I love the holiday season. December makes the homebody in me yearn to be inside, doing crafty projects. Since I’m a grad student living on a tight budget, I’m also on the lookout for cheap, easy-to-execute projects that I can give to my friends. So far, my system of cheap ‘n’ easy craft creation has worked both to satisfy my crafty-gurl yearnings and to please the recipients of my gifts.
Before we get on with the DIY joy, I want to share my three guidelines for holiday craft projects:
First, project materials need to be relatively cheap and easy to obtain. There’s nothing that dampens my crafting glee as much as trying to second-guess where an elusive item might be found (In other words: You have no idea how many places *might* stock fake plastic pine trees and deer small enough to fit into a snow globe, but don’t). You do not want to waste valuable crafting time driving from strip mall to strip mall looking for a key piece – this can take hours. All materials listed in this piece should be available at any major craft store (e.g., Joann ETC, Hobby Lobby or Michael’s).
Second, the project needs to be something you can make for multiple friends, while also personalizing each piece you create. Unless you have lots of bucks and/or lots of time to spend on your crafting project, it’s better to think of one thing you can do for many friends/family members at once – this makes your pre-crafting learning curve worthwhile (Do you really want to learn to knit just to make one scarf?), and cuts down on your craft-related expenses.
Third, the project must be easy to complete within a short period of time (No more than two days). The holiday season is busy enough as it is, and you don’t need another thing to stress out about before the end of the year. Remember that you’re doing these projects on a deadline, and you’ll need to budget time for post-craft matters (packaging, wrapping, shipping) if you’re not delivering your gifts in person.
With these guidelines in mind, I present you with three easy craft projects for holiday gift-creation, presented in order of difficulty. I warn you in advance that the stuff you turn out will be so cute that it’s likely you’ll want to keep some for yourself.
One final piece of advice before you begin: These projects are best done with crafty friends. None of these crafts demand a lot of any of the materials listed, and so if you can get a few people to chip in, you can cut your costs even further. You may also want to beg your friends for old magazines, since all of these projects involve using clippings and cutouts.
* 1 small bag of clear glass gems (Basically, these are the glass pieces used in vases and floral arrangements – they look like lopsided marbles). Find them in the floral department at the craft store.
* 1 small bag of flat round magnets (approximately the size of the glass pieces, above)
* 1 hot glue gun (with glue sticks)
* 1 pen (for tracing circles of paper to fit on magnets)
* 1 pair of scissors
* Magazine(s) from which to cut images for your magnets.
2 Degrassi episodes
1. Browse through your magazine(s) to look for images or patterns that you like. You will be gluing each image between a magnet and a glass piece, so remember to stick to small-scale pics. Other paper sources for images and patterns include wrapping paper, origami paper, and stationery.
2. After you’ve selected some images, cover each one with a magnet, and use your pen to trace a line around the base of the magnet, onto the image. In other words: use the magnet as a guide to outline the circle you’ll cut out from the magazine page.
3. Once you’ve got your image(s) outlined, use your scissors to cut them out. You’ll probably want to cut the images inside the tracing line, so that the line won’t show on the finished product.
4. Plug in your glue gun and get it warmed up and ready to use.
5. Once you’ve got the glue gun ready to go, you can construct the magnets assembly-line style:
a. Place a dab of glue on the round, flat surface of the magnet – you should try to get enough glue to cover the surface of the magnet, but not to spill over the edge when you take the next step.
b. Place your cut-out image (right side up) on top of the dab of glue and press to affix
c. Put another dab of glue on the flat side of a glass gem, and press this down on top of the image.
d. Voila! You have a cute, ready-to-use glassy magnet.
Sparkly lip gloss tins
My friend Naomi Zarch is the crafty diva who devised this project. I’ve made these tins for several friends, and they’re always well received. (As you can see, willa’s tin – at left – has seen lots of use!)
* Metal lip gloss tins (with lip balm already in them) – you determine the quantity. I find that the best source for these tins is Sally Beauty Supply. (If you go to a Sally Beauty store, I suggest you look for them at the cashier’s stand at the front of the store). They’re only $1.50/tin, and are the perfect base material for the project.
