“The Star. . .” Newsletter 8 – Nov. 2013

What a busy few months it has been. In this edition of ‘The Star. . .’ newsletter I hope to take you on my creative journey of designing/creating a tree for the Festival of Trees. This Festival held in Bloomington-Normal is a charity event that benefits the Baby Fold.

This year the theme of the trees is “My Christmas Story.”  What could be better to debut the story “The Star Who Almost Wasn’t There” throughout our community!

I hope that all of you will come out to the Festival of the Trees [Nov. 21 – Nov. 24th] to see my tree and to stop by my booth to learn more about the StarGift Project, and the ‘Village Project.’  Perhaps you’ll decide to purchase my tree for your family or business!  Or maybe you’ll buy some books for children you know, or make a donation of books for the children of the Baby Fold.

Before we start this journey, I want to make sure to thank all of the people who have helped to make this tree a reality.  Thank you. . .

  • Tiffany Knouff [aka Tiffany Emmett]
  • Jodi Lancaster
  • Jill Watkins [aka Nana’s Sketch-N-Etch]
  • Terie Sumrall
  • Susan Long
  • Kirsten Feldker
  • Donna Moritz
  • Roger Hieser

Without your help, this contribution to the Baby Fold and the Festival of Trees would not be possible.

Now, if you’re interested in creative works, let the journey begin!

Inspiration!  I wanted the tree to represent the night sky as we see it when we are first introduced to the little Star who could not glow.  The background is blue, purple and black with the milky way weaving across the background. . .and our hero in the foreground.

Close up image of the tree branches after spray painting themI started by purchasing a tree to practice on.  First, I spray painted the tree with blue and purple paint.  And I added some silver and gold at the top where I hope an image of the little star in his radiant glory will reside, as a star topper.   While the colors show up well enough in daylight, I felt they did not show well enough in interior lighting.


Tree with blue and purple tool peeking out between the branchesI then attended the Festival of Trees Design Seminar at Jeffrey Alan and learned of many ways to create a more ‘full’ effect.  But being creative. . .and rather individualistic, I decided to purchase blue and purple ‘tulle’ to wrap between the rows of branches to create ‘filling’ and enhance the color [see below].  I liked the effect but unfortunately there wasn’t enough purple tulle [at least the shade I chose] in Bloomington-Normal or Champaign-Urbana to complete the technique.  Hmmmmm. What to do?  I’ll have to think about that.


Then I took many sets of LED lights [cool white to contrast with lights that come on the tree] and wrapped them around the tree in a swirl to create the effect of the milky way.

Once I felt I had enough lights, I draped a loose silver and iridescent gauze over the lights to create that ‘milky’ effect!





So far, so good.  Of course this is just practice. . .and I am mentally refining the approach as I go, planning to do it a bit differently next time.  But hold that thought. . .

Flashback!  Before I even started the tree, my daughter Tiffany Knouff is helping to create ornaments that will tell the complete story of The Star Who Almost Wasn’t There.  These ornaments are:

  1. One-of-a-kind
  2. Hand-crafted
  3. Illuminated
  4. Ornaments which contain the full story of “The Star Who Almost Wasn’t There”

I purchased 4” clear ornaments, not quite globes because they are flattened!  First we blocked the front of each with a circle of tin foil to protect a window of clear glass.  Then Tiffany spray painted the back of each ornament white to serve as a background.  Then she painted  the back either silver or gold, and when they were dry turned them over and painted the front.  Each time she painted she baked them in a low oven to cure the paint so we could handle them.

Image of 4 globes. . .front and back. . .gold and silverThen she repeated the process with silver and gold spray glitter!

Finally we removed the foil, and lo and behold, there was our clear glass window.

While Tiffany was preparing the ornaments I took images from the book and placed them into a ‘circle’ frame just shy of 4”.  I printed these on transparency film and cut them out leaving a tab at the top.  We now rolled each transparency tightly, slid it into and ornament and let it unroll to fill the space.  The tab remained sticking out of the top so we could adjust the image.

As you can imagine, this has been a time consuming process.  Then I ran into a snag.  I wanted to print each verse on the back of the ornaments.  It’s tricky to print on a curved surface and you can’t run these ornaments through a printer!  I thought I would print on clear adhesive but it would not adhere to the glittered back of the ornaments.  So I had to adjust the plan.

