Quarantine Crafting: Social Isolation Arts and Crafts – Bilbo Baggins Style.

Ever since I was a young teenager, I’ve loved the Lord of the Rings books and movies. I used to spend entire weekends shut up in my room reading the books. It’s a classic good-triumphing-over-evil story that takes place in a mystical world with elves, hobbits, and magic. What’s not to love? Ok fine, it was mostly because I was obsessed with Orlando Bloom as an elf – don’t judge me.

Adulthood has since brought more appreciation for the story and other great characters. I honestly couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve put The Hobbit or The Fellowship of the Ring on the television while I’m cooking or cleaning up the house. The simple lives of the hobbits speak to my heart and soul in every way. I love my books and plants, and (thanks to the confirmation of stay-at-home orders) I can honestly say I am able to stay home for a long time without feeling like I’m missing out on too much. Also, to me, the Shire screams “Hufflepuff common room.” There are circular windows and fireplaces, plants everywhere, and it simply gives off a very comfortable and homey vibe, wouldn’t you say?

One of the things I love most about Bilbo is his longing for adventure, yet still wanting to keep his neighbors at bay. One of my favorite opening scenes is Frodo nailing a sign to the front gate that says “no admittance except on party business.” How fitting a phrase is that for social distancing? No one enters my house unless it’s for a party that most definitely isn’t happening any time soon, if ever. Thus, I got my inspiration for quarantine crafting. Seeing as I don’t have a front gate, though, I thought I’d make do with a front door wreath/sign hybrid.

Since stay at home orders were in place, I wanted to accomplish this task using supplies I already had at the house. Luckily for me, I have plenty of craft supplies to last a year-long siege, and Charles has a stockpile of scrap wood in the garage that is continuously growing thanks to all the wood working projects I have him doing. After rummaging through his stockpile, I found a piece that would work nicely – not too thick or large to hang on the door – and I didn’t even have to trim it. I decided on painting it white with a navy trim using paints I had left over from our house exterior. After the paint dried, I played with word spacing and tried half a dozen times to free-hand the phrase, but I ran out of room on every attempt. So, I decided to make a stencil.

To accomplish this, I measured the space on the board and pieced together two pieces of card stock to make the stencil the same size as the area I wanted to work in. After that, I isolated the words from the pictures I found online from the movie and printed them on regular paper in various sizes. This was because I had to get it to fit the stencil just right. All this was done in Paint 3D and in my printer settings. I’m sure there is a far easier way to do this, but this is my tried and tested method and I rather enjoy making things more complicated than they need to be.

Once I got the sizing right, I taped it to the card stock and cut out the letters. This seemed simple enough, but it ended up taking FOREVER. Not to mention my tiny x-acto knife wasn’t cooperating the best and the craft scissors I had weren’t small enough for all the tiny details. As a last resort, I decided to try out a tiny pair of cuticle scissors, which ended up doing the job beautifully.

After a few hours of slowly cutting away the letters (which caused my right thumb to go numb for over a week), the stencil was complete and I could place it on the board and pencil in the letters. All that was left to do was paint!

When I finished painting the words, I thought the middle was very blank and lacked the greenery to make it fitting for a front door wreath substitute. To remedy this, I decided to attempt to paint some leaves in a wreath-like way (can’t say I’m the most experienced at this). I went with sage leaves because they’re simple, but also because Bilbo mentions sage in the movie when dealing with the trolls. Win, win!

All that was left to do was to add a clear coat to protect it from bugs and the weather, and give it a twine handle for hanging. I recommend using a spray-on clear coat if using acrylic paints (like I was). When I tried to use a paint on version, the words started to smear and come off, so I had to wipe it off very carefully. The spray worked beautifully without any issues. As for the handle, I just used a staple gun to secure the twine in place.

Since hanging it, I’m pleased to report no neighbors have stopped by or asked us to join in on weekend block parties, which are still happening despite medical and government recommendations and guidelines. But that’s none of my business, so I’ll probably just watch The Hobbit for the 310th time.

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