Friday, December 28, 2012

25 Days of Ornaments: A wedding anniversary ornament

About two days before Christmas, it occurred to me that it might be nice to make a special ornament for me and Cagatay each year, to mark our Christmases (and life) together. And while it's not our first Christmas together, this year is our first as a married couple, which makes a nice starting point for a tradition.

So, for our first ornament, I cross-stitched a pair of ice skaters from the fab Bucilla kit I bought last year. I used Aida cloth for the front and hand-sewed on a felt backing, stuffing it right before I closed it up. For the most part, I followed the pattern -- I changed "my" outfit to red (the original pattern had the lady's dress in pink) and used brown for the hair, and I gave "Cagatay" a little moustache and goatee. And, of course, I added our wedding date at the top. :)

It's definitely my favorite ornament from this year, and it's also my last ornament for 2012. Thanks for reading! Now I will go back to posting on my blog much less frequently... :)

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25 Days of Ornaments: Button Christmas tree and Frosty

Because I was a little disappointed with my other button Christmas tree from this year, I decided to have another go at it, though this little guy reminds me more of the alphabet-letter trees. While I was finishing this ornament up, I also finished up my cross-stitch Frosty the Snowman ornament...I sewed the front last Christmas, but I never got around to giving it a backing. So that's why I photographed them together -- they were simply partners-in-time. [Okay, that was terrible.] They were also my last ornaments of the year! Though I still have one last ornament, the very best one, left to post...


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25 Days of Ornaments: Salt-dough ornaments

Last year, I made some Fimo ornaments, but this year, it really wasn't an option (I've only seen that type of clay once in Istanbul) -- and really, who needs it when they are multiple clay-like tutorials on Pinterest?

The first tutorial I tried was this cornstarch/baking soda/water concoction. It didn't work for me. The first time around, I admittedly skimped on the baking soda because baking soda is in short supply here. For whatever reason, you can only buy baking soda in Turkey in these little 5-gram packets...and my cut-down version, a fourth of the original, still required 59 grams of baking soda. That's a lot of little packets. On the first try, my ornaments cracked terribly -- but I suppose it was my own fault. On the second try, I sucked it up and used the required amount of little baking-soda packets. My ornaments still cracked, though not as badly as the first time. So I gave up on that recipe -- from the comments on the original website, it seems like the recipe is hit or miss. For some people, it worked great, for others, not so much.

So, I decided to try salt-dough ornaments next -- I hadn't made them since grade school. All of my childhood salt-dough ornaments crumbled and died long ago, but one of my brother's still exists -- it's Snoopy sitting on his doghouse, but you can't really tell anymore, I just happen to remember that what it was. Because of this, I wasn't that keen on doing salt-dough ornaments -- I do like my ornaments to last -- but I decided to play around with them this year just for fun.

So I had fun. I used this recipe, but brushed up on the basics with this salt-dough tutorial. And it was fun. :)  But once they were baked, after an endless amount of baking time, I didn't know what to do with them. I tried decorating some of them with beads, which I didn't like, but I was quite pleased with the ones I adorned with paper tape.

Yep, paper tape. Instead of washi tape, I used the paper tape I bought much more cheaply at Target. I got the idea of using washi tape from a Pinterest pin -- I saw the photo and thought maybe she had used clay ornaments, but when I actually checked the link, it turned out that she was using cardboard IKEA ornaments. But it turns out you can actually affix paper tape to salt-dough ornaments.

When I tried to tape down the sides, the tape wouldn't attach, so I cut the tape to align with the top edges. The tape seemed to stick pretty well once the edges were perfectly aligned, but I used a little bit of all-purpose glue just to be safe. It's been a couple of days now and the ornaments are still in good shape, but I can't attest yet to their longetivity. So keep that in mind. :)

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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas card outtakes

When I was at Target over Thanksgiving, I found the cutest little reindeer hat and jingle-bell collar for pets, and I knew it would be perfect for our cat, Ozzy. Not suprisingly, Ozzy didn't think it was all that perfect. We tried so hard to get him to pose for a photo, but he just wasn't having it. Not the first time, not the second time, not the third time... Eventually, it occurred to us to try while he was taking a nap -- besides giving us the stink eye, he went with it, and we managed to get a decent, in-focus shot. But the outtakes along the way were pretty funny...

We've been really lucky that he's completely oblivious to the Christmas tree -- but as we were holding him up for the photos, he started to notice the ornaments. Thankfully, he seemed to forget about them after -- which is really lucky because he usually goes crazy over anything he can play with. I was afraid we'd wake up one morning with the tree on the floor...

This hat was seriously the best $5 investment I ever made. But it also made me realize...does my cat look like the Grinch that stole Christmas?