I created a template with star shapes and wrote each verse inside one star.  I printed them on card stock and then glued the card stock to foam stars to create a flexible but glittered backing.  Finally,  I wrapped wire with decorative wire with metallic stars, attached a wire to each ornament by wrapping it around the neck and using a hot glue gun to hold it in place.  I then wound it this way and that creating a decorative attachment and finally inserted the other end of the wire into a star with the verse.  Can you imagine holding a 3 or 4 year old up to look in the window of these ornaments as they hang on the tree, and you tell them the story of the little star who could not glow?  What a delightful way to share the true meaning of Christmas.

I snapped a picture of them laying face up on my dining table before we inserted the lights.  The flash of the camera was reflected off the white paint background so you can see the illustrations clearly in the photo below.

Not quite done yet. . .but let’s flash forward to the tree again.  I had been thinking about how to get enough tulle in the right colors.  I went online and found a site with tulle by the bolt.  I ordered royal blue, navy  and purple tulle!  I expected the royal blue to be brighter than the blue I had purchased locally, but I was surprised to see that the purple wasn’t really purple.  It was more of a red violet.  I decided to go ahead with these colors.  Go with the flow.

I removed all of the tulle I had installed earlier

Tree with new colors of tulleThen, with the help of my daughter, Jodi Lancaster, wired in the new tulle.  By this time I had also contacted the Festival to see if I could bring in this tree [since it is the same tree they provide] to save time on decorating day.  The answer was yes, so I have wired in the tulle to each section of the tree separately so that I can take the tree apart for transportation, and when I assemble it on decorating day, it is already spray painted and filled with tulle.  Whew!  [Shhhhhhhh!  I plan to remove the lower level of tulle again and adjust it more to my satisfaction.]  I may need a nap first though.

Then of course, I had to re-create the Milky Way.  This time in addition to the mini LED lights, I used some star shaped lights about 1.5″ across to give the milky way more interest and depth!  And I played around with colored wire coated with stars.

At this point I was ready to add the one-of-a-kind ornaments!

The plan was to insert a LED light into each ornament to illuminate it.  I found that a standard school punch works well to punch a hole in the ornament topper.  But it was just a little too small for the LED base.  So we had to punch a couple of times.  I’ll have to figure out how to get exactly the right size because I already have requests for these sets of ornaments!

Tiffany helped as we punched the caps, attached each ornament to a string of lights by inserting  a light into the cap and using a hot glue gun to secure it.  We placed the ornaments about every 3rd bulb so they could be spread out on the tree.

Next, Tiffany and I hung the ornaments on my practice tree. . .trying to get the spacing just right.  In order to read the entire story, you have to start on the front of the tree and follow the ornaments in numeric order all the way around the tree.

I can’t tell you how excited we were to then turn on the lights and see the ornaments illuminated!  It was very cool.  They have a soft glow and bring color to the decorations.

This set of ornaments is the first prototype for what I hope will become a mass produced set of ornaments in the future!  What fun for families with young children to own “The Star Who Almost Wasn’t There” in a set of ornaments for their tree. . .or to hang elsewhere in their home.



Finally, we added many star ornaments we had collected over the past months!






Included are two glass ornaments with stars etched on them, one tinted silver and the other gold.  These were created by Jill Watkins aka Nana’s Sketch-N-Etch




Since I am also working on creating a one-of-a-kind star topper, I created a few gold glittered bows with trailing ribbons for the top of the tree to represent the radiant light of the little star in his full glory.  And tried out adding a couple of streaming ribbons throughout, then added a violet tree skirt.  All purple, blue, silver and gold!

Terie, Kirsten, Susan and Donna have volunteered to come out on decorating day to help decorate the tree on site at the Interstate Center.

Last night these volunteers came to dinner and to see the tree.  Today, I took everything down and started packing it all up for transport to the I-74 Center when we will assemble it again!

Somehow, I must find time to prepare materials for our sales booth.  A portion of everything we sell goes to support the Baby Fold, and readers, you know that most of the remaining proceeds will help to start 1. The StarGift Project and 2. The Village Project here in Central Illinois.  “The Star Who Almost Wasn’t There” is a gift that keeps on giving.

Come out to the Festival of Trees!  You can purchase copies of the books while there,  at any of the events listed below, or online at WestBow Press  [availble as E-book too!].  New books should have rolled off the press Friday!