First Steps in Bobbin Lace

In the spirit of ongoing learning and sharing of knowledge, I am going to design and create a Bobbin Lace course for those who’ve got no experience or knowledge of the art whatsoever.

My goal will be to follow MY lace teacher’s methodology and have each progressive assignment use no more than two new techniques. However, once you’ve put your first attempt at each assignment into your portfolio, I want to create patterns which can be recreated as something useful / decorative from the very first lesson.

Part of the course will include making your own beginner supplies.

I have five students lined up to test the lessons and help me perfect the class. Once I’m happy with the course, I will publish it on Skillshare to earn a small passive income. Skillshare is a fantastic site where you can study all kinds of creative classes and if you follow this link, you’ll be able to get your first three months of full access to thousands of classes for only $0.99 !

I’m working on perfecting the first lesson as we speak. Who’s in?

The very first handout, with a class description and materials list is available here:First Steps in Bobbin Lace – Introduction and Materials – EnglishIf you are interested in joining the waiting list so that I can let you know as soon as the course is available on Skillshare, please let me know !

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White Chocolate and Coconut Fruit Salad

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I love creating new desserts, especially when it means that I get to trick my boys into eating more fruit than they otherwise would.

One day I realized that we had apparently purchased too many bananas, apples and pears and that at the rate we were eating them, more than half would end up in the garbage. I detest wasting food so I set up shop in the kitchen to make a tasty, healthy snack. Here is what I came up with!

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So much fruit at the end of its shelf life!

White Chocolate and Coconut Fruit Salad

Makes:                       4 to 6 servings

Preparation Time: 15 minutes from start to finish

Ingredients:20160702_162024

  • 2 Apples
  • 2 Pears
  • 3 Bananas
  • 1 small bottle of cream
  • A pinch or two of sugar
  • 1/2 bar of White Chocolate with Coconuts from Lidl

 

 1. Peel and dice the fruit. Mix them all together.

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2. Whip the cream until it becomes light and fluffy. Sweeten to taste with sugar.

 

3. Chop the white chocolate into bits.

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4. Arrange your glasses and begin layering your ingredients. Place a good layer of chocolate at the bottom of the glass, add a layer of whipped cream, then fruit, repeat until the glass is full. Finish the presentation with a pretty layer of chopped chocolate on the very top.

The children loved it! Usually I really have to force them to eat their daily bit of fruit but they kept coming back for more until the bowl was empty. I made it again a week or so later for a family visit and my goddaughter was ever so happy to help me chop the fruit in the kitchen.
White Fruit Salad

Let me know if you come up with any tasty variations of this recipe !

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DIY Bobbin Lace Pillow, Part 2: Supplies

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In part one of this series, I discussed my current lace pillows and the tutorials I found which inspired me for this project.

This is a supply heavy project, so this installment is just going to cover the supplies and tools which you will need to get your hands on.

  • 1 Laptop table from Ikea. It doesn’t matter too much which table you get. Make sure it has an adjustable stand and that the surface of the table is large enough for your needs. Some people have made this kind of pillow with the DAVE table but as it wasn’t available here in Belgium, I ended up using the SVARTÅSEN. ( 20 € )
  • A roll of pattern paper, gift wrap would work well too
  • a pencil
  • a coin (for tracing seam allowances)
  • 1 panel of high density styrofoam. This stuff is fantastic. You can buy it in the insulation aisle of most hardware stores. You don’t want the low density white stuff which is used in packaging because it will break down ridiculously fast with use. The green stuff is so dense that it will be mostly self healing for a good long while. ( 8 € )
  • Hot wire cutter for carving the styrofoam to shape. These are hard to come by. I found mine at AVA for 20 € but they can be found on Amazon as well. If there is enough interest, I will see about getting some on hand to stock my Etsy shop so you can buy one from me.
  • Superglue for gluing styrofoam. You have to make sure you get the right glue as the majority of superglues have solvents in them which will cause the styrofoam to liquify before your eyes. (6 € from AVA )

