The Best Crafts to Make This Summer

Photo: Johnny Miller

Whether you're seeking shelter from the hot sun or a midsummer storm, our clever, seasonal ideas will keep you busy all afternoon.

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shell koalas
Sang An

Summertime, and the creativity comes easy. Keep the kids and everyone in the family happily occupied with craft projects that appeal to all ages. To that end, we're sharing our most creative crafts to make all summer long. First, find your inspiration: Head outdoors and collect lush greenery, seasonal flowers, and seashells that have washed up on shore to make all kinds of creations. Your finds can be fodder for vacation and memorykeeping crafts as well—in the form of scrapbooks, shadow boxes, and mementos of your own making.

You can also spend your afternoons making cute, colorful, and cool accessories that are a fit for the season. You don't have to be an expert seamstress to make one of our accessories from scratch—even a beginner can start stitching in the morning and have a new hat to wear to the beach in the afternoon. On those hot, balmy days, it will keep you stylishly under cover. Or think back to your days spent at summer camp and make one of our crafts like friendship bracelets, tie-dye T-shirts, tote bags, and sarongs for a day of swimming. The creative options are endless.

Spend the long summer days making sunprints, collecting seashells, foraging in the forest, or taking photographs—they can all be used in your craft projects. Whether you're looking for a new idea to keep the kids happily busy, a way to spend time together at the lakeside cabin, or redecorate your own home, we have the ideas to make something new this summer.

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blue ice dyed table cloth and napkins

As if you needed a reason to cool off and have splashy fun outside: Tie-dye's subtler, less messy alternative gives any solid cotton fabric a watercolor wash.

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Jennifer Causey

In one afternoon, forever preserve summer's thumbprint (botanicals, plants, flowers) with a unique light-sensitive solution and thick watercolor paper combination.

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Canvas Pillows

canvas pillows
Pernille Loof

Canvas is a sturdy, weather-resistant fabric that's cool to the touch and telegraphs laid-back style. Brighten your outdoor space with these cheerful appliqué pillows.

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Seersucker Napkins

colorful seersucker napkins surrounded by beverages
Raymond Hom

Seersucker is always fitting for a warm-weather party—and these napkins are no exception. The classic fabric is inexpensive and available at almost any cloth store, so you can mix and match a few colors. Even better, seersucker's slightly puckered texture means there's no ironing required. For a cocktail napkin, use a 10-inch square of fabric; for a dinner napkin, a 20- to 24-inch square. To make them, create a fringed border by using a pin to pull out several threads. As it's washed, the border will continue to unravel, creating a more relaxed look (think cutoff shorts). If you want to minimize this, sew a straight line at the root of the fringe.

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Natural Ink

natural ink swatches
Jason Logan

Did you know that you can use certain berries, tree barks, leaves, mosses, and other natural ingredients to create vivid natural inks and dyes? Your seasonal painting projects will never look the same again, in the best way ever.

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Crocheted Summer Bags

Emily Kate Roemer

These bags are crocheted using a unique South American pineapple fiber. Their open stitches and natural fiber—undyed or blue in color, your choice—make them perfect for a trip to the beach, park, or farmers' market.

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Camp-Inspired Leather Accessories

Johnny Miller

Create irresistibly chic accessories with bits of tooling leather and colorful lanyards. Whip-stitch lanyard around leather to make accessories like a mouse pad, card wallet, pen case, or sleeve for an iPad.

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Sun-Print Pillows


With the help of the sun, you can capture the silhouettes of flowers and plants on pillow cases and enjoy botanical beauty all year long.

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Tea-Towel Table Runners

Johnny Miller

Add color and pattern to your summer table by simply sewing tea towels together to create table runners. Here, we were inspired by graphic Scandinavian prints, both new and old. But if you have your own selection of colorful tea towels at home, chances are you'll come up with some great combinations, too.

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Silk Poppies

Ditte Isager

Add bright, breezy color to your summer wardrobe with these easy-to-make fabric poppies. Attach florals to belts, dresses, and hats, or tuck into hair.

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Wood and Neon Lanyard Jewelry

Johnny Miller

These cool accessories find their inspiration in summer camp projects. Grab some traditional lanyard and start crafting!

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Dip-Dyed T-Shirt

Dana Gallagher

With a dip in ocean-blue color, this stylish shirt may become the one you reach for every Saturday morning. To make your own, it's best to dye the sleeves and bottom separately: Roll up the part you're not dyeing into a plastic bag to protect it, and secure with a rubber band. Dye, rinse, and let dry between the two dips.

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Shell Jewelry

Bryan Gardner

Got shells? Why not drill those remaining vacation souvenirs into pretty jewelry? After, you'll have something radiant to wear into the new season ahead.