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Happy Holidays!

I hope that everyone has been having a wonderful and joyous holiday season, wherever in the world you might be!

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25 Days of Ornaments: Alphabet-letter Christmas trees

When I was planning out my button Christmas tree last week, an idea hit me -- I would do the same thing but with those alphabet-letter beads, which I conveniently happen to have in my craft stash. I did one alphabet-letter Christmas tree ornament on Aida cloth and one on felt -- although I think the one on Aida cloth turned out better (which has more to do with back-pain-induced careless cutting than anything else), the felt was a lot easier to work with.

The arrangement of the letters/dividers seemed really obvious to me, but Cagatay was a little confused by the use of the hearts. More specifically -- "What are the hearts supposed to mean?" They're just word dividers -- I liked the look of the hearts (all warm and fuzzy for Christmas), but more importantly, I didn't have that many unmarked beads. He accepted this answer, but I still think he's a little dubious. :)

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25 Days of Ornaments: Button Christmas tree

Well, I really fell off the wagon, didn't I? But I have a decent excuse: While we were playing squash at the gym on Saturday, I pulled a muscle in my lower back, and I wasn't able to move for two days. Yesterday saw some improvement -- I could stand up without help -- and today, I'm finally starting to feel like myself again. [So what is the moral of this story? The gym is evil. Or I need to strengthened my back. One or the other.]

On the bright side, since people don't celebrate Christmas here -- they don't even really know what Christmas is -- and the trees are up for New Year's, I figure I have another week to finish my ornaments. :)

So, as I mentioned in a previous post -- the button ornament round-up -- button Christmas ornaments are immensely popular, as least judging by my blog stats. And since I have a ton of buttons left over from last Christmas, I decided to see what else I could make. Initially I wanted to make a button Christmas tree like the one from last year, but in white, to represent the flocked trees that we always had when I was a kid -- but it turned out I hardly had any white buttons, so that was out.

Instead, I decided to make a button Christmas tree on fabric. First, I laid out my buttons on the table -- on this one, the buttons increase in size as the tree grows wider. Then I sewed them on, and added little round beads for ornaments. Finally, I sewed on a fabric back, and stuffed just before closing it up. Truth be told, I'm not terribly fond of this ornament -- I winged it when I cut out the shape (after the buttons were already sewn on) and it ended up being too cramped. What can I say, I did that part two days ago and my back was killing me -- but lesson learned, and I was more conscientious with the ornaments that came after.

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Saturday, December 22, 2012

25 Days of Ornaments: Felt donut

As promised, here's my felt donut ornament. I went with red frosting again, as on my crochet donut ornament, and I'm generally pleased with how it turned out.

It took me couple of tries to figure out the proportions of the donut, since sewing it changes things up a bit. In the end, for the donut base, I cut a circle that was 5 inches in diameter, with a 1.25-inch diameter hole. For the frosting, I cut a circle that was 5.25 inches in diameter and also with a 1.25-inch diameter hole. Once I made sure the frosting aligned with the sewn donut, I played with the circle, giving it "swirls" to make it more frosting-like. My donut turned out a little big -- it's by far the biggest ornament on the tree, beating out the crochet reindeer, but I'm quite fond of it.

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Friday, December 21, 2012

25 Days of Ornaments: Button Christmas trees, button wreaths and more (round-up)

It turns out that people on the Interwebs don't care that much about Turkey -- my most popular blog post, far and away, has been the one on last year's button Christmas tree. It's gotten nearly 1,000 views, which just seems astounding to me.

I still have a large stash of buttons left over from last year, plus I might have supplemented my supply when I was home over Thanksgiving, so I've been working on a couple of new button ornaments for this year. But as they're not quite ready yet, let's start with a round-up of some of the holiday button crafts out there:

1. Better Homes and Gardens has a short tutorial on making holiday coffee sleeves using buttons as embellishments.

2. Martha Stewart explains how to convert buttons into stamps that kids can use to make gift wrap.

3. My most-popular post: the button Christmas tree

4. I am in love with this homemade Christmas card that uses buttons as hanging ornaments. It's just so colorful and creative!

5. A different take on the button Christmas tree: Glue buttons to cardstock, add a decorative paper background and then frame

6. I can't seem to reach the actual webpage, but I saw some really cute button snowmen ornaments on Pinterest. My guess is that the originator of the project glued the buttons together and then added a felt scarf and hat.

7. Back to Martha Stewart, she has a tutorial on making a no-fail button-wreath ornament.

8. Martha really is the queen of button crafts: She has another tutorial, this time on pin-on button boutonnieres. It's meant to be for a wedding, but I think it could easily work as a Christmas ornament. If it's too flimsy, just add a backing (see #9).

