Handmade crafts combine creativity and gift giving

Columnist Meghan White creates crafts to give as gifts for the holiday season. As much as I like both giving and receiving handmade things, I don’t give or receive nearly as many as I’d like

Meghan WhiteColumnist Meghan White creates crafts to give as gifts for the holiday season.

As much as I like both giving and receiving handmade things, I don’t give or receive nearly as many as I’d like to. Since coming to college I think I’ve requested handmade gifts twice, and maybe gifted 10 handmade things–and some of them weren’t even made by me.

I feel guilty about it. My family always loved the elementary school craft-fair projects I made for them. And now, I’m much more skilled and capable of making things that can actually be used, or at least displayed year round.

So I promised myself this year would be different, and that a majority of the gifts I would be giving would be of the handmade variety. It’s pretty safe to say that I’m pretty broke and have a lot of craft supplies just hanging out, waiting to be used. So I keep telling myself that if I spend a little less time messing around on the Internet and a little more time making things, I can give everyone in my life some sweet handmade gifts this holiday season.

But seriously, I hope to be like Oprah this year: “Handmade for you and you. Everyone gets something handmade.” It may not be a new car, but it will have to do.

Let’s face it–the Internet is a great resource. It may be a little late in the game to pick up an entirely new skill in time for the holidays, but there are definitely tutorials and patterns out there for pretty much anything you can dream of.

I’ll get to my own holiday crafting in a second, but I want to praise the Internet a bit more. If crafting just isn’t your thing, or if you’re so pressed for time that you can’t make people things this year, you should seriously consider buying handmade. There are numerous sites out there like etsy.com, where artists and crafters sell their goods. So instead of buying something from a big-box store, you can give a gift as unique as the receiver.

Similarly, etsy.com is great for craft supplies. Frankly, I have trouble finding everything I need for crafting at traditional craft stores. And often, specialty stores are smaller and someone is there breathing down your neck asking if you need help. Apparently, “No thank you, I’m just browsing,” isn’t always sufficient and I wind up bouncing out of there because I’m so uncomfortable. Seriously, that really can’t just be me who does that.

Etsy.com also has the benefit of not having to buy things in bulk. Yes, I could find a retailer selling 100 ring bases for dirt cheap, but I don’t need 100 ring bases and I’m really trying to get better about not hoarding craft supplies. Instead, I’ll spend a bit more per piece and just order a smaller amount from a vendor.

So far I’ve offered up two vague ideas on going handmade with gifts this season, buying handmade and looking up tutorials that interest you on the Internet. Now it’s time for the actual ideas for gifts this season.

Hand Stamped Apron or Tote

This idea is simple and holiday appropriate. The apron can be given as a gift to the cook or baker in your life, and the tote can be used as a gift bag that can be reused. Additionally, this craft is not that time consuming and stamped fabrics are in. Like most crafts, this is very customizable and you can do something clean and simple or something a little more chaotic.

You’ll Need:

– a plain apron or tote

– chunky foam stamps

– fabric paints

– sponge brush

The steps:

1. Put several colors of fabric paint onto a palate. I used a piece of tin foil with the edges rolled up a bit.

2. Use the foam brush to apply paint to your foam stamps. Don’t go overboard applying the paint and feel free to mix colors. Consider reverting back to your finger-painting days.

3. Stamp design onto apron or tote. I opted to use three different leaf designs and applied them with no set pattern all across the apron.

4. Wait for paint to dry and set according to directions on bottle.

Rock or Cabochon Cameo Ring

I went through a phase earlier this year when I just wanted to make rings. I wanted rings with rocks and crystals on them, rings with cabochon cameos on them and well, basically I would consider putting anything on a ring that would stay attached.

Crystal jewelry is trendy and feminine. Cameos–a silhouette image–are a classic image, but now you can find anything from traditional cameos to skulls, to unicorns. There are several types of ring bases, but if you’re giving the ring as a gift, make sure you use an adjustable ring base.

You’ll need:

– adjustable ring base–if you’re using a cabochon you will either need the kind with the attached setting, or a bezel setting you can attach yourself in the size of the cameo

– something to put on your ring–cabochon cameos are a good place to start, as are rocks or crystals

– a strong adhesive–I love E6000, but it takes forever to dry so I use Zap-a-Gap for an initial hold and then put E6000 on for reinforcement.

The steps:

1. Select your ring base and whatever you want on the ring. If you’re using a rock or crystal figure out what side or angle looks best.

2. Wipe down the surfaces to be glued with rubbing alcohol. This helps to ensure a more secure adhesion.

3. Attach the cameo to the setting using your adhesive of choice. Make sure not to use too much or else it will ooze out around the sides.

4. Attach the setting or the rock or crystal to the ring base using your adhesive of choice.

5. Let ring dry. Like, seriously let the ring dry. Strong adhesives are a pain to get off of the skin and can burn.

These are two ideas for handmade gifts this holiday. Consider making something small and personal, buy handmade or even use one of my previous tutorials. You’re in college and giving handmade things is still perfectly acceptable, and will give you something to keep you busy when you aren’t studying during those study days.

Meghan White can be reached at meghan.white@temple.edu.

MEGHAN WHITE TTN Applying fabric paint to an apron or tote bag creates a unique pattern and homemade gift to give during the holiday season. (Top) Cameo rings provide another unique gift and are easily made.

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