When I first got a computer in 1999 (I am not an early adopter), one of the first things I discovered was a website called GetCrafty.com (here’s an archived page via the wayback machine), which featured articles about feminism, DIY culture, living frugally, and plenty of how-tos. I stumbled upon the site while looking for painting tips for my windowsill flowerpots. I found something else entirely.
I found the mothership.
Glitter has since moved to SuperNaturale, and GetCrafty still has an active board. Combined with Craftster, which has more amazing tutorials and pictures than you could ever peruse in a thousand lifetimes, these forums are like Petri dishes of creativity. They maintain the open exchange of ideas—from tips and tricks to patterns and complete tutorials—across this series of tubes that connect us all.
Over the years (and the last week or so), I have compiled a list of favorite projects from the ladies of the crafty Interweb. I call on this list routinely during the holiday crunch. These (and a million other) handmade gifts will save you money, save the planet, and always make your recipient feel special.
Vinyl Record Bowl/Planter
This is one of the first projects I ever made from the GetCrafty website. It was on the homepage for a long time. This may be the easiest, crowd-pleasingest gift you could ever make/give. Pick up a stack of thrift store records, set the oven on 200°, and start melting (maybe open a window, too). Record bowls (or planter—built in drainage hole) never fail to elicit oohs, aahs, and how-did-you-do-thats. The tutorial in the link is from SparkleCraft, who also credits GetCrafty for the instructions. Bonus tute: record jacket box!
Here is a classic from the craft boards. Marble magnets make a great stocking stuffer. Endlessly customizable, you need minimal supplies and can burn through your stacks of old magazines in the process. Whip out enough for an entire girl scout troop in a couple of hours or so—or get the girl scouts to help and save even more time.
Trick out dollar store candles with the Crafty Chica! This lady knows what to do with glue and scissors. Do whatever she says; you’ll be guaranteed to have fun and end up with something amazing, unique, and, very likely, covered in glitter. Crafty Chica’s website and blog are jammed with videos, instructions, and inspiration guide you on your crafty journey for the holidays or any day.
Crafters often complain that they don’t know what to make the men on their lists. I knitted a six-pack of beer cozies for a guy friend last year (in his baseball team’s colors), and there has been a request for a new set in his football team colors. I spell that V-I-C-T-O-R-Y. This pattern, from girl on the rocks, is almost too pretty to be a novelty item, but it uses up leftover yarn, so it’s the perfect stash buster.
Homemade Knitting Needles
What if your giftee is crafty too? Supplies are always welcome. Here’s a tutorial created by yours truly, back when I blogged (sporadically) about crafting and randomness. Desperation forced me to make my own double pointed knitting needles out of wooden dowels, and I’ve been using them for years.
Speaking of knitting, this customizable wrist warmer pattern from Craft looks so easy you could make one for every one on your list.
Amigurumi is the Japanese style of crocheting stuffed animals and creatures. Roxycraft has some adorable free patterns to get you started. Kids and adults alike will love these.
A craft post is not complete without mentioning the queen of craft. Whether we like it or not, we all beg, steal, and borrow from Martha Stewart because, well, she’s everywhere, and she’s amazing. These glitter star ornaments/package toppers are frustratingly pretty. I want to hate her and her perfection, but I just can’t. But I can make it with my own paper and personal twist. That’s the beauty of crafting.
I made a few of these 3D paper stars from Lost Button Studio to adorn some of my holiday gifts this year. I used a deep blue card stock and embellished the alternating sections with a lilac acrylic paint and superfine glitter.
These paper ball ornaments from Design Sponge have a retro vintage vibe, and I want to make thousands and hang them all over my house. Instead, I’ll probably just make a few to put on gift bags.
TODAY'S PROJECT: Stenciled Tote Bag
A tote bag is an easy beginner sewing project. I should know; I’m a beginning seamstress. I’m making a bunch this year, mostly because my good friend Ed has a new book (which I helped with—hee!) of his amazing graffiti-inspired stencils, and I want an excuse to go crazy with them. (Check him out at Stencil1.)