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  • Tie-down straps to vise the foam pieces together without leaving marks
  • 1 old blanket (old polyester fleece works great as it is nice and stretchy)
  • 1 yard of nice fabric for the pillow top. You want something in a neutral tone which will contrast nicely with your lace while being easy to look at for hours on end. Imagine staring at flourescent green fabric for a few hours…yeah, don’t do that to yourself! A solid colored fabric would look nice and utilitarian but if you want something fancier avoid any patterns which are too busy. I had bought my fabric about a decade ago for use in my historical reenactment outfits, long before I realized that it wouldn’t work at all for my time periods.
  • 1 yard of sturdy, contrasting fabric. You’ll be using it to cover the base of your pillow so it has to be sturdy enough to stand up to whatever surface you’re working on. I’ll also show you how to make a pillow cover from it, so don’t grab the most hideous fabric you have on hand either!
  • 1 wooden box which will fit in the back corner of the pillow. I bought a few extra before they went out of season and if you’re quick you can grab one from my Etsy shop.

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  • Sturdy pins for holding the fabric in place on the foam until you can sew it into place
  • Fabric scissors
  • Needle and thread
  • Self adhesive velcro dots
  • A sheet of cardboard (or an old cereal box)
  • A bowl with a 14 or 15 cm diameter

Once you have gathered all of your supplies, set aside a weekend to make your pillow. In part three I will walk you through making your pillow as well as some accessories ( bolster pillow, pillow cover, and a handle to carry your amazing pillow everywhere you go.)

 

Faux Wax Seal Bookmarks using Polymer Clay

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Our wedding invitations had been a hit. The only complaint I’d overheard was that it broke people’s hearts to break that delicate wax seal.
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The more that people mentioned this problem, the more I started to think about ways to make more permanent versions of the seal which they could use long after the wedding.

I’ve always loved working with polymer clay and I thought to myself how easy it would be to make clay versions of the wax seals so long as I used fresh clay and conditioned it enough to take the impression.

Supplies:

I ordered a package of Sculpey’s Premo Effects Bronze clay and found that it was enough for 38 seals.

I bought a few packages of bronze eyepins at my local Veritas

Tools needed:

  • Needlenose pliers
  • a wire cutter
  • a pair of scissors
  • a glass pie pan for baking the seals

I used the lovebirds seal and the blue ribbons which were left over from the wedding.
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 How to:

 1.

The first step was to form the eyepins so that they would remain solidly placed in the polymer clay after baking.

I cut the pins in half with my wire cutters. Formed an eye on the straight half, and used my needle nose pliers to bend and loop the wire around so that the total length was less than the height of my wax seal. I did this to all the eyepins and then set them aside to await the next step.

2.

I experimented a bit to find the right amount of clay to make the impression into and found that a one centimeter ball seemed to work perfectly.

I rolled an entire package of the bronze sculpey into these little balls and set them aside. This helped to pre-condition the clay so I wouldn’t have to work it so much for the next step.

 

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3.

I poked a loopy eyepin into a ball of clay and then set it down onto a sheet of thick but flexible plastic.

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4.

Holding onto the eyepin with one hand, I gently flattened the ball of clay with the wax seal. I was surprised by how well it turned out. There were only a few of these that I had to take apart and try again.

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5.

I followed the instructions on the package closely and baked my seals at 275 °F (130 °C) for 30 minutes in a glass pie pan. I actually ended up taking them out around the 27 minute mark when I noticed that one was starting to look a bit burnt.

 

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6.

After the seals had cooled down, I used my wireworking tools to make sure that all the eyes were tightly closed.

7.

I used a piece of cardstock to make my ribbons all the same length. This is as simple as wrapping the ribbon around the cardstock once for each bookmark and then cutting through one edge of the wrapping.

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8.

I poked the middle of a length of ribbon through the eye (from front to back) and pulled the ends through the loop to form a tight little knot around the eye of the pin.

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9.

I cut the ends of the ribbon to an angle.

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All finished! You are not required to make bookmarks out of your seals. You can use them as pendants for jewelry, gift tag embellishments, brand labels. The sky is the limit!

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Of course, I couldn’t just send the bookmarks as they were, I needed to create some Thank-you cards to hold them. That walk-through can be found here.

Homemade Peanut Butter Cups

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My husband is a very proud Belgian. Belgian fries are the best. Belgian beer can’t be beat. Belgian chocolates have no equal.

However…

In the many years that we have been together, he has developed a weakness for a very American treat. He loves Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups more than just about anything.

