How to Stay Sane while Making Your Own Christmas Cards

20140320_211112It’s okay. I know you’re all thinking, “Becky, why are you posting about Christmas? It’s time for Halloween candy and fall decor!” Some of you that know me better are also probably thinking, “Becky, I thought you were totally against Christmas before Thanksgiving?!” While both of these statements are true and 100% accurate, I also believe it knocking things off the to-do list and being ahead of the game. That’s why I think now is the perfect time to start working on Christmas cards!

If you’re going to make your own holiday cards this year, here are a few of my tried and true tips for not losing your mind and actually getting the cards out on time!

1. Start early! Part of the reason for this post, hint hint, wink wink! You will be very disappointed and frustrated if you wait to start the project and aren’t able to complete it on time or as you would have liked to. (That embossed snow won’t finish itself, you know!)
2. Keep it simple! I love a good, elaborate, layered card as much as the next crafter. I also love my hair, my savings account, and my husband. For these reasons among others, I’ve learned to keep the card designs simple. My general plan is that I can purchase one new “toy” (be it stamp, punch, cutter, etc.) for each year’s card, and that usually becomes the one trickier piece to each of my cards.
3. Streamline! Continued from keeping things simple, make sure that your cards can be “mass produced,” especially if you have a long list of people to send them to! (More on that below!) Being able to break the design into steps that you can turn into an assembly line makes your project go much, much faster. Do all of your stamping at once. Cut all of the ribbon at once. Glue all the googly snowman eyes on at once. Whatever your design is, look for ways to make the process easier and create all the cards one step at a time.
4. Edit! This may sound harsh, but not everyone loves getting Christmas cards. Especially handmade beauties that could qualify for gifts on their own! Review your list of recipients and ask yourself the tough question – does this person NEED or WANT a card? And be honest with yourself! I cleaned my list last year and only sent about half the cards I normally do. People were on there that we had lost touch with, that weren’t involved in our lives anymore, and folks that just honestly weren’t the type to receive my card!
5. Set a deadline! Were you the type to stay up late writing papers the day before they were due? Did you tell people, “I work better under pressure!”? I may have done that a few times myself, but regardless, I am a firm believer that putting dates on things make them more pressing and more tangible. I send out my cards the second week in December. I know that I have to finish them before that so I can address, stamp and get them out. Gives me a little nudge when I realize the calendar has flipped to December!

Quick example. The photo is of our holiday card from 2012. I precut all the colors on the front. I precut the twine. I precut the rectangle that 2012 is on. I stamped all of the 2012’s at one time. I stamped and embossed all of the woodgrain one afternoon. I put all the brads in place before gluing down the brown strips. I put all the little 2012 signs on at once. I tied all of the twine bows last. (The inside of the card is blank for our personal notes.)

This was easily my favorite holiday card, in large part due to the streamlined, assembly line fashion in which it came together. So cute, and so little stress! Do you still make your holiday cards? What are your tips for beautiful cards that don’t take all year to make?

Waiting out Joaquin

Football and KnittingJust in case you haven’t heard, the East Coast is being pummeled by rain associated with Hurricane Joaquin. Gopher wood is in high demand and grocery stores are low on bread and water.

Joking aside, many on this side of the country are smartly playing it safe and staying home to avoid flooded roads and torrential wind and rain. I consider myself blessed not to have an event this weekend, and instead can hole up at home with three of my favorite things. Football. Crafts. And my husband. Wait…maybe I should reorder those things…

Today is going to be full of college football games and knocking out a mile long project list. Rainy days make me feel ambitious because, well, there’s nothing I can do outside! No guilt for not getting there!

How do you wait out rainy days? Do you take advantage of the good napping weather? Wrack your brain for kid-friendly activities? Does the overcast sky make you more ambitious or low key? Let’s get some brainstorming going because who knows how long we’ll have before this system moves on!

PS – one of my favorite rainy day kid activities is fort building. That makes even normal toys and games seem more fun!

