Tuesday, November 30, 2010

my first wreath-making class...

Yesterday, my DIL2B came over with my lovely granddaughter.  She wanted to make a wreath for her mother as a birthday present; her mother's birthday is in December.  So you could say that I gave my very first one-on-one class yesterday.

Before heading downstairs to the wreath making workshop, I walked Peyton over to the nearly bare Christmas tree in the living room.  She was awestruck by the lights; she just stared and stared.
Then off to go work on wreaths...however, missy Peyton had other ideas for a moment.  She cried like I'd never seen her cry before - for a good few minutes.  Sam thought maybe she was overstimulated, so I turned off the overhead lights and Sam gave her a bottle to calm her down and then put her down for a nap by making a makeshift bed from one of the chairs using the throw pillows to block her from rolling over.  She slept for almost an hour which gave us plenty of time to work on our wreaths.

Sam picked Pink, Red and Gold bulbs and because I was making one for my sister Terry who had already told me that she wanted one in Green, Red and Gold, those were the colors I was working with that afternoon.

Normally it takes around 2 hours from start to finish but today it took about 4 hours, with Peyton on Sam's lap for the last 5 or 10 minutes.  By the time we were done, the house was completely dark.
Well anyway, I tried to "instruct" without leaving blanks in my sentences - a difficult feat if you know me - I rarely complete a sentence.  I think I did OK...you'd have to ask Sam for a more accurate critique.  I should have made her fill out an end of class survey - Haha.

Both wreaths turned out well - first time I didn't use a ribbon.  I find that when you hang the wreath from the ribbon that the top portion falls too far away from the door - as though it is top heavy, so I decided that we'd use a wire hoop/hook.  This brings it much closer to flush against the door.  But it is missing the extra loveliness of a pretty bow.

So, other updates to the wreath making and selling process...so far I've made 6 wreaths.  I've sold only one so far and made one for each of my sisters and one for my friend Diana at work.  The other two are still for sale on Etsy.  Maybe I should knock off $5 or $10 from the price...I don't know,...I think I will.

Today I heard from the lady that purchased my wreath.  She lives in North Carolina and told me that the wreath is beautiful.  There were some broken ornaments (2 white ones with the candy canes) and a few bulbs fell off but she hot glued them back on. Parcel post only took half the time they claimed it would.

I'm sad about the issues, but happy that it wasn't worse.  She still seems to be happy with it, so I'm going to not dwell on it.  As I had stated in my previous post, that one was the one I was worried about since it was on that evergreen wreath form.  NEVER again.
The wreath that fell, I was able to repair.  It's great that when I buy the ornaments from Estate Sales that I get the whole box of stuff as well, because in the box were these pointy sticks used for floral design that I pressed into the styrofoam wreath form and secure the broken form.  Then it was just a matter of cutting off the ornament fragments and regluing some new ones in their place.  You can't even tell that anything happened.  Oh, and I wrote 3M, they responded and asked me to call them. I did. They were interested in hearing about what type of surface the product was stuck to, etc. They said that on the packaging it says not to use them on heirlooms or irreplaceable items. I'll have to check that out next time I see them in the store. Then they asked what I would like 3M to do for me...I told them I have no idea. It's not like they could replace the wreath.
I also made a smaller wreath using a grapevine wreath form for the base.  This one was for my sister D. - I don't think she reads my blog, so I'm safe putting the pic up here. She wanted a small Silver wreath.  I didn't have much Silver ornaments left, but I did have some White, so she's getting a Silver and White wreath.  It's a little kitschy, but it grows on you.

Well, there you have all the updates about the different wreaths I've made so far.  I hope that I can sell the others...otherwise next year I'm going to look into being in a Christmas craft show or two.  I do like making them - I like the way they turn out for the most part and I'm starting to perfect my method.

There's a lady on Etsy that makes vintage ornament wreaths and I absolutely LOVE THEM!  According to her profile, she spends all year hunting down the most beautiful vintage Christmas ornaments.  Shiny Brites, Polands, West Germany and Made in the good ol' USA. (kinda like me :D).  Then she spreads them all out and crafts wreaths until all the ornaments are gone. Each year is a limited production. Once they are gone, that's it until this time next year.  I really like the way hers turn out.  Anyway, she's sold out already this year.  I think I will try to be more like her; creating wreaths in her style...we'll see if I can.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

buying frenzy...

Since my post about making the wreaths, I have had two different people purchase two wreaths from me on my Etsy shop...within a week of listing them!

I was so excited when the first one was purchased until I after I read that her feedback rating was at 92%.  I've never seen one that was under 100%.  Most of the bad comments were "never received payment", "don't buy unless you plan to pay" and "never responded to contact".  My heart dropped...and unfortunately, that first "buyer" fell through for me as well.

Then the next buyer wanted the large gold and white wreath.  This wreath is the one that I was most worried about because it was the most flexible and the one I've decided never to use that type of wreath form again because of the relatively unstructured soundness of it.