Unfortunately, this happens to be one of the American goodies which is simply not available to your typical European. My family sends him PB cups for Christmas and his birthday, my friends on American Military bases know that the warmth of their welcome at our place depends on how many packages of PB cups they bring to pay for their stay.

Our supply is very limited and to be honest, what good is a husband if you can’t spoil them a bit and prove just how invaluable you are?

So I’ve done some research. I’ve looked at many copy cat PB cup recipes and I have finally figured out how to make them my own by cutting out the unnecessary ingredients until I was down to the three essentials!

Here is my recipe if you want to try your own hands at it.

Homemade Peanut Butter Cups

Ingredients:

For the chocolate part:

200 g of Chocolate (I buy milk chocolate in large bars at Lidl)

1 tbsp of Peanut Butter (with the highest percentage of peanuts that you can find)

For the filling:

1 cup of Peanut Butter

1 cup of sifted Powdered Sugar (the sifting is important or you’ll get lumps later!)
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Tools:

Either a pair of double boilers or if you’ve got one, a crock pot for melting the ingredients

As many silicone mini-muffin cups as you can get your hands on

A flexible spatula

A teaspoon

Step-by-step:

 1.

Melt your ingredients. I prefer the crock pot method. Break the chocolate into little pieces and fill a clean glass jar. Stick your jar of chocolate and the open jar of peanut butter into the crock pot. Fill with water up to the rim of the shortest jar and set it on high until everything is melted.

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2.

Mix a tablespoon of the peanut butter into the melted chocolate

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3.

Use a teaspoon to coat the bottom and sides of the mini-muffin cups with the chocolate mixture leaving the rest in the crock pot to stay at a nice temperature for later

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4.

Refrigerate the muffin cups until the chocolate has set

5.

While waiting for the chocolate to set, mix the melted peanut butter and the powdered sugar together. Put the mixture in a container which can go back into the crock pot to stay workable

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6.

When the chocolate shells are set, fill them with the melted peanut butter mixture using a teaspoon and stick back into the fridge for a bit longer

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7.

When the peanut butter has set, use your teaspoon to cover the cups with a last layer of chocolate and pop them back into the fridge
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 8.

Once the cups are completely set, you can remove the silicone molds to wash and reuse

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How many you make depends on the size of your cups as well as how full you fill them. I usually end up with about two dozen before I run out of one or the other ingredient.
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You may want to keep the cups in the fridge if the weather is warm as they have a tendency to go a bit soft otherwise. You can easily keep a jar of chocolate and another of peanut butter mixture in the fridge ready to remelt to refill your stash as necessary!

DIY Bobbin Lace Pillow part 1: The Design

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I need a new lace pillow. I have two already but they don’t quite fill my needs and each of them have been damaged by one or the other of my cats. Apparently not even my pets approve of them.

My first pillow was a square tile shaped pillow made using a tutorial which I found online but which doesn’t exist anymore, apparently.
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Advanatages:

  • It was simple and quick to make.
  • It was durable, it has easily survived two years of lace class.
  • It cost next to nothing in materials.

Disadvantages:

  • The square shape meant that I often found myself with a corner poking into my chest as I worked my way around a project.
  • The fabric that I’d used as padding wasn’t well anchored down and started to slip around pretty early on.
  • The thin padding meant that the styrofoam developed permanent holes in the center of the pillow over time.
  • There was no way to attach it to a stand, so I had to find tables of the right height to work at before I could do anything.
  • Bagheera (my oldest cat and a real P.I.T.A.) pissed on it once and I never managed to get the smell fully out.

My second pillow was gifted to me by a lovely woman from England. I’d asked around about pillow tutorials and she told me she had an extra lying around if I wanted it and could have someone come get it. I’ve been using it for a year.

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Advantages:

  • It is a very attractive pillow, more professional looking than my tile
  • It has a wooden base with a hole in it so I could potentially attach it to a stand.
  • The domed shape makes it easy to keep the right tension on my bobbins.
  • It is smaller and more portable than my square pillow

Disadvantages:

  • There is no padding over the styrofoam and the cover isn’t large enough to allow for much to be added.
  • Once again, the lack of padding means the styrofoam is being destroyed in the center.
  • I’m progressing in my lace career and would like to start making long lengths of trim. This simply isn’t possible on a flat pillow because moving the pattern up each time you reach the edge is horribly time consuming.
  • My kitten, Guinness, tried using it as a scratching post one night while I slept. It is still usable but I need to make a new cover and I need to find some kind of product to repair the edges where he did the most damage.

