Easy Homemade Holiday Gifts

Instead of buying gifts this year, think about making easy homemade holiday gifts for family and friends.
By Traci Smith
Capper’s Farmer Holiday Special, Winter 2012
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For a simple tag, cut a square of paper, making it however large you want it. Punch a hole in the upper right corner. Run ribbon through the hole and tie it in a knot. With a marker, write “To:” and “From:” somewhere on the square.
Photo By Amanda Mackey
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As the holidays approach, stress levels often rise, and it’s no wonder. Decorating, shopping, religious observances, food preparation, party planning, family gatherings, and everything else associated with the holidays can leave us feeling overwhelmed. It doesn’t have to be like that, though. Scrapbooking is a creative outlet that is relaxing and rewarding. Best of all, it can provide homemade holiday gifts for friends and family.

Rather than purchasing expensive individual greeting cards, most of us opt for the more affordable box of cards with two or three designs. This year, forget buying greeting cards. Instead, create your own. You also can make your own gift boxes, bags and tags. They’re simple and fun to make, and you’ll be amazed at how great you’ll feel when you’re finished. For more holiday spirit, invite a few friends over to join in the fun.

Once you’ve discovered the joy of scrapbooking through making cards and gift boxes, bags and tags, you’ll ask yourself, “Why stop there?” So, forget fighting the crowds at department stores, gather up those same friends for a day of making homemade keepsakes — something practical and functional — for everyone on your list.

Here are a few holiday crafts that will put smiles on the faces of your loved ones.

Homemade Greeting Cards

Once you make greeting cards, you’ll never go back to buying them.

Before you start, you’ll need envelopes to determine card size. Measure the envelope. Take those numbers (length and width) and subtract 1/4 inch from each. Multiply the smaller measurement by two; this gives you the dimensions for a folded card.

Cut your choice of cardstock to those dimensions. I always use white or off-white cardstock so I don’t have to worry about colors clashing with scrapbook papers and embellishments. You can use whatever color you want, just remember to make sure the embellishments you choose will show up if using colored cardstock. (Don’t use red cardstock if you’re planning to use red ribbon or red lettering, etc.) Fold the cardstock in half and decide whether you want a vertical or horizontal card.

Bring your cards to life by adding ribbon, pattern paper, stickers, rub-on letters, cardstock stickers, glitter stickers and other embellishments. Remember, though, that keeping things simple is the key to a beautiful greeting card.

After your cards are made, it’s time to personalize them.

Inside greetings can be lengthy, so instead of using stickers or rub-ons to make a greeting, which can be time-consuming, I either write a personal message or use vellum adhesive to attach a holiday vellum quote to the inside of the card. The adhesive and quotes can be purchased at most craft stores, and because the quotes come in themed stacks, including holidays, they make perfect inside greetings.

Make Gift Boxes, Bags and Tags

These easy crafts are a great way to use scrap paper from other projects so you don’t waste anything.

To make gift boxes, you’ll need cardboard boxes — found in all shapes and sizes at craft stores — scrapbook paper, craft paint, ribbon, seasonal stickers and buttons, and glue.

For the bottom part of the box, you can either glue paper to it or paint it with craft paint. If you use paper, use a different colored paper for the lid. For instance, if you use solid red paper for the bottom, use a pattern paper, such as candy canes, for the top. If you paint the bottom, use a complementary paper for the lid. Dress up the edges of the lid by gluing ribbon to them, and add a sticker or button to the top of the box for a little pizzazz.

Gift bags are even easier to make than boxes. For variety, I buy both plain paper bags and colored bags.

Pick out a holiday-themed piece of scrapbook paper and cut it a little smaller than the front of the plain bag, allowing some of the bag to show around the edges. Center it and glue it to the bag. Add a shiny sticker in a bottom corner.

For more color, use two pieces of scrapbook paper. Cut one piece as above and glue it to the bag. Tear a strip from the second piece and glue it on top of the first layer. You can stop there, or you can add an embellishment for fun.

When working with colored bags, you already have color so you don’t need a background paper. However, you could use a strip of paper for a layering effect if you want. For simplicity, all I do is attach an embellishment or two, such as a glittery sticker along with a Santa or poinsettia sticker.

Moving on to gift tags, there are many ways to make these — large or small, layered or plain, with ribbon or without.

