together in one hand at about an inch from one end (as shown), and using your other hand and the 19-gauge wire, begin to wrap about an inch away from an end. Wrap to end, and then around end.

Step Four: Now use your wire to finish wrapping them together, go around the end a few times, and then cut close. Using your needle nose pliers bend the cut end in so that it won't stick out and scratch. Check your other cut end as well. Repeat to wrap other 4 wires to create a total of 3 wrapped together wire pieces.


Step Five: In your hand, assemble the wires into a snowflake shape by laying them across one another so they all intersect at their middles, as shown. Grip your 19-gauge wire about 2"-3" from end, and then use it to wrap around the intersection several times. Then move around the center intersection, wrapping the wires into position.

Step Six: Bend in your cut end if it's protruding, and then cut the wire close and bend end in to center to secure. If your snowflake seems a little wobbly at this point, grab your needle nose, and flip the snowflake over and give a wire or two a good twist to tighten bind. You should have a 3" piece of wire still sticking out from center.

 Step Seven: Thread a bead onto this wire and position so that it is centered to the middle of your intersection. Wrap the extra wire, and bend in your cut end to complete. AT THIS POINT: you may want to use your 19-gauge steel wire to add beads to the each of your 6 ends as well. The extra beads really catch the light and look soo sparkly. Another way of finishing off the snowflake is to cut thin strips of cloth and tie to each end. You may also choose to spray paint your snowflake. Totally up to you how you'd like to embellish the ornaments. So have fun!!!

PS- to hang these I bend my 16-gauge steel wire to create an "S" hook. It's easy, matches the ornament, and looks great hanging from my iron chandelier. ;)

Monday, November 15, 2010

An Eventful Weekend

It was an eventful weekend to be sure! On Friday I was able to go pick up the fresh flowers for my Sunday event. Gorgeous, amazing, beautiful flowers, it's always a treat to pick them out. The wholesaler I get them at is in downtown Minneapolis, I live in a suburb so it's just a bit of a trip. Then I took them over to church and stripped the leaves, prepped the flowers, got them in buckets of water, etc. That done, I went home and made sure I had everything I needed for the next morning. Piece of cake. ;)

When I woke up Saturday morning my first thought as I looked out the window, was "wow- am I glad I don't have to go downtown today". In the night it had started to snow and we had inches of the white stuff covering everything. It was such a heavy, wet snow, that it bent over the branches of smaller trees and shrubs. Everything looked as if it was bowing down. And white. So white. Such a transformation from earlier in the week. On the Monday prior my son wore shorts to school and played outside for almost two hours. Usually the interlude between fall and winter is a little more gradual.

It is Minnesota though, and we are pretty resigned to snow at this time of year so I got in the car and headed out into it. I had flowers waiting. :) It took a while to get to church, we live 15 miles or so away, and without plows or sand it took almost an hour to get there. There were a lot of spin outs, many cars in the ditches, a semi that was jack knifed- all the usual. Winter had definitely returned. :)By the time I left church, later that day though, the plows had been out, the roads were sanded, and the driving was good.

The flowers turned out beautiful, I was lucky enough to have a friend come over and help, which made it even more fun, and they looked so beautiful on the tables Sunday. I really enjoyed being able to play with them again, it's been a little while. Then, Sunday afternoon, the interlude over, it was back to my wire and fabric as I get ready for the Handmade MN show this weekend.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Here, There, and Everywhere.

Super "Sweets" Christmas Display
Today I'm running here and there picking up fresh flowers from the wholesaler, prepping the flowers, searching for lost supplies in my garage, and generally running around circles. Still some things are getting accomplished. For instance, I've found a few things in my garage I didn't know were there. I've also been able to pick up a few Christmas trends. What, you may wonder, am I up to?

Well, each fall I dust off my floral designer apron and do the flower arrangements for a couple of events at my church. The largest is this Sunday so I've been prepping and sourcing all the flowers and drygood supplies I need to put those arrangements together tomorrow.

But in the midst of the running to the local wholesalers to pick up the supplies I need, I've glimpsed some pretty wild Christmas displays. Which has been really fun. I snapped a few pics for  you guys that I'll share with you soon. These wholesalers are always at the very edge of super trendy when it comes to seasonal floral or permanent floral displays and it was fun to kind of soak up their installations.

Inside the floral cooler!
Something I wanted to quick tell you all though is that my book, Creative Bloom: Projects and Inspiration with Fabric and Wire is also here, there, and everywhere. I just found out that it is now available as an e-book for the Kindle, and is also available in the ibook format through iTunes. I got the sample from iBooks yesterday. Kind of fun- now I can tell someone about my book and pull out my phone and show them a few pages besides. So I thought I would let y'all know too. :) 

I'll be back on Monday with some pictures from the weekend. Just a quick reminder though- the Handmade MN market is next weekend. If you're local you will NOT want to miss this event!! For more details look here.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Saying Hello with Fabric and Wire- Easy Greeting Card Tutorial

I had the opportunity to make a greeting card this morning and thought I'd snap a few photo's as I go. It really is quick, easy, and I think still has that handmade charm. Of course, you can vary your wire shape, you could vary the shape of your fabric pieces. You could throw in a little paper or a stamped image on the paper. You could shape your wire like a bird or leaf, and use Christmas of fall fabrics...You really can go all over the place from here, my more simple version here can just be your jumping off point. So take a look, and Enjoy!!
I Heart Easy- Greeting Card Tutorial
What you need:
A blank piece of paper (8 1/2"w. x 11"h.)
A few scraps of fabric, one square, one long and thin
A wire heart made of 16-gauge steel wire
Embroidery Floss
Uhu Glue stick

Step One: Fold your piece of paper in half to form a card that is 8 1/2"h. x 5 1/2"w. Then grab your glue stick and apply glue to the back of your fabrics.

Step Two: Stick fabric on front of card where desired. Press down and smooth flat for good adhesion.

Step Three: Position your heart on your card where you'd like it. Then, mark or hold down the heart and poke holes on either side of the wire on each side of the heart. So you're making a total of 4 poke holes. A good tip here is to stagger slightly your pokes by about 1/8" so that the paper is less likely to tear.

Step Four: Thread your needle with a piece of embroidery floss, knot one end of the floss, and then from the inside of the card insert your needle through one of your holes. Come up on the front side and then go down through the hole next to it. This will anchor your stitch somewhat.

Step Five: Then come up to the front from the back a second time and this time stitch over one side of your wire heart. Repeat a couple of times and then knot and trim the thread on the back side of the card.
Repeat steps four and five on the other side of your heart to securely stitch heart to paper.Then, write or stamp your greeting inside the card and Voila! A stitched, fabric and wire card that's both easy and super cute!