I want to continue learning Torchon but I also want to be able to make lace trim in continuous lengths so it is time to research what is out there.

To learn about the many types of pillows that exist, I invite you to go to the Bedford College of Lacemaking’s website.

Here in Belgium, the two most common types of pillows are the cookies and the bolsters. The one is great for motifs and round projects, the other is better suited to trim. I make both… so I reinvented the French style pillow.

I wanted my new pillow to work like a cookie for motifs and corners but also like a bolster for trim, so it seemed logical that I needed to find a way to add and remove a bolster to a cookie without ruining the benefits of either style.

I found a tutorial on Pinterest which uses a laptop stand from Ikea to make a cookie style pillow with stand.

RodPronar’s Tutorial

They made a very attactive pillow but it still isn’t going to work for trim. Then I found a second tutorial which uses the same laptop stand to make a French style pillow with a bolster.

Evalon’s Photo-tutorial

This one is closer to what I’m looking for. I like the idea of a removable bolster pillow but there are two potential problems for me with this tutorial as well.

For one thing, when they use it in flat mode, the roller part of the pillow is filled with foam. While that’s not a big deal, I honestly don’t think I’ll ever need to pin in that spot. If I have a motif that large I can use my rounded cookie. I have a piece of leather that I slide around under my bobbins so no matter what I put there, so long as it’s flush with the surface of the table then it will work, if I’m going to cut into the pillow, I might as well make sure that space has a purpose.

For another thing, I really don’t like the idea of the pillow being permanently attached to the stand. There’s no way I could take that whole assembly to class with me! I’ve only worked with portable pillows so far and the thought of being chained to one spot terrifies me!

I decided I needed to combine the best parts of these two tutorials while changing things up a bit. My walkthrough will be available in part number 2!

Homemade Caramel Pralines

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I promised you some recipes to use up your caramel and I keep my promises!

Before you can make these, you need to find something to use as a mold for your pralines.

I was lucky enough to inherit a box of baking tools from dear Marguerite-Marie, Philippe’s crafty great-aunt.

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You can easily find similar molds at just about any home-baking supply store (if you’re in Belgium, go take a look at Aveve or even LeDiscount). If you can’t find molds then it’s time to be creative. Do you have a mini-muffin tin? Do you have a small ice-cube tray? Look around your house, I’m SURE you can find something with the right sized cavities.

It doesn’t get much easier than this recipe, trust me!

Homemade Caramel Pralines

Ingredients

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  • 200 g Milk or Dark Chocolate
  • Whatever you have left of your Sea Salted Butter Caramel, I was down to about a fifth of my original batch but it was more than enough to make almost 20 pralines

Tools:

  • Double Boiler or Crockpot (the crock pot makes this recipe much easier)
  • Chocolate molds
  • Various spoons

Step-by-step:

1.

Break the chocolate into chunks and fill a glass jar

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2.

Place the jar of chocolate and the jar of caramel in the crock pot, fill with water just to the rim of the shortest jar and turn on low.

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3.

When the ingredients are melted, use a teaspoon to coat the bottom and the sides of the molds. Refrigerate.

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4.

When the chocolate is set, use a teaspoon to carefully fill the cavities with the melted caramel. You can always add more but it is difficult to remove without messing up the chocolate shell so don’t put too much. When you’ve filled all the cavities on a mold, put it back in the fridge.

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5.

When the caramel is firm, use a teaspoon to cover the cavities on the mold. Try to keep the outline clean by not putting TOO much chocolate. Refrigerate

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6.

When the final layer of chocolate is set, take them out of the fridge and pop them out of the molds. Personally, I found these white plastic molds to be rather hard to empty. I’m going to be keeping my eyes open for flexible silicone molds to replace them. If you have the same problem as I did, try putting the mold into the freezer overnight and then blasting the backside (don’t get the chocolate wet!) with some hot water.

