Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Crafty Hours

Paper chains. I still remember the glorious feeling of I can do it, when I learned how to make paper chains. The satisfaction of that success has never really left me, and I think it has become even nicer every time I teach one of my children that long strips of paper glued in loops can be linked together to form a long and lovely decoration!

One year when the boys and I were making Advent chains, with twenty five rings counting the days until Christmas, I added something extra to my loops. On the inside of each loop I wrote a message or activity. Each loop was numbered, and each corresponded with the days on my calendar, so I could anticipate what they were going to reveal. Every morning William, Alex, or Max took a turn tearing off a loop and reading the new message. Some I kept very simple, and some matched up with extra special things we had planned in advance. So each day they could anticipate a fun holiday themed happening, such as...

Bake cookies
Drive by holiday lights
Sing carols
Read by a roaring fire
Watch a holiday movie
Decorate the tree
Take a starry evening walk
Make hot cocoa
Sleep beside the Christmas tree
Look for snow
Visit family
Wrap gifts
Make Christmas cards

Maria learned how to make paper chains a few years ago. But I have not made a Christmas activity Advent chain in a long time. She would love it if I did...hmmmm.

She has already made a bunch of chains this week. She is her own motivator when it comes to coloring, gluing, cutting, creating, crafting. I saw her trying to make a template with another piece of paper, so she could get nice, straight strips of paper. It occurred to me that she is ready for real tools. She has mastered scissors already, so I brought out my quilter's straight edge and the paper cutter.

Perfect timing. She has the patience and the interest, and most importantly a healthy respect for good tools. She was impressed with how easy it was to measure her paper, get the straight lines she was seeking, and especially how ingeniously the paper cutter works. I am glad she learned the hard way first. I think learning basic skills sets a strong foundation for gaining new skills, and it adds to the appreciation as well.

Tape on the nose... that is a game she started when she was one year old. We have played it often, happily. The tape dangles from the end of your nose, and when you blow it, the tape flaps and dances. Simple pleasures.

While Maria built her blue and pink paper chain, I got started on something inspired by me wanting to give a nod to Victorian-SteamPunked holidays, with old-fashioned and handmade decorations. What is more old-fashioned and handmade than paper chains? And what, in our modern commercial lives, is more SteamPunked than Trader Joe's?

I got hold of one of their fabulous little circulars, printed on recycled paper, with soy-based inks. I read it, admired the wit and charm, noted the whimsical ephemera, and illustrations, and then I cut it to pieces.

Really. I did not hold back.
And from one Fearless Flyer I had all the old fashioned-SteamPunked paper chain making strips I needed. I used those fun scissors that give a little Victorian flair with a crinkled edge.

And a neat part is how the images and phrases, from Trader Joe's Thanksgiving edition of the Fearless Flyer, is full of seasonal and yummy words and graphics. I kept seeing Allspice, Pumpkin, Roast, Poet, Cornbread, Green Beans, Cranberry, Mulling Spices, and also Family, Friends, Thanks, Harvest, Natural, Sparkling... I love words. Words are a picture, they conjure sights, sounds, emotions, sentiments. My chain was linking together a chain of happy holiday sights and sounds, and fragrances too.

Maria and I spent some happy hours crafting together. Measuring and counting, discussing our hopes, and our plans. Getting glue on our finger tips, laughing.

About those elves... last year I learned that an aunt in Tennessee loves and collects elves. I found these two at a garage sale. I wonder if she would like to add them to her shelf? I've had fun thinking how she might enjoy these funny little guys.


Anonymous said...

Oh, Natalie, you are such a sweetheart! I feel so happy after reading this. You are actually getting me in the holiday mood--which is a hard thing for this mostly cynical woman to feel. My "kids" are adults now, and I wish I had done more of the crafty things you do, as well as the activities on that wonderful list of messages. Thank you!

Karla said...

Love the paper chains! We've been making these for as long as I can remember. I love your Trader Joe chain. I have my Fearless Flyer somewhere in my "To Do Something With" stack of papers. You've made me want to go grab it and read it tonight. The holidays are coming and I'm so excited, especially after I read posts like this!

Natalie, the Chickenblogger said...

Sylvia... thank you. In this big world of productive and talented people, I feel honored to have any influence. (Good influence!) I can easily lament and regret what I have failed to do, or have not done enough of. So, I like to remind myself of the things that work, the times I have come through. It's never to late to play <---I firmly believe.

Karla... we have been reading our new Christmas books. Many thanks for the fresh bedtime reads! Would I be crazy to try and add some glitter to the edges of the paper loops? Maybe I am being a little too "Fearless" in my crafty ambitions! hahaha!

Golden West said...

Hi Natalie,

So pleased to make your acquaintance! I'll be happily stopping by your delightful blog frequently to see what's new. Amanda told me all about meeting you and how you're also friends with Tracy in Norway - it really is a small world!

I love paper chains, too!

Natalie, the Chickenblogger said...

News from the Golden West! Welcome, and thank you. It's wonderful making new friends in this small and beautiful world.

Amanda at 32˙North said...

Oh, paper chains! I still remember how excited I was to create these in the days before cool paper cutters. I think colored construction paper cut by mom or a pair of dinky plastic scissors was the standard then.

Natalie, the Chickenblogger said...

I know, right? I loved my paper chains when I was a young artist. Fancy or simple, they are so iconic of homemade, sincere crafting.