holidays approach: that time of taking shelter from the cold with family
gatherings, reunions with old friends, and revitalized communal traditions.
It is a time for gift giving and buying, for spending hours trolling stores
or the Web in a desperate search for a trinket that will please, but at
the same time, will not bust the budget. Oh my gosh! They've started counting
down the days! What are we going to do?
With the economy
turned south, many of us do not feel as full in the wallet as we did a
year ago. Can the Web help? Need you ask!
Freeze Your Credit Cards?
Let's turn first
to Robin in Arkansas. Her personal site [http://www.robinsfyi.com/holidays/christmas/christmasbudgetn.htm]
is full of down-home advice about, well, just about everything. Her recipe
for not incurring too much debt at Christmas? "Choose which credit card
you want to use. Place all others in a zip-lock freezer bag. Place the
bag in a bowl of water. Place bowl in freezer. Thaw in February."
But perhaps, like
me, you've memorized your credit card numbers, so this suggestion
doesn't really help. Instead, you may have some extra time and an urge
to fashion something with your hands. If that is true, take a look at these
sites. They suggest simple crafts and gifts that even I could make.
You may worry that
these handmade gifts imply that you are too poor to buy all your friends
those DVD players they've wanted. Remember though, that these can just
as well send the message that you care enough to give from the heart.
Or, like me, you
may just be cheap.
always fun to learn a new simple craft. Working on little hobbies like
these can be soothing, too, in stressful times. And holidays on a budget
are especially stressful. Giving becomes therapy when you develop your
skills at crafts to make the gifts.
A Question of Taste
Over the decades,
I have occasionally attempted handicrafts. I taught myself to knit and
crochet and I used to do quite a bit of sewing. One thing I noticed about
craft patterns: most of them make things so silly or ugly that I wouldn't
have them in my home.
Taste is in the
mouth of the beholder, it is true. Still, when I visit the craft store,
I can't help but notice the general disconnect between the compulsion to
make things and any talent for design.
In the 1980s Martha
Stewart brought professional artisans onto the American craft scene. As
a result, most of her patterns make things that are quite lovely. Yet,
even she comes up with the occasional loser, e.g., the Christmas stockings
cut from old sweaters [http://www.marthastewart.com/good_things/good_things.asp?CID=338&idContentType=7].
"Making a stocking from a patterned sweater creates the illusion that you
knit it yourself," asserts Ms. Stewart.
No, Martha, it
doesn't. Still, her craft designs offer style on a budget, just like her
line of bedding sold at K-Mart. Let's see what Martha and her ilk suggest
as cool and easy projects to make as gifts for the holidays.
I'll say it right
out: These gifts are girly: mostly soaps, candles, and teas. Still,
a man may appreciate some of these items, such as the hand-knit scarf or
a butcher apron.
Leave it to Martha
to provide this pattern for making a simple scarf — and teaching us how
to knit, too! The muffler is lovely, and anyone in a cold climate would
Do you have one
yard of fabric sitting around that you really like but don't know what
to do with it? Why not make a butcher apron? This simple project is perfect
for those learning to sew. Complete step-by-step directions are included
along with advice on drafting your own pattern.
you this recipe for making bath salts for relaxing warmth on cold winter
When my son was
small, I wanted to make him a book of cloth. I wish this site had existed
then! Make one of these for the toddler in your life.
Martha knows that
not all of us sew very well. So, she takes pains to teach us how and offers
simple projects that even we can complete. My favorite? Padded hangers.
They are easy to make and very practical.
Do you know someone
who is learning to sew? Use this guide to assemble a quality sewing kit
to give at Christmas.
for Kids! Homemade Holiday Gifts
The readers of
Dollar Stretcher [http://www.stretcher.com/index.cfm] send in their
ideas for nice holiday gifts. Suggestions include flavored oils, teas,
and coffees, crafty candles, fancy chocolate covered spoons, and baked
goods in decorated baskets.
from a "Mrs. Santa Towel Ring" to a "Primitive Pines Yo-Yo Afghan &
Christmas Tree Skirt," all thanks to Priscilla Hewitt and her free patterns.
Bob Sherman, expert
candle maker, is your About.com guide to these activities. He offers basic
candle- and soap-making instructions, as well as wild variations. Make
beautiful, practical gifts for your friends with his tips.
