Archive for the ‘christmas’ Category

geometric straw ornament tutorial

geometric straw ornament

a lovely geometric straw ornament

This is a traditional eastern european ornament and garland. The shape is simple, but a little tricky the first time you make it. After you get the hang of it many three dimensional geometric shapes are possible. I think it makes for a nice modern, but still natural christmas ornament. Like the other tutorial I used straw for, this one can of course can be made with plastic or paper straws, but if you would like to use natural straws, I found mine the at the imagination childhood online shop.

materials for geometric straw ornament


  • natural straw
  • button thread (or other strong thread)
  • yarn needle


First you need to soak the straws and cut them into 2inch pieces. I explained this in detail in my tutorial for a straw and pompom garland.

1.Take a piece of thread about twice the length of your arm and thread the yarn needle–no need to knot it. String four straw pieces almost to the end of your thread. Pull the threads until the straws meet, but don’t pull too hard or you will split the straws. Then tie a square knot (that’s the plain old kind).  You can trim the end, but don’t cut the working thread.

2. Now pull the thread through two straw pieces and

3. secure them at the opposite end.

4. Thread two more pieces and tie at the top (the opposite end you just strung them from)

5. Take your needle back through one of the straws, so it comes out in the middle.

6. String one straw at a time securing it where the next straws meet. Do this four times and tie a knot.

Trim all your threads and decide which way you would like it to hang. Loop your thread at the top point and tie it together. Now hang up that nice looking ornament you just made.

geometric straw garland on a picture

You can keep going and make a double ornament, or keep going and going and make a whole garland! If you do, I would suggest making them one at a time and then tying them all together. Making these with a long piece of thread doesn’t really work: it gets tangled and it’s bothersome.

geometric straw garland on the tree

a christmas present for my lovely readers: a week of handmade ornament tutorials!

I will be accepting advertisers on Elsie Marley starting January 2011. If you would like to reserve a spot please email me and we can discuss the specifics! Thanks!

felt dove ornament tutorial

felt bird ornaments

a felt dove ornament

I mentioned it last week, but I realized some of you may have missed it: everyday this week I will have instructions for a new handmade ornament.  You probably caught on by now, seeing it’s wednesday and look! another tutorial.  This is my christmas gift to you–all my readers! I’ve said it before, but I mean it: you are awesome. And you deserve a present, or five.

This little bird takes four strips of felt and five stitches to make. Really, that’s it.


  • one 2in x 8in piece of wool felt
  • needle and thread
  • a little embroidery floss (that matches your felt)
  • a disappearing ink pen
  • a rotary cutter is nice, but scissors are fine too


First cut your felt into four 8 x 1/4 inch long strips. Line them up nice and neat like I have below.

four felt strips for the dove

Make a mark on them with your disappearing pen at these measurements:

  1. on the top strip at 1 1/2inches and 3 1/2 inches from the right
  2. on the second strip at 1 1/4inches and 3 3/4 inches from the right
  3. on the third strip at 1 inch and 4 inches from the right
  4. and on the bottom strip 3/4inch and 4 1/2 inch from the right

Now stack up all the strips in the same order they are already in (bottom one on the bottom, then the third one on top, and so on). Flip the top one over when you stack it on top so the markings are hidden.

stack them on top of one another

Take your needle and thread and on the right side where they are all lined up sew the strips together with a few stitches. This will make the beak of the bird. When you start hide your knot in between two of the strips and when you are done hide it again–do this for the next steps as well.

the first stitch makes the beak

Next line up all the first dots you made and sew a few stitches to secure them together. You’ve just made the dove’s head.

second stitch makes the head

Now line up the next set of dots and sew. Look! A bird! You can trim the tail however you like. You can round the edges, or make them fringey, or roll the strips up at the end and iron them a bit so they curl, or whatever else you can think of.

third stitch makes the body

To make the hanger, take your embroidery floss (about 8 inches or so) and insert your needle where you made the neck stitch. And then again by the tail stitch. Put the ends of the thread together–you should have made a triangle where the base is the same length as the back of the bird. This sounds very weird when I say it, but in the picture it’s pretty obvious, right?


I used green embroidery floss so you could see it better, but you probably want it to match your felt. Tie the ends together and hang up that pretty christmas bird.

handmade felt dove ornament

a christmas present for my lovely readers: a week of handmade ornament tutorials!

I will be accepting advertisers  on Elsie Marley starting January 2011. If you would like to reserve a spot please email me and we can discuss the specifics! Thanks!

paper christmas tree ornament tutorial

paper christmas ornaments

a paper christmas tree ornament

This as simple as it gets. A few scraps of paper, one seam and in minutes you’ve make a pretty, handmade ornament. I used paint chips (in lovely martha stewart colors) from the hardware store because I had them on hand, but cardstock or thin cardboard or old christmas cards would all work well.

an ornament from paint chips

Cut out one star and three to five strips of paper.  If you’d like to use the same measurements I used, you can download the pattern pictured below. If you would rather do it freehand, cut progressively longer strips for the tree, as wide as you like, and cut a good size trunk.

paper tree pattern

You are going to sew a seam down the middle of everything on your sewing machine. Sewing on paper is really not that much different than sewing on fabric, except that you use a slightly longer stitch and it’s ok to use a dull needle. If you are anything like me, there is one in your machine right now! Make a bunch of paper tree ornaments with that perfectly dull specimen and then do yourself a favor: take it out! And get a nice, new sharp one in there for the rest of your christmas sewing.