How to Deal with Product Errors

enhanceBeing a perfectionist in the crafting industry is dangerous. I consider it a blessing because it means that I care about the quality of the work I produce, but it can also be painful when I have moments that remind me I’m human. Which are much more frequent than I typically care to admit! There will inevitably be times when something doesn’t go as planned, however, and you’re going to be frustrated. Quality control is extremely important, but take it from me, letting those frustrations get you down can be even more detrimental. Even if you weren’t planning on selling the item!

When I find an error with a product (keeping in mind that I create a majority of my projects to sell), I’ve established four basic ways to “resolve” my frustration with it:

1. Start over. I do this much more frequently (and successfully) with knit or crochet pieces. When you’re working with paper or fabric, it can be difficult to start over and salvage your materials. While I certainly don’t want to waste anything, for personal sanity and customer satisfaction, sometimes it’s a necessary evil. Many times I start over because I’ve learned a thing or two about my process, and the end product is even better than I imagined it the first time!
2. Change it. There is nothing that says you can’t change your plan while you’re creating something. That’s part of why you’re doing it – to be creative! So you start out with a plan to make an infinity scarf and you don’t have enough fabric or yarn. The police will not come knocking on your door if you alter your product to be a beautiful cowl instead! Stamp not come out clearly? Maybe the missing portion is “hiding” behind another layer of your paper craft!
3. Keep it. 
Since I design most of my items within the realm of my own personal taste, many of the items I don’t deem worthy of being on Etsy make their way into my personal collection. Doesn’t earn me any money, but it keeps me from spending money on new items when it feels like I just gave myself a gift! (Fantastic logic, right?!)
4. Discount it. Not the best option in the craft world, but especially if you’re tight on resources, it may be best to at least recoup the cost of your materials if the final product still functions. Just remember to use this as a last resort as you don’t want to diminish the perception of your work. On the other hand, you also don’t want to lie about the quality of the work or deceive a buyer into expecting more than they will receive.

This entire post was actually prompted because of a scarf I made recently. I was trying a new technique on a cotton scarf and silly me, did not think to change the color of my bobbin (the bottom or “wrong side” thread). So I’m trucking along and suddenly realize that while my white stitches look great on the top – which is white – the underside that’s still visible is dark gray, and the white stitches don’t look so hot. Does that ruin the piece? No. Does it make me less than thrilled and consider it below my shop’s standards? Yes. Solution? I will sell it in person at a lower rate, but not online. This will provide a great way to be honest about the product’s “flaws”, while still promoting the quality of the material and craftsmanship that went into it.

The next time you find yourself disappointed with the quality of your work, I hope you’ll consider one or more of these solutions! Or maybe you already have a go-to method for beating the blues. I’d love to hear how you tackle these human moments! I promise it happens to us all!

Changing Fall Colors

Fall Colors 1 - traditionalWhen the temperatures drop and the breeze picks up, it’s hard not to jump on the fall bandwagon. As someone who loves the outdoors and natural decor, it truly is like a breath of fresh air! The outdoors are bearable again and there are so many beautiful ways to create a cozy home that embraces the season.

Now, I love the traditional autumnal colors and warm hues like red, orange and yellow, but as I began to bring out my harvest pieces, I realized that very little of it fits the mold for textbook fall style. That got me thinking, why should I feel limited to three colors? There are so many incredible ways to bring non-traditional colors into your fall look!

Fall Colors 1 - jewel tonesDo you love deep, rich colors? Bring some jewel tones into your space to complement the more natural neutrals that fall gives us! I love how Scout & Nimble incorporated navy into their tablescape through napkins and a burlap ribbon on the wooden crate. It adds a touch of class and refinement to what is otherwise a fairly eclectic design.

The porch scene arranged by Kate Riley manages to maintain a life and vitality that many fall themes lose. The gorgeous purple mums coupled with stunning coleus prove that while it may be harvest time, there is still lots of growing going on!

