Oh, Christmas Tree

Before Christianity was known people were decorating their houses with greenery around the winter solstice which usually fall around December 21-22 or so. The solstice was a celebrated belief that the sun god ( different cultures had different names for such) who falls ill in the fall was beginning to recover. The hanging of evergreen boughs was a sign that again the days would get longer and warmer and again plants would turn green and full of life. Thus praise and thankfulness to the sun god, god of agriculture ect.

In the 16th century Germans began bringing evergreen trees as we know Christmas trees today. Martin Luther was believed to be the first noted person to add candles to the tree. It is said he was inspired by the stars one night as he was walking through the trees and wanted to share the experience with his family.

The first record of a tree being on display in America was in the 1830’s in a German settlement in Pennsylvania.  Even though Christmas trees were common in the traditions of Christians in Germany they were still seen as a pagan symbol in America through the 1840’s. The German settlements had Christmas trees earlier but they were not a public display. Some Americans were working so had to rid all pagan aspects that any observation of the Christmas holiday aside from a church service was penalized. This by a law passed in Massachusetts in  1659, included any signs of joy, decorations carols ect.

It wasn’t until the 1840’s when Queen Victoria and German Prince Albert were pictured with their family gathered around a Christmas tree that the tree was here to stay.

The trees were mainly decorated with candles and homemade ornaments. Most Germans still decorated their trees with the more traditional marzipan cookies, nuts, apples and strings of dyed popcorn. With the advent of electricity came tree lights allowing the trees to be lighted for days on end and the Christmas trees in town squares began. From there  the tree tradition exploded and so did the size.

In Europe Christmas trees averaged about 4 feet, in America the stood floor to ceiling (we’ve “super sizing” everything since the beginning).  The outdoor trees on display continue to tower above.

I heard both sides of the real or fake tree argument.

One thought is real trees are the tradition and they are “green” as there are always more growing. The wonderful smell of pine and homemade cookies; a warm comforting Christmas feeling.

The other thought is why cut a tree for one month. The cost of the tree, if you don’t have the luxury of having one on your property to cut each year and most don’t. Then there’s the safety aspect. Most house fires over Christmas can be linked to overloading the electrical outlets, Aunt Martha leaving a burner on in the kitchen, then setting something other than a pot on it and dry Christmas trees. Some most people know the tree though now dead still draws water to keep its needles longer. A fireplace that is used often will dry the air in no time and the tree as well. It sometimes slips peoples minds to keep the tree watered with so many other things going on.

Then there’s holiday clean  up:

put the tree in a box in the Christmas closet (the hard to get to spot under the stairs)

or

haul the dry tree through the living room, the dining room, the kitchen, the entry way and finally to the yard, where by this time there are no needles left on the tree they are scattered like flower petals down a wedding isle through your house, where it will sit until spring when you decide where your going to dump it. Maybe you live in town where the poor garbage man has to deal with all the Christmas leftovers.

By the pro’s and con’s list the fake tree seems to win. I would prefer a real tree anyway. I like the smell of pine in the living room and the warmth the tree seems to bring. Being from Minnesota I have always taken trees for granted. Having lived in North Dakota for 10 years one would think I would be hugging the trees now that I’m back. I’m still not. I would have no problem clearing a couple few (more than 6 if you get it).

It took a few years to get used to the wide open spaces but when I did I absolutely loved it! (The east side of ND is still flat and boring, sorry) The middle and west is beautiful! The sunrises and sunsets are amazing. I still favor Montana sky above all else but I found lots of beauty in the Dakota’s.

One might also think the my husband being from the wide open wouldn’t mind clearing a few trees around the farm. (especially since we have a nice crop of Christmas trees around part of our hay field, with them gone I could get a few more bails out of it) Wrong again! He likes the trees each and every one!

I’m too cheap to buy a real tree every year, the Mister like the trees where they are on our land and our wood stove in the living room burns all day long. We have a fake tree. Hiding pine scented car air freshener trees in it is not the same, so don’t bother with those.

Never the less the tree is up, decorated and glowing. The room is warm with the stove and well I didn’t do any Christmas baking this year, selfishly because I can’t eat it. But the tea smells good too ( not like cookies but hopefully next year).

