Christmas time is a great time for me. I love it. I love the cold weather, the seasonal beers, the time with family and friends and the ability and honor to make presents. Giving gifts is an art. I enjoy giving practical, useful and fun(ky) things to people in my life.
Backstory: I am of a certain age where Christmas is no longer about presents for the adults, it has become more about the kids. This hurt the first couple of years, but I have grown to appreciate it (I mean, who needs more stuff, really?). To ease financial strain, my families have both gone to the Secret Santa model where you draw a name, or names, and then purchase gifts solely for them. This year, I drew my mother’s name.
So what does my mother love? Canning!
What does every canner need? A trug!
What is a trug? A trug is a device used to carry jars, bottles, boxes, materials and anything else for that matter. I have made other trugs for carrying wine and beer and I use them for just about everything, so I know the worth and worthiness of these little buggers first hand.
Design: To be practical, I designed it to fit a dozen medium sized mason jars I picked up especially for this gift. To add a personal touch, I wanted to add some touches which I knew she would love and would tie in to her love of canning. I’ll leave that for now.
To the design! I laid out all the jars we had in our cabinets, which were full of pickles, okra, jam and jellies. I find it’s best to get real-life measurements when building a custom piece. I measured the diameters and height of all the different kinds of jars we had, Kerr and Ball. Here is what I came up with:
Materials: With all the ideas out of my head and on paper, I started. What to build it out of was the next question mark?
Three months ago my neighbor replaced her side fence with a newer, non-saggy version. They placed their old portion of the cedar fence on the street destined to fill the landfill, but it was abducted by a watchful neighbor (me) to be transformed into a different object worthy of love and blogging. Cedar is light, dry, easy to shape and study (enough) so I decided the old fence would be a perfect trug for my mum.
Construction: Measurements made, materials on-hand, it was time to start making this bad-mother-trugger. The physical construction was pretty similar to the others I had made, so it went something like this: biscuits, cut, glue, nail, sand and paint.
Painting is where I wanted to add the touches only a mother would love. I had a couple samples laying around from previous projects and settled on a Tiffany blue. This color is “happy” (according to my wife) and it is very forgiving (meaning it matches a bunch of other lighter and darker colors).
Note: Between Christmas craziness and a lack of confidence, I didn’t take many pictures of the Customization phase of the trug. My apologies.
Another touch was layering colors and then sanding through them. This art (and it is an art form) makes the trug look older than brand new (fake aging = distressing = shabby chic = distressing = fun(ky) = cool looking). Canning seems like an activity which demands old, weathered and classically sturdy accessories, right?
First I did white on the corners, then I did yellow on the bottom where the jars sit, and lastly, Tiffany blue over the whole thing. To distress the trug I sanded through the blue to reveal the other colors. The art-form comes into play by sanding just enough get to the desired beat-up-ed-ness, but not too much to make it look like it’s a piece ready for replacing.
The next touch was to personalize the trug. My Mom’s call’s what she does “Say You Can” (she teaches canning classes, sells cans of bumble berry jam, etc.) A perfect phrase to tattoo on the side of this bad boy. I followed this post from Shabby Creek Cottage to complete this task. It came out pretty good, but not as solid as I would have wanted.
As soon as I knew the name, it hit me: Rosie the Riveter! We “CAN” do it! Perfect. Now, how to get that on to the trug. Decoupage is something I have dabbled in, but not perfected by any stretch of the imagination. here is another post from Refunk my Junk I referred to during the process.
Results: I think it came out as fun, funky, and functional as I wanted. I was a very proud son to wrap this beauty up and hand it to her for Christmas. She immediately filled the trug with small presents and it spent my whole visit being loaded up and unloaded with jars, presents, toys and sweets. I think it was a success.
Lessons Learned: Christmas is always better with handmade presents. In gifts there are three funs: FUN, FUNky, and FUNctional.
Tiffany blue is a color all women love (even if it’s on things other than jewelry boxes).
Take pictures no matter what! You can always erase them later.
My Dad calls bumble berry jam “money” for good reason. That stuff is good. Learn to make it.