Today’s project is for both the green crafters, and those of you whose gifts have to travel, whether that’s in a suitcase or in a box full of packing peanuts. No matter how carefully you wrap them, you perfect bows and decorations will arrive in a tattered condition. But by using your sewing machine to decorate some plain paper – even a recycled grocery bag – you can lean into the challenge and create something that will arrive just as beautiful as when it left.
It’s now the week before Christmas and time to admit that what hasn’t gotten done yet might just not get done. So instead of starting another craft project, I wanted to turn my attention to wrapping up everything I’ve been making.
All week long I’ll have easy and innovative gift wrapping ideas, all with video demonstrations so you don’t miss a thing. First up: How to tie the Perfect Bow. It is so so so much easier than you think it is.
My mother-in-law is renown for her Christmas gifts to friends and neighbors because unlike the regular paper cookie plate everyone gives, she spends the year stalking closeouts and after season sales for beautiful Christmas dishes at a fraction of their usual price. She’s had the same neighbors for 25 years who now have a stunning collection of Christmas dishes thanks to Sally’s efforts.
For my own neighbor gift I wanted to take a cue from Sally, but it had to have a handmade touch, of course. I pulled out my glass paints and decided to paint an image on the back of the plate. This makes it so that the food doesn’t touch the paint, if you have any concerns about that kind of thing, and it also makes the image shine through the glass beautifully. It’s like you’re decorating and framing it in one.
First you need a pattern. I went ahead and made patterns that you can download down below, but you can paint anything you want. The only thing to keep in mind is that your pattern will need to be reversed. Since you’re painting it on the back you’re painting the mirror image, so make sure that you flip the pattern in your printer settings. Then tape it to the right side of the plate.
Flip the dishes over so that the back is right side up. Different glass paints will have different instructions for preparing the surface, but you’ll at least need to make sure that it’s super clean. Use alcohol to remove fingerprints or debris.
When you normally paint something you paint from the back to the front. You paint the background first and then add layers on until the last thing you paint are the outlines and highlights. With this method it’s reversed. The first thing you paint is what will be on the very top, and then you’ll work backwards. So on these patterns, what is in the very front is the text, so that’s what you paint first.
The next layer was the outlines of the cookies or carrots, then the chips or the carrot greens, and then the background color.
If your paint is a little translucent like mine was, you can use an opaque white paint to back it. Once your last layer is dry, paint the entire backside of the plate with your background color.
I fell so in love with this project that I made sure to make one for myself. With this design I’m not just giving a cute Christmas plate, but a tradition.
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As a former professional scrapbooker, I am all about memory keeping. I’m still known to scrapbook every once in a while, I’ve made shutterfly books, I’m always looking for a great way to celebrate our personal histories. Especially for Atti since every day for him seems so hard won. I’ve loved everything I’ve ever tried, but they were always more for me or for when he grows up. Personalized stuff is expensive, so I couldn’t just let go and let him tear apart his baby book as he played with it, but like every kid, he so loves looking at things that are just for him. This year I decided to make him a personalized book out of fabric. He can chew on this, leave it for the dog to step on, drop it on the ground, and I don’t have to cry. I’ll just toss it in the washing machine.
There are many ways to transfer images onto fabric, including fabric you can run right through your printer. For this one I decided to use iron ons. I planned out my book by choosing photos that represented what his life is like right now. I chose pictures that reflected his favorite things, how he spends his time, and special moments that won’t last forever. I printed these all out on iron on paper following the instructions on the packaging. The most important thing to remember is that you have to print the image reversed, especially the text. Watch the video below for all the details about working with the iron on paper.
My pages are pieces of unbleached canvas that I cut to 8 x 11. You can use any kind of fabric that will work with your iron ons. Again, consult your directions.
Once your image is printed, you have to cut it out. I try to cut as close to the image as possible. You can see around the letters a clear halo effect that the iron on leaves behind. If you trim that close it will look a lot better. Iron on as your package instructs you to.
As you’re placing your images, keep in mind the layout of your book. I’ve got this picture off to the side to leave room for the spine of the book. Which means that I’ll have to make sure I have my page order straight. You don’t want to cut anything off because you got your pages out of order.
The cover is made in just the same way as the pages, only twice as wide so it can wrap around to make the front and back. Cut two pieces, pin them wrong sides together, and zig zag stitch around the edge.
Fold the cover in half and mark where the spine will meet the pages. In what will be the front and what will be the back, install three eyelets just as you did on the pages. You can add some decoration here as well. I printed my title on more iron on paper and then sewed it on the cover with more zig zag stitch.
