Art & Crafts
Dolls, Toys and Teddies
Stringing popped corn, linking paper rings together for garland and making toys, dolls and teddies are still popular today.
For instance, one of the old-time crafts is the clove apple, better-known today as a pomander ball. When finished, these clove apples gave off a pleasant perfume, and it was common practice to place them in closets or in a dresser drawer to scent scarves and hankies. They still make nice gifts today for teachers and friends, or relatives who live in nursing homes.
It's very easy to make these, and all of the materials needed can be purchased in grocery stores. And even more popular today is the use of an orange in place of the apple.
To try your hand at this craft, purchase one apple with a stem and about three small packages of whole cloves. Thrust each clove into the apple like a little peg as deep as it will go. Using a darning or knitting needle makes it easier to first make the holes.
Start at the stem and circle round and round, pegging the cloves close together. When finished, tie a ribbon with a loop on top to hang in closet.
To cover an orange, first soak it in olive oil. Then take whole cloves and stick them into the orange as tightly as possible. When you have finished inserting the cloves, rub the orange with two teaspoons of orris root (or arrowroot) and two teaspoons of cinnamon mixed together. Tie it with a ribbon. It will have a lovely spicy odor that will last indefinitely.
In the toy department, everything old does seem to be new again.
For instance, Crayola crayons were born in 1903, and have been bringing out the artist in children ever since. Today they are as popular as ever, and are found on Christmas morning in many children's stockings in small boxes and large packs under the tree. Often they are accompanied by coloring books, construction and writing paper.
The crayons can be found in just about any store from grocery to drug to arts and crafts. The old colors are still available, but new bright hot fluorescents are also on the scene. And they still come in the original breakable version. What manufacturers have yet to invent are unbreakable crayons (which truly would be a modern miracle).
Another favorite toy for over 80 years is the Erector Set. The original sets were metal, but in the mid-1960s these were replaced with plastic substitutes. However, a French company called Meccano has revived these construction sets with metal parts (including some plastic) and engineering designs similar to the original. So once again a whole new generation of youngsters can enjoy hours of construction fun.
A great gift for children ages 6 and up is cotton jersey loopers, an old-fashioned fun and easy craft that makes pot holders, rugs, etc., on a small loom. A one-pound package of loops will make about 16 pot holders. These come in assorted colors and sell for about $ 4.
And what could be more traditional and old-fashioned than plain white cotton or linen handkerchiefs that you have supplied with a crocheted edging? This gift can be slipped into a card to be mailed to friends.
Here's another possibility: To a plain hankie, iron on a transfer pattern and embroider a plain or fancy monogram or design. Embroidery floss and hoops can be purchased at craft stores and craft departments.
Dyeing - An Art
Personalized batik designs on T-shirts, sweatshirts or even Christmas stockings are so easy even a child can make them, with a little adult help.
The one-step method for traditional wax-resist dyeing is to use with widely available, cheap tools and materials: Powdered or liquid dye, paraffin, a pencil, a fine paintbrush and a pot and a long-handled spoon for the dye-bath.
The designs can be drawn freehand, or you can project a photo onto fabric taped to a wall and use the pencil to trace the design.
The simplest designs use one color on white or light colored fabrics. Scarlet is a good choice for a Santa sweatshirt or T-shirt or a peppermint-striped stocking.
First, melt the wax - in a food can (remove the label) set in a pan of hot but not boiling water or on a warming tray set at its lowest temperature. Never melt wax over direct heat; it is highly flammable.
While the wax is melting, draw or trace the design.
Then use the paintbrush dipped in melted wax to outline the design and fill in any spaces you want to protect from the dye.
Mix the dye-bath according to package directions.
Place the fabric or article in the warm (not hot) dye-bath and stir continuously for 20-30 minutes, or until the color is slightly darker than you wish. The color will lighten slightly as it dries.
Hang the fabric or article to dry, and then dry-clean it to remove all traces of the wax.
The method works best on cotton or cotton blends. It can be used on fabric that is to be made into such things as pillows, aprons, clothing or wall hangings or on readymade articles.
Another popular form of dyeing is called marbleizing. This is an ancient craft in which dyes are floated on a substance (these days it’s carrageenan, a thickener created from seaweed). Once the dyes have been distributed onto the surface of the carrageenan, they are swirled or stretched or coaxed into patterns by running a stick, a feather, a comb or any other pointed object through the colors. Pressing paper or fabric onto the dyes, or rolling three-dimensional objects with permeable textures across the dyes transfers the colors in one-of-a-kind patterns that look like the random designs found on slabs of marble.
This art was practiced in Japan more than 700 years ago and probably originated in China. Bookbinders and printers used the same techniques to decorate their work in medieval and colonial days. They used a mixture of hot wax, linseed oil and turpentine to float their dyes. Often, early printers marbleized a book’s opening pages and even the outside of the pages so they would look as beautiful when they were closed as when they were open.
The art died out sometime in the late 19th century, but in the 1960s interest in marbleizing reappeared. Marbleizing is as inexpensive as it is non-intimidating. This is a craft anyone can do and enjoy.
