Vol. 9 No. 10 Nov./Dec. 2001
I Made It Myself: Holiday Crafts on the Web
by Irene E. McDermott
Reference Librarian/System Manager San Marino Public Library
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The 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 [] 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.

Whatever. It's 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 []. "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.

Basic Scarf
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 appreciate it.

Butcher Apron
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.

Bath Salts
Santaland brings you this recipe for making bath salts for relaxing warmth on cold winter nights.

Child's Fabric Shape Book
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.

Create a Sewing Kit
Do you know someone who is learning to sew? Use this guide to assemble a quality sewing kit to give at Christmas.

Not Just for Kids! Homemade Holiday Gifts
The readers of The Dollar Stretcher [] 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.

Priscilla's Christmas Crochet
Crochet everything 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.

Candle and Soap Making
Bob Sherman, expert candle maker, is your 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.

Free Christmas Craft Projects
Craftown, the "crafter's resource center," posts this long list of gifts to make for the holidays. Try the Christmas stocking made from old neckties.

One Stop 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.

Feature Project: Handmade Ornaments
Martha Stewart serves up ideas about how to fashion charming ornaments from plastic fruits, tinsel, and fabric covered balls.

Have a Green Christmas
The Imagination 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.

Christmas Tree Globe
Lynda Williams of the Hobby Lobby offers directions for making an attractive parchment Christmas tree suspended in a glass globe.

Origami Santa
Print this out, fold it up, then hang it on the tree. Cool!

Shell Angel
Print out Lynda Williams' instructions for assembling angels out of shells, a pearl, and bits of lace.

Felt Ornaments
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.

Christmas Decorations
Visit for instructions on making holiday candleholders and a cute reindeer planter tabletop decoration.

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.

Making a Christmas Elf Costume
Here are directions for making a simple elf tunic and hat, using the child's body as the pattern!

Elf Costume Shoes
Debbie Colgrove, the guide to sewing, offers free patterns and instructions for making elf shoes out of felt and "Giffy Grip" puffy fabric paint.

Knit Santa Hat
Knit a cozy Santa hat from this free pattern from Crafters'

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!

Sparkle Pinecones
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.

Christmas Village
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.

Pine Cone Elf
KinderArt explains how to make an elf using a pine cone body and a small wooden or stone head.

Homemade Christmas Ornaments
Visit this page from for nearly two dozen ideas for Christmas ornaments kids can make out of simple materials.

Hannukah Crafts
The whole Christmas Zeitgeist 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.

Hannukah Themes and Activities for Kids offers 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 Decorations
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 for Chanukah
The Imagination 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 Crafts
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.

Junk Mail Jewelry
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 Kawanzaa.

Kinara Centerpiece
Make the seven-candled Kinara out of small terra-cotta pots set in a large saucer.

Mancala Game
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 . . .

Irene McDermott's e-mail address is
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