9. Last but not least, it's my second button project from last year: my version of a button-wreath ornament.

I hope you enjoyed this round-up. Good luck tackling some of these DIY button Christmas projects and ornaments!

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25 Days of Ornaments: Crochet star and holiday song list

Sorry I didn't get around to posting an ornament yesterday -- since it was supposed to be the last night of the world and all, we spent it appropriately -- drinking our liquor cabinet dry, getting tattoos, hanging from the ceiling, and generally partying like it was 1999. Wasn't that what everyone did? :)

I made this crochet star a couple of days ago -- I used an off-white yarn and silver DMC thread paired together, and I added a couple of white beads to the center. While the pattern itself is lovely, no disrespect, I didn't like the finished star as a Christmas ornament.  I thought it (and all of its compatriots that I might have crocheted) were just too flimsy for the tree -- not my style. Having said that, maybe these little stars might have worked better.

So, because I was a little disappointed in my ornament, I decided to turn this post into one about holiday songs. :) When I'm making ornaments, I like to listen to music or watch DVDs (Grey's Anatomy, Glee or Christmas movies at the moment) -- I find I need the companionship. So here's my list of Christmas songs currently at the top of my iTunes:

I'm always on the hunt for new Christmas music. Anything else you'd like to add?

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Dec. 21: Istanbul Snow-pocalypse!

So it's December 21. The great changeover was supposedly scheduled to happen at 1:11pm our time, at the winter solstice, and we just passed that about 20 minutes ago -- and we're still here. Hooray!

Instead of fireballs and lightning bolts, our gift from the heavens was a massive snowstorm yesterday. Forget Nostradamus and Punxsutawney Phil -- apparently the real prognosticator was Robert Frost. How apropo is his poem "Fire and Ice"?

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
Yesterday's all-day snow totally snarled up the traffic for everyone's commute home, and some metro entrances were temporarily closed because there were so many people trying to get in, but today, most everyone is staying home from school and work. Is it a sign that this new era will be a good one? :)

Our kitty, Ozzy, also got to enjoy his first snow. He wasn't so keen on going outside yesterday when the snow was blowing all around, but he was excited to wander around for a bit today.

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

25 Days of Ornaments: Cute crochet snowman

The more I crochet, the more I realize how simple the patterns are -- and how much they repeat from one to another, but with minor alterations making significant differences in ultimate shape. As I was admiring my fancy crochet ornament on the tree -- it happens to be at eye level when we sit on the couch -- I realized that the roundest part looked a lot like the bottom half of a snowman -- and how easy it would be to adjust that pattern and actually make a snowman. So that's what I did: Using other patterns as a guide, I created my first crochet pattern! So exciting. Welcome to the world, cheery crochet snowman ornament! 

His nose has given us some laughs -- maybe next time, I'd just use one bead. :)

I used a 4mm crochet hook for the snowman and hat, and a 4.25mm hook for the scarf.

Ch 2.
R1: Work 6 sc in first ch.
R2: Work 2 sc in each st around – 12 sts.
R3: *2 sc in next st, sc in next st, rep from * around – 18 sts.
R4: *2 sc in next st, sc in each of next 2 sts, rep from * around – 24 sts.
R5 - R8: Sc in each st around.
R9: *Sc2tog, sc in each of next 2 sts, rep from * around – 18 sts.
R10: *Sc2tog, sc in next st, rep from * around – 12 sts.
Stuff your ornament; this is the snowman’s bottom half.
R11: *Sc2tog, rep from * around – 6 sts.
R12: Work 2 sc in each st around – 12 sts.
R13: *2 sc in next st, sc in next st, rep from * around – 18 sts.
R14 - R15: Sc in each st around.
Attach the snowman’s eyes and nose.
R16: *Sc2tog, sc in next st, rep from * around – 12 sts.
Stuff your ornament.
R17: *Sc2tog, rep from * around – 6 sts.
Fasten off and weave in end.

Ch 2.
R1: Work 6 sc in first ch.
R2: Work 2 sc in each st around – 12 sts.
R3: *2 sc in next st, sc in next st, rep from * around – 18 sts.
R4: Through back loops only, sc in each st around.
R5 – R6: Sc in each st around.
R7: Through back loops only, *2 sc in next st, sc in next st, rep from * around – 27 sts.
R8: Through back loops only, sc in each st around.
Fasten off and weave in ends.

Ch 35 (or whatever length suits your fancy).
Starting in second ch from hook, sc 34.
Fasten off and weave in end.