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Seaside-Inspired Printed T-Shirts and Sarongs

boy walking on beach wearing shell t-shirt

Adorn beachwear—the kids' or your own—with charming starfish, shell, and sea horse motifs. Transforming thin cotton fabric into a sarong is a breeze, and the tone-on-tone combination is subtle and sophisticated. The process is easy enough for small helpers.

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Appliqued Sea Star Tote Bag


A pair of sea stars floats across a natural-hue tote. Because the canvas bag is too thick to print on, we used a lightweight canvas for the impressions (muslin also works) and appliquéd them in place for a pleasing sense of dimension. The finished product is perfect for the beach, but it would look just as chic on a city street.

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Sea-Glass Earrings

Rick Lew

Those gently wave-worn remnants you find washed on shore? Transform thin bits of sea glass into beautiful earrings for a truly one-of-a-kind statement pair.

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Spray-Painted Straw Accessories

Courtesy of Johnny Miller

With just a can of silver spray paint, you can transform a humble straw hat into a chic make-it-yourself accessory you'll use all season. Working outside to avoid breathing in fumes, quickly and evenly spray items you wish to spray-paint with silver paint (if spraying slippers, cover the insides with paper to protect them from paint), and let it dry for a few hours. For a more subtle shine, you can simply add metallic tassels to a woven bag. Use pieces on weekends at the beach or around town, and be ready for friends and strangers to ask, "Where did you get that?"

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Bandanna Decoupage Votive Holders

Aaron Dyer

Classic bandannas are an easy, affordable way to bring all-American colors to a table and all summer long. Try decoupaging glass votive holders or hurricane lanterns with them. Or fold them, tuck utensils inside, and tie with colored twine. To make one, trim a bandanna to fit the height and circumference of your glass votive or hurricane. Brush decoupage finish onto the glass. Wrap bandanna around it, smoothing out any wrinkles or bubbles with your fingers. Let dry. Recoat fabric with decoupage finish. Let dry completely before using.

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Reversible Summer Hats


With a reversible hat, you double your fun. Choose two fabrics that look great together, but don't hesitate to try unexpected combos.

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Daisy Chain Necklace


When's the last time you made a daisy chain? Long approved by daydreaming girls across the country, it's still the sweetest summer accessory around. Make a long bohemian strand, a demure choker, or anything in between. Show your kids how to link flowers, and watch their creativity grow. To make one, pinch flower stems to about 4 inches, make a small slit in the bottom half of each stem with your nails, and thread one stem through the slit in another. Continue, adding flowers to reach desired length. To finish, make a second slit in the stem of the first flower, and slip the last flower through it.

Tip: True daisies are in season during the summer, but they're quite fragile. We used daisy chrysanthemums, which are found year-round at most florists (and even supermarkets) and hold up better out of water.

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Printed Seashell Pillows

Krause, Johansen

The scallop shell's iconic shape turns pillows into inspired accessories. The linen covers can be store-bought or hand-sewn. If you are making them, print onto the fabric before cutting it, so the pattern will continue to the edges. Be playful in the design, with a mix of light and dark impressions, or go for a stylized row of narrow Vs which are made by inking only part of a large shell. Use this technique on pillowcases, shirts, and sarongs.

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Waterproof Blanket

Wendell T. Webber

You can waterproof a cotton or wool blanket by adding a protective backing of water-resistant fabric, such as ripstop nylon or oilcloth, and safely lounge on damp grass.

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Souvenir Beach Chairs


Camp chairs with sling seats are ideal for lounging by the sea, especially when they have been updated with beach-worthy prints. For this project, we backed a vintage state tablecloth with sturdy canvas. You can embellish a sling with a similarly printed fabric or, if the seat is badly worn, follow our how-tos to create one from scratch.

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Dyed Canvas Sneakers


Canvas sneakers are comfy and cool, but you may not find them in colors you want. Put a spring in your step by setting the shade yourself.

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Raffia Accessories


A plain canvas tote and a straw beach hat are turned into bright, sunny creations using touches of raffia. To make them, start with a canvas tote and raffia in 3 shades; then, using a disappearing-ink fabric pen, draw circles on tote, one for each sunburst (ours are 1 1/2 to 5 inches in diameter).

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Batik-Printed Table Linens


Bleach is usually off-limits where colored fabric is concerned, but this decorative application gets our full approval. Using a bleach pen, we created the look of batik (a type of patterned Indonesian textile) on a blue runner and napkins for a coordinated table setting. Use a water-soluble dressmaker's pencil to mark a grid on the fabric; then, where the lines intersect, create a 2-inch square, as pictured. Try this technique on pillowcases, curtains, and even canvas tote bags.

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Moss Ornaments

Eric Piasecki Photography

Perfect for summer decorating, keep things evergreen with moss ornaments. Akin to kokedama, these hanging decorations are given their soft, overgrown look with tufts of reindeer moss.

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