For a simple tag, cut a square of paper, making it however large you want it. Punch a hole in the upper right corner. Run ribbon through the hole and tie it in a knot. With a marker, write “To:” and “From:” somewhere on the square.

If you want to be more creative, try a layered tag. Choose two pieces of coordinating paper — a subtle pattern and a flashy pattern. Using the flashy paper for the background, cut out a rectangular shape, making it large enough so you have room to layer on the top. Now cut a square out of the subtle pattern paper. Write “To:” and “From:” on the square. Glue the square onto the rectangle at a 45-degree angle in the upper left-hand corner. Depending on the paper’s pattern, you can add a few embellishments.

A similar tag can be made by gluing the second layer onto the first layer, straight instead of at an angle. Run ribbon along the side, and finish it off with an antique-style embellishment glued on top of the ribbon.

Homemade Holiday Gifts: DIY Photo Album

Photo Tiles
If you’ve never worked with decoupage — an all-in-one glue, sealer and finish — photo tiles are perfect for a first project. They can be made with photos, poems, quotes, a birth announcement, an invitation, even an old love letter.

I used 6-inch-by-6-inch ceramic tiles because that’s what I had left from a remodeling project, but you can use whatever size you like. You can scrapbook these by hand or on the computer with a digital scrapbooking program, which can be found at most craft stores. You also can find online sources that offer free or inexpensive scrapbook kits on a multitude of themes.

For digital tiles, just create your layout in the digital program. When you’ve completed the design, print it out and cut it to size. With a foam brush, paint a thin layer of decoupage on the tile. Cover the corners and edges thoroughly, making sure there’s not an excess of decoupage. Place and position the printout over the tile.

Starting in the center of the tile, press and push outward toward the edges with your hands to smooth out any air bubbles. (If any decoupage seeps out, quickly wipe it off with a damp rag.) Turn the tile one-quarter turn and repeat the process, pushing outward toward the edges again. Press firmly at the corners and around the edges to make sure the printout sticks tightly. Let the decoupage dry for the amount of time indicated on the bottle. When it’s dry, paint a thin layer of decoupage over the entire front of the tile and set it aside to dry completely.

Before readying your tiles for gifts, let them sit out, untouched, for a few days. They need to be completely dry so the printout won’t wrinkle around the corners and edges when you wrap, box or bag them.

For hand-scrapped tiles, choose your photos, papers and embellishments. Design a layout, but don’t glue anything down. Use decoupage to adhere the first layer of scrapbook paper to the tile. Use glue or other adhesive for the remaining papers and embellishments.

When you’re finished scrapbooking the tile, cover the entire front with a thin layer of decoupage, keeping it as thin as possible over the embellishments. Let it dry for several days before getting it ready for gift giving.

Because ceramic tiles are too heavy to hang on the wall, I like to also include an easel in the gift bag or box.

CD Wall Hangings
Instead of throwing out your used or scratched CDs, use them to make beautiful wall hangings. Each CD, or section of the wall hanging, can be created in either a circular fashion like the CD or as a square and can be designed to hang horizontally, vertically or as a grouping.

Start by choosing photos, then decide on two or three coordinating papers. Figure out how to arrange the papers and photos so that each CD incorporates all of the colors. Move the papers and photos around until you see something you like. The layouts will need to be simple since CDs are small. It’s all a matter of layering; just be sure the photo will show up on the top layer of scrapbook paper. (In the dog wall hanging, notice that both photos of the black dogs are directly layered over beige paper, and that the photo of the yellow dog is layered on the maroon paper so that all the photos “pop” out from the background.)

Once you have your design, cut the bottom layer into a square so it completely covers the CD. The corners will extend past the CD, but the rest of the square should fit as close as possible to the size of the CD. Cut the paper for the second layer so it’s a little smaller than the first square. This square will fit over the first layer, centered on the CD, showing a border of the first layer. For the third layer, cut a square out of the chosen paper, making it a bit smaller than the second layer, so you have another border on the second layer. Now cut your photo, again making it smaller than the third layer of paper so there’s a border there as well.

Before cutting your photos, you can crop them and resize them using a photograph editing program, if needed. I wanted close-up shots, so I made the photos larger and cropped them into nice face shots. In addition, you can fix any imperfections in the photos, such as red eyes, in the program.