Attach the snowman’s hat at the brim (through the first round of back-loop brim stitches – round 7 of the hat). I used 2 strands of black DMC thread instead of yarn to do this. Tie on the scarf.
 Have fun and let me know in the comments if you have any questions or corrections!

Copyright © 2012 Melinda Mahaffey, all rights reserved. This pattern or its finished product may not be reproduced, sold or distributed – mechanically, electronically, or by any other means, including posting to websites – without written permission from Melinda Mahaffey. The pattern and finished product is for personal use only.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Run from the apocalypse to Sirince, Turkey

In case you haven't heard, we're nearly T-minus two days from the apocalypse on December 21. While I personally prefer the interpretation that the coming end of a cycle in the Maya calendar signals a global spiritual transformation (if I have to prefer anything at all -- hello Y2K), it seems like a lot of people are preparing for an actual Armageddon. I, on the other hand, have been making Christmas ornaments. :)

I haven't paid much attention to the whole thing, but my eye was caught by an article in the Daily Mail last week -- apparently one-way flights to Sirince, Turkey, have recently seen an increase of 30 percent because Armageddon theorists believe it's one of the few places on earth that might be safe on December 21. The Turkish press has reported that even Tom Cruise plans to be there. Why Sirince, you ask? Some people believe that it's where the Virgin Mary ascended into heaven.

In The National, a local explained Sirince's appeal for doomsday believers. "He said the town had been known as a 'place with a special energy' among new-age groups since the 1980s, because some believed it to be the birthplace of Artemis, the Greek goddess of the hunt and the forest, and the place where, in Christianity, that Mary, the mother of Jesus, ascended to heaven."

I haven't been to Sirince -- it's a teeny farming village, though reputed by Lonely Planet to be quite charming -- but that general area is quite interesting. When I went backpacking around Turkey in 2010, I stayed in the nearby town of Selcuk, home to Turkey's most famous classical ruins, Ephesus. Selcuk is also a fairly small town, but in addition to Ephesus, it also boasts one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Temple of Artemis, and the Basilica of St. John, thought to be the site of the tomb of St. John. (It's believed that St. John brought Mary to Ephesus after Jesus' death; Mary's House, where the Virgin was said to have spent the rest of her life, is just outside Selcuk, up the side of a mountain.) For such a small, seemingly random area, it's got quite a lot going for it.

The other town mentioned in the Daily Mail article is Bugarach, France -- "...some believe that aliens will emerge from their 'spaceship garage' in the town's Pic de Bugarach mountain and take people to safety."

Okay, so let me see if I get this order to be safe from the Maya-predicted end-of-the-world event, you should seek refuge in a town favored by either the Virgin Mary or aliens? I'm, erm, confused. Doesn't that seem a bit like mixing your mythology? Accepting the premise that aliens exist and live in France, I can kinda understand this one --- it's like a futuristic Noah's Ark thing -- but why the Virgin Mary? I mean, I feel like if you're going to go for the humdigger religious site, you gotta go Jerusalem, no? So many questions, so few answers. :)

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25 Days of Ornaments: Using see-through balls (round-up)

One type of ornament I would have loved to experiment with this year was clear, fillable ornaments, as I've seen so many cute examples online. But alas, it's not to be -- I haven't been able to find any fillable balls in Istanbul -- so we'll just have to settle for a round-up.

1. Washi tape ornaments  2. Ornament filled with candy sprinkles 
3. One-minute ornament filled with Legos  4. Ornaments filled with holly sprigs 
5. Anthropologie salt-shaker ornament

I have fond childhood memories of applying glitter to glass balls during school projects, but these clear, fillable ornaments are taking it to a whole new level.

Try using:

1. Washi tape:  As you can see in the first photo above, in the project from, you don't actually need a see-through ornament to decorate a Christmas ball with washi tape, but it can make for stunning results. However, washi tape can be expensive, so I'd recommend checking out your local Target first. The last time I was there, I bought a four-pack of paper tape in the office supplies section for just a few dollars, and they have a brightly colored nine-pack for $6.99 that you can see online. I might also experiment with Duck Tape, considering all of the different patterns and colors their tape now comes in.

2. Candy: How amazing is this ornament filled with colorful candy sprinkles from She also demonstrates how to paint the inside of the ornament.

3. Toys: On, they presented one-minute ornaments -- i.e., what could you quickly fill a see-through ornament with? While my favorite was, of course, the one filled with colorful Perler beads, I also thought the Lego ornament would be a lot of fun.

4. Nature: has 20 suggestions (via a slideshow) for ways to spruce up an ordinary glass ornament. With this one, they took a clear ornament and filled it with a sprig of holly (or is that mistletoe?). Doesn't matter -- either would be lovely.

