Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Homespun Holidays: Gifts

It is almost time for the holiday madness to begin. Some people will start putting up their decorations as soon as the last of the trick-or-treaters leave and others will wait for the day immediately before their celebrations. With a little bit of planning and a little bit of effort, it is possible to avoid a large amount of the anxiety for which the holiday season has become infamous for. My family are a bit tight on money this year, like many others in the face of the economic 'crisis' that is often talked about in the news today. Between bills, basic needs, and the financial obligations that come with parenthood, there isn't much money left over for holiday spending.

Fortunately, however, it doesn't need to take a lot of money. One of the biggest sources of anxiety is the matter of gifts, especially gifts for children. Using inexpensive materials, it is possible to make gifts for the children in your life with the amount of effort being quite simple. Stopping in any craft store, it is possible to put together a small basket for scrapbooking for under thirty dollars. It is also possible to obtain the materials to make gifts for more people for the same amount of money. The question is how much work you wish to put in to it. Given below are three craft ideas that use common household objects in an innovative fashion to produce a lovely holiday gift.

Personalized Picture Frame

This picture frame is decorated with a process known as decoupage. This process can be used to decorate just about anything that the glue will stick to. If you desire, you can add bits of fabric, rickrack, beads, and other materials. It is best to leave the addition of 3-D objects such as beads until the final layer of images is completed. If you don't wish to use hair spray to seal your frame, there are commercial sealants for use on paintings. This will also work well, though it will cost more then the generic can of hair spray in your bathroom.
Items Needed:
  1. 1 inexpensive medium sized picture frame with a moderately wide, unfinished wooden molding
  2. An array of magazines with photos
  3. Scissors
  4. Liquid white glue (also known as school glue, not to be confused with rubber cement)
  5. Paintbrush
  6. Small container of water
  7. A can of hair spray
The first step in this project is to select pictures from your magazine that remind you of the person whom you are making this frame for. Depending on how you wish to present the frame, it is possible to use small or medium pictures for this project. One can use portions of pictures for this project and no harm will be done. This is a creative work and your artistic discretion is paramount.

In your container of water, mix your glue and water together until it resembles skim milk in appearance. Disassemble your picture frame, placing the backing, glass, and any matting material aside. Using your paint brush, apply a thin layer of the glue mixture to your frame's molding. Assemble the first layer of images on your frame. Allow the glue mixture to dry. Usually, this is for an hour if you used a thin coat. A thicker coating of the glue mixtures requires a longer period of time.

Once the frame is dry, apply another coat of the glue mixture over the paper. This needs to be a thin coat to prevent weakening the paper or otherwise degrading your images selected from something such as having the ink from printing them run. When the frame is dry, apply a third coat of the glue mixture and assemble your next layer of images. Allow this to dry. Continue the layering process until your frame is covered in the selected images. With each layer, add another hour of drying time prior to adding more to it.

When your layering is finished and dry, spray heavily with the hair spray. Set aside and allow to dry. The hair spray works to seal the glued images to the frame and help resist atmospheric moisture, prolonging the life of your gift. Upon completion, re-assemble the frame and insert any picture you wish to give. If no picture is to be given, just the frame, wrap the frame lightly with tissue paper and place into your gift bag.

Yarn Dollies

Nothing says homespun more then classic children's toys. Yarn Dollies are definitely one of the oldest and easiest children's toys to make. There are countless variations appropriate for different ages. Dolls can be used by children of either gender (Because that's what those action figures really are!) and are wonderful tools for development because they encourage imaginary play.
Items Needed:
  1. 1 skein of yarn
  2. Ruler and a pencil
  3. Scissors
  4. Cardboard
Determine how long you desire for the doll your making should be. With your ruler and pencil, mark off this length on your cardboard. Cut your cardboard to this dimension. Take your skein of yarn and wrap it once around the cardboard. Tie a square knot to secure the loose end and then wrap your yarn about the cardboard 100 times. This determines the thickness of your doll. If you desire thicker or thinner, adjust the number of times you wrap your yarn accordingly. Tie a square knot to secure your final wrap of the yarn and cut free from the skein.

Cut a length of yarn from your skein long enough for you to be able to tie around the wrapped yarn. Pick one edge of the cardboard and tie your yarn together into a bundle there. Secure this with a square knot. If you desire to have your yarn remain looped, fold your length of cardboard enough to remove the tension on your loops of yarn. This will allow you to slip your yarn free from the cardboard. With a second length of yarn, tie another knot about the bundle of yarn roughly an inch down from the knot holding your looped yarn in a bundle. This forms the head of your doll.

Divide your yarn bundle into four separate smaller bundles. The two bundles to the outside of the arrangement need to be tied close to the lower knot forming the head with a separate length of yarn for each. A third of the way to the ends of these bundles, the bundle needs secured here as well. This roughly forms the arms. The arms then have the excess yarn cut off after the lower knot. Additional lengths of yarn can be knotted to secure the arms additionally, but this is not required.

At roughly the same distance from the head of your doll as the ends of the doll's arms are, secure the two inner bundles together. This forms the body of the doll. The legs are then formed in the same fashion as the arms. If you desire for the doll to have a 'dress' the legs need not be divided and secured. If you are so inclined the arms, body, and legs can be braided prior to knotting. If you are giving this doll to a young child, the braiding is a good idea as it helps prevent the child from accidentally pulling the doll apart and eating some of the yarn.

Tin Can Tea Light Lantern

This project is slightly more difficult and oriented towards an adult or teenager construction. I've done this project several times in the past and I have had favorable reactions. I strongly advise that when constructing this project, hold the can still with a pair of blocks or something else that is safer then your knees. If a vise is available, use it but be careful not to crush your can. Use caution! The designs best suited for punching are geometric. Think about the star patterns on the old steel and aluminum colanders, they are great sources of ideas!

Items Needed:
  1. 1 empty 10 oz steel can, washed, dried, and label removed
  2. Masking tape
  3. Pattern template
  4. Hammer and 1 ten penny nail
  5. 4 in length of steel wire and pliers
  6. Safety glasses and leather workman's gloves
With your masking tape, secure your pattern template to your can. Using the hammer and nail, carefully punch holes into your can as indicated on the template. Take care to avoid punching the nail completely through the can. As you work, the can will deform slightly. This is to be expected and using your gloves, you can return the can to it's proper shape with some gentle pressure. If the can has sharp edges at the opening, carefully tap the rim until the edges are blunted and turned inwards.

If a hanging hook is desired, a length of wire can be cut to form it. Taking a pair of pliers, bend an end of the wire into a button hook shape and slip through a hole near the top of the can. Secure the end of the wire by twisting it around the length left free. Make sure the sharp end of the wire is pointing down into the can, if possible threaded through the coils created by wrapping the wire. Repeat this at the opposite side of the can in a hole at approximately the same place. This will give your tin can lantern a bucket like appearance.

Use this lantern with care because metal conducts heat. Painting the lantern is not a good idea because the heat from the candle can potentially scorch the paint. It is wise to make sure that the wire used for the hanging hook is of the same material as the lantern itself. If you have an aluminum can, do not use steel wire. Aluminum encourages the corrosion of steel in the presence of moisture and you will eventually develop rust streaks down the aluminum.

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