So what are your thoughts about the tree debate?

Christmas tree

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Scrappy Stocking

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, well not here. As we decorated for Christmas this year I realized we were one short. I took out the knitting needles and some yarn I had spun previously and began knitting. In no time and had a nice Christmas stocking… that I stuffed back in my knitting basket and plan to unravel and modify the pattern after Christmas. What a disappointment!

After all that we were still one stocking short. I still had my sewing machine and scrap fabric spread over the dining room table from a fall of apron making. So a scrappy stocking was in the works. It turned in to a nice afternoon project and this one I don’t plan to take apart.

First I traced one of the stockings we already had and cut out four pieces out of muslin. Two for the outside and two for the lining.

stocking 1

I gathered all red scraps I had off I went. I used the same technique to make the stocking as I do a crazy quilt.

Start with a piece of muslin to build on. I layer my scraps on the base sewing each new scrap to cover the corner of the previous piece.

Stocking 2

When using a square and smaller pieces you won’t end up with a “fishtail” layering. For the stocking though I wasn’t too worried. I used the green plaid for the top “cuff”. Once the pieces are sewn to the base double check to make sure all the seam ends are covered or will be sewn into the side seam. Then trim the edges even with the base piece. Do the same with the back. Helpful hint: check which direction the toe is facing or you could end up with two fronts and no back. I know from experience. 🙁

Before sewing the back to the front I used embroidery floss and primitive stitched the name.

Then it’s pretty straight forward; right sides together sew the outside together. Again checking the toe direction sew the other two pieces together, right sides together.

Now, I know there is a way to sew the lining to the shell and turn it so all the seams are in and everything looks all nice and finished. But I couldn’t seem to remember how, so I pressed the top in on both the shell and lining and topped stitched around the edge.

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Here’s the front and back of the finished stocking. A perfect afternoon project.

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Finally The High Chair (Part 3)

leather strapFinally time for the straps.

The old ones were fine, nylon straps with the plastic clips, but I’ve done so much already I’d hate to put the old ones back on when I could make some new ones.

Another one of my hobbies is leather work. Go figure, right. I cut new straps about 3/4 inch wide out of 6-7 oz. leather.

edge belever

I used an edge beveler on all four edges of each strap. This takes the 90 degree corner off  and begins the rounding of the edges.

 

leather skiver

Then the skiver to shave the under side of the ends that I need to put rivets through. By tapering the end it makes the under side semi-smooth when folded.

 

 

leather  v gouge

The V gouge I use is adjustable for cutting different depths. I used this where the fold will be, right at the top of where I just skived. By cutting this gouge the leather will lay a little flatter when folded rather than round.

 

 

leather punch

I then punched the holes for the rivets, buckle hardware and buckle strap.

Now, if I knew there wasn’t going to be little squash covered fingers touching the straps I would do some tooling on them. So this time I can save myself a few steps now by not tooling and later by not having to try to wipe squash out of the crevices.

wood slicker

To get the edges smooth I use a wood slicker. To use this you must first wet the leather. The is a perfect moisture level you want both when tooling and using the slicker; not too wet and not too dry. In another post about tooling we can go more into that. Then you want to apply a little pressure with rubbing back and forth. This will compress the leather into a smooth, shiny, rounded edge.

fiebrings leather dye

While the leather is still damp its time to dye it. Having the leather damp when you apply the dye will help to end up with a more even color as the dye soaks into the leather rather quickly. I like to use oil base dye. Personally I like the color depth it provides.

Usually I put an acrylic clear coat on my projects after this step. Although it says it’s flexible it always seems to crack after a bit of use so this time I didn’t. We will see how it goes.

leather rivetsI then rubbed all the pieces with the saddle soap. It gives it a nice shine and works as a protectant.

Rivets are next. Using a rivet setter is pretty easy too. The rivet is two pieces, the cap and the post. The cap goes onto the plate and the post through the leather and into to cap. Using a punch and a mallet simply pound the punch and the post will flatten in the cap and hold securely.

High chair

Lastly the straps are screwed to the underneath of the chair. The old ones were fastened with a whole bunch of staples. They might have worked ok with the nylon but not with the leather.