5. The last one is not exactly an ornament, but nonetheless my favorite. How great is this salt-shaker thingey from Anthropologie? I can't see what it was intended to be -- snowglobe? desktop decoration? -- as the product is gone from their website, but I think you could make it into an ornament if you so chose. Fill your salt shaker with a bottle brush tree and some fake snow and then tightly close the top (you could even superglue it if you were worried about it coming loose). To hang it, I think you could go one of two ways: You could wrap some kind of tie around the top (a leather string used for jewelry-making or jewelry wire, for example), or you could thread string or wire through the salt holes on the top.


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Sunday, December 16, 2012

25 Days of Ornaments: Last of the Perler bead ornaments

These are the last of my Perler/Hama-bead Christmas ornaments for the year. Say it ain't so!

Copyright © 2012 Melinda Mahaffey, all rights reserved. These patterns or the finished products may not be reproduced, sold or distributed – mechanically, electronically, or by any other means, including posting to websites – without written permission from Melinda Mahaffey. The patterns and finished products are for personal use only.

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25 Days of Ornaments: Hagia Sophia in cross-stitch

I usually post my ornaments in the evening, but last night, we were watching CNN and the coverage of the elementary school shooting in Connecticut. It just seemed wrong to blithely post about ornaments as we were watching the initial reports on TV. There really aren't any words for what happened yesterday, so I won't even try.

I don't think that posting an ornament today makes anything better, or is really any different than posting an ornament yesterday, but I refuse to let the crazy win. So with that in mind, I'll share an ornament-in-progress: my Hagia Sophia in cross-stitch.

I wanted to create some ornaments that would remind me of Istanbul, since this is hopefully our last Christmas in Turkey, and I thought both the Hagia Sophia and Galata Tower would be the most recognizable icons that were also suitable for Christmas ornaments. So far, I've only gotten around to the Hagia Sophia. :)  My cross-stitch design is a vision of the church as it was in the Byzantine era; today it has minarets from when it was converted into a mosque in 1453, immediately after the Ottomans conquered Constantinople. I used a mosaic that I found online as the source of my design; so far I haven't been able to find any real information on this mosaic, but I seem to remember it's on a poster inside the Hagia Sophia (now a museum), so I'm going to search through my old photos and see what I can find, and then I'll update.

Update (1-29-13): I found the photograph I was looking for -- my memory is still half-decent, as there was a billboard up talking about the Hagia Sophia's history that featured the mosaic image of the church. However, I still haven't been able to figure out the real source. The best I could come up with is that it might be a National Geographic Collection image of an artist's map depicting the Mediterranean region under Justinian I. But the background differs from that of the original image I found, so I don't know. Here's my billboard photo:

I haven't decided yet how to finish my ornament, so for the moment, it's still sitting in the embroidery hoop. I could go old school and give it a fabric backing, but that seems so Christmas 2011. Does anyone have any suggestions?

To be honest, I'm a little nervous about putting any images up, as I recently heard an awful story about copyright infringement here in Istanbul. (From what I saw at the newspaper, intellectual property barely exists as a concept here.) A woman I am acquainted with is a painter, and she had put some of her images up on her website and on Etsy; she later found out that multiple shopkeepers here in Istanbul stole the images and produced touristic items (tiles and whatnot) that they were selling in Sultanahmet, Istanbul's main historic area. Some of the tiles even had an "artisan's" stamp on the back. When she confronted one of the guys, he told her she was an idiot for putting them online in the first place -- he felt their mere presence online gave him the right to take and use them as he pleased. The whole story makes me ill. I know this isn't just happening in Turkey -- there was a big kerfuffle last year concerning Urban Outfitters and an Etsy necklace -- but as I said above, there seems to be less respect (or perhaps knowledge) of intellectual property rights here. Now, I don't think I've put up an image today that can be adequately converted into anything, but still, it makes me wary. And with that, I'm signing off from the least cheerful Christmas post ever. :)

(Did the smiley face help?)

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25 Days of Ornaments: Perler bead Union Jack

Here's another ornament that I came up with when I was home over Thanksgiving, using my trusty fusible beads. I was attempting to make a circular Union Jack out of the Perler/Hama/fusible beads so that I could create a traditional Christmas ball ornament, albeit one in 2-D. But the circle just wasn't coming together, and as I fooled around, my lopsided circle eventually became a square, at which point it occurred to me to make a present ornament. I added a ribbon bow, crossed in the back, and very own Perler/Hama bead Union Jack ornament. :)

I know I said the Christmas Story leg lamp ornament would probably be my favorite for the year, but I don't know, I'm loving this one too. Hmmm...

In terms of the pattern, the majority of it is visible, I think. Covered up by the ribbon though is the center cross in red -- there are two lines of red beads running across, and two lines of red running up and down. If you have any questions or something isn't clear, let me know in the comments!