Atti loves to sit on my lap as I’m editing photos and laugh at all the pictures of himself. I think this book is going to be seeing the inside of my washing machine pretty soon. It’s a good thing it’s ready to make that trip.
I had my little nieces in mind for this gift. I wanted something that would encourage their creativity and imagination, so I went back to my childhood and thought about what I liked to play with. Dress up dolls were big for me, but I would always get frustrated by the fact that the clothes wouldn’t stay put and the paper was too fragile. Using actual fabric will solve the fragility, velcro keeps things in place, and having the doll on top of the box means that all the little pieces automatically have a place to go.
On the top of the lid I painted a little doll. I just freehanded it, but you could trace a cookie cutter or even decoupage a paper doll right on top. I chose skin and hair and eye colors that matched my niece, since every little kid likes to see themselves reflected in their toys.
Then I pulled out all my most interesting fabric scraps, the fuzzy ones, the sparkly ones, and plenty of tulle, and made a whole bunch of little clothes. To make the tutu I gathered the top edge of a square of tulle with my sewing machine. I didn’t use any patterns here, I just held the piece of fabric up to the doll I painted and snipped until it worked.
On the back of each piece of clothing I stuck a little piece of velcro. I used the kind that comes with a sticky back, but you can use a fabric glue to hold it in place too. For the clothes I used the loop side of the velcro so that when they’re all in a pile together they won’t get stuck and fray the fabric.
The hook side of the velcro I placed on my little doll. One at shirt level and one at waist level. If you make any shoes or purses or other accessories, just stick another little piece wherever you want the option of placing them.
I had so much fun making little outfits that I think this is actually going to be hard to give away. Three through twelve year old me would have gone nuts over this.
To make this an extra creative toy, you can include squares of fabric and velcro in the box and let the kid make up her own outfits. Then you’ll be letting her have her play time and training up a future fashion designer at the same time.
It’s time to turn our attention to the baby on your Christmas list, especially if that baby doesn’t get to spend much time with the people who love them. I made these blocks for Atti, who while no longer a baby, still likes to make things crash. These wooden blocks are so easy they practically don’t even need a tutorial!
You can buy precut blocks at your craft store, or you can cut them yourself. I used 1 1/2″ blocks, and then went to my computer and printed off pictures and names of each family member at that same 1 1/2″. Each block needs 3 pictures and 3 names.
Use a paper trimmer or scissors and a steady hand to cut out each of your pieces.
You can use all kinds of things to decoupage the papers onto the blocks, but since the idea is that a baby could play with these and babies put everything in their mouths (and my toddler does too) I used regular old white school glue. Some on the block…
And then some more on the top.
I just used my inkjet printer and copy paper, so the photos got a little fuzzy. I think it’s actually a kind of cool effect, but if you want your images crystal clear, use a laser or photo printer.
And as always, here’s the video instructions!
These are so simple bigger kids could make these for their baby brother or sister, and they’re a wonderful way for far away aunts or grandparents to introduce themselves into the baby’s life.
What screams “Grandma gift” more than something made out of a doily? Nothing right! Of course, today’s grandma’s are so hip that you can’t even find a doily in the stores anymore. After striking out all over town, I finally had to settle on a brand new piece of lace, that hadn’t been handmade or anything. Sigh. But even though this project was inspired by the doily kind of Grandma, I think even Atti’s Chico-wearing blinged-out too-hip-for-Grandma Grandma will love this take on tradition.
You’ll need a piece of fabric to make your bowl, some cooking spray to act as a mold release, a resin kit, mixing supplies, paintbrush, and something to be your mold. I bought this plastic bowl at the dollar store and it worked perfectly. Plastic is best since it releases so nicely, but what’s most important is that it’s smooth.
Spray your mold with the cooking spray, and then drape your lace over the bowl. You’ll want a piece big enough to drape over so you don’t have to worry about holding it up somehow. Mix up the resin according to the instructions on your package. You’ll only want to mix up enough to be used at one time, so don’t get carried away. It will depend on the size of the bowl you’re making, but I mixed up about a cup for the first coat. Pour a bunch in the bottom of the bowl, then use your paintbrush to bring it up the sides until all the lace inside the bowl is covered.
Let it dry overnight, and then trim off all the excess fabric so that your lace bowl is flush with the mold.
