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Monthly Archives: November 2013

DIY Advent Calendar – Gift Box Chain

DIY Advent Calendar – Gift Box Chain

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A few years ago, I made this Advent calendar, actually I  made two of them -one for each of my boys. They LOVE them. I took the idea from my good friend Martha Stewart who you may have heard of.  Ok, so I don’t know Martha Stewart personally, but I do read her magazine on occasion.  Anyway, I made them to be reusable, so now we are going into our 3rd year with them.

Each of the “calendars” consists of a chain of 24 boxes hung from the ceiling.  Each box contains a small gift such as a piece of candy, a small toy or a Christmas ornament.  I go into crazy-lady shopping mode the last week of November, trying to find teeny-tiny things to fit into the teeny-tiny boxes.  But in the end, my kids really do love them, so it’s well worth the effort.  Once filled, the boxes are hung in a chain with number 1 at the bottom and number 24 at the top.  Each day, starting on December 1st, they cut the bottom box off the chain and open it up.  On day one, they are laying on the floor to cut, and by Christmas Eve, they need to climb onto a chair to reach the last one.  Very, very cute.

To recreate one (or two or three…) of these, you want to measure the vertical space where you plan to hang your calendar an divide it by 24. Whatever that number is, you need to allow for the space in between, above and below each box, so  keep that in mind.   I ended up with half and half, 3″ square and 2″ square boxes. I would recommend that you not go any smaller than 2″ as it gets harder to find things to fit in the boxes the smaller they are.   I got my boxes by searching “favor boxes” on EBay. You can get them in any color, but at the time, the white ones were cheapest, so I got the white.  I then got some patterned paper, cut it into strips and wrapped each box around the middle only.  I did this so that the wrapping wouldn’t be ruined when the boxes were opened so that I wouldn’t have to rewrap them each year.  I also labled each box with a number 1 through 24.   Check it out…

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Once this is done, you can fill up the boxes and shut them all.  Keep in mind that they will be opened starting with number 1 and ending with number 24 in case you have a specific sequence you were looking to achieve.

Now you will need some strong string to hang your chains.  I found some waxed twine in red, which was both strong and pretty, but last year I used red and white striped bakers twine which was nice too.  Make sure that your chain of boxes is adequately anchored to the ceiling, since depending on what you’ve got in your boxes, it could get kind of heavy.  I hang mine in the doorway between my kitchen and diningroom.  To anchor each, I have a 1-1/2″ piece of  grosgrain ribbon that I staple (with a staple gun) to the moulding above the door, both on the inside and the outside.

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This gives me a loop from which to start hanging my chain.

So, starting with box number 24 you need to first tightly wrap your box with string and leave 4 – 6 inches of leftover string above the knot.

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Tie this first box to your anchor…

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You can then cut off most of the leftover strings.  Now repeat with the number 23 box.  When you tie the string around your box, you want to keep the knot as close as possible to the box with no slack.  Any slack will add to the overall length of your chain with could lead to a chain that is too long for its designated spot.  To keep your knot as tight as possible, tie it once like so…

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That gap under the knot is what you don’t want when you’re done.  So next, you pass one of the strings underneath the string running across the top of the box.

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Pull it tight then make one more knot to anchor everything in place.

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Now, to attach this box to the previous one on your chain, slip one of the strings from this box through the cross on the bottom of the previous one.

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Pull it tight then double knot it.  Cut off most of the leftover strings.  Continue building your chain of boxes, counting backwards, one after the other until you end with box number one on the bottom.  Here are my two chains, one on either side of the doorway.  Amazingly, they just fit in the opening with the number one box just resting on the floor.

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To cut each box off, you want to cut through the knot only.  This will ensure that you only cut off the bottom box in the chain.

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Younger kids might need a little guidance.  Here are my happy kids on December 1st with their number one boxes.

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And here is Trevor showing how his chain looks on December 21st.

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Good luck with your own calendar.  If you do it right, save all your boxes and store them carefully, you will be able to use it for many years to come!

Chalkboard Art – Part 2

As promised, I’m going to show you the step by step process that I use when I create one of my chalkboard designs.  This will give further clarification to this tutorial which outlines the basics of chalk art.

The board I most recently made is for my friend Becky.  She wanted a decorated chalkboard for the party she was throwing for her sister’s 40th birthday and gave me this as a her inspiration:

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I told her that I was certain that I could do at least as good a job, plus I would add her sister’s name “Krissy” to make it more personal.  So first thing, I sketched out a design on paper with pencil.  I normally would not make my sketch this detailed, but I was sending it to Becky for her OK and wanted to make sure she could see my “vision” so to speak.

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As you can see, aside from a few things, my design ended up quite different from the original except for the wording.  She gave me the OK so I started transferring it to the actual chalkboard.  First I assembled my supplies:

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I have chalk, colored chalk if needed, a damp paper towel to fix mistakes, q-tips for the same reason, a ruler, and my design.  One recent addition to my supplies is in the upper right hand corner of the picture.  It is a seamstress’ mechanical chalk pencil.  It draws very skinny lines when I need them.

OK, so you start with a clean, dry chalkboard, and I always tape my design up next to the board for easy reference.

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Now I draw lines where I plan to put my words and add the outlines of any major elements.  I also draw center lines where applicable – usually just vertically.  This is a trial and error, step back and look, erase and redraw sort of process.

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To make the corner designs uniform, or any time I want a symmetrical look I will cut out a pattern then use it to trace the shape.  Here is what I made for the corners here

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Now you want to start at the top, so that you don’t accidentally smudge your work as you go, and draw the final design using the lines you sketched as your guide.  When you have word or shape in place, carefully erase your guide lines with a wet paper towel or q-tip.  Here is the progression of my chalkboard through to completion…

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As usual I made some changes from my sketched design to the finished product.   This is because I end up with a blank spot where I hadn’t intended and need to add something, or I end up with too little space for something and need to omit or change it.

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And that’s pretty much it.

As a final note – have patience.  I cannot begin to tell you how much “erasing” I do on a board this size.  It’s rediculous.  My kids laugh at me because I will finish a section, stand back, admire it for a moment, then go back, erase it and start over.  I repeat this process over and over until it’s done.  But the upside is that it gives me results that I’m happy with, so it’s worth the effort.

Good luck with your designs!