"crafter's resource center," posts this long list of gifts to make for
the holidays. Try the Christmas stocking made from old neckties.
Craft Shop: Free Pattern Links
Visit this Canadian
crafts directory to find hundreds of the best free craft patterns on the
Web. Example crafts include beading, woodworking, sewing, and stained glass.
Folks often enjoy
receiving unusual ornaments for Christmas trees. Pretty ones may become
heirlooms one day.
serves up ideas about how to fashion charming ornaments from plastic fruits,
tinsel, and fabric covered balls.
Have a Green
Factory offers detailed instructions on how to make darling "gingerbread"
house ornaments out of polystyrene meat trays. They really look great!
Also, check out the rich-looking garlands made of wallpaper scraps.
of the Hobby Lobby offers directions for making an attractive parchment
Christmas tree suspended in a glass globe.
Print this out,
fold it up, then hang it on the tree. Cool!
Print out Lynda
Williams' instructions for assembling angels out of shells, a pearl, and
bits of lace.
Make Santa and
tree ornaments out of felt. Stuff then decorate with glued-on trinkets.
Fun for kids!
As long as you
are decorating the tree, you might as well do the rest of the house, too,
inside and out!
Let Martha Stewart
teach you how to make holiday wreaths, Christmas stockings, ornaments,
cards, and home-made snow globes.
for instructions on making holiday candleholders and a cute reindeer planter
I remember this
time last year when my son Pete was scheduled to play one of myriad elves
in the school Christmas pageant. The call went out: "Elf hats and shoes
for 18 5-year-olds!" Fortunately, the Web was there to save the day.
Christmas Elf Costume
Here are directions
for making a simple elf tunic and hat, using the child's body as the pattern!
the About.com guide to sewing, offers free patterns and instructions for
making elf shoes out of felt and "Giffy Grip" puffy fabric paint.
Knit a cozy Santa
hat from this free pattern from Crafters' Community.com.
Projects with Kids
The big fun of
the holidays is celebrating with children. Put them in charge of making
your decorations for you — it will save you a lot of money and work!
Kids will find
it easy to roll pinecones in diluted glue, then shake them in a bag full
of glitter. These can be hung by ribbons from the tree.
Use your printer
to produce patterns for five different old-fashioned buildings. When you
color these, cut them out, then glue them together, and you'll have a whole
enchanting miniature village for your home.
how to make an elf using a pine cone body and a small wooden or stone head.
Visit this page
from ChildFun.com for nearly two dozen ideas for Christmas ornaments kids
can make out of simple materials.
The whole Christmas
can be such a drag for those not raised in the Christian tradition. Never
fear! Jewish kids and their friends can celebrate Hannukah with craft ideas
from the following sites.
Themes and Activities for Kids
great ideas for celebrating the Festival of Lights. Come here for songs
to sing while eating latkes (recipe provided), instructions for making
dreidels out of small milk cartons, and edible menorahs.
Star of David
Grace Sylvan of
Kids Domain Craft Exchange shows how to make Star of David decorations
out of six popsicle sticks and glue. Paint them and use glitter to make
them sparkle. This is an easy project for kids to do.
Wrap It Up
Factory offers ways to recycle paper and boxes into fabulous wrappings
for holiday gifts.
Join HanuKat and
the DreiDells for eight nights of crafts and activities. Make a "fortune
teller," a dream catcher, and a HanuKat diorama.
Kwanzaa, the African-American
holiday, begins on December 26 and lasts for 7 days. Kwanzaa gifts, called
zawadi (zah-wah-dee), are made by hand. Examples include fabric dolls with
black-button eyes, homemade storybooks with African folk tales, and necklaces
strung with speckled beads.
Don't let the
"Junk" in the title discourage you. You can make some beautiful beads out
of discarded magazines. String these beads and give them as zawadi for
Make the seven-candled
Kinara out of small terra-cotta pots set in a large saucer.
Sharon Mehl of
Kids Domain Craft Exchange explains how to make the traditional African
Mancala Game out of an egg carton, 48 stones, and two tuna cans. She also
explains the rules of the game.
Aren't You Clever?
You have saved
money, played with your children, pleased your gift recipients, and impressed
everyone as a font of creativity. What a satisfying holiday after all.
Now, if you can just get that glue off of your hands before New Year's
Eve . . .
e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.