First make sure you have about three inches of slack from the bobbin and past the needle before you begin sewing. Then place the star under the presser foot of your machine take one stitch forward and then one stitch back (a little sewing dance!) to secure the thread and then sew down the middle of the star. Before you get to the bottom nudge the shortest strip of paper under the presser foot and sew down the middle of it.  And so on, with the rest of the strips and the trunk.

sewing paper trees

When you get to the bottom of the trunk, sew back and forth a few times to secure the thread again. Tie the ends on top of the ornament together, so it makes a loop for hanging. Snip the thread ends on the bottom of the trunk and you’re done!

christmas tree ornament made out of paint chips


I included a pattern for a snowman in the PDF pattern as well, but a million other things are possible: candy canes, bells, santas, pretty much anything you can think of to cut out and sew together!

snowman ornament made from paint chips

a christmas present for my lovely readers: a week of handmade ornament tutorials!

I will be accepting advertisers  on Elsie Marley starting January 2011. If you would like to reserve a spot please email me and we can discuss the specifics! Thanks!

straw and pompom garland tutorial

the straw and pompom garland hanging on a mirror

a straw and pompom garland

I ordered a bunch of natural straws from the lovely online shop, Imagination Childhood (they call them swedish straws). I bought them for another project (thursday’s tutorial!), but I loved working with them so much I wanted to make a simple garland with them too. Obviously this can be done with plastic straws or even some pretty paper straws, if you don’t have any swedish straws lying around. But the natural straws are, well, natural and because of the they are curved slightly and the colors are mottled and the surface uneven, all of which makes them pretty beautiful.


materials for make a pompom and straw garland

To make this garland I paired the natural color of the straw with cream colored yarn, which is a little on the understated side (for me). I think bright, almost neon, pompoms in christmas light colors would look pretty fantstic too.

  • natural straws
  • bowl or pan in which the straws can lie flat
  • yarn
  • button thread (or any heavy duty thread)
  • yarn needle


First you have to make some pompoms. If you have a pompom maker you are good to go, if you don’t that’s fine too–just use this simple tutorial over at Bella Dia for making pompoms using only your fingers. You can, of course use the little store bought pompoms too.

making pompoms

While you are making your pompoms put the natural straws in some very hot water to soak. This makes the straw less brittle and less likely to split when you cut them. They should sit about an hour–enough time to make a bunch of pompoms. When you are ready to use them, take them out from the water, drain and wipe them off gently.

soaking the straws

To cut the straws, make a mark on one straw every two inches. If your yarn needle is shorter than two inches, make your straws a little shorter too–this will make things a little easier when you make the garland. Then take about 5 or 6 straws, including the one you marked, in your hand and line them up. Then cut. Some might go flying, but if they are still a little damp they shouldn’t go too far.

cutting natural straws

Now take a long piece of thread, knot it, and stick it through a pompom. It might take a few tries before you find the right spot where the knot doesn’t go right through. Then alternate pompom, straw, pompom, straw. Finish with a pompom and hide the knot in the yarn. If you want to keep going but ran out of thread, ready another needle and thread (knotted) and insert the need where the last straw and pompom meet, then just keep going.

pompom garland on the tree


Pretty paper stars also look nice between the natural straws. Popcorn might work, dried orange slices would look nice.  And I bet you can think of a bunch of other things too.

a christmas present for my lovely readers: a week of handmade ornament tutorials!

I will be accepting advertisers  on Elsie Marley starting January 2011. If you are interested in reserving a spot please email me and we can discuss the specifics! Thanks!

holiday lists

I’m starting mine: cookies, cards, menus, gifts. I plan on making (and doing) much less this year than I have in the past, but somehow my lists are long anyway. There are always so many new cookies I want to make:

  • I’ve always wanted to try these christmas rainbow cookies.
  • these pistachio sandwich cookies look like a royal pain in the ass to make, but they also look freakin delicious.
  • I think super crispy gingerbread men sandwiched together with chocolate ganache would be good, do you think?
  • alfajores are definitely on the list this year (looks like sandwich cookies are the theme this year)
  • I’ve never made lebekuchen, but I do love it.
  • these mexican hot chocolate cookies look simple and really good.
  • I could go on and on

Martha somehow roped me in to buying another one of her christmas cookies magazines. And now the list is even longer and it might even have “make cookies that look like little mice” on it. Shesh. This is sort of why I shy away from making lists–I know there are so many of you out there that love them.  Mine start out small (laundry, post office) and then quickly get grandiose and undoable (paint the house, rip out kitchen counter). And then when only a few things get crossed off the list I feel awful and lazy and guilty (and, oddly, like the list is watching me).

Enough of my guilt ridden midwesterness. I thought I’d share a few simple ideas from the archives for the holidays. The picture is from a few years ago when I realized I didn’t have any thanksgiving decorations, so I slapped together this project. Two years later I still don’t have any thanksgiving decorations and clementines on the mantel have become a little tradition.

English toffee is always the first christmasy thing I make every year: it freezes well and travel well and little nibbles sustain me through the season. You can find my recipe and tutorial here.

There is time to sew up this advent calendar before December 1st. Really, there is. I think it looks more complicated than it is: there is some simple machine sewing and then a movies worth of hand sewing.  The pattern and tutorial for the string of lights advent calendar is right here. We had an activity in each bulb last year and the kids and I loved it. I put the slip of paper in the night before, so a big project didn’t sneak up on me and because I’m last minute like that.


And hey! you guys are awesome! Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to fill out my silly little survey. It was super helpful and makes me want to create more surveys so I can get to know you better. The consensus seemed to be you like the little blog just how it is, but wouldn’t mind if I change it up a bit: ads are ok, a recipe or two (if they are good), and more kid’s crafts, food, tutorials, and sewing!  Thanks to the commenter who said, “no pressure or anything!”  And thank you, everyone, for all the kind words. It was unexpected and so incredibly wonderful.