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I recently answered an unusual request to create a hand-lettered message from Santa Claus. I know, you’d expect this in November or December, right? Me too. But the client had their reasons and provided the text. I used calligraphy pens with red and green inks, and a sprinkling of silver stamped snowflakes on a heavy cream-colored paper with a green deckle edge to enhance the old style Christmas mood. I used to do a fair bit of calligraphy when I was in high school and even college but most of my typography and lettering projects are done on the computer now with points and vectors rather than pens and brushes.

calligraphy hand lettered Santa Claus

I was a little apprehensive about how much time it would take me to complete the project given my rusty skills. I decided that a little digital preparation would not be amiss so I picked out a typeface reminiscent of Uncial script and set the type on the computer adjusting size, kerning, line spacing and justification exactly as I wanted it. I then printed this out and taped it to the back of the heavy paper and used the lightbox to letter directly over my computer-derived draft. It wasn’t tracing as I still drew the individual letters just as I would have if I didn’t have the guide underneath. But having the word placement and line spacing all worked out freed me to concentrate on the rhythm of the letterforms. It worked so well it almost felt like cheating. I doubt anyone but another graphic designer familiar with the particular typeface I used would possibly guess that I used a computer in the process. The final letter is hand-inked on classic paper stock, just as we might imagine Santa would write it himself.

detail of hand lettered calligraphy message from Santa Claus Christmas


Our church received a request over the weekend for Christmas help for a family with young children. Several of us coordinated getting various things to “make Christmas”. I went looking for stockings and was appalled at the selection available in the big box store. Most of the stockings available were cheaply made of such grotesque fabric that I was depressed that anyone would use those as part of their family traditions. So despite the deadline projects hanging over my head I went home and started pulling out the ingredients to make some personalized stockings.

handmade Christmas stockings

I cut the main body of all three stockings out of a thick red textured fleece and then pulled together a few wintry prints to make the contrasting heels, toes and cuffs. The boy helped me with the sewing. I was planning on using a white dimensional paint to write the names on the stockings but I did not read the directions until about 10pm. Since I didn’t have 24 hours for the paint to dry flat I had to come up with another plan! After fooling around a bit I pulled out the last piece of matte shrink plastic and the permanent markers. I picked out some (hopefully) appropriate typefaces to set their names in on the computer and then printed out a template to trace. A few seconds in the oven and a quick rubdown with the sandpaper, and I had some nice thick white ovals that I stitched onto the stocking cuffs with black upholstery thread. Although putting the names on shrink plastic tags was a last ditch idea, I like how well it turned out so I will probably find some way to use it again.

Christmas stocking with shrink plastic name tag

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I’m just going to take a moment to point out that you can receive random-charm in your e-mail box by signing up in the left hand column under the fish. Or you can read on and find out about how random-charm might end up on your fridge as seen below!

random-charm logo magnetic clothespin

Some of you may know that I was once an advertising designer, I still dabble a bit. Within the field, my true loves are typography and copywriting. So I can’t do much of anything, even this blog, without giving it a little graphic touch. However, I’ve taken my time in this case. I’m allowing it to evolve in public, not something I usually do.

The font I chose for random-charm is coincidentally named Charme. Along with a few other tweaks, I impulsively set it at an angle. I did not put the typestyling through the rigorous paces I normally would but started using it right away, shock! So far I haven’t regretted anything. Then again it’s only been applied to the blog header, some mini cards/hang tags (see below) and magnet-backed clothespins. I’ve seen the clothespins done with pretty paper or fabric and thought it would be fun to put my blog name on it and throw into packages that occasionally leave my studio. So if a random-charm clothespin shows up in your mailbox, I hope it will find it’s way onto your fridge!

random-charm mini-cards/hang tags and logo clothespins


Here’s a plain boy’s tee shirt turned into a one of a kind piece of wearable fun with tie dye and a fabric marker. I can’t remember how I got this idea but the boy has been very much into all kinds of animals lately and maybe we were talking about lizards? Anyway, something about the chameleon’s curly tail and the tie dye spiral made me wonder if I could combine the two. I found a chameleon coloring page online that I then juxtaposed over a tie dye shirt in Photoshop to try out my idea. It looked great so I went ahead and tie dyed several tee shirts with the center of the spiral farther down than normal. If I do it again, I’ll also need to move it a little more to the right but it worked out okay anyway. I also tried several different patterns of applying the dye colors and this is the one that I was most pleased with for this particular use. After the shirt was dyed and dried I then used my lightbox to trace the design with a fabric marker. My lightbox is one of my favorite tools for crafting and graphic design. I also found a groovy font to typeset the word “chameleon” and added that to the design. Surprisingly I found several pictures of real chameleons in that bright blue combo online! But they can’t really change color to match their background, sadly that part is a myth.

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There’s a bit of a story here. My good friend Jan handles the ordering and artwork for camper clothing at our summer camp, Gander Brook Christian Camp. (My husband designed and built the website BTW, pretty sweet don’t you think?) Anyway, this is supposed to be about sewing. The last few years, Jan and I have worked together on the artwork for the tee shirts and while the colors have traditionally been gender neutral we decided to try some pink. It was a big hit year before last so we did another one this past season and I designed the typography myself and we picked out three or four colorways. Unfortunately they only come in camper/staff sizes which means 7/8 years old up to adults. Jan and I both have little girls who adored these pink camp shirts and desperately wanted one. When we were packing up the left over clothing at the end of the season I had the idea to turn a ladies size medium into a little girl dress. I lucked out in finding a long sleeve tee shirt to fit underneath that matched the color of the lettering perfectly. I turned the tee shirt inside out and went to work with the serger, love that thing. The dresses turned out quite well and our little girls were pleased as punch.

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