The person who bought it lives in North Carolina - to send it parcel post is the least expensive way to do it, only it takes up to 10 days to get there and according to the postal worker that I spoke to, it's handled quite a lot.  So, I'm just waiting to see if it arrives in one piece.  Fingers crossed!  It's been a week since I've sent it and I still haven't heard from her.  However, I did "Bing" her house and if the wreath survives, it's got a nice place to live.

I'm serious about putting a class together to show people how to make these.  And since I'm serious, I need to buy, buy, buy vintage ornaments!

I'm constantly looking on craigslist, going to Salvation Army and looking into Estate sales.  There's an Estate Sale website that I stumbled upon and it led me to a very nice Estate sale that was in my neighborhood(ish).

I made a list of 4 different Estate sales to go to on Friday.  I was armed with my clipboard.  Friday was the day to just write stuff down with the possibility of going back on their last day - be it Saturday or Sunday and hit them up for their 1/2 off sales.  Well, I'm not that controlled and I did purchase some ornaments that day, as long as they were reasonable.  The least I've paid per ornament has been 6 cents and the most I've paid was 20 cents.  But that is not exactly accurate either, since when you go to these Estate sales they don't always let you just have the ornaments - sometimes they want you to take the whole box.  So you end up with all kinds of other Christmas crap that you have to figure out what you're going to do with.  

On Friday, I ended up with 3 plastic storage boxes of differing sizes.  Only one of those boxes was only ornaments.  The other had other Christmassy items and the third had WWII articles...which I'm keeping for another project.

I have since put the whole box of Christmas crap up on craigslist for cheap - we'll see if anything comes of it.  If not, I will give it to charity.
I made Jerome come with me to one of the Estate sales, on its 1/2 off day.  The immaculately clean and neat condo was nearly empty compared to the Friday before, but there were still some items that I had written on my list that I would like to buy that were still there.  I bought a decorative birdhouse, a Ball mason jar, metal nutcrackers and picks, some ear muffs, a watering can,...and that's when I noticed this really cute "shabby chic" table.  

Small round vintage table with sides that close down.  I was able to get it for $35 (this table is a great place to display my parents and grandparents wedding photos.  I was actually thinking that I was going to buy it for my son and his fiance, but I think I like it too much - we'll see).  Jerome found himself down where the old cameras were and bought an old Cannon flash that is really in MINT condition, a self timer and a really nice tripod.  He's thinking we can sell these items for way more than what we bought them for.  We paid $18.50 for them.  I'll report later what we got for them.

Anyway, I have upwards of 800 ornaments now.  It takes nearly 100 of all different size ornaments to make a nice full wreath.  If I really want to have a class in my home, I will need to have enough ornaments to satisfy everyone.  I think I'll keep the class size low; 8 to 10 people...if I can get that many people interested in taking a class.

I have two more wreaths to make; one for my sister Terry (she wants a red, green and gold wreath) and one for my sister Deni (she wants a small silver wreath).  Also, I'll be having my daughter-in-law-to-be over on Monday to help her make a wreath for her mom.  That will be my first attempt at teaching.

A quick update: Apparently last night one of my 3M Command hooks failed and so, one of the wreaths fell to the ground and broke a bunch of bulbs and cracked the styrofoam wreath base.  I'm sad, but I think it's repairable, but unsellable.  I guess I'm going to have to write a little letter to 3M.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

we should just sell it!...

Back in April of 1996, I bought my first house.  I bought it on my 30th birthday.  My mother was my realtor.  It was a little house in an established neighborhood; by that I mean old.  Big mature trees everywhere.  I was a single mother, making $10/hour.

The house needed a lot of work, but I was determined to buy it and even though my mom thought I could do better, why would I listen to her?

Anyway, over the 9+ years that I lived there and the additional 5+ years that I (we've) rented it out, I (we've) had EVERYTHING done to it that could have been done to it other than bulldozing it down and starting over.
I was even interviewed for the local paper about the work that was done on the house.

The "troubles" started on the day I received the keys (6/24/1996), when I noticed that the previous owners had a jar in the lower cabinet in the kitchen that was collecting the water that was leaking from a water pipe.  The disclosure had said that they had the plumbing inspected...this was soon followed by a complete tear out of the galvanized plumbing and install of copper plumbing.

Well, a little over a year passed and it was winter and I was having issues with the water draining from the toilet, bathtub, utility tub, sinks, etc.  I had the septic tank pumped out a couple of times by now and it was starting to become an emergency.  I contacted the local Township offices and also the nearby City's offices to see about tapping into the sewer.  It seems that the offices spoke to each other and they figured out a way for me to get tapped into the sewer line in the alley behind the house (still not sure if that alley is owned by the city or the Township).

Since I didn't have the money to pay for such an expensive project, I was able to apply for one of the Township's grants.  These grants that the Township gives out are liens on your house that are 0% interest loans and don't need to be paid off until you sell the house.

The Township worked with a local plumbing company; A&E Plumbing...and the job got done.  Because of the pitch from the house plumbing to the sewer in the alley, they needed to install an ejector/grinder pump, which I lovingly call the shit shooter.  It grinds up all the waste and ejects it down the pipe into the sewer.

Total cost was $6500, which I ended up paying off in 2002, when I needed the Township's help again...I won't get into that story now.