Copyright © 2012 Melinda Mahaffey, all rights reserved. This pattern or its finished product may not be reproduced, sold or distributed – mechanically, electronically, or by any other means, including posting to websites – without written permission from Melinda Mahaffey. The pattern and finished product is for personal use only.

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Friday, December 14, 2012

25 Days of Ornaments: Fancy crochet ornament

Fancy crochet ornament, you ask? Fancy? Yeah, I know -- but I didn't give it the name, the Lion Brand yarn people -- whose pattern this is -- did that. If I was going to title the pattern, I probably would have gone with Vintage Crochet Ornament. It's not a shape seen much nowadays, which is probably what threw Cagatay off when he first saw it. The man didn't blink at the donut ornament, but when he saw this one, he was like, "What is it?" I tried to explain, but I'm not sure it really translates. :)

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Thursday, December 13, 2012

25 Days of Ornaments: Crochet donut

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, and there's nothing that says Christmas like a donut, right? Hahaha -- only for Homer Simpson, I guess. Nonetheless, like the crochet mice, it somehow works.

This idea came to me a couple of months ago -- seriously, one day I just had a vision of an awesome Christmas donut ornament -- although in the original vision, my donut was made out of felt. But then I stumbled across this crochet pattern by chance, so I decided to give it a go first. (Let's be honest -- it's so much easier to use someone else's pattern than to come up with your own.) In the Lion Brand pattern, the frosting is a more traditional pink or brown, but I went with a red here to put the Christmas in my donut -- if I'd had decent green yarn on hand, I would have made a second version, too.

I haven't done any felt ornaments this year -- frankly, the material intimidates me -- but I'll get around to them, and my donut vision, eventually. :)

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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

25 Days of Ornaments: Perler bead Christmas

Another day, another set of Perler/Hama/fusible-bead ornaments. :) Like some of my other fusible-bead ornaments -- the snowman and A Christmas Story leg lamp -- I experimented with the shapes until I stumbled upon something I liked. The only difference is that on these ones, I used cookie cutters as a basic guide. (Apparently you can put fusible beads into cookie cutters and then into the oven and they melt into the cookie-cutter shape -- but that's not what I did, and the resulting ornaments don't particularly appeal to me.)

On these multicolored ornaments, I used the cookie cutters at the beginning of the process to help me figure out the shape, situating the cookie cutter on top of the peg board. However, this isn't a perfect method, as the curved lines of a cookie cutter and the unyielding pegs don't always match up. :)  But it's a good start, and after that, you just have to eyeball it until your project looks the way you want it to.

Need some Hama/Perler/fusible bead tips? Check out my post on fusible-bead snowflakes -- there, I discussed what I learned during the process, especially concerning the ironing. (Oh, the ironing.)


Copyright © 2012 Melinda Mahaffey, all rights reserved. These patterns or the finished products may not be reproduced, sold or distributed – mechanically, electronically, or by any other means, including posting to websites – without written permission from Melinda Mahaffey. The patterns and finished products are for personal use only.

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Monday, December 10, 2012

25 Days of Ornaments: Crochet reindeer

I tackled this crochet reindeer-head ornament last week; while I didn't really like the way it turned out when I was holding it in my hand, it does look pretty cute on the tree, where it's not the entire focus.

While there was an error or two in the writing of the pattern, for the most part, I thought it was easy to follow. However, the pattern specifies joining each round with a slip stitch, but I didn't do that -- it seemed unnecessary, and I knew from the holiday lights pattern that you can just keep going  with no noticeable effect. (If you skip the slip stitch, you don't need to do the chain 1 that starts every round either.) The antlers were the hardest part, as they're pretty small. I turned them inside-out almost immediately, working the stitches the opposite way, and stuffed them as I went. I sort of improvised with them, but they seemed to turn out fine.

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Saturday, December 8, 2012

25 Days of Ornaments: A Christmas Story leg lamp

I'm going to go out on a limb and make a bold prediction: This fusible-bead leg lamp ornament from A Christmas Story is going to be my favorite ornament this year. It makes me laugh every time I see it.

This is an original ornament, and I basically just fooled around with the Perler beads until it resembled the shape I wanted. I used both solid yellow and clear neon yellow beads in the lampshade, which ended up being a smart choice -- now, hanging on the tree, the light really comes through the clear beads, making the lampshade more lampshade-like. If I was doing it again, I'd probably only use the clear yellow beads in that section. I'm still up in the air about adding fringe -- you could probably string it through each black hole on the bottom of the lampshade.