And finally done!

High chair

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Don’t Mind the Tree in the

Don’t mind the tree in the kitchen, the curtains will be done soon and then I will wash the floor. Well, let me back up a bit. In the kitchen I have three large windows, one of which is the door to the deck, all lined up for a great view of the deck, trees and lake. The problem with them is its winter and winter here means cold. Very, very cold. These windows let a little of the cold in.  Hence the curtains.

I knew I wanted a medium weight fabric of neutral color that would add a bit of texture to the room as well. ( Before we got rid of cable TV, we watched a little HGTV some evenings). I also knew I’m broke and these needed to last a long time and be relatively cheap at the same time. My genius ideas struck again…Painting drop cloth! (and most of my genius ideas are accidents gone good 🙂 ) It was everything I was looking for; neutral, texture, medium weight, durable and best of all cheap! For about $30 I had enough fabric to do all three large windows and make a matching valance for the window above the sink.

After some thought I decided to make a shade style window cover rather than draw back curtains which allowed me to use a little less fabric and still fully cover the window when needed.

I’m not going to go into great detail of how to make these shade right now. That can be explained in a future post.

The shades were cut and ready to hang to be finished, however I was lacking a curtain rod to hang them. Needing a rod approximately 10 feet long and having nothing around here of that length, I grabbed my axe and headed down the driveway. There is the perfect patch of young trees about half way between the house and the road and in that patch a tree I deemed straight (enough) to use. So I chopped it down and drug it to the house.

There is not much besides chopping and hauling firewood  that I find has to be done when its below 0. So as anyone in my shoes would do, I pulled the tree onto the back deck and into the kitchen. I’m not about to limb this tree in the yard!

So limbs off and I’m ready to cut to length. My wood saw is not anywhere to be found. So here I sit,  shades ready to be hung and finished, tree and limbs in the kitchen and no saw.

I did find a few things to do with the little branches before the remains will go to the stove.  Those pictures will come soon.

The rest of the shades will be “To Be Continued” after Thanksgiving, when I can borrow a saw from dad.

For now I will scrub the floor around the tree because in my stroke of genius I forgot those great little buds are sticky when the fall off the branch and get stepped on.  🙁IMG_0884

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Lace on the Walls

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On piece of charm that came in our little farmhouse is a built-in china hutch in the dining room. I love built-in cabinets for some reason. This one is no different; old dark stained exterior and lighter painted interior.

I had planned to paint the inside before loading it with heirloom pieces but by the time we painted two bedrooms, the dining room, the living room and a few of the old panel doors I had had enough paint for a while.  I still wanted to “dress up” the inside of the cabinet though. Lace was the perfect way to go! (and it will match the dining room light, which is a piece of work all it’s own).

I’ve put fabric on the walls like wallpaper using spray starch before. It didn’t work real great for me, kinda. It was more work than it was worth really. So I knew I didn’t want to go that route but I still needed a way to keep the lace on the wall with the option to remove it someday without too much hassle.

Elmer’s Glue! You know the kind you were taught not to eat in kindergarten. Yep! That’s the stuff. It doesn’t stain, it’s non-toxic (as glue can get anyway) and it will wash off the wall when I need to remove it!

Here’s what I did:

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First I washed the whole cabinet out, walls, shelves everything.

I then measured the height and width of each wall I wanted lace on.  I cut the lace to fit with about an extra inch or so on all sides.

I used thumb tacks starting in the middle of the wall and tacked the lace on the top. I worked my way to the outside. When you do this be sure not to pull it tight. When the glue dries it will shrink the lace a bit.

I mixed my glue with water; roughly 50/50 ratio.

Using a sponge I applied the glue to the lace on the wall. Giving a good, thick coat. Too thick and it will run, too thin and the lace sometimes pulls away from the wall.

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After letting everything dry over night, I took out the tacks and with a sharp angled scissors I trimmed the excess lace. I had planned to use a sharp razor blade to do the trimming but I didn’t have one sharp enough. Even my best fillet knife didn’t do the trick.

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There you have it! Lace wallpaper! Looks nice and easily removed with warm water and soap when the time comes!

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