crafts, family, holidays, thrifted!, tutorials

a wildcards tutorial: hand-wrapped snowman ornament

Last Saturday was a lazy one. How nice are those? Me and the boys were looking for something fun to do at home. Jack said his teacher brought a Christmas tree into the classroom, and she'd asked the children to bring ornaments to decorate it.

Ornaments? Hey, that’s what we can do! I thought.

I looked to our own tree for inspiration. I found this:


My brother made this when he was in elementary school. Somehow I lucked out and now I own it. It's precious to me.

Geez, it must be blankety-blank years old. (You’re welcome, Jason.)

Anyway, my brother’s ornament got me thinking about snowmen and pom-poms. I didn’t have any ready-made pom-poms, but I had an old skein of wool yarn that I’d thrifted long ago. How do you make a pom-pom from yarn? I wasn’t entirely sure.

After a quick online search, I realized that the task was more difficult than the boys wanted it to be. Wrapping yarn around doughnut-shaped cardboard didn’t seem like a big deal to me, but it sounded like a major chore to the boys. I decided to try their hands as a template instead. And on that lazy Saturday, two little “hand-wrapped” snowmen were born.

If you like, follow along below and I’ll show you how we did it. It’s super simple—and if your kids are like mine, they’ll get a kick out of being wrapped up in yarn.

a wildcards tutorial: handwrapped snowman ornament

Snowman10What you’ll need: yarn, scissors, a yarn needle, buttons, a glue gun, and scraps of fleece. In place of fleece you can use felted wool or any other bulky-type fabric that will hold its shape. Oh, I almost forgot—you also need little hands!


Here’s that old yarn I mentioned earlier—it needed winding. The upside-down barstool worked pretty well (although one day I hope to be like normal knitters and own a swift).


1. Leave a 6" to 8" tail to start. Begin winding yarn around two fingers.

2. Wind the yarn until you find it difficult to keep the yarn on the fingers—the more yarn you wind, the fuller your pom pom will be. Cut the yarn, leaving a 6" to 8" tail.

3. Use the end of a spoon or fork to push the tail through the two yarn-bound fingers. (Charlie’s mitts were too small for this step, so I just wiggled the loops carefully off his fingers.)

4. Wrap beginning and end yarn tails around the center of the loops once. (If you wiggled the yarn off fingers, lay the loops in your lap and carefully wrap the tails around them). Tie the beginning and end tails together in the center of the loops. Tighten and knot the yarn.


Cut through the center of the loops.


Cut yarns until you end up with a spherical shape.


We made six pom-poms–three from each boy’s hand. I wound the first pom-pom using two fingers; then three; then four to get a small-to-large look. Jack’s pom-poms are on the right; Charlie’s are on the left.

Charlie’s pom poms all turned out to be about the same size. I’m okay with that. So is Charlie.


Using a long length of yarn and a yarn needle, sew three pom-poms together from small to large. Poke right through the center of each pom-pom and pull the yarn through.


Stitch through each pom-pom again, this time from large to small. You should end up with both ends of your yarn coming out of the top of the snowman's head. Knot the two ends at the head; then knot the two ends again 3" to 4" above the head to create a loop for hanging.

I used a hot glue gun to adhere buttons to the snowmen. I cut two layers of fleece into identical triangle shapes and glued them together for the hat. Then I ran a strip of glue along the bottom of the hat only, and pressed it onto the head.The sides of the hat are left loose.

No hot glue for the boys. But they did get to choose colors, sift through the button jar, and watch mom hot-glue herself to the table. Only briefly.


Our pom-poms aren’t perfect, but they sure made for a lazy Saturday well spent. Charlie's ornament is pictured; Jack's is now proudly hanging on the classroom Christmas tree.

Thanks Jacky, thanks Barley—let’s give ourselves a "hand," shall we?

And thank you for dropping by. Happy holidays!

crafts, holidays, sewing, tutorials

A WildCards tutorial: Loopy-Loo Holiday Garland

When I left home for college, my mom gave me a box of old holiday decorations. A few ornaments, some Santa knick-knacks, and a charming strand of Christmas-tree garland made from bright red yarn. The garland was handmade by my mom. She was in college herself when she made it. As I rummaged through the box, she explained how she had made the garland all those years ago.

Although a competent sewist, my mom never had a passion for it. (Her passion is abstract painting. Rebel.) So I was happy to inherit something sewn by her hand, as it was quite rare. And every year since I received the garland, it’s been on my Christmas tree. This year it has accented some of our favorite ornaments that we’ve collected over the years…

Loopy-Loo-1Our honeymoon ornament.

