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Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2010 01:55 am

Straight from the handmade heart

Grab the shredded coconut, old photos, sequins and a trusty glue gun and get ready for a Christmas to remember


Reluctant to dig out the same old, tried-and-true holiday decorations that helped usher in the aughts?

Indulge. It’s time to switch up that worn-out Christmas routine. Head to the craft store instead, where, for a little money and just a bit more time, anyone can create handmade holiday decorations that truly inspire the spirit of the season.

“A handmade object has been made with love,” says Lynsey Searle, co-editor of the popular craft blog Cuteable. “It isn’t rushed, and it can be made to exact specifications. Basically, handmade rocks.”

This is true especially around the holidays, when many people load up on seasonal accessories, inside and out. Too many pre-fab decorations can make a home look like a drugstore’s holiday aisle – impersonal and not very creative. Handmade decorations deliver the crafter’s own brand of holiday cheer.

“I love making trees for the holidays,” says Anne Holub, member of the Chicago DIY club The Crafty Ladies. “I don’t know if it’s just the country girl in me stuck in the city at the holidays, but I love a nice snowy forest to pretend I’m dashing through the snow.” Make snow-capped forest scenes from folded papers, Styrofoam cones wrapped in felt, tiny twigs or any combination of these and countless other options. Baby powder, artificial sweetener, or even coconut can serve as snow.    

DIY: A family affair

“Craft projects are a fun way to bring together friends and family to spark creativity and spend time together getting messy and making something special for the home,” says Julie Schneider, head of  “How-Tuesday,”a handmade how-to blog at Etsy.com, the online craft retailer.

“I have fond memories of making holiday crafts with my mom as a kid,” Schneider says. “Many of the ornaments and decorations we made together still get pulled out year after year at Christmastime and have become an integral part of our personal family holiday traditions.”

Whether it’s a classic construction paper ring garland or a popcorn chain, kids love getting in on the DIY action.

“With kids old enough to handle pins, make ornaments with styrofoam balls, straight pins and sequins,” Schneider says. “Use the ball as the canvas and put one flat-head straight pin through a sequin, then stick it into the ball. Make geometric designs, snowflakes, spell a name or even pin green fir trees on a sea of white snow-colored sequins. Attach a loop of yarn to a pinhead and stick it to the top of the ball. Hang it from the tree and keep for next year.”

Crafting 101

“In my book, some of the best craft projects can emerge from plain-old household materials or otherwise recycled or thrown-away tidbits that have been quietly waiting around the home for the right DIY project,” Schneider says. And anything around the house is fair game when transforming a home into a holiday wonderland.

 “Junk mail and out-of-date magazines and catalogs can be torn up and turned into recycled paper for cards and tags, or folded up into clever rolling ball ornaments or gift boxes,” she adds.    

“There are many alternate sources for craft supplies these days, given that there is a strong focus on recycling and repurposing,” says Janice Rusnak, who runs Papier Valise, a company that specializes in sourcing provisions for DIY-ers in Canada.

“Vintage holiday décor is finding its way into modern day crafting,” Rusnak says.” Dig out those old family photos. Look for photos taken during specific seasons that can be copied and enlarged for specific projects. Frame a family member’s artwork. I prefer to use vintage items in a new way. It’s all about creativity and thinking outside of the box.”

Homemade holiday craft decorations are like snowflakes: There are a zillion of them, and no two are exactly alike. Read on for a few fail-safe holiday crafting ideas that require minimal supplies and deliver major satisfaction – for both the crafter and those who will admire the handiwork. 

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