14 Affordable Christmas Crafts for You and Your Family
The moment you hear the contagious chorus—"fa la la la la"—you can be joyously certain that Christmas is here once again. This year, as you prepare to deck the halls, you can discover creative ways to make the holiday all the more jolly with handmade paper ornaments, a centerpiece glinting with snow, an igloo built from cake and ice cream, and other projects.
For a more affordable holiday of crafting, you can use tools and materials you already have in your home. Inexpensive notions like leftover trimmings, rickrack, and buttons can be made into cheerful cards. In lieu of expensive ribbons, try materials with more yardage, such as red-and-white bakers' twine, yarn, or raffia. There are plenty of alternatives to store-bought wrapping paper: Some coverings, including sewing patterns, sheet music, and maps, may be found around the house, while others—inexpensive fabric and floral paper, for example—are sold in large quantities. Keep this in mind in times of desperation (there's no such thing as "no wrapping left") as well as in times of inspiration. And a sheet of paper (plus out printable templates and clip-art) are all you need to craft beloved Christmas figurines like snowmen, reindeer, nutcrackers, elves, and Santa Claus himself.
Many of the crafts described here hit nostalgic notes, playing up techniques and motifs from seasons past. Some use decorating materials popular at the turn of the twentieth century, such as honeycomb paper and sheets of cotton batting. Others incorporate vintage designs and traditional good-luck symbols. So follow us in merry measure and you'll soon be crafting your own yuletide treasures.
Paper Christmas Figures
Send a Claus—or a snowman, a reindeer, an elf, or a nutcracker. Download the clip-art, and print it on card stock. You can send them off as holiday cards for the recipients to assemble. Thanks to our downloadable clip-art, these charming, ingenious holiday decorations are just some snips, folds, and glue dabs away.
Cut out the clip art with small scissors or a craft knife, and score folds with a bone folder. Wrap anything you want to have a curve or a curl (such as the nutcracker's arms and legs) around a pen. Assemble without glue to check the shape, then dab on glue with a small paintbrush.
A single sheet of paper can become a blizzard of snowflakes. Learn how to fold, cut, and decorate your own paper snowflakes for decorating the house, adding gift toppers, and anything else your imagination can envision.
Candy Cane Wreaths
Too many candy canes? (Never.) This hanging decoration is hot-glued piece by piece then bound in red twine, leaving a sweet, lasting impression for the winter season.
Pipe-Cleaner Snowflake Ornaments
Pipe cleaners can be snipped, twisted, and bent into snowflakes of all sizes. All you need are two household tools and a stack of white pipe cleaners to whip up a full-blown blizzard.
Hanging old toys on the Christmas tree spreads joy: Mom will be pleased to have less clutter, and the toys will be happy to be rescued from their dusty corners. Ask the children to help pick which toys to transform: building blocks, flash cards, stuffed animals. To hang, use needle and embroidery thread to stitch through soft toys, insert screw eyes into wooden toys, or wind embroidery thread through an opening or around a narrow part of the toy.
Stack gumdrops, dot them with sprinkles and other candies in creative ways, and watch the colorful confections come to life as snowmen, Santas, and other icons of the season. Wrap the candy pops in cellophane bags, and then attach them to gifts or slip them into stockings. Or create a holiday display: Partially fill a large glass jar with sanding sugar, and stand the figurines on flower frogs in the sparkling "snow."
Straw Garlands and Gift-Toppers
Gift toppers and garlands are crafted of colorful striped straws and string. They're inexpensive and easy enough even for kids to make. Start by marking two-inch intervals on drinking straws, and cut with scissors. Thread mason's twine through three tubes, then thread back through first tube to form a triangle. Repeat this until your garland reaches the desired length.
Atop a gift-wrapped wedge (will it be cheddar this year?), one mouse shows how even a pinecone with a quirky shape can be transformed. Large scales—used here to make wings, tails, and ears—are common in eastern white, western white, and sugar pinecones.
Cut large scales into rounded ear shapes. Paint the inner ears white; let dry. Paint twine brown for the tail; while it's still wet, twist twine around your finger to curl; let dry. Brush the top of the pinecone body with glue; attach the acorn head. Brush the wide end of the body with glue; attach tail; let dry. Brush the acorn head with glue; attach ears. Let dry. Paint on brown eyes and a nose.
It has the charm of a ship in a bottle but is far more festive: winter greenery contained in a delicate glass ornament. Fill glass-ball ornaments with sprigs of holly, bayberry, and evergreens. Remove the cap from an ornament, and carefully place a small piece of trimmed greenery inside. To prevent condensation from forming, leave the cap off for 24 hours before replacing it. Thread ribbon through the top loop, knot, and hang from the tree.
Shop Now: Darice Clear Glass Balls, 80 mm, $8 for 4, amazon.com.
Paper treat bags are just the right size to serve as festive envelopes for 5-by-7-inch holiday photo cards printed on heavyweight photo paper. Use mailing labels to make addressing easy, and then add postage. They're cheaper than envelopes and come in a range of colors and patterns.
Paper Plate Angels
Perfect for a holiday table to entertain younger guests, each one of these demure angels hold a written place card. They're made with 6-inch plain white paper plates. Choose a variety with a fluted edge and use our printable templates to shape them into life.
Living Fern Wreath
For a really fresh take on evergreen wreaths, we made one from indoor ferns. To make your own, wet a sphagnum moss–covered wreath form, divide fern plants into plantlets with roots attached, and tuck the stems into the moss, which anchors them as they grow. Hang it indoors, and mist occasionally.
Shop Now: Topiary Artworks Sphagnum Moss–Covered Wreath Form, 9", $9, topiaryartworks.com.
Cinnamon Bird Ornaments
Although these whimsical birds look and smell like gingerbread cookies, their sparkling plumage hints at their true nature as sweet works of art.
Tree-Shaped Napkin Rings
Tree-shaped napkin rings cut from pretty patterned paper set a seasonal tone that's fitting for both formal and casual tables. Print the template, photocopy at 200 percent, and cut out. Trace it onto patterned paper; draw as many outlines as will fit on a sheet (you'll get two rings per 8 1/2-by-11-inch sheet). Cut shapes from patterned paper with a craft knife or scissors; cut along the dotted lines. Bring the ends together, and slide slits into each other to form a ring. Roll up a fabric napkin, and slide inside holder.