November 28, 2013

Make A Wheat Sheaf

One iconic symbol of Thanksgiving is a wheat sheaf.
It symbolizes a rich and plentiful harvest. 
Wheat sheaves also remind us of the strength of being with
friends and family...bound together the strands of wheat are
strong but a stalk by itself will bend and break easily.
You can make your own wheat sheaves to use in Fall and
Thanksgiving decorating.  You can also add dried grasses
to the wheat to add interest to the sheaf. 
Being the cheap-y that I am, I thought that maybe by
cutting some wheat-ish looking weeds growing near my
house, I could make an inexpensive sheaf.
There were several different types of weeds to cut. 
I tried to keep the types and sizes separate.
Here's how the weeds...well, let me call them grasses, looked
after the green leaves had been stripped off.
After seeing the meager results of all the work of gathering,
hauling, stripping the grasses, I decided that the wheat bundles
that I had previously thought were too expensive in the craft
stores starting looking like a good deal (especially on sale).
The wheat bundles cost about $3 each on sale.  Here's what
I had to work with to make wheat and grass sheaves.
I came across a Martha Stewart tutorial on how to mix wheat
and grass in a sheaf so it must not be too tacky.
The tutorial instructed to make smaller bundles of the grasses
and wheat and bind them with floral tape. Keep the heads of
the materials at the same height.  Keep the tape at about the
same level on each bundle. Floral tape can be found in the
floral section of craft stores.  It has to be stretched as it is
applied to expose/activate the stickiness.
At first I followed the tutorial but I took it apart when I saw
that my wheat and grass bundles in the center were being
covered up by subsequent bundles added. I made a false
center of dried stems hot glued together  to make the
 sheaf look fatter than it actually was to save materials.
You do NOT have to do this step.  If you have enough materials
just grasp a few wheat or grass bundles in your hand, bind them
together with floral tape to make a center.  As you add more
bundles, twist the stems slightly as you add them. The
twisting helps the sheaf to stand on its own.
Keep the heads of the bundles at the same height as
you add them.
Here's how mine looked with the false center adding some
wheat and grass bundles:
The bigger the bundle gets the harder it is to hold it
without getting a cramp in your hand.  I decided mine
looked pretty good without using all the product and also
I hated just covering up the bundles in the center more.
When you get the fullness that you want, cut the bottom of the
stems straight across at first. 
To make the sheaf stand by itself, you might need to cut the
center stems a little shorter.  This was about the trickiest
part of the whole project...making the sheaf stand alone.
Well, making my main sheaf not being as fat as Martha's
 left me with some wheat and grass left over.
A couple of smaller sheaves were made to go on either
 side of the large sheaf.  For these, only wheat was used. .
I learned that this is called "bearded wheat".  These came
from Hobby Lobby and Jo Ann's.  To try to make these
quicker than the first one, I did not tape bundles together.
Tape about 10 stalks together for the center then add a
few stalks at a time with the floral tape.
Add more stalks to center bundle...
...then tape down.
With this technique, the tape stayed at the same level easier.
Is it because I am cheap that I didn't want to use more
wheat than necessary to make a "fine" sheaf?  I still did
not use all the wheat up with these two sheaves.
Tried as I might, I was not able to make these smaller
sheaves stand on their own.  Maybe I didn't twist enough?
Too tall with a smaller amount of stalks? Didn't cut the bottoms right?  Don't know.
To solve the problem I held the stalks in a clear glass
container and added dried white beans around the stalks.
I learned the hard way to add the ribbon to the stalks
and move the sheaves to the place they are going to be
before placing the beans around the stalks.
I had found some ribbon with wheat sheaves on it that I
thought was perfect but, since I decided not to make a bow
on the sheaves but just keep it simple and wrap the ribbon
enough to cover the tape, the sheaves don't really show up.
The ribbon cuff was just hot glued on the sheaves.
Also in the dining room is a turkey made with grasses so
he ties in well with the grass and wheat sheaf.
I love him.  I saw him while I was on a trip and had to
have him even though he had to travel in the airplane
in my lap to get home.
Yikes...still had wheat and grass left over!
Some of the grass bundles that had big bushy heads were
not used in the main sheaf because the tape fell at a
place where ribbon would not cover it.
I decided to make them into smaller sheaves and add a
collar of  wheat bundles (wheat bundle  heads lower than
 the grass heads) to use on the kitchen table.
These sheaves were wrapped with burlap ribbon.
These Pilgrims were purchased years ago when we
had an A.C. Moore store here. They just have
some floral picks arranged around them.
In trying to use up more left over wheat, but running out
of time, I made wheat arrangement with a glass vase and
more dried white beans.
The wheat stalks were lined up in bundles with the heads
at the same level. 
Measure how tall you want the arrangement to be and cut the
stems a little shorter than that.
sorry for the bad background on these photos...cutting the stalks makes a mess and
with company coming, I couldn't mess up the dining room again.
Push the hand held bundles into the beans in the vase.
Keep adding more bundles into the beans.
You could use another shape vase also. 
This one gives kind of a contemporary spin on a wheat sheaf.
This way to display wheat was the fastest one I tried.
In my typical last minute blogging style (which I hate) even
though I started gathering the grasses, etc. back in September
and am just now getting the project finished on Thanksgiving!
Hope YOU are having a great Thanksgiving!

