One man’s trash=crafty Christmas treasure

Oh, I had plans.

I was going to make things, I tell you. There was a perfect crafting storm brewing around here about a month ago. I rediscovered my love of craftiness through the family room pillow project, and for the first time in years I found myself looking forward to the holiday season with something I could only describe as joy.

So, I wanted to make things. Lots of things. I wanted to shower others with the happiness I’d found. It was almost kinda like being in love (which is always a kind of perfect storm, if you think about it).

So:  I found inspiration.

This (sorta) Old Life: crafty Christmas

I gathered crafty library books.

This (sorta) Old Life: crafting dreams

I procured new tools.

This (sorta) Old Life:  crafty Christmas

I was infatuated with the beautiful potential filling my head.

But then, well, you know…

What happened is what happens whenever romantic dreams crash into everyday realities.

First I thought I’d make these sweet little candles I found in that Martha Stewart book.This (sorta) Old Life: crafty Christmas

All I had to do was find some lovely teacups in a thrift store and fill them with wax and wicks. I was going to give them to the library managers in my school district at our December library meeting. They were going to be awesome.

Then I went to the thrift store. And felt overwhelmed by the mismatched array of cups and mugs I found there. And realized that I didn’t really know what the ladies I only met this past fall might like. And that, further, these might not look so sweet in isolation. That, perhaps, they had to be gathered in a herd, like Martha’s cups, and artfully displayed on a table with cunningly-wrapped little packages, to be lovely.

I realized my teacup candles might look more weird than charming. And feel like clutter that someone doesn’t really want.

So much for the candle cups.

This (sorta) Old Life: crafty Christmas

I did bring this little guy home from the thrift store, but I think it’s working much better as my new favorite hot chocolate cup than it would as a candle.

Then I thought I might make some sweet little notebooks, like these from Wit and Whistle:

This (sorta) Old Life: crafty Christmas

I was sure I could do something clever and simple with the covers. And find some nice paper to fill them with. And put three together and tie them with some twine or something in a cute little package.

Until I thought about what I might do with them if someone gave me such little notebooks–and realized they would likely just sit in a drawer. And be just a little too twee for me.

So I had to break up with that idea, too.

I was–and still am–determined to make the book page ornament thingy pictured above, even though it wouldn’t be a gift for anyone but me. Back in November I spied a whole ceiling full of them in Powell’s bookstore, and I decided I must have my own.

This (sorta) Old Life: crafty Christmas

I went on a stealth mission to a different Powell’s where I could examine the balls up close and determined that I would need 15 page circles for each ball. I read up on sewing through paper and learned that I needed to get a needle for my machine that can sew leather. And then I got one. I made a trip back to our great source for free discarded book pages, and I brought home a hefty stack of them.


And…now it’s late December and the time for holiday decorations is just about passed and while I have all the supplies I haven’t started the project. Even with that nifty circle cutter pictured above, it’s going to take a truckload of time to cut out the many, many circles I’ll need.

And that’s where things stood when I saw a post on Facebook from Kristy Athens of Ithaka:  repurposed literary ephemera, who does all kinds of awesome, crafty things with old maps, books, photos, magazines, and other discarded paper creations (aka, ephemera). Things like this:

This (sorta) Old Life: ithaka gift bag

A gift bag (clicking on the image will take you to its Etsy page).

This (sorta) Old Life: Ithaka notebook

A notebook…

70s teen thank you notes

…and my favorite, a set of thank you notes featuring teen girls from the 70s.

I got inspired one last, great time. Maybe the library managers wouldn’t be so into the candle teacups, but surely they would like bookmarks, right? Wouldn’t it be great to make some bookmarks with images and words from vintage books, sorta like Kristy does, using the huge stash I’d nabbed for the hanging circles project?

I’d missed the December meeting already, but I thought I could knock out a set of 3 for each manager before we leave for winter break on the 20th. I had a free afternoon the Monday before last, and I set down to work with my scissors, a cutting mat, and a movie on Netflix, sure I would emerge from the day with all the bookmarks I wanted.

And at the end of it I had…

This (sorta) Old Life:  Crafty Christmas

…a whole lotta little pieces of paper and no more time to fashion them into amazing bookmarks.

I thought I’d get to them last week, but I didn’t. (Life.)

I was able to knock out a few this week, but not enough to give a set to each library manager. And today is the last day before our break, so obviously that’s another plan fallen through.

This (sorta) Old Life: crafty Christmas

It’s all good, though. As with the pillows, I had a lot of fun making these. When my life and head are full of junk, there’s something very therapeutic about making something with my hands.

This (sorta) Old Life: crafty Christmas

Speaking of hands, I even made an ironic political statement bookmark:

This (sorta) Old Life: crafty Christmas

Cane didn’t get it, so maybe it’s not as awesome/clever as I think.

These aren’t actually done yet; they still need to be sealed (I’m planning on using packing tape, as suggested here) and have holes punched in the top for a little ribbon/yarn. I did not make gifts for all the library managers, but I’ve got a few book lovers in my life who will likely appreciate my humor and find this a useful gift.

This (sorta) Old Life:  Crafty Christmas

Something about this one makes me think of The Hunger Games.

Maybe you, too, want some ephemeral goodness of your own but do not have the kind of time I took to play with books and scissors and glue? Or, maybe you do have that kind of time but don’t happen to live in a place like Portland, where you can find recycling bins full of free vintage book pages? Maybe you’d just like to BUY some clever crafty paper goods?

If so, you are in luck! My bookmarks aren’t for sale, but Kristy’s cool wares are. And she’s generously offered a 30% discount to readers of this blog, good through the end of January. If you’d like to check out her full line of one-of-a-kind items, click here. When you’re checking out, use discount code SORTAOLDLIFE.

Now that I’ve tried my own hand at this, I have even more appreciation for her work. It takes a lot of time to make this stuff!

I’m probably too late posting this for you to get anything in time for Christmas, but maybe that’s a good thing. Treat yourself to some smart, recycled art for the new year. :-)

Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post. It’s just me passing on a good deal from someone I know IRL. I get the same discount you do, but nothing more than that. Honestly, it’s just easier this way, and I’m all about blogging easy. :-)