Egg Craft and Decorating
Far from being a recent phenomenon, the idea of egg decorating predates Christianity. The earliest known instance occurred in China in 722 B.C. A chieftain gave gifts of edible decorated eggs to commemorate a three day spring festival during which fires were prohibited. In ancient Persia (now Iran), Egypt and Greece, eggs were colored for spring festivals. Eggs were considered symbols of creation, fertility, rebirth and the regenerative abilities of nature, thus tying in strongly with spring.
So how did egg decorating become linked with Easter and Christianity?
The Venerable Bede, an eighth-century historian and theologian, believed that the name Easter was derived from Eostre, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of Spring, whose festival was celebrated on the first day of spring. Eggs, along with the hare, were emblems of this goddess. Thus, there is a possibility the Christian community adopted egg-decorating from pagan worship of this goddess.
Another explanation centers around the fact that, formerly, eggs were forbidden during Lent (the period of preparation immediately preceding Easter) and were allowed again on Easter day. So decorating eggs may have become popular as a symbol of celebration.
Regardless of the origin of the tradition, many ethnic groups developed their own ways to decorate eggs. Many Eastern Europeans, notably the Ukrainians, decorated and exchanged very intricate, colorful eggs, incorporating pagan and Christian symbols. The Pennsylvania Dutch were pioneers in bringing egg decorating to the New World. Their "scratch eggs" needed only natural dyes and common straight pins. They also can be credited with the Easter tree tradition (hanging decorated eggs from a dormant tree branch). Around the turn of the century, Peter Carl Faberge, master jeweler to the Russian Imperial Court, made a name for himself by creating very elaborate, gem-studded eggs which opened to reveal surprises. Faberge has perhaps made the most dramatic impact on the craft and will continue to influence eggers for years to come.
Here, you can learn the art of decorating eggs – through beading, clothing and using tissue papers:
• Pencil in a line around the middle of the egg. A rubber band is an easy guideline.
• Thread a narrow or beading needle . Glue end of thread to egg using "tacky glue."
• String "seed beads" (found in craft, fabric and jewelry supply stores) and glue to egg inch by inch along pencil line. Try to use all the same size beads. If bead sizes are indicated, use size 11.
• At the end of the row, draw the thread through the first three beads.
• Bring the thread up and bead the next row. Continue to the top of the egg. Fill the end hole with glue or cover with glued paper before beading. When finished, bring the needle through a few adjacent beads to secure the thread, then snip the thread.
• Bead the other half in an identical manner. Expect to spend eight to 12 hours on one egg!
• Cut cloth panels using the guides shown here. Use medium-weight, tightly-woven fabric.
• Mark the egg's top and bottom points with straight pins.
• Pin all the panels to a 2 3/8-inch-high plastic-foam egg. Respace panels or trim them as necessary. Remove panels one at a time and glue onto egg using "tacky" glue (found at craft stores).
• Glue ribbon over the panels' edges. You'll need 1 1/2 yards of ribbon up to one-quarter inch wide. On a 10-panel egg, wind the trim in full circles around the egg. On the five-panel, taper the ends of each length to points.
• Tie a bow and attach with glue.
Tissue paper-appliqued eggs
• Use a manicure scissor to cut small shapes from tissue paper. Multiple shapes can be cut simultaneously by stapling them in a stack with a stiffer piece of paper on top.
• Brush small spot on egg with clear lacquer or acrylic varnish. If using only black tissue, water-based adhesives such as thinned white glue can be used.
• Use brush to pick up tissue and apply to egg.
• Brush over tissue with more of the same adhesive.
• Brush entire egg with varnish or lacquer, or dip egg using a pipe cleaner as a handle. You can also coat the egg with acrylic spray varnish. Do not use lacquer over acrylic. Let dry.
One or two tall roses with leaves in a bud vase is about as pretty and simple as a flower arrangement can be. But a centerpiece for a dinner party requires a little more time and attention to detail.
Flower arranging is fun, but it can be frustrating if you can’t find just the right vase or if your flowers wilt before party time.
People who arrange flowers regularly keep on hand an assortment of bowls and vases in different sizes as well as supplies such as crumpled chicken wire (to stuff into a tall container) or pinholders (to anchor stems in place).
Through practice, they learn that any sort of container can be used for flower arrangements. They also learn how to condition plant materials for longer life.
There is no limit to the variety of flowers and foliage and ways to arrange them.
You can buy cut flowers or use cut flowers from a bed of annuals that you have grown. Remember that it's usually best to cut flowers early in the morning when they are fresh or late in the evening, not in midday sun.
Flowering shrubs and trees also can be sources of flowers for arranging. Prune whenever you need a bouquet. The pruning also will help to make the shrub or tree more compact. A few experiments will tell you which of your cuttings last longest.
Designing arrangements requires more than just sticking a few flowers in a vase. The right container for an arrangement is important. So are basic rules of proportion, which make designs more pleasing to the eye.
An arrangement must be in scale for the space it occupies. The same rules apply to full-size arrangements and miniatures, which usually do not exceed five inches in height.
Further, containers should not be more than one-third the size of the arrangement, she said, except when foliage or flowers come down over the lip of a vase that might otherwise appear too tall.