November 27, 2013

Painting Bottles Amber

Last summer I bought a pretty amber-colored jar at a flea market.
It made start wondering how to paint glass amber colored to
use in displays.  I thought there would BE an amber color in
the glass paint selections at craft stores but there is not. 
My thought was that for a Fall look amber bottles would
 look nice mixed with the green bottles that I have displayed
 on a baker's rack that I have in my carport.  You have to 
 walk through the carport to get to the back door at my house.
Most folks that come to my house to visit seem to come in
 through the back door so I like to have a seasonal display there.
I didn't get the display finished before the sun went down so I had to aim the car lights
onto the display to have any light on it...not the best photos...sorry!
To make the green and amber bottles have a Fall-ish look,
I used a dot of hot glue to secure a faux Fall fruit on each
bottle to make like a bottle topper.  I think the faux
fruit will just pop right off when it is no longer needed.
I ended up with too many bottles for the baker's rack so

I make another little display in the kitchen too.


OK above is the finished bottles for those who only want
to see a finished vignette. If you want to keep reading, you can
see the different products and techniques that were used
to try to get the amber bottle look.
Here are the bottles that I started the experiment with:

I ended up with more bottles since I had a hard time getting
the amber look that I wanted and more bottles got called
into action for the attempts.  Some are $1 bottles from
 Michael's, empty food containers and thrift store finds.
Back when I was making a faux stained glass window, I
 used some  Martha Stewart's "fill paint" on it.  In researching
how to use it for the window, I also saw a video on how to
use the fill paint to color bottles.
I bought the fill paint in orange and brown because the orange
was TOO orange to look like amber to me. 

 I followed the directions and put painter's tape on the
 bottom of the bottles.  That was a time consuming step that
I did not do with other paint techniques that I tried.
The tutorial tells you to let the paint drip down the bottle.

You are supposed to drizzle more paint at the points where
the paint did not drip you have the whole bottle covered. 
My thought was to put a layer of orange fill paint on the bottle
and then follow with the brown.  I wasn't sure if I was going
 layer the colors while the paint was wet or let one layer dry
and then add another color on top.
Last bottle on right is painted with a homemade concoction of glue/food color/water mix.
In the end, it didn't matter because the fill paint, while it
was great on the faux stained glass window (where it was used
on a horizontal surface and allowed to pool and dry),
was too transparent for the look I was after. 
Orange fill paint bottle on left, brown fill paint on the right.

 If you would like a hint of color on a bottle, it would be fine.
Not one to waste all the paint that dripped off of the bottle,
per the instructions, I brushed the excess paint on other
bottles to see what that would look like.
There are other Martha Stewart paints I wanted to try also
but until I could get to the craft store, I tried another method
to paint bottles that I had seen on the internet...
using glue (use glue that will eventually dry clear),
food coloring and some water to make the glue mix brushable.
I tried the orange food was too orange for amber.
With no brown food coloring on hand, I added a few drops
of purple to the orange and glue mix.  It turned green.
I brushed it on a bottle anyway.  When it dried, it wasn't too
bad of a color!  This concoction had a matte finish.  I
wanted it to be a more shiny finish...some instructions for
this method say you can make it shiny by adding varnish
but I didn't have any of that either.
When I did get to the craft store, I got some more of Martha's
paints to try.  The "gloss paint" was glossy but it made the
bottles opaque...also not the look I wanted.
The  MS transparent paint is very transparent when it dries...
it really didn't have enough color for this Fall look. 
 If you want a hint of color on your  bottles
 for a lighter look it works well.

While I was at the craft store, I also treated myself to some
real  Mod Podge in case the Martha paints did not work.
I got the glossy version since I wanted shine on the bottles.
 Click on this link  at the Gingerbread Snowflakes blog
to see a tutorial on using the
 matte Mod Podge and food coloring to paint bottles.

Another thing that did not work (most of this post is about
what did not get the look I wanted to save you the time and
money of trying all this stuff yourself if you want amber
 bottles) is the tube of decorating gel
It did not have enough color to change the Mod Podge.
I had to go back and get the more concentrated brown
food coloring in a little pot. It is also says " gel". 
 Maybe the "decorating gel" goes directly
on the food product without mixing?
 The brown gel in the pot is thicker than the food coloring
 in the little bottles but either of those worked fine
 in tinting the Mod Podge for painting bottles.

Go heavy on the orange food coloring and light on the brown
to get the amber color.  A "fan" brush is best for applying the
mix to the gives the least brush strokes.
As the original Mod Podge tutorial noted, this method is not
the best for glass that is going to be outside because the
products used are water soluble. 
To try to make the amber finish that I finally was kinda
happy with (or did my standards drop with each failed
 attempt?) more permanent, I did try baking the bottles in
the oven on low heat.  I wasn't sure how the Mod Podge
bottles would react.  The Martha Stewart site says to put
the bottles in the oven before you start to heat it so that
the bottles warm gradually.  If you put tape on the bottom
of the bottles, pull it off before lesson.
 I just put the oven on 250 degrees.  The bottles only cooked
about 10 minutes before they gave off a fume so I just took
them out then. It did seem to make the bottles less tacky.
 Another solution to keep the finish that you have worked
 hard to achieve, I found in researching on the internet,
 is to spray  the bottles with clear sealer.
That also solves the problem of the bottles having a
slightly "tacky" feel even after the Mod Podge dries.
For the amber look I was after, I think that the Mod Podge
 and food coloring method worked best even though it did
 have brush strokes in/on it.  I have tried other glass paints
in coloring  jars and bottles blue (see those blog posts
here and here) and they also ended up with brush strokes too.

Earlier on, I had purchased some orange bottles on sale
from Hobby Lobby even though I did not think they were
amber enough to use in the display.  I had thought that
I would figure out a way to make clear bottles amber
 and then make them more that color too.  In the end,
I decided they were just fine in the grouping "as is".
Orange square  bottles with acorns in them are from Hobby Lobby.
Oh, and the original amber bottle I bought last summer
 that started the display idea...can't find it anywhere. 

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