Loopy-Loo-2Our “we used to live in Washington, and it was cool” ornament.

Loopy-Loo-3And our first “Baby’s first Christmas” ornament.

But the past four years? The garland has been getting harder and harder to drape. I’ve been draping the garland around the tree to form the illusion of one continuous strand. But in reality, it looks more like this:

Loopy-Loo-4 The garland has broken into so many pieces I can’t even count them anymore. So this year, I decided to try my hand at sewing a new garland. I wasn’t sure what I would end up with, but I remembered the simple technique that mom shared with me.

Hmm. Things went better than I expected. I like how this new, vintage-vibe garland turned out! I felt confident enough about it, even, that I thought I could teach someone else how to do it. So holy happy holidays, here we go!

LoopyLoo Holiday Garland Tutorial

Here’s what you need:
Loopy-Loo-6Poster board. A pen or pencil. An acrylic ruler. A rotary cutter with a blade for paper only and a rotary mat (or scissors). Tape. Thread to match your yarn. And yarn.

Note: You do not need ONE POUND of yarn. One skein is plenty for a garland that will wrap and drape and then wrap some more around your tree. Or your mantle. Or your door. Or wherever you plan to drape and wrap.

One more note: When it comes to yarn and knitting, I love using natural fibers. But in this case, I suggest using acrylic yarn. Natural fibers tend to break more easily, and we want garland that will last at least as long as my mom's garland did. That would be close to 40 years.

Wow. Yeah, just did the math. That is freakin' old garland!

Here’s what you do:
Using your ruler, draw lines parallel to the short edge of the poster board, spacing them 1 3/4" apart.

Loopy-Loo-8Cut the poster board into strips, following the drawn lines.

Note: For me, each strip yielded about three feet of garland. So do the math—don’t do like I did and cut up the entire posterboard. It’s unlikely you’ll need it. I can’t imagine anyone would want that much garland for anything, ever.

Loopy-Loo-9Tape the yarn to one short end of a poster board strip.

Loopy-Loo-10Begin wrapping the yarn around the strip.

You can wrap the yarn one of two ways: 1) Let your right hand wrap the yarn while your left hand holds the paper steady; or 2) Let your right hand hold the yarn steady while your left hand turns the strip around and around. (Switch those lefts and rights around for lefties.) I did a little bit of both.

Loopy-Loo-11The strip should look something like this when you’re done. Leave 1" to 1 1/2" at the end of your strip unwrapped. Do not cut the yarn.

Loopy-Loo-12Sew along the center of the poster board strip using a very short straight stitch—as short as you can get without sewing in place. Here we are at the beginning of the strip…

…and here we are at the end. Backstitch well at the beginning and end.

Loopy-Loo-14Tape a second strip to the first strip.

Loopy-Loo-15Begin wrapping the yarn again.

Wrap the yarn to cover the second strip within 1" to 1 1/2" from the edge. When you are done wrapping, tape the yarn to the strip to prevent unraveling. Sew along the center of the second strip, making sure to backstitch over your previous stitching when you begin.

Now you have this long, gangly, double strip of posterboard. Time to take out the paper! You can do this one of two ways:

1) Cut the yarn along the long edges of the strip; then gently pull the paper away from the center seam. I’m guessing this is easier than what I did (and it’s what my mom did too).

2) Keep the loops in the yarn by ripping and wiggling the paper strips out of the loops a little bit at a time. More time consuming for sure, but I like the effect. Here’s how I did the ripping and wiggling:

Fold the strip in half lengthwise along the seam to further perforate the paper.

Fold it in the other direction, too.

Loopy-Loo-18Tear the paper to the sewn seam at 1" to 2" intervals. Pull a few loops off the edges of the paper so you can get a good grasp on it.

Loopy-Loo-19Gently wriggle the paper out.

Loopy-Loo-20After lots of wriggling, it will start to look like this.

Note: You can remove the paper from the yarn almost up to the point where the second strip ends. But leave a couple inches of the sewn yarn and paper intact; you’ll need it to tape, wrap, and sew the next length of garland.

Continue taping, wrapping, and sewing until you have the length of garland you want. I used four strips and it made about 12 feet of garland.

I had planned to set up some fun shots of the garland in holiday action, but GOSH DANG IT if my boys couldn’t keep their mitts out of the bowl ‘o beads:

Loopy-Loo-21Big mitts.

Loopy-Loo-22Little mitts.

Love those mitts.

And also, beads are messy.

I would love to make my mom’s bits of garland into something new. Any ideas? I’ll be thinking…

Loopy-Loo-23 Happy holidays, crafties!