Every flower has its own little quirk and you learn as you go, by sad experience sometimes.
Here are some guidelines from flower show participants that you can use in arranging flowers in your home:
• If you are arranging flowers in a low bowl, measure the length and depth of the container and make your arrangement at least one and a half times that tall. The same measurements and proportion apply also to the height of taller vases.
• If foliage or flowers are fine-textured, you can make the arrangement taller than the guideline advises. If using bold foliage or flowers, don't make the arrangement taller than one and a half times the size of container.
• With a large, heavy container, you can make the arrangement three times the container's height. But don't make it too tall or it might look as though it will tip over.
• Place flowers at different levels and not all facing forward to give depth, to lend interest to the design and to better show the beauty of the flowers.
• An arrangement that uses three flowers of one type with taller foliage tends to be pleasing to the eye. This is the principal followed in Ikebana, classical Japanese flower arranging.
• One or two leaves of bolder, heavy foliage can be used at the base of an arrangement, with the leaves coming over the edge of the container to give the arrangement a finished look.
• Condition live materials immediately after cutting the stems to prevent wilting so that flowers and foliage will stay fresh longer.
• Most woody plants stay fresh longer if the lower stems are split and crushed so that they absorb water better. Keep them in deep, slightly warm water.
• Roses like conditioning in deep water or in water that contains a little 7-Up or ginger ale. The bubbles from the soda will force water up into the stems.
• Tulips and daffodils (which can be purchased from florist shops) prefer shallow water.
• Some flowers, such as dahlias, poppies and poinsettias, survive in arrangements only if the stems are seared with flame from a candle or match immediately after cutting to seal juices.
To the untrained eye, the tiny trees in a bonsai arrangement look fairly simple. Take a nice, full branch off a tree, stick it into a shallow pot, snip a little here, snip a little there, and presto Bonsai
But actually creating a bonsai tree isn't that easy.
It can take months and even years to prune and shape a tree that normally would be 85 feet tall to be just 15 inches tall.
A key element of good bonsai is the shape of the trunk and limbs. A good bonsai plant has trunks and limbs that are thick at the base and thinner toward the ends, just as a tree in nature does.
The bonsai trainer can force this appearance by leaving a large clump of greenery at the end of the branch. The base of the branch will grow thicker as nutrients and water course through it on their way to nourish the foliage at the end. Once the trunk has the desired shape, the foliage can be trimmed away. A heavy root system showing above the dirt - another prized look in bonsai - can be achieved by the same method.
A look of age can be achieved by "jinning" - the careful peeling and splintering of a branch stub to make it look as though lightning has struck it.
Some hobbyists like to work with old plants; others like to start with saplings. In both cases, the plant is trimmed to have an odd number of main branches - usually three or five, but many more if one is creating a "forest".
Then most leaves and smaller branches are removed "to let the birds through" and to encourage the growth of tiny, new leaves that will look like miniature foliage.
In Japan, some of the trees are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Those trees are cherished family heirlooms passed from generation to generation. Many are five or six centuries old. Often, they're not kept in the home, but placed in the hands of a bonsai master. The owners bring them home for parties and other special occasions, and then put them back into the hands of the master for more training.
The Chinese started bonsai centuries ago. The first trees were artificial, made from sponges with paper flowers. Later, the Chinese trained tiny trees in dishes.
The Japanese picked up on the hobby and created their own styles. The Chinese used the 'clip and grow' method, while the Japanese tend to wire the plants. The wires are wound around the limbs, then bent to make the small tree look windswept, twisted with age, asymmetrical or triangular.
The Chinese method is slower; the Japanese method can create more intricate bonsai designs.
Cross-Stitch & Embroidery
The origins of cross-stitch - like almost every needlecraft form - are lost in antiquity. Have you ever wondered who was the first person to crochet with a hook, knit with two needles or embellish fabric with embroidery stitches, as well as when and where in history these things occurred?
In one of the books on cross-stitch, the author states that it originated in England in the 16th century, but ancient examples of it have been found in almost every country and culture. It is believed that silkworm farming was developed by the Chinese as early as 2000 B.C., and silk embroideries, including cross-stitch, could have appeared soon after.
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Cross-stitch does appear in work of the Sung Dynasty (960 A.D. to 1127 A.D.). Later in the provinces of Shensi, Szechwan and Yunnan, we see a wide heritage of cross-stitch embroidery in blue cotton on a locally woven background.
Throughout all regions of the world, cross-stitch predominates in folk embroidery, particularly for altar cloths, clothing items, bed linens and wall hangings. From almost every country on every continent, there are wonderful examples of this type of work. The stitches are the same but the designs are unique to the different cultures.
Today, more than ever, countless Americans are busily and happily cross-stitching on a wide variety of items. To get started with a counted cross-stitch project, you'll need fabric, floss, embroidery hoop, embroidery needle, scissors and a design chart.
While some embroiderers work without a hoop, most of us should definitely use one to keep the fabric taut. This promotes steady tension and smooth, even stitches. Finally, to avoid puckering, be sure not to pull the stitches too tight
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