Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The favors

The story of our favors began last November/December. Based on an idea from Martha, I was toying with the idea of giving rosemary-infused salt since we both like to cook/eat and it's a practical gift that guests would be able to use over and over. Plus the herb rosemary has some love symbolism attached to it and I thought making all that and assembling it would be relatively simple. I just had to come up cute, food-safe containers that weren't too big, but would be relatively airtight, and a way to decorate it all. While save-on-crafts had a good deal on jars, I found out they weren't made for holding food. So instead I was pretty settled on buying glass jars or metal tins from SKS (great resource, btw!). But then I got this email from IKEA about a huge sale they were having (I think it may have been an end of Christmas sale) for champagne glasses. Since it was a limited time sale, we quickly made the decision to buy 400 of these (we hadn't even hammered out the guest list yet), without any idea of what we'd do with them. At first we thought it'd come in handy for a champagne toast since we know there aren't any flutes in Chinese restaurants (and flutes hold a lot less liquid than the regular wine glasses or water goblets that they usually have, which would save on the bottles we'd have to purchase). But then there were the 49 interjections that everyone had to have, complaining about guests not wanting to bring home a wet/dirty glass that they just drank out of, that guests wouldn't know that the glass was the favor, that some ppl wouldn't drink the champagne and then what would they do with a filled glass?, blah blah blah, ad infinitum, ad nauseum. All I knew was that I wanted to personalize the glasses in some way so that ppl would remember years down the line why they have this dusty thing in their cupboard and that they may be able to use on occasion.

After months of thinking and others' return from trips to HK, we started to engrave these 400 glasses with a double happiness symbol. We tried stamping various things on various parts of the glass (difficult to get a good image on the rounded, slick surface) in red permanent ink but we had to give that up b/c it would always smudge. So I had to settle for just the double happiness, no date, no initials/name -- we'd have to incorporate those elements some other way. I didn't think of that way until just a month before the big day (more on that later). In the meantime, we bought contact paper and engraving cream (you wouldn't believe how difficult it is to locate this -- we were later told that they don't carry this in NYC stores and had to go out to LI to get an extra bottle from the AC Moore there) and proceeded to do all the zillion steps required to engrave, inviting 2 BMs and other friends over numerous times to get this Sisyphean feat accomplished.

First, we cut the contact paper into squares or rectangles that were big enough to fit the double happiness character on it. Then we used the double happiness craft punch imported from HK (through BM's sister) and punched out the shape into the contact paper. With the intricate & somewhat delicate parts of the character being punched into the 2-layer paper, we (or more like I) had some difficulty getting the piece out without ripping it or destroying it in some way. When Dear took this over, it was a lot easier since he was able to fully punch through all the layers without a problem using his Popeye-like muscles. He was even able to punch several squares at once, finishing up in no time (more or less). However, after punching out 400+ of these suckers, the punch completely fell apart -- so sad since I'd like to be able to use it for cards or something.

Then we had to adhere these self-made stickers onto the glass, where the cut-out areas would be engraved for that frosted glass look. When we first stuck on a few of them and tried engraving the glasses, I was really dissatisfied at how it came out -- there were jagged edges everywhere and the engraving wasn't done evenly so there were splotchy patches throughout. Then someone suggested we clean up the image a little by cutting off the 'sticks' that attach the double happiness to the outer circle at the top, bottom, and sides. Admittedly, it did make the final image a lot better, but that significantly increased our workload. One summer day, 5 of us worked until 1am or so and we still didn't finish adhering all the stickers and cutting off the extra pieces!

But one weekend, we finally finished that step and started to engrave. After a while, I realized brushing the cream onto the glass didn't give the best results. What did work was pouring a glob of the cream onto the part we wanted engraved (making sure it didn't go beyond the contact paper) and then scraping it off after a few seconds with those fake plastic credit cards you get in the mail. Since you could reuse the cream a few times, we got into a sort of rhythm of scraping off one glass and spreading it onto the next glass while the other person would dunk the finished glasses in soapy water, wipe off all remnants of the cream, rip off the sticker, and rinse everything clean. As you can imagine, this part took a very long time and many busy weekends. Lots of ppl wanted to help but it was difficult to coordinate, especially when the glasses were being stored at Dear's place.