I based this pattern on a tote bag I own and love. I used fabric and ribbon I had on hand, but you can change these things to suit your needs. I hope this makes sense. It’s my first attempt at writing a pattern. Let me know if anything is unclear.
Here’s what you’ll need:
1 1/4 yd canvas (medium-weight cotton or lightweight denim or whatever you have)
1 1/2 yd x 6” remnant fabric (medium weight—can be same as above)
1 1/2 yd x 3” ribbon
Pencil or tailor’s chalk
Acrylic craft paint
Palette or paper plate
1) Measure your fabric to 16” wide x 32” long, marking your measurements on the underside with a pencil tailor’s chalk.
2) Measure your fabric to 16” wide x 32” long, marking your measurements on the underside with a pencil tailor’s chalk.
3) Cut your fabric to the measurements.
4) Iron your fabric.
5) Prepare to stencil. Put your fabric on a flat surface and place a large piece of paper under the fabric where your stencil will go. This will keep the paint from getting on the surface.
6) Position your stencil where you’d like it. Tape it in place.
7) Squeeze out a small amount of paint onto your palette. Gently dip your brush into the paint and dab the excess onto a clean part of the palette. Ed calls this the “dry brush” method. Check his site for tips and tutorials. If you use too much paint, it will seep behind the edges of the stencil, giving you a “muddy” line.
8) Begin filling in the stencil. I start with the more intricate areas first, making a dabbing motion. It’s best to layer the paint rather than gunk it up all at once. Do a thin coat; let it dry a minute or two and repeat until it’s the depth of color you want.
9) Leave the stencil in place until the paint is almost completely dry.
10) Carefully peel up the stencil when your paint is dry, and then wipe the stencil clean of the excess paint—you’ll be ready for the next time.
11) While your fabric is drying, you’re ready to start sewing the handles. Measure two 22” lengths of ribbon and two 22” lengths of your remnant fabric.
12) Measure two 22” lengths of ribbon and two 22” lengths of your remnant fabric.
13) Cut your lengths.
14) Place one piece of ribbon to one remnant with the front sides (if there are) facing the same direction. Repeat with the other two pieces.
15) For each handle: fold the two pieces together lengthwise with the remnant fabric on the inside. Pin every 3 inches perpendicular to the fold. You will be left with two long narrow pieces of fabric: ribbon outside, remnant inside. This is right side out.
16) With your sewing machine, joining the two sides together to make something of a tube, sew a straight seam in corresponding thread along the edge of the ribbon. Repeat for second handle.
17) Tada! Handles! (There are probably much easier ways to do this, but I had this really cute see-through ribbon I wanted to use and it needed a backing, blah, blah...)
18) The fabric should be dry by now. Measure and pin a 1/4” inch hem on either end of the fabric (the short sides).
19) Sew the hems with a straight stitch.
20) Now, placing one handle 3 1/2” inches in from each of the side edges and 1/2” down from the top, pin them on “upside down,” pointing toward what would be the inside of the bag. This will make sense in a second.
21) Fold over the hem you made another 1/2” to hide the handle attachment places and pin a hem all the way across. With your sewing machine, sew the handles in place. You will want to pass over each point a few times.
22) Flip the handle up, pin it place, and sew the hem across with one straight stitch. You’ll get a nice clean hem and secure, neat handle.
23) Repeat 20 – 22 on the other end.
24) The hard part is over. Now you just sew up the sides. Folding the fabric together inside out, and leaving a 1/2” seam allowance on both sides, sew your side seams with a medium zigzag.
25) Finishing. Clip all your dangling threads and head back to the ironing board. Fold an press the seam allowances so that they hide the stitches and leave a tidy band down the side seam.
26) Admire your amazing tote bag.
(Additional craft supply photo by Flickr member Chez Larsson.)