I started a new Christmas tradition this year and decided to make gifts out of all the junk we have accumulated over the years. So I started my Christmas shopping in our garage – a magnificent treasure hunt!! George and I agreed to stop exchanging gifts with each other a few years ago, but the first thing I spotted was a pair of bentwood bistro chairs that I thought would be perfect for him. The cane seats were destroyed and I had no desire to take up caning, but I was sure I could create some sort of replacement seats. I started the deconstruction on November 15th and had the pair completed by November 28th. I found particle board in the garage that was left over from our roof project over the summer. That and my jigsaw was all I needed for new seats. I covered them with some leftover batting and some old fabric that my mother salvaged years ago. And painted the chairs with leftover paint from when George decided to paint the trim in our kitchen a beautiful lavendar color about five years ago. Take a look:
Another trip to the garage helped me spot some old metal folding chairs that I had rescued from a trip to the dump many years ago. I can’t remember who was throwing them out, but, at the time, I had to have them! Shawn and Jessa live in a small apartment in Winooski and I thought the chairs would be good for a young couple with limited space. I also found several books containing old newspapers and one with reproduced NY Times front pages from 1920-1980. I decided to cover the chairs in the newspaper and create some brightly-colored, cushioned seats because Jessa said “a pop of color is desperately needed anywhere in the house”. Ten days later and many experiments with bandanas, cloth napkins, old t-shirts and other scrap fabric gave me the following results:
In my travels through the garage and all my storage boxes, I came across many old calendars, magazines, craft paper, catalogues and more. I was inspired to teach myself how to make origami peace cranes and craft them into some sort of mobiles. I mixed the origami cranes with old beads and family photos mounted onto old cardboard to make mobiles for the dorm rooms of Asad and his sister. I played with different options for hanging the strings and opted to use old lathing strips from our attic – wood that was removed when we replaced the roof. For Asad’s mobile, I used the fabric from a favorite scarf that I had cut in half last spring to make it narrower. And for his sister, I used strips from a tie-dyed t-shirt that she had made last year but didn’t want.
A gift for Erik was going to be a challenge. He saw me working on the mobiles for Asad and Asad’s sister and made it clear that he didn’t want anything like them. Not that I considered it. But I was really struggling to think of something he would appreciate. He has his own apartment down the road and I thought about fixing up a pair of the metal folding chairs in a style he would like. But then I came across some wooden wall-mounted coat racks he made when he was in middle school in 2004. They were unfinished. George had given me some of his old topographic maps for my origami. Since Erik just graduated with a degree in surveying, I thought he’d appreciate the maps. I decided to cover one of the coat racks with a map – and even found a map that depicted the land in Lanesboro, Massachusetts where Erik was working at the time.
Erik is very proud of his Lozier heritage and the fact that he is a fourth generation woodsman. We have photos of Erik’s grandfather and great-grandfather during the days that they were logging with horses. I asked George if he had any old saws or chainsaw bars or other logging tools that could be used to display a small collection of photos. He came in with an old bucksaw that was given to him when he lived in Michigan over 30 years ago. It was perfect and it had been collecting dust and serving no purpose for 30 years!
Weston had been watching all of my Christmas workshop activity for weeks. He was very interested and enjoyed showing his girlfriend all of my new creations. I was at a loss for what to make him as well. He just re-did his room and found everything he needed to create an amazing mini-apartment for himself. He really didn’t need anything and he was ALWAYS around! I went on another treasure hunt in our garage and he followed me… asked me what I was doing. Looked at everything I picked up. Followed me up to the loft. So much for finding inspiration. Later that night he was talking about the Christmas eve gathering he was planning for a few friends. He planned on playing pool and ping-pong and said, “I wish we had a bar and some barstools in the billiard room.” Immediately, my wheels started turning and I was sure I could find everything I needed to grant his wish. Well, everything but time! It was less than a week from Christmas.
I found two old, mismatched step-stools and took them apart to paint and cover them in coordinated colors. We had an old dresser that we salvaged from Williams College about 15 years ago. It had always been missing the top drawer, but we used it as a t.v. stand and toy cupboard and many other things over the years. I cut off the top of the dresser to shorten it to the appropriate height for the stools. I made a new top with some extra wood shelves from another piece of furniture and the rest of the dresser I covered with old placemats and tablecloths. A true cob-job, but finished just in time for Christmas. We gave it to Weston early so he could have it for his Christmas eve celebration with his friends.
I thoroughly enjoyed making the origami peace cranes and wanted to make more projects with them. Weston’s girlfriend, Roni, had just redecorated her bedroom and Weston told me her color scheme was green, black and white. Initially, I wanted to make a mobile that would hang from her ceiling. The installation seemed problematic, so I decided to make something freestanding. I asked George to bring home a white birch treetop and he picked one off the side of the road that had been cut by a neighbor. I found an old flower vase, put in a clipping from the treetop and stuffed it with rags. I hung several strings of cranes from the branches and hoped she would have room on a tabletop to display it. I made a smaller version of the same thing for my friend and co-worker, Lori. I found an old Sand Springs water bottle in our basement in the color scheme I wanted for hers. It was next to empty bottles of homemade grape juice that were dated 1899. I’m sure the bottle is quite old. I loved the way they came out.
My final projects were a framed poem that Asad wrote and a framed quote for my dear friend, Patti. I covered the frames with old calendar pictures. It was the most gratifying Christmas I’ve had in years. It felt so good to find new life for old things. It was a true anti-consumerism exercise. And helped me to reflect on our 25 years of success of keeping Christmas modest for our children. Making these handmade treasures was a gift for me. Time away from other responsibilities to think about the people I love and how much they mean to me. That’s what Christmas is to me – a blessing I cherish with all my heart!