Before gluing anything down, layer your papers and photos in the correct order to be sure everything fits properly and looks the way you want it to look. Then adhere the bottom layer of paper to the CD, gently positioning until it’s evenly centered on the CD. (I use repositionable adhesive called Dotto for most of my projects just in case I need to move something after it’s been “glued” down. Dotto allows you to lift paper and photos up without ripping and ruining a project, then reposition them elsewhere. If the paper where you removed something is sticky, gently rub the tiny dots of glue away using your finger.)

When the first layer is centered, press firmly so it adheres tightly. Adhere the second layer next, followed by the third layer and then the photo. Repeat with remaining CDs.

When all of your CDs are finished, place them on a flat surface and cover them with wax paper. Set a heavy book on each to help seal the adhesive and press out any air bubbles. Allow them to set for several hours or overnight.

When the adhesive has sealed tightly, turn over each CD, design-side down. With a craft knife, carefully cut around the CD. Don’t worry if the edges are rough because the next step is to use a metal fingernail file and gently file the edges, using a downward motion so you don’t push the paper up and risk the adhesive coming loose. When the edges are smooth, use a foam brush and cover each CD with a thin layer of decoupage. This will seal everything so the project will last for years.

Once everything is completely dry, it’s time to “tie” the CDs together. To do this, select your ribbon and tape it to the back of the CDs, making sure the space between the CDs is even. Next, tape a piece of hemp string to the back of the top CD so the finished project can be hung on the wall.

If you want to use four CDs and group them into a square, use Popsicle sticks to connect the CDs because they’ll need support to hang horizontally. Before taping the Popsicle sticks to the backs of the CDs, using regular Scotch tape, use double-sided craft tape to cover the Popsicle sticks with ribbon. Using four CDs and arranging them in a square grouping will make the wall hanging a little heavier, so it’s a good idea to double the hemp string for added strength.

These wall hangings can be scrapbooked digitally or by hand. While I enjoy scrapbooking the old-fashioned way, digital scrapbooking can be just as fun — and it’s much faster, so if you’re in a hurry, give it a try.

Similar designs are great for old vinyl records, either 33 1/3 LPs or the smaller 45s, turning them into wall or table décor. You can do this digitally or by hand, in the same fashion as the CD wall hangings. Because they are larger than CDs, it’s best not to attach multiple records together, but instead to design only one and place it in an easel.

To scrapbook records by hand, follow the directions for CDs. To scrapbook the larger records digitally, you’ll need a printer that is capable of printing out 12-by-12-inch sheets. If your printer can’t handle that size of paper, you’ll have to make them by hand. A regular printer should work fine for digitally scrapbooking 45s.

Homemade Picture Frames
There are many ways to create a personalized frame for a loved one. From pets to cars to family and friends, the options are endless.

When my dad’s horse, Sandy, passed away at the age of 24, I decided to make a memorial frame. I bought a 12-inch-by-12-inch frame, found a photo and a vellum quote that fit the occasion, gathered some rub-on letters and punches, picked out a pattern paper for the background, and found a couple of solid colors to use for matting the photo. (Matting is simply adding blocks of paper behind a photo to give it a layered look.) I put it all together, and it was finished in less than an hour.

For a friend who is expecting a child, a baby frame is a great gift. All it takes is an unfinished frame, scrapbook paper and a few stickers. Glue the paper to the frame, then attach the stickers. In less than 20 minutes, you have a completed baby frame.

Everyone has old family photographs they would be proud to showcase. Take one of those photos and digitally scrapbook it by adding a quote and scrapbook paper. Place the finished page in a wooden frame, wrap it in holiday paper, add a bow and a tag, and you have a special gift sure to please.

We all love our four-legged friends, and there’s no better way to pay tribute to their memory than with a pet memorial frame. Find a frame, a photo of the pet you’re honoring, and a nice poem. Then head to the computer and create a digital scrapbook memorial page. You can scrapbook it by hand, if preferred, just remember to keep the designed page flat, without a lot of layering, so the glass and cardboard covering will fit back in the frame.

A fantastic gift for a car enthusiast is a car frame. Years ago, my dad bought and restored a 1958 Pontiac Star Chief, and he wrote a poem about it. To showcase the poem and the car, I purchased an unfinished 12-inch-by-12-inch frame, typed up the poem, and printed it out on beige cardstock, which I antiqued using distressing chalk. I matted that onto solid cardstock using brads that look like screws for a masculine effect.