Fall Colors 1 - muted tonesMaybe you prefer a little more subdued color palette. Swap out the saturated jewel tones for muted earthy hues, and you have another amazing recipe for success. I mean, look at this beautiful mantel design by Michelle at Dandelion Patina. My rural Wisconsin roots make me immediately want to go out and buy a windmill, and those wooden candlesticks are a perfect complement for height! (I can’t not mention the squirrel! He’s adorable!)

Ok. Maybe after checking out Nothing Past Nine you’ve noticed that these are my kinds of colors. But can we just take a moment to enjoy the beauty of white pumpkins? I don’t say this very often, but *SWOON*! The combination of white and grapevine pumpkins looks unbelievable in the blue tinted crate! I want every bit of this design Laura put together over at Finding Home Farms.

Which way do you lean? Are you a traditional type with lots of warm colors? Do you go a little bolder with more lively jewel tones? Or are you like me and get excited about the soft, muted earth tones? I’d love to hear your thoughts, or better yet – share some photos of your fall colors! I can’t wait to see them!

Find more on each photo here: sunflowers, pinecones, tablescape, porch, mantel, coffee table

 

Summer Daze – Week 4

Summer Daze HeaderIt’s JUNE! School is – or will be – out soon and it’s time for some fun in the sun! And Week 4 of our Summer Daze Series! Last week’s post was for the adults, but this week should satisfy the whole family!

If you’ve been following Nothing Past Nine in any capacity for any length of time, you’ve probably noticed we LOVE the outdoors! Hiking, biking, kayaking, and basically any other opportunity we get to explore and appreciate the wonder and majesty of Mother Nature – we’re all about it! Also, speaking just for myself now, I don’t think kids can get enough fresh air and activity – especially during the summer. This post is designed to provide some simple sunny (and rainy) day projects for your crew, be they young or old!

Yard Boggle Scrabble Cardboard5Board games were a huge part of my childhood and luckily I married into a family that has the same affinity! There have been a plethora of outdoor versions of many standard games flooding Pinterest, and while I would love to create something as sophisticated as this outdoor Scrabble board, I don’t have the time or resources to do that! HERE is an extremely inexpensive alternative! I love that From the Carriage House used their tiles to play Backyard Boggle too! WHEN I make my set of tiles, I will create a Scrabble set with point values and probably make them out of wood. At least something that would last more than one season! I also love this tutorial for Dominoes from Iron & Twine.

So, those may be activities for the older segment of your party, but if you haven’t seen this idea for lawn Twister, you’re missing out! Totally customizable to your munchkins (i.e. smaller dots, spread further apart or closer together), this painted lawn game will easily disappear thanks to Mother Nature! I liked Jillee’s idea of using a pizza box for template and spacing the dots!

Backyard YahtzeeUnfortunately, as my husband and I are still renting a townhouse in a golf course community, we don’t have a ton of outdoor space to entertain. This next game has been a staple in my family since before I was born, and my favorite memories of my grandmother include playing Yahtzee! Easy to teach, this classic even promotes good decision making and counting skills for the youngsters! While this tutorial from Momtastic is a bit advanced, I love the look of the dice and know this could easily be done with foam cubes, cardboard, paint, etc.!

Finally, although I could go on and on about this topic, a couple of ideas for the wee lads and lasses. For sunny days, Chicken Scratch has an extremely simple tutorial for a DIY Tic-Tac-Toe game that has an adorable bug theme. While I think the lady bugs and bumble bees are the bee’s knees, I may or may not have a plan to create a Minions set – yellow good Minions vs the purple Evil Minions!

Galaxy SlimeLastly, for those rainy days, I couldn’t resist sharing one of the many stretchy, oozy slime recipes! I love the education aspect of Twodaloo’s Night Sky Galaxy Slime. I may have to ask to babysit some of my friends’ children so I have a reason to make some of this! It’s so shiny…and colorful….and stretchy…

OK! I’ve got projects to tackle now! How about you? Will any of these make your to-do list for this summer? What’s your favorite? What would you add to this list? Share your ideas and your projects using #NPNsummerdaze on Instagram!