Anatomy of a Craft on World of Julie

by | Dec 3, 2008 | crafts | 10 comments

1. Read a post at Maya Made telling me to save toilet paper tubes for some sort of advent calendar project. While waiting for her to announce what her project is, I come up with what I think it will be.

2. Maya reveals her project, which is not what I imagined. (Predictably, it’s a much better idea.) The one thing I like better about my idea, though, is it doesn’t require me to buy little things (or, come up with some sort of little something) to put into the tubes. I’ve seen a lot of really cute advent calendars this year, but each of them seems to require some kind of small giftie or sentiment to put in a pocket each day. I’m trying to reduce the amount of little bitsinesses around here, not add. We already have enough confetti-like scraps littering the floor.

3. Force my mom to do my craft idea for me the day after Thanksgiving. Here are the boys with many toilet paper and paper towel tubes, cut into 1-inch or 1.5-inch tubes. Eli makes a horn. Next they are going to wrap each little tube in wrapping paper and then glue on a number from 1 to 24. My mom is happily game and does this while Dave and I install new windows in our bedroom (winter’s a’comin!).

4. Not adequately describing my Artistic Vision, my mom puts the calendar numbers onto the little tubes sideways. Not her fault. Especially since she finished the project even though the boys were so totally not into it any more and had long ago abandoned her to do other things.

5. In a fit of extreme anal retentiveness, I rip off all the wrapping paper my mom glued on because it wasn’t perfect. In a fit of not-helpingness, Eli takes the ribbon upon which we are to string the advent calendar tubelets, and cuts it into little pieces. After I had just said not to cut up the ribbon because we needed it fr our important project. I throw a hissy fit and dump all the denuded tubelets into the recycling bin.

6. On Monday, Eli asks me roughly 70 times, “When’s Christmas?” and so I decide to try again on the project. This time, however, I do it all myself. If you are going to be fussy about a project, and your kids don’t care, and, truly, no one else cares, then for heaven’s sakes don’t subject them to forced projectitude, just do it yourself.

7. Wrap each tube bit in wrapping paper. You should have 24 tube pieces. I had three types of wrapping paper, so eight tubes per wrapping paper design. I used Mod Podge for the first time to glue on the wrapping paper. I’ve heard so much about it for so long and I kept expecting to have some sort of decoupage epiphany, but it sure seemed like a big expensive container of Elmer’s to me. What am I missing?

A funny thing about the wrapping paper: a few weeks ago I was in Target and decided to get Christmas wrapping paper so that task was all taken care of. They had tons of wrapping paper, and I was delighted to find exactly what I was looking for. They had wrapping paper that was all attractive and designy and was exactly the look I wanted to convey in wrapped presents, if I’m going to think too hard about it. And then I came home and there, on the cover of the Target toy catalog that we’d had kicking around the living room for about a week, were gifts wrapped in exactly the same three wrapping paper designs I’d bought. So I’m just a big ball of marketing goo, apparently.

Also, shockingly, I am getting absolutely no money from the producers of “Four Christmases” despite my obvious product placement above.

8. Spend roughly two hours wrapping not even half the little tubes. Why did it take so long? I’m sure it had nothing to do with the fact that I was trying to do it at 4:30 when everyone was all hungry and tired after our first day back on schedule after Thanksgiving vacation. Wonder why we can’t just start an advent calendar on December 15 so I don’t have to do so many little tubes. Give up. Consider pitching the whole project. Again.

9. Have a burst of let’s-get-it-done-edness while Zuzu takes a massive nap. Wrap all 24 tubes in wrapping paper, glue on little numbers. Take all the ribbon bits that Eli cut up and knot them together (because I’ll be damned if I’m going out and buying more new fancy Christmas ribbon for this dumb project).

10. Eli helps me put the tubeys into glass containers, which we put on the mantel. We string up the ribbon. It turns out to work much better with the knots in it, because it’s easier to keep it tied to the glass containers, and also keeps the tubes from shifting around too much.

I have to say that this whole thing looks way better in the photos than it does in real life. Remember this: maybe half the stuff on those crafty blogs looks kind of crappy in person. You are all welcome to do this little craft, but, frankly, I don’t recommend it. Maybe if you have nothing better to do when you are up late watching television and drinking wine. A lot of wine.