Using the same solid cardstock, I covered the frame, carefully cutting around the photo opening. Next I took beige paper with a distressed design and tore it for a weathered look. I glued it over the solid paper on the bottom half of the frame, with the torn sections running up the sides of the frame. Then I attached the matted poem and added a metal charm.

Along the left side of the photo, I used black rub-on letters for the title. On the right side, I attached hemp string to a metal charm and glued the charm to the page, then taped the string on the back. The frame is a precious tribute to my dad and the antique car he was so proud of restoring.

Homemade Holiday Gifts: Handmade Books

Ring-Bound Recipe Books
For the cooks in your life, these little books are welcomed gifts.

Because they’re made without an album, you can use as few or as many recipes as you want. I used 10 recipes for each book I made, then added a cover. Each book took less than 30 minutes, from start to finish.

For the recipes, simply type them into the computer (I sized my recipes to fit an area 4 inches by 6 inches, which is the size of a large recipe card), print them out on colored cardstock, and cut them to size. If you don’t have a computer, or if you prefer handwritten recipes, purchase colored index cards and write out the recipes.

Select paper and a few embellishments for the cover, or scrapbook it digitally. If you scrapbook the cover by hand, use cardstock, which is thicker than scrapbook paper, for the bottom layer so it isn’t too flimsy.

When the cover and recipe cards are finished, punch a hole in the corner of each. Put a book ring through the cover and cards, and tie a few ribbons onto the ring.

Recipe Boxes
Sticking with the cooking theme, do you know someone who keeps recipe cards tucked in cookbooks or has copies of recipes on sheets of paper stuffed in a notebook or just floating around? Why not help that person get organized with a recipe box?

Unfinished recipe boxes can be found at craft stores and are relatively inexpensive. Or you can look for used boxes at garage sales and refinish them.

Here are two simple ways to make recipe boxes.

Purchase a wooden recipe box. If it has hinges that connect the lid to the box, remove the hinges. Decorate it in the same fashion as the gift boxes (earlier in this article), but use decoupage in place of glue. When you’re finished, give the entire box and lid a thin coat of decoupage, being careful not to get an excess of decoupage around the embellishments. Allow the box to dry thoroughly. (I suggest letting it dry overnight before moving it.) If you removed hinges from the box, you can replace them now.

The other type of recipe box I’ve made is with a cardboard box. I find a lot of these at garage sales, and they usually have a plastic coating with some sort of design on them. While they tend to be sturdy, they’re not very pretty — but they will be after a scrapbook makeover!

The most important step with a cardboard box that has a plastic covering is to rough it up. Paper will not stick to such a smooth surface. So, using sandpaper, sand the lid (including the edges) and the sides of the box, making sure to get all of the edges especially good.

Again, design in a similar fashion to the gift boxes, but using decoupage in place of the glue. When it’s finished, give the entire box and lid, including the sides, a final thin coat of decoupage and let it dry for a few days before wrapping or bagging it to give as a gift.

Scrapbook
If there’s someone on your gift list who has everything, a scrapbook makes the perfect gift. You might have to be sneaky about it, though, because you’ll have to get photos of their loved ones. If you don’t have access to such photos, ask a spouse, child or parent if they have any photos you could borrow to duplicate for the project.

I made a scrapbook using photos of my dad’s animals, tractors, land, crops and ponds, and gave it to him one year for Christmas. He loved it!

Unlike a recipe or memorial scrapbook, in which I try to stick to a subtle theme, when I make a so-called miscellaneous scrapbook, I use a variety of colors and patterns throughout the book. The reason is because each page has its own story and isn’t a continuation of the previous page, making the album more interesting and fun.

In addition to using multiple colors, I add visual appeal by using different embellishments instead of using similar embellishments on each page. For a miscellaneous scrapbook, I often use tags, vellum quotes, metal letters and phrases, paper punches, brads in assorted shapes and colors, wooden stickers (like the cowboy hat and boot on the cover of the album), stickers that look like typewriter keys, and word tiles that resemble the tiles found in the game Scrabble.

So gather your photos and scrapbooking supplies, and start preserving some memories. This handmade gift is guaranteed to be a favorite.

No matter which projects you decide to make for gift-giving this holiday season, use your imagination and creativity, have fun, and think of the astonished and happy faces you’ll see when your family and friends get that first glimpse of their homemade holiday gifts.


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