I won't post an actual pattern as I think you can see how to lay out the beads pretty clearly from the photo. But if you have any questions, please post in the comments!

While I love this ornament, I still have mixed feelings about A Christmas Story. I hated that movie when I was a kid, but it was on TV all the time during the holidays, so it's sort of grown on me
 -- it feels traditional, even if I don't always fully enjoy the actual watching of it. Having said that, the leg lamp scenes are pretty funny.


Copyright © 2012 Melinda Mahaffey, all rights reserved. This pattern or its finished product may not be reproduced, sold or distributed – mechanically, electronically, or by any other means, including posting to websites – without written permission from Melinda Mahaffey. The pattern and the finished product is for personal use only.
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Thursday, December 6, 2012

25 Days of Ornaments: Felt Christmas tree

The ornament I was most excited about making this year was this adorable felt Christmas tree, which I found through -- where else? -- Pinterest. I think it might have something to do with the fact that it bears more than a passing resemblance to one of my favorite ornaments from last year, the button Christmas tree.

In the original post, a little kid makes the ornament with her mom, so I figured this little tree would be a piece of cake, and I began to cut away at the ever-decreasing circles. (Of course, I needed a protractor and a paper template to do this -- I couldn't cut anything resembling a circle if my life depended on it.)

As my tree began to grow, I realized it looked a little funny -- it was much too squat. Eventually I realized that the felt circles aren't ever-decreasing; in the middle section, some of the circles should be of the same diameter to give the circle an extra burst of height.

I also can't cut a star to save my life (or a straight line, while we're on the subject). I attempted to draw out the star first, but that didn't work out very well. I contemplated making bead stars with jewelry wire, but in the end, I made little yellow felt crowns (bishop hats?). For these, I cut out a square and folded it up into a wide triangle. Then I sewed up the open sides and then sewed the two side corners together in the back.

I made two ornaments, as you can see, but I think I prefer the green one. But they both look lovely on the tree. :) Pin It

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

25 Days of Ornaments: Crochet mice

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house/Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.

Those are the famous opening lines of "Twas the Night Before Christmas," and the only justification I can think of for ever thinking of a mouse as a Christmas creature. And yet, how cute are mice when used as Christmas ornaments? I have a cute childhood ornament of a little mouse tucked into a walnut-shell bed. But I digress...

These little crochet mice were actually the first Christmas ornaments I made this year, back at the end of October. I bought the pattern a few months ago on Etsy -- initially, I was using it and its bigger cousin to make fun cat toys.

The only change I made was on the green mouse -- as I was stitching the nose at the very end, with 3-strand DMC black, I realize that it would be really easy to give him whiskers. When I started with the nose, I left a little bit of the thread tail out on one side, stitched the nose -- which held the thread in place -- and then when I was done, took my needle out the opposite side to create the other set of whiskers. (Did that make sense? I hope so.)

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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

25 Days of Ornaments: Fusible-bead snowman and toy soldier

I'm just going to do a quickie post today as it's late already and we're going to watch a movie. :) Today's ornaments feature more fusible beads! For the snowman, I just used my imagination and "drew" the shape with the beads, editing/moving beads around when necessary until it actually looked like a snowman. For the toy soldier, I used this cross-stitch pattern as a guide -- cross-stitch patterns are quite useful when playing with Perler/Hama beads, as one cross-stitch can equal one bead, making it easy to follow along (and get it right). But this particularly cross-stitch pattern was a little too big for the ornament I had in mind, so I sized it down a little by importing the photo into the Paint application and using the gridlines function. (The gridlines make little squares, essentially creating a cross-stitch pattern. It's my new best friend.)

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Monday, December 3, 2012

25 Days of Ornaments: Crochet wreath ornament

While I was home, I tackled this crochet wreath ornament that I found online, on the blog I used a 3.5mm crochet hook (instead of the recommended 1.8mm) and on round two, I only did two single crochets in each stitch, instead of the instructed four -- mostly because, once I did the math, I dreaded the thought of having to do 240 of them, followed by another 240 double crochets in the next row. It just seemed like too much effort! And in the end, I'm not sure it mattered -- my wreath folded over itself well enough. I used the fabric stiffener as instructed, but I didn't like it (it made my yarn fuzzy), and I'm not sure it was necessary -- the red bow would have been a little floppy, but the actual wreath was stiff enough from the stitches. Anyway, just my thoughts on the pattern -- happy crocheting!