* Glue (Elmer’s or Mod Podge or Aleene’s)
* Glitter (in whatever colors you fancy)
* Small paintbrush (small enough to use on the lip gloss tin lid)
* 8 oz. tin of fast-drying clear gloss polyurethane
* Magazines (to cut out images for the top of your tins)
* A pen
2 Degrassi Eps
1. As with the magnets, you’ll be cutting out images from your magazines (postcards, wrapping paper, etc.) and gluing them onto the top of your lip gloss tins. So first, you need to select some images or patterns that you think would look nice on the lid of a tin. Feel free to also look for words you could add, collage-style, on the top of each tin.
2. Once you’ve chosen your images, pull the sticker/label off the top of one of the tins. Affix the label to a piece of plain paper (one you don’t plan to use), and cut it out. This will serve as your guide for tracing circles around each image, so that your images will fit onto the lid of each tin.
3. Commence with the tracing.
4. Once you’ve outlined your images, cut each circle out. You’ll want to trim each circle such that the outline around the circle doesn’t show.
5. Pause for a moment to conceptualize how you want the lid of each tin to look. Now is the time to decide if you want to cover your images in glitter, if you want to make mini-collages on the top of your tins, and so on. You may even want to arrange (but not glue) items as you’d like them to appear on the top of each tin, so that you’ll have a plan before you glue.
6. Peel all of the label stickers off of the tin lids. You may want to stick the labels on the bottom of the tins, e.g., if you don’t want to forget which tin contains which flavor of gloss. If some of the sticky stuff is left on top of the tins, that’s fine.
7. Using a minimal amount of glue, affix each of your images to a tin lid. You want to use just enough glue to get the paper to stick and no more. If there’s sticky adhesive left over from the label sticker, I usually just rely on that to hold my image in place.
8. Now comes the fun part: Dip your paintbrush in the polyurethane. After you’ve wiped the brush along the rim of the can to remove excess polyurethane, brush a thin coat of the stuff on top of the tin lid – right on top of your image. The polyurethane both seals the image to the lid and provides the lid with a protective coating.
9. If you want to sprinkle glitter on top of your image, now is the time. Sprinkle the glitter right onto the polyurethane while it’s still wet.
10. Now you must wait and let the polyurethane dry. If it seems like your tin lid needs another coat, you can give it another coat, following the instructions on the polyurethane can. Remember though, that…
11. You need to let your tins dry for at least 24 hours once you’ve coated them with polyurethane. Resist the urge to touch them, to give them away, or to wrap them up. Your patience will pay off.
* As many clear glass plates as you want to decorate
* Decoupage glue – should be clear-drying (I use Plaid’s Mod Podge)
* Spray sealant or glaze (I use Plaid’s Royal Coat Brilliant Glaze Clear Cote. Whew!). This stuff is toxic, so carefully read and follow the instructions on the can. This is not the project for you if you are (or might be) pregnant.
* Brushes (for glue and/or paint)
* Magazines (from which to cut out the images for your plates). Really, you can use any 2-D paper source except newsprint.
* Embellishments (optional): glitter, sequins, acrylic paint
* Newspaper-covered surface on which to work
The Degrassi wedding or reunion episodes and then some. This will be a two- to three-day, multi-stage project.
How to: (We’ll assume, for these instructions, that you’re working on one plate at a time)
1. Cut out images from magazines (or other sources) to glue to the underside of your plate. This is the perfect time to tap into your collage/decoupage skillz.
2. Turn your plate over, underside up, and make a mock layout with your images and embellishments, remembering that they will be affixed right side (image-side) down. This way you can test out the arrangement without committing to it.
3. Once you’ve got a layout you like, brush a thin coat of decoupage glue on the area(s) of the plate where you’ll be affixing images and embellishments. I recommend putting any 3-D decorative elements (e.g., sequins) around the rim of the plate, so they won’t interfere with the plate’s ability to lie flat on a table.
4. Let the glue dry and become clear. Test your patience. Add another layer of glue on top of the decorative images/embellishments OR…
5. If you want to use acrylic paint to decorate the underside of the plate, now is the time to do so. I find that the painting may require more than one coat, so keep drying time in mind when planning your project. Once the paint has dried, add another layer of decoupage glue to the underside of the plate (skip this bit if you already did a second coat of glue in step 4).
6. Let the plates (glue and/or paint) dry.
7. Once the underside of your plate has fully dried, you can spray sealant/finish to the underside (and only the underside). This stuff is bad for you, so you’ll want to spray your plates in a well-ventilated area.
8. Look at your fabulous plate, and be amazed at your bad, crafty self.
9. When giving the plate to a friend, remind her/him that while the plate is amazing, it is not dishwasher-safe. Your plate should be treated with care, and washed by hand after each use.