Happy Advent!


  1. Clog

    Wait a minute here. Mom would have put the paper on perfectly as you well know. It was son #1 who was gluing and I was trying very hard not to be anal about the imperfection of his gluing job but thought, “Hey, this is the kids’ project”. Just want to clarify that in case one thought Mom was a slouch.

  2. sutswana

    My blood pressure has skyrocketed and my toes have curled, just reading this account. You are both (Clog and Julie) very brave.
    Seriously, though, it looks great from my computer screen!

  3. Julie

    I didn’t realize Henry was the one gluing. Sorry. At any rate, I think that we can all conclude that this project only mattered to me, and didn’t even matter that much, except I got that bee in my bonnet and would not let it go. WHY? Let’s all discuss and analyze the brain of Julie. Wouldn’t it have been better to do laundry? I’d be much happier today to have the laundry done and that project still in the recycle bin, I think.

  4. Emily

    No. that’s the thing about those projects- you’ll have something NEW at the end of them, and stay up too late sewing or rolling dough or whatever for the kick of having a new thing around. It’s substitute shopping…and it’s virtuous new thing because you DIDN’T buy it, you MADE it. With laundry, while it’s a little kicky to have the underwear you like wearing in your drawer all clean and waiting for you…it’s still the same old clothes, just pretending to be new.

    I love this project. I bet I’d love it in person. And the thing you do, then, is slip #3 on the ribbon tonight? until you get to the 25th?

  5. Julie

    Of course Emily nailed it. Definitely the substitute shopping. Though also some kind of blog pressure to have something fancy to photograph and post about. I think I’ll stick to cookies, though.

    Yes, slip the new one on the ribbon each day, for us that happens in the morning. So this morning after breakfast I untied one end of the ribbon and Henry found the #3 tubelet and put it on next to #2, and then I retied the ribbon onto the glass vase (with the knots in it, one quick tie seems to work just fine). And so as the days go on the vases will empty and the ribbon will get more full. It was really all just to help them visualize in some large way when Christmas would be (which I know is all advent calendars are, really, but some do this better than others). (Or, no, wait, are advent calendars something much more deep and meaningful that I’m missing? Ooops.)

  6. Anne

    Maybe it would be easier to count down? Put all 24 tubelets of the ribbon, and snip/tear them off each day, counting down til there is just one left. But maybe that’s just my impatience speaking; I’d probably go insane with the admittedly tiny task of untying and retying the ribbon every day.

    It looks cool, though! Still, maybe next year you can go in for one of those premade 11×17 Advent calendar cards. The problem with an Advent calendar craft is that, by definition, you’re going to have to produce/cut out/craft 24 of something. Angsty!

  7. Julie

    Angsty, indeed. I like your idea about tearing them off, if anything because then that would justify pitching the whole project. Because I’m pretty sure I don’t want to open a box of Christmas things in December 2009 and think, “Oh jeez. That thing.”

    That said, untying/retying the ribbon is actually not a problem and takes about 12 seconds.

  8. Christina

    It’s not just substitute shopping- it’s the desire to have something to show for your day. That’s partly why I think motherhood can bring on a burst of creativity and interest in crafts- you want to be able to have something tangible at the end of the day after the millionth diaper change, dirty dish washed, room picked up- (only to have it all get dirty again in a flash.) But at least a craft- says “hey look what i got done today!” And the added incentive of the internet let’s you say “hey world- look what I accomplished today!” Nice to know about the craft looking better in a photo- but it’s really nice- I’m sure it looks good in real life too.

  9. Mary Grace

    Whatever it was you made hardly matters. Your voice is as clear and funny to me as it was in the days when Henry was a cat with a ragged ear and you were angsting over a guy named Dave. I love reading your stuff! So keep despairing over ridiculous domestic projects (that look damn good, by the way and sure as heck beat the horrible Playmobile – knives and swords – supposedly ADVENT thing that my boys got for Christmas last year)!

  10. Julie

    Hi Mary Grace!!

    I think “despairing over ridiculous domestic projects” would work well as a tag line for my life.

    Cracking up about the knives and swords advent calendar. Maybe that’s more historically accurate?


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