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Sunday, December 2, 2012

25 Days of Ornaments: Fusible-bead snowflakes

After seeing a number of cute fusible-bead projects on Pinterest, I decided to give it a whirl. I'd only experimented with fusible beads (also known as Hama beads or Perler beads, available at Joann's,, Amazon, etc) once before, more than a decade ago when I worked on cruise ships, and they're meant for kids, so I figured, how hard could they be? Answer: Not hard at all, and completely addictive. This is only the first of many fusible-bead ornament posts. :)
In designing my snowflakes, I mostly just had fun with it and tried to see what geometric forms I could come up with on my own. The only one that's a complete knock-off is the one on the right in the second photo. 
But if you need some (more) inspiration, check out Heodeza's nine fabulous designs (very cleverly presented on various green Pantone chips, I might add), the six designs from Bead Merrily, these 46 photos on Flickr, or just search "Perler snowflakes" or "Hama snowflakes" on Pinterest.

In a nutshell, you use a pegboard to lay out your design, and then you cover your project with the supplied ironing sheet (parchment paper is also supposed to work), and iron away. There are two types of pegboards, I noticed -- the square features even rows, where all of the pegs are lined up, whereas some of the shapes (circle and star) have the pegs lining up in alternate rows. This makes a big difference, obviously, especially when it comes to diagonals -- I found it very difficult to get a single-line diagonal row on a square board to connect when ironed because the pegs are too far apart.

The ironing is the most difficult part, in my opinion. I'd never really thought about how an iron actually works -- like, where exactly the heat comes out, but it's really important when working with fusible beads. On larger ornaments, I found that the outsides would get completely fused while the middle would be only partially melted or, worst-case scenario, not melted at all. You have to really watch out for this when you're about to turn your project over and fuse the other side -- if only some of the beads have fused together, your project will completely fall apart when you take the ironing sheet off:

The blog Holly's Hobbies suggests first ironing your ironing sheet before working on your project to get the creases out from having been folded for packaging -- this totally makes sense. I would also suggest setting your iron to low -- when I used a medium-high setting, the beads fused together too quickly and too much, and became really thin and unattractive. I found that my ornaments turned out better when I spent more time ironing them on a lower setting than trying to fuse them in 10 seconds on a higher setting.
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25 Days of Ornaments: The Return with Holiday Lights Ornaments

It's December! Holiday movies! Christmas trees! Candy and cookies! Mall Santas! And, for the second year in a row, a month devoted to making Christmas ornaments. :)  After realizing last year how hard it is to make a quality ornament every single day, I decided to get a head start this year when I was home for Thanksgiving. First up? Jean Herman's Holiday Lights Garland (available for free on Ravelry) that I didn't have the crochet skills to tackle last year.

But how things change. The pattern seemed really daunting back then, but now that I've figured it out, I realize that it's quite simple and nicely repetitive. While Herman's pattern is for a garland, I think the bulbs make lovely stand-alone ornaments, especially in bright, untraditional colors.

I don't want to post Herman's instructions as obviously they're hers and not mine (and easily accessible), but if you have any how-to questions, please post them in the comments and I will do my best to help!
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Thursday, November 8, 2012

Made in Turkey

We were in Eminonu on Saturday, and I saw this neon sign for the first time:

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The US presidential election!

Even though I gave it an exclamation point, the election -- as seen from Turkey -- probably deserves no more than a period. Mostly because it happened in the middle of the night here. We get CNN International in our cable package, so I made a valiant attempt to stay up all night to watch the election returns. I napped in preparation from 11pm to 2am, but then I fell asleep again at 4am, only to wake up at 7am, right as CNN was declaring Obama the winner. Yesterday, I was completely and utterly exhausted. (How did I ever manage to stay up all night as a teenager and feel great the next day?)

On a related note, there's a bakery in Istanbul that makes "Obama" cookies. According to my friend who brought them into work one day, the owner named them Obama cookies because the president was in town a couple of years ago when he came up with them, or something like that. And, err, because of the cookie's colors, I suppose. (Hey, I didn't name them.) The inside of the cookie is chesnut, and I imagine you can still find them at Poğaçacı bakery in Hisarüstü, if you were so inclined.
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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

But unfortunately, we'll just have to celebrate Halloween in our hearts since it isn't a thing here. As an adult, I have never been that big on Halloween -- to me, it mostly just signifies that Thanksgiving is right around the corner -- but it's amazing what you miss when it's gone. Tonight, we'll just be going to the gym, and hopefully after that, I can convince Cagatay to watch the traditional Icabod and Mr. Toad with me, for his second year in a row. :)

The thing I really love about Halloween season is the profusion of pumpkins -- I always buy a couple of mini-pumpkins at the grocery store. But you don't really see whole pumpkins here. Last year, I went on a deliberate search and only came up with chopped pumpkin in the store or a man selling greenish-yellow ones out of the back of a truck. Alas. So this year, I took matters into my own hands and knitted one (pattern here). Very lifelike, no?

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