Mix up a few tablespoons of resin and brush onto the sides to make them stronger. You can add as many coats as you’d like to get the sides as thick as you want, but you’ll have to be patient and build it up gradually. The resin will want to flow down to the base, which is great because you’ll have a nice strong foundation, but can be difficult if you want a really solid side. Just take your time with it.
I ended up just doing three coats of resin on the walls of the bowl, which made it sturdy, but still a little flexible. I think this would be a perfect spot to display sentimental collections – pretty rocks picked up on walks, seashells from trips to the beach – and if you used fabric that had some emotional significance it could mean even more. This was inspired by wanting a gift for Grandmas, but I think anyone with a flair for the romantic would love this project.
I’m always coming across picture frames at thrift stores that are perfectly good, but boring as all get out. And then I go to a fancy store and find a beautiful picture frame that my cheap ass self can’t stomach buying when there are thrift stores in this world. So the solution is to take the thrift store frame, and find a way to turn it into something beautiful.
The thrift store gods weren’t cooperating with me this time and I couldn’t find a frame that fit what I needed, so this is actually a brand new frame from Target. Cheap enough, but still boring. You need one with a wide frame so it will fit your embellishments. The embellishments you can find at any hardware store.
Here’s where the magic happens. Spray a THIN coat of cooking spray on top of your dried base coat. Then spray on your top coat, black in my case. The cooking spray will act as an extender to keep the spray paint soft enough to work with, and help blend the colors together.
Men are the hardest to shop for, and especially for kids. Dad stuff is either obscure, expensive, or obscure and expensive. So most often we seem to go for ties. But I thought it might be great to take that usual old tie and make it a little unusual. You can sew a tie out of just about any fabric, but I wanted something personal to commemorate Atti’s first letters, so I went for some of his artwork.
There are plenty of tie patterns available at the fabric store and online, but Bear happens to have a whole mountain of ties that are stained or ugly or inherited from somebody who bought them ten years ago. I used one of those ties as my pattern, and the bonus is that I could reuse the interfacing that came inside of it.
As you can see from our pattern, a tie has to be cut on the bias. This means cut diagonally on the fabric to get the fabric at its stretchiest. Unless you buy a ton of fabric you’re probably going to have to piece your tie together to get the length you need, but all you have to do is place the two pieces perpendicular to each other and sew a diagonal seam.
Cut one piece out of a lining fabric, and one piece out of a plain fabric suitable to be your canvas, piecing as necessary to get the length you need.
Decorate your main fabric. I used regular old wax crayons because Atti knows how to use them and they’re cheap, but you can use all kinds of things that are specially made for fabric decorating. I used an unbleached muslin as my main fabric so Atti could color his heart out and it would look great. If you use wax crayons you’ll need to heat set them so they don’t wash out or melt off. Place a rag or piece of paper on top of the coloring and then iron it with a dry iron. The wax will melt and be absorbed into the press cloth and leave the pigment behind.
With your design finished it’s time to assemble the tie. Lay the front and lining fabrics on top of each other, right sides together, and sew the points of each end. Cut the tip of the seam allowance off for easy turning.
Turn the tie right side out and iron the points. Take the interfacing you saved and center it between the front and the lining fabrics, using a fusible web or adhesive spray if you need to. Pin the sides together and sew them closed down the whole length of the tie. Don’t fold the edges in, leave the raw parts out.
Fold the edges towards the lining, using your seam line as a guide. Iron in place.
Using your interfacing as a guide, fold the edges towards the center to make your final tie shape. Use a needle and thread to sew the tie closed.
We obviously colored this together, Atti’s not exactly to the “drawing people in wheelchairs” stage of his artistic development, but the letters are all his own. I’ll be giving this to Bear next week as his birthday present, and I predict tears!
Jewelry making is my go to when I’m gift giving. You can put something together in a matter of minutes that will have people dropping jaws at your mad skills. For this necklace I was inspired by the huge pearl necklace one of the characters on 2 Broke Girls wears. It’s such a pretty statement piece and so easy to make.
All my gift projects will come with a video tutorial, so don’t forget to subscribe to the channel so you don’t miss ideas for anyone on your list.
This time of year is super hard on anybody who struggles with mental illness, and I am currently typing my way through a fog of depression that has my bed calling my name. I had a long debate with myself if I should wait to share this until I was up to writing something pithy, or just put it out there. Obviously I decided to let the video do my blogging today. That’s one thing about living with bipolar II disorder. Some days it gives me the creative superpower to come up with all these ideas, and other days it charges me for it. Today is one of those days I have to pay the piper. So I’m going to trust you all to get where I’m coming from, and I’m heading to bed.