But eventually we finished engraving. The glass on the left is the final product and the one on the right is one of our first prototypes, with the sticks still attached.

For part 2 of the favors, we decided to put some candy into the glasses, more specifically, red Jelly Bellys. One Saturday, we trekked to Economy Candy, which seemed to be comparably priced to the other online sites, if not cheaper b/c we wouldn't have to pay for shipping (though there is tax, I think) and there was a slight discount (I forgot how much) for bulk orders. Plus, being an Economy Candy virgin, I'd always wanted to visit the famed store and I was thrilled to finally see all that candy (some I haven't seen since I was kid) packed into one place. At the store, we learned how expensive getting all those gourmet jelly beans would be and we added ivory Jordan almonds to the mix. I forget how many pounds we did get, maybe something like 5 or 10 lbs each of the strawberry jam and the raspberry (both so yummy!!) and perhaps 10 lbs of the almonds. Then we assembled the little tulle packages (MIL cut the rectangles of tulle from my 1000' spool, and boy was she fussy!). One person would scoop some beans and almonds and then the other would tie it all up with the orange 3/16" wide single-faced satin ribbon that I got from Artistic Ribbon. We tied the other end of the ribbon to the personalized tags we made (see part 3). Oh, we also mixed up the 2 types of beans in one bowl so that each package would have both types -- I wonder if anyone noticed that there were 2 flavors? Working with the beans was so intoxicating (you can stand 2 feet away and still smell them through the plastic) I got a bit sick of smelling them for 12 hours straight. I really liked how deep red the beans were though, but it was a bit hard to see when we finally put it in the glass, I think.

And for part 3, I reverted back to my idea of using shrink film (aka Shrinky Dinks, if you want the brand name) in some way. Instead of my original idea of making wine charms to put onto the stems of the glasses, I thought we could make thick, plastic, personalized tags out of the shrink film. So I purchased 106 sheets of white printable shrink film from Dick Blick's, came up with a simple design with our names, wedding date, and a double happiness symbol on it, printed it out (4 to a sheet) on an inkjet printer, cut the 4 pieces apart (used the guillotine cutter at work to cut several sheets at once since things didn't need to be so exact, so that moved pretty quickly), punched a hole in the top of each, and then baked them according to the instructions on the package. Since it shrinks to about 1/3 of the original size, using a regular 3/8" hole punch gave it just the right sized hole for the thin ribbon. For best results, when I took the shrunken stuff out of the oven, I flattened it with a book or something flat. Sometimes the tags didn't quite come out the way I wanted (curling under itself or not shrinking completely, or not being completely flattened), but what makes shrink film so cool is that you can always put it back in the oven until it softens again and shape it the way you like. You just have to be careful you don't burn it (yes, this can actually happen) and I think after a while, it gets harder and harder to reshape it. Some of the tags we made came out more toasted than others, which was kinda nice too b/c it looked ivoryish, to match our invitations. :) The colors also deepened so that the red of the double happiness came out burgundyish, just like our color scheme! Major props to BM who took a whole bunch of these home and shrunk them in one afternoon with her mother.

With the shrink film, you can make anything you want, in any shape, with any design. I think that makes it a great alternative to the personalized paper tags and/or stickers/labels that you can buy from places like Bliss Weddings Market, Wedding Things and My Own Labels. And because it's plastic, it lasts much longer than just cardstock. If only I thought of it sooner so that I could have designed something nicer. Though sometimes simple is best, no?

1 comment:

xosouting said...

hi, i came across your blog by chance and i love it!

so many wonderful and creative ideas!

i saw that double happiness hole punch on ebay - i may invest in one after all! ^_^