In October of 2008, all the residents of the street got a letter from the Township stating that they were planning on bringing the sewer lines through.  They would be coming along the front yard and this would be the time to tap in if needed.  Well, I didn't have to tap in, I was already tapped in the back - so the sewer was brought through and I was happy that I didn't need to spend any additional money to tap in.

Over the last couple of years, our "on-call" plumber, Don has been out to the house 4 or more times fixing drainage issues.  The last time we called him was last week Tuesday, when our renter called to let us know it was happening again.  This time Don could not fix the problem.  He said it was the ejector/grinder pump and that is not in his repertoire.  So, I called the company that installed it; A&E Plumbing.

After being at the house for a couple of hours and not being able to make any headway trying to open up the pump, they decided that they needed to leave and come back the next day with a backhoe.   In the meantime, they installed a sump-pump so that my renters could still use the facilities.  The bill for that night was $675.  Uh-oh...I couldn't sleep just thinking how much this was going to cost by the end.

They came back Wednesday morning and were able to free the pump from the outer containment unit using a backhoe and a lot of leverage...as the main contractor got sprayed with sewer water from the force!  YUK!

The pump was encased in tree roots and they were surprised that it even worked for the amount of time that it had.  I guess the 3 or 4 times that Don came to fix the drainage issue was just a precursor to the major fail.  And we would need to replace the whole unit; pump and containment unit.  Could cost another $5500!

The contractor kept informing us of the progress, however he was very concerned that if we replaced this unit that we would need to continually maintain the pump since the source of the problem - the huge mature tree - was still there and looking for water.

That's when we were reminded that the Township had brought the sewer through the front of the house 2 years prior and maybe it would be a good idea to tap into the front sewer line.  However, they were unable to get ahold of anyone at the Township offices that day...they just kept leaving messages.  Curtis, the main contractor told us that if they needed to tap in under the road, it could run us closer to $10,000!  None of this was sounding very good.
Curtis, continued to do all the running around for us.  He called the Township and found out that when they brought the sewer line through, that they had installed a lead.  He negotiated the situation with his boss who was able to somehow have the Township waive any of the connection/frontage/tap-in fees...maybe because I had already paid for all of that back in 1998 with the first tap in, but none the less, we were tickled pink to only pay an additional $4500 and never have to deal with this problem again (as she knocks on wood)!

feeling a little crafty...

Not sure why, but I've picked up some sort of bug.  A crafty bug.  Can't remember the last time that I've done anything quite so time consuming...other than this blog - LOL.

Earlier in the summer, on one of my days off, I noticed that there was an Estate Sale on Main Street.  I decided that I'd go check it out.  While I was there I purchased some vintage Christmas ornaments.  I had purchased a couple of ornament wreaths at a holiday craft show last year...

...and thought that I might like to make one of my own - for cheap; either to give away or to sell or to keep, not sure which. These two wreaths were made by my SIL's friend from Richmond, MI.

On Labor Day weekend when we were on a camping trip that got rained and colded out, there happened to be an Estate Sale going on in that little "Thumb" town.  I convinced Jerome and our friends to stop and I was able to score even more vintage glass ornaments.

Then I thought that the Salvation Army might be a good place to go and check out to see what they had.  I scored big time because little did I know, everything was 1/2 off that day.  So, 149 ornaments cost me just under $9!

So, I created a spreadsheet with the colors and sizes and tried to figure out what color wreath I could make with all the different color ornaments that I bought.  The final choice was Blue, Pink, Silver; with hints of red and green.  I used a preformed (extruded) styrofoam wreath that I purchased at Michael's.  I ended up using 102 different size glass bulbs:
I thought that a good place to start gluing the bulbs was kind of in the middle of the wreath, but soon learned that it would have been MUCH easier to start from the bottom and work my way up.  And as usual, I waited until AFTER my first wreath to do a search on the internet to see if there were any instructions for making these types of wreaths...and of course, there are plenty.  I could give step by step instructions, but I would just be mimicking this persons blog.  I followed her instructions with the next wreath:
Only I would change the type of wreath base that she used.  She used one of those fake evergreen wreaths that you can buy at Michael's, but it makes the structure of the wreath very flexible and no amount of glue will keep everything tight.  Bulbs won't fall off, but it just seems not to be structurally sound.  So, from now on, I will make the wreaths with just a regular styrofoam wreath base, which I wrap with tinsel-ly garland: 
Here's a shot of the back:
In fact, Jerome had a great idea; just purchase a large slab of styrofoam and cut our own wreaths from that using either an electric knife or a jigsaw.  From what I can tell, you can make 3 wreaths from one styrofoam slab, and save $8 - or more if you have a Michael's coupon.

After having made all of these wreaths, I thought I'd see if I could actually sell them, so I put them in my Etsy shop.  It only costs .20 cents to list an item and if it sells, then there are commission fees to pay, but they are very minimal.  Anyway, I've sold two in a week!  I hope they arrive safe and sound.
The next thing that I decided to tackle was something that I saw in a blog I follow; a teacup bird feeder.  Very simple and I had all the materials at home, so it turned out to be a 3 minute job with an overnight drying time for the glue.
 The neighborhood squirrels love it :D