OT: two ultra-easy holiday gifts to make

It’s that gifty time of year again…and if you, like me, have a surplus of artistic ambition and a deficit of artistic ability, but like to make stuff and don’t want it to look like a preschool art project, here are two really easy crafts that make fun gifts. I have some more complicated things in the works for the next few weeks, but it’s always good to warm the craft juices up a bit. I spent yesterday at home, keeping my daughter company while she worked on her science fair project (strength of recycled versus non-recycled paper…) and worked on these two items:

Groovy fabric belts: requires a sewing machine, but otherwise could not be easier. Literally, if you can sew a straight line, you can make these.
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You need: a strip of fabric that’s three inches wide and about six inches longer than the waist of the person who’s going to wear it; matching thread, and a set of 1 1/2 inch D-rings (see below for package). Choose fabric that’s on the stiff side, like home decorating fabric.

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Fold the strip of fabric in half lengthwise, with the right sides together. Sew a narrow (1/4″, so the width of the presser foot on a standard sewing machine) seam around all sides except for one of the narrow ends. Then turn the tube right-side out and iron it so that it lays flat. Top-stitch around the edge.
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Then take one end, pass it through the D-rings, and fold it over a couple of times to avoid raveling.
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Zig-zag stitch across the folded fabric to secure the D-rings:
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Then eyeball/measure the correct length for the belt, and follow the fold-and stitch procedure, but without the D-rings, on the free end of the belt. If you want the folded part to be on the back side of the belt when the person is wearing it, the fold needs to go on the opposite side of the fabric from the D-ring fold.

It’s always hard to find good crafts for teenagers, once they’re past the fleece stuffed animal stage. My teenage daughter reported that she “would wear this if the fabric wasn’t pink,” so I’d consider that a success.

Paper “inspiration flags”: really, really easy and cute. These are a takeoff on Tibetan prayer flags, but you can customize the words on them, add photos, use only images, etc. I made three strings of these for various friends, including one who just bought a beach house.
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You need: some brown paper (I had some craft paper lying around, but even a grocery bag would do in a pinch), string or yarn, double-sided tape, Mod-Podge or diluted white glue, a paintbrush, and whatever you want to decorate your flags with. I computer-printed the words and used tissue paper for the backgrounds, but you could use magazine clippings, paint, old wrapping paper, etc.

Cut your paper “flags” to whatever size you want. Mine were about three inches by four inches, and I used five flags per string. Leave a border of about half an inch at the top of each flag (this will be folded over when you string them), then paint the flag with the Mod Podge or diluted glue, and start sticking stuff on (unless you want to just paint them). I did a thin layer of glue, then tissue paper, then a little more glue, then the sheet with the words, then a little more glue. At first, your flag will look white and gunky.
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Allow the flags to dry, the fold the border over:
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Leaving a free end so that the recipient can hang the flags up, lay the string inside the folded edge and put a piece of double-sided tape on the flap. Fold it over with the string inside, to secure the flag on the string.
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Then, leave your flags to dry completely, and they will look clear and shiny. You can put spiritual messages, poems, whimsical stuff (I did “Chai is the answer” for a friend who loves chai), photos, favorite memories, or really just about anything.

Have fun! If you liked this post, you can also check out my 2013 holiday crafting post on zombie stuffed animals, origami crane trees, and poetry rocks.

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