Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Stockings

I still have two stockings from my childhood. One is from my grandma van der Werf, which was carefully knitted in red, white, and green with a santa on it and my name across the top. The other was quilted with random fabrics from my grandma Janzen. Both have very different meanings for me and were part of different traditions. Nevertheless, I treasure both, especially the memories they bring.

I decided this year that stockings would be a good tradition to start with my family. I didn’t have the time to really plan out the patterns for each stocking, so in essence, they made themselves along the way. I made four stockings, since I am pregnant with boy number two, and cut out pieces for another one, just in case. I’m sure if I get pregnant again, I might not have time to make another stocking with two boys running around, and I didn’t want child number three to have the quickly boughten commercial stocking.

I wanted to make each stocking similar, but yet individual. This was easy for Jonas. He loves tractors and anything that has wheels. The patterns for the other stockings took a little more thought, and if the boy on the way doesn’t like cars, I’ll have to make him another stocking. Here’s the how to:

1. I first went to the fabric store and bought a bunch of Christmas fabric that matched well together. Then I made a pattern for the stockings (I laid down a sock on a piece of paper and drew around it), and cut out all of the socks out of red Santa suit like material.

2. Then I cut out squares of the other fabric and ironed Wunderunder on the back of it. I drew stars and circles on construction paper and used these as patterns. Then I laid these patterns on the Wunderunder and drew around them. Finally, I cut out the stars, balls, stocking toes and heels out of the Wunderunder-ironed material and placed these on the stockings where I wanted them. Then, they were ironed into place.

3. Since the names were ironed onto a piece of felt, I had to sew the felt onto the stocking. I then used the sewing machine to sew around some of the stars, the toes and heels, etc. so that they looked like they had been sewn on and not ironed on.

4. I used some white chenille fabric for the tops of the stockings. Sewing this onto the tops of the socks was like sewing a cat (Sorry, but, it’s the first thing that came to mind). I had never sewn chenille before, and you really can’t see what you are doing at all through all that hair. In the end, luckily, it looked alright.

5. Finally, I laid the reverse sides of the stockings together and sewed around the original sock drawing and then turned them back right-side-in. Now, I could see the finished product. I possibly could have made them bigger. I don’t think an orange would fit in the toe. But, then again, who gets an orange for Christmas anymore? I hung a little loop at the top and then voila they were finished. Maybe next year I’ll get them hung up before the 23rd of December. By then, Jonas will be big enough to look forward to what’s inside.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Advent Wreath

One of the traditions I always love in my husband's family is the lighting of an advent wreath the Sundays before Christmas. My husband Matthias's parents have a tree farm (they do forestry) and therefore not only cut their own trees for Christmas, but also have plenty of pine to make great decorations around the house. My mother-in-law makes advent wreaths for all of the children out of a circle of pine with red candles.

This year my husband and I will be spending Christmas in California. Decorating a palm tree is nice, but doesn't smell as good as fresh cut pine. Luckily, I was able to get my hands on some fresh cut pine and decided it was time for my own traditions. Nevertheless, I still got some tips from my mother-in-law on how to prepare a wreath since it was my first time.

I think it turned out pretty well. The only thing it is missing is candles. Normally, there are four candles placed around the wreath, which are lit each week until Christmas. However, with a one-year-old who just learned to walk, I thought this year candles in a glass might be a big more practical. Therefore, I will still light the candles one by one, just not on the wreath. In Germany, many people also put real candles on their Christmas tree on Christmas Eve. It looks very pretty, but coming from Kansas, I've just seen too many fires first hand to completely enjoy the spectacle, especially when there are kids running around. Hopefully, my children won't hold it against me. When they are older, we can get riskier with the Christmas deco.

Here's the how-to on the wreath:
1. Get some thick wire and make a ring. This is the base for your wreath.

2. Then take some newspaper and wrap it around the ring until it is about an inch and a half thick. Use some thin wire to hold the newspaper in place looping the wire around the ring in a circular fashion. Make sure the wire ends are securely fashioned and not sticking out.

3. Now take small branches, 6-12 inches long, and begin on one side putting the ends of the branch under the wire on the base. Make sure the branches all go the same direction or your wreath will really look silly. You may have to circle around a few times until you can't see the newspaper anymore.

4. Finally, if you would like to add some accents, tie a ribbon around the wreath or add some candles. If you have some holly, dress it up a bit. And, now all you need are some matches...

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Homemade Advent Calendar

Having lived over in Germany for so long, I really grew fond of the German Adventskalender, or in English advent calendar. Most Americans are familiar with the calendars that you can buy at Aldi, which are filled with little pieces of chocolate behind little doors for every day of the month of December until the 24th. However, there are a lot of other calendars that are far more creative. I've seen friends pack a basket full of gifts all numbered from 1 to 24, sew up little pouches that are hung up on a string, or even give a case of beer where each beer is numbered. There are endless possibilities.

The calendar that I decided to make is a very traditional one, which is often hung up on the back of a door or above the fireplace. It consists of 24 little pouches which can be filled with different gifts every year. I decided to make this kind of calendar, because it will allow me to vary the gifts from year to year. This year, for instance, I have a combination of chocolate for my husband, and cheerios for my one year old son.

How to:

1. First, I did the numbers and letters. I decided to cut a few corners on this project and use Wonderunder and material for the letters and numbers. Wonderunder allows you to take normal material and iron it on to other material, without having to sew anything. I figure, if I have time next year, I can always sew around the numbers and letters. But, it's not necessary.

2. Then, I did the number pouches. I cut out little squares of black felt to add contrast to the pouches. The pouches were sewn up out of little squares of colorful material. I ironed all of the corners first, which really helped to make the sewing go faster, and then sewed the pouches onto the felt.

3. Finally, I used some quilting backing and sewed up the background just like a little blanket. I kept a piece at the top open for a dowel (not pictured).

This project actually went a lot faster than I had anticipated and now I have an advent calendar for many years to come. It's worth the time and kids and adults love the anticipation of opening a gift every day. Enjoy!