(Guest post by the spouse)
I am among the least “artsy-craftsy” persons in the world. I never made anything out of macramé, can’t hook a rug, can’t make a damn thing out of popsicle sticks, but…I’m really good at making Christmas decorations!
I’m not sure where this talent – so uncharacteristic of me — came from. Maybe when I was little. When I was the tender age of six or seven, Mother had my sister and me making our own Christmas stockings. Mother cut the template out of green felt, provided scissors, sequins, ribbons, other colors of felt, little angels, needle and thread and had us go at it. Do you know how hard it is for a seven-year-old to sew on a sequin??! No glue was provided (was Elmer’s glue even invented back then?). But I did it and am the better for it. I had that stocking (with my sequined name in white felt) until I left for college!
Mother was good at making Christmas decorations, and I copied some of her other designs. She was a major felt fan and had made beautiful ornaments using styrofoam balls covered in felt, gold braid, sequins (you can attach them to styrofoam with a pin through the middle which is a whole lot easier than sewing!), and other glittery things. When we were first married and living in our first apartment and our first Christmas came around, I was determined to decorate with a little Christmas sparkle. The local Woolworth’s (my go-to place for all home goods) had an eclectic fabric collection in its basement, and they had…FELT! And sequins! And ribbon! And pearl-headed pins! And even little styrofoam balls! I was in business and set about trying to recreate my mother’s masterpieces. P.S. We still hang these little treasures on our Christmas tree.
The next year I found larger styrofoam balls, and wider ribbon and made an arrangement of the (felt-covered) balls on various lengths of ribbon to hang from the mantelpiece. And so…I was on my way to Christmas decoration stardom!
When I finally got a real job and opened a real lab (my own!!!), I discovered that the most fabulous florist supply store in all of the New York area was a mere 2 blocks from my lab. Can you even imagine what treasures they have in a florist supply store? I couldn’t, but soon found myself in a Christmas decorators’ heaven. At Christmastime, they carried at least 100 kinds of Christmas-themed ribbon, pin lights, regular lights in all colors, extravagant collections of greens (fake, yes, but incredibly realistic), sparkly things of indescribable luxuriousness, life-sized white doves, golden stalks of this and that, and real poinsettias for cheap. I had a house by now – a Victorian house – a house crying out for a full, over-the-top Dickens decorating spree. So I bought:
200 feet of garlands;
10 white doves;
Yards and yards (who was counting?) of 2” wire-stiffened ribbons of various design;
8 luscious stalks containing some sort of exotic fruit surrounded by exotic greens and normal fir-tree-type greens (Sounds awful, doesn’t it? Trust me, they were beautiful.);
And goodness knows what else.
I didn’t know what to do with the yards and yards of ribbon, BUT…help came in the form of the famous “Bow-Dabra” (I probably found it in Woolworth’s), a kit that showed one how to make fabulous bows – the best $9.99 purchase I ever made!
With the help of an extremely skeptical husband, I decked the halls. The garlands outlined the doors; the wreaths went on the front door panels (they were promptly stolen – just the way the neighborhood was at the time); the white doves fluttered amid the dining room garlands; the exotic fruit perfumed the living room garlands (well, not really, but they added a salutary bit of sophistication).
It was glorious, if I do say so myself.
When our child came along, I made…yes! green felt stockings for the three of us. Sequins (glued, not sewn!) glittered on our names cut out of white felt. It’s now almost 40 years later, and we still stuff those very same stockings with goodies to open on Christmas morning.
As a wee tot, the NBP was frightened by the white doves (thinking, I guess, that they might fly down and peck at you) but got used to them at some point. Also, while I favored a Christmas tree trimmed completely in white/gold lights and golden ornaments (sparkly, you know), the NBP preferred a more colorful model with multicolored lights and “traditional” ornaments. Guess who won? Let’s just say that those multicolored lights are sparkling as I write this. For this multicolored extravaganza, I made a tree skirt. Now. I CAN sew a little, so I went to my favorite fabric store (a step up from Woolworth’s), bought yards of red and green velveteen (NOT felt this time) and at least 20 yards of gold braid. This little project designed to save us money (home-made, after all) set us back a month’s mortgage payment, but it fits the tree perfectly, and it IS elegant, if I do say so myself.
You’d think that would have been enough. Ha! You jest! I have since bought two of those beautifully-crafted carolers (from Byers’ Choice, Ltd.) who sing on the coffee table in their authentic Victorian garb (complete with a real rabbit fur muff for the lady and a leather satchel carried by the man); an elaborate three-foot bearded Santa in a fur-trimmed velvet cape (got him for $10 at a flea market) holding a lighted wreath that’s on a timer (!); and three paunchy “Christmas ladies” whom I fell in love with in Duane Reade (they wear hand-crafted outfits that include real knitted scarves and hats made of…felt). They welcome people to the entrance hall. I didn’t craft any of these personalities (all way beyond my capabilities), but I appreciate their addition to our festivities.
This year, stringing the garlands over the 10-foot doorways has proven a bit too far to go, so the garlands have been “repurposed,” and have been wound around the banisters outside on the stoop and find themselves decorated with red bows (no white doves). After the stolen-wreath caper, we never did much to the outside of the house, so this is a departure – one worth repeating in the future.
About four years ago, I realized that I had more pine cones, sequins, baubles, holly berries, ribbons, toy soldiers, exotic fruits, tiny stuffed angels, etc. than I was ever going to be able to use – no matter how many table centerpieces I made. So I gave a party. I provided wine, glue, wire, wreath forms, and sundry vases and watched my friends create their own Christmas cheer out of my cache of wonderment.
I love Christmas decorations.