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All in all, I got about 20 caramel filled pralines and even though my husband took them to nibble on in bed last night I still have a few to offer to my colleagues today. Sweet!

Thank you Notecards with Bookmarks

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Now that most of my thank-you notes have arrived at their destinations I can share my tutorial with you.

The very first thing I needed to do was to make a pile of faux wax seal bookmarks for our friends (the tutorial is coming!)

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After I made my faux-wax seal bookmarks I needed an attractive way to present them so I made a run to my favorite Belgian crafting store, AVA to see what they had available.

Since all of their paper and cardstock are made in the same styles and colors it was pretty effortless.

I went straight to the area where they sold the bright blue paper that I’d used for the wedding invitations and I quickly found some A6 sized trifold cards with a cut-out window on the front. Perfect! Right beside those cards were the perfect size of envelopes so I grabbed a stack of each and continued my search for supplies.

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In the rubber stamp display I found two new stamps which I simply had to have; a “Handmade with love” stamp from Artemio and a “Merci stamp from Rayher.

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The rest of my supplies came from my card making stash. I used one of the stamps from our invitations and the same ink pads and markers that I’d bought for the invites. I found that I needed a turquoise gel pen to write the thank-you notes so I picked one up on my next trip to AVA.

STEP 1

I used my bronze ink pad along with my new “Merci” stamp to decorate the front of the blue card.

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STEP 2

I used the “handmade” stamp to decorate the center back of the card. Then I set them aside to dry while I worked on the white inserts.
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STEP 3

First I folded the white cardstock in half and then I used my cutting mat, ruler and rotary cutter to cut each sheet of paper into two 20 1/2 cm by 14 1/2 cm pieces.

STEP 4

I folded each cut piece of white cardstock in half and used my hole punch to make a hole in the top center of the left hand side (the side that slips behind the window of the blue card.)

STEP 5

I placed a glue dot in the middle of the front of the white card, stuck a clay seal to the glue dot and passed the ribbons through the hole.

STEP 6

I inserted the white card into the blue card like this:

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STEP 7

I decorated the flap of the envelope with my Heyda Bird stamp in bronze.
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STEP 8

I used my bronze pen to address the envelopes with our address on the back to keep it clear.

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STEP 9

I used my blue gel pen to write my message on the inside of the insert.

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Once I had all of my materials gathered, these thank-you cards went incredibly fast. It took longer to write my messages than it did to make the cards and once again everybody seems to be very pleased by their cards. I mailed them off the very next day and they started arriving right away.

I really think card making is going to become one of my most useful hobbies!

 

Decorating the Hall

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We were fortunate enough to find a gorgeous reception venue in one of the most beautiful parts of Belgium.

The venue was Les Jardins de la Molignée… The gardens of the watermill in the beautiful Route de Maredsous. Don’t worry people, I’m driving up that way again on the 13th and will take the time to photograph every bit of the route for you.

I wanted to make as many of the decorations as possible. A wedding is expensive no matter how you do it but one of the best ways to not only save a ton of money but to make sure your wedding is as customized as possible is to make as much of your decorations as you know how to make. Here is what I did, perhaps it will give you some ideas.

The first thing that I had to make for the wedding ceremony was the pillows for the wedding rings. Our theme was ‘lovebirds’ so we were very fortunate to be getting married around Easter. At my favorite store, Ava, I found some wicker nests and feathers. I wove and sewed some white feathers into the nest, took my blue and bronze ribbons and made some of the most original ring bearer pillows I’ve ever seen.

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The bird on the tags was made with this Love stamp kit from Heyda (I found it at AVA but it is available through Amazon)

I used some more wicker nests, blue and white feathers and lovely dyed eggshells that were also from Ava’s Easter section to make my table centerpieces.

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The place settings and table linens were provided by the venue but I found these beautiful little feathers at Ava to personalize the tables just that much more.
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The rest of the decoration went quickly thanks to my sweet sister who had sent us a beautiful handmade pennant banner.
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We set up standing tables on the dancefloor for the appetizer part of the evening.
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Maxime helped me decorate the standing tables with artificial rose petals, confetti and candles.
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All that was left was to set up the receiving table with the card holder and guest book.
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Finally, the hall was ready for our wedding and we could go to our best man’s house for a pre-wedding dinner.