23 Aug 2014
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Get Crafty: Make Hand-Made Gifts

Kids and adults can make a wide variety of relatively low-cost gifts. Here are books with instructions on how to use duct tape, gloves, and old neckties to make hand-crafted gifts.

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Oh no, still need some gifts, eh?  Christmas is just around the corner, your kids'  banks, real or virtual, are depleted.

What to do? You could look at Pinterest and of course there is Martha Stewart...but the advantage of browsing through a kids' craft book over googling for an idea, is that you can be fairly sure the result will be what is promised in the picture. This helps avoid a disappointing meltdown when that nifty idea for gluing macaroni to a can proves stickier than expected.

All these titles can be found through the library and they will show each step of the process for each project.

Being very practical, I like books that emphasize repurposing items in a truly useful way  AND which have ideas that can be done with little parental intervention. 

Two different books, Laurie Goldrich Wolf's Recyclo-gami (2010) and Green Crafts  by Megan Friday (2012) both had variations on an attractive present that would work for boys or girls - making a decorative bag out of duct or electrical tape or leftover fabric or wrapping paper (hint, hint -save your paper for next year!).  Yes, you simply cut the tape or fabric or paper and make a patchwork design on the bag, which makes it sturdier and unique.  The beauty of this project is that even if your younger child is ruler and scissor challenged, the decoration really doesn't have to be symmetrical.

You could do the same thing on a tissue box to make a decorative box. Or, as Jean Eick points out in Christmas Crafts  (2011), you can use this technique to make napkin rings,  with toilet paper tubes...(Why limit this to Christmas, I say? Any occasion will do! A set of napkin rings would make a very nice little present!)   

Another idea from Green Crafts is to decorate baby food jars (or any jar even without a lid) with tissue paper....You can then put a tea light (battery operated if you don't want the flames) which is beautiful on any holiday table.  You can use the lids to make wonderful magnetic picture frames as well. 

Carol Stirrine in Old Wrappers, Cans, and Bottles (2010) takes those lids a step further by first turning each one into its own little work of art and then affixing them to  a frame for a bigger picture or to decorate a mirror.

Kathy Ross, who probably has a world record for number of craft books published,  has a great idea for using gloves in Step by Step Crafts for Gifts....well actually two projects based on one glove!  First you cut off the wrist of that stretchy glove. Then you glue magnets to the cuff (make sure your child doesn't try to eat or use those magnets near their face or near a computer). Then have your child trace his/her hand on cardboard and put it through the cuff. Don't get it? Well the hand is modelling how the gift is used; next time the person getting this gift is being a fixit person around the house, they  wear this cuff and put all those washers, screws etc. on the magnets so they don't lose them while working!

The other use is a cat toy for that cat-addicted person (surely you know at least one?)...you cut off the tip of that glove, stuff it with cotton, attach it to a retractable tape measure, make it look like a mouse and...well if you have a cat, you know what happens next. (Catnip is a clear alternative to pure cotton!)

For older kids or even teens,  Sheri Bell-Rehwoldt's The Kids' Guide to Duct Tape Projects, duct tape (what else) comes to the rescue again with  a wallet project or even a bouquet of (never fade) roses.  Her duct-tape ideas involve making "fabric" by sticking 2 pieces of duct tape together and then working with that.

If this is too challenging for your child then try Laurie Goldrich Wolf's idea in Recyclo-gami, where you are actually using that old wallet and giving it a brand new look and virtually indestructible life with duct or electrical tape. 

Now about those ties... If you need a cell phone case but don't want to use duct tape (although both these books show how), you can then get that old tie and Kathy Ross will walk you through the process in her Step by Step Crafts for Gifts. 

Alternatively if you don't need a cell phone case but you do need a Hannukah gift, Ross shares, in Crafts to Make in the Winter (1999), a Dreidel banner where, you guessed it, she snips off the bottom of the ties to make a dreidel shape which you then decorate and hang up...not  useful per se but very attractive. 

A hint before using any of these books (crafting is rather like cooking): read through each step with your child so you know what you really need to have on hand...and what can be eliminated.  For example, Megan Friday's books often require "waterproof sealant"...quite frankly watered down glue will often work. 

At the end of the day, making a gift has value to everyone, not only the recipient but from the process of learning and satisfaction of creation that a craft can bring. 

PS. Craft, crafting... What does it really mean? Originally, per the Oxford English Dictionary, it meant 'strength, power, might, force and then by 888 AD included "intellectual power, skill, art" with a meaning that hinted of magical powers. Handicraft showed up in the 13th century to emphasize that you were using, not your feet, not your nose but yes your hands to make these amazing things...And just so you know, apparently the whole "craft" as in spacecraft,  was because "craft' was the shorthand word for a boat made by a skilled boatmaker who knew his craft...or at least you hoped!

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