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What I made for Christmas, Part 1

This year I did a lot of homemade gifts. I feel like putting time and effort into something shows my love for friends and family way more than just buying something from a store. (Not to knock buying things, I did that, too!) I was just feeling in my creative mood as I have been the last several months and I had ideas. 

Now that Christmas is over and the gifts have been given, I can tell you about them!

The first idea came from having an excess of wooden blocks. See, I needed them for the escort card holders at my wedding (maybe I'll do a post on those later). I went online to find some at Joann's. If you want to repeat this craft, you might want to note that even though the listing for the blocks says they come in packs of 4, they really come in packs of 13. So since I needed 36 blocks, I ordered 9 packs. I ended up with 117 blocks. Oy.

After the wedding I had the idea to make ornaments for the kids of my friends and family. Who doesn't like a memento of their children at a certain age, right?

So here's what I did. (You can click on any of the pictures to see them bigger!)

First, I wanted to paint the blocks.

I figured out how many blocks I'd need for all 9 little ones' names and no surprise I had enough! Then I chose the colors. Since I wasn't making them all the same color, I had to figure out how many I needed of each color. Then I got to painting.

I recommend painting three sides and letting them dry before painting the other three sides. As you can see, I was not too careful and I ruined my manicure. Good thing the wedding was over!

Once all the blocks were painted, I rearranged them back into the order for the names again. With this many, I needed all the organization I could get.

Then it was time to start stenciling!

To keep track of which row was which, I quickly did the first letter of every name.

It's easy to forget when pictures were taken as little ones grow up, so I also put the year on the back of the blocks. (The stencil you see here is from Martha Stewart. I'm not a big fan of her personally, but these were the ones I found worked best since they are sticky on the back and mostly stay in place without having to hold them extremely hard or figure out another way to make them secure.)

Before I added the pictures, I wanted to attach the hardware to hang the blocks. I had to use a bit of trial and error here. The eye hooks I got were sharp enough to drill their own hole. But they were small enough and the blocks were hard enough that I couldn't do it with my fingers. Not knowing what else to try, I attempted to use the drill. 

It worked a few times, but after breaking off a couple of them in the blocks, I decided to change my method.  If I first drilled a pilot hole, the bit I used was the perfect size to allow me to manually twist the eye hooks in.

Unfortunately, the only cup hooks I could find were slightly larger. So I used the drill to make the pilot hole, but since the block of wood was too strong for me to manually twist them in and I was too lazy to get a larger bit, I still used the drill bit to screw them in. If you're going to attempt this method, make sure you can control the speed of the drill and go slowly.

I placed an eye hook on the top of every block and a cup hook at the bottom. Remember, you don't need a cup hook on the last letter of the name.

Finally, time for the pictures! I found as many pictures as I could, reduced the size of them as needed, and cut them down to 1 inch square. I found the best look was just the faces. Even when they were cropped close, they still looked cute. They're kids and babies after all.

To adhere the photos, first paint a thin layer of Mod Podge on the side of the block where the picture will go. Then place the photo on top. I found it was best to let that dry a little to prevent it from moving when you do the next step, which is to apply another coat of Mod Podge over the top to protect the photo. Let it dry again and you're done.

Time for the finishing touch, ribbon to hang them!

I used three thin ribbons because I thought it dressed it up a bit. I'm not a ribbon tying genius, so I just strung them through the eye hook on the first letter of the name and tied them in a bow. I'm sure you could do something fancier, though, if you were so inclined.

And here's the final product. One side has the child's name and the reverse side has the year. The other two sides have pictures. You could fill every block with pictures or scatter them randomly, like I did. When I gave them to the recipients, I put them in a bag or box unconnected. The kids and parents had fun putting them together to see how they looked!

What do you think? Are you going to make some next year?

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