The Recessionista’s Guide to Holidays

T.U. Dawood

Did you ditch Holiday cards last year because of the Recession?  Are you dreading Secret Santas and holiday gift giving this year because your budget is just not what it used to be?  Have you not got yourself a special outfit to wear to the office Christmas party because it’s simply too much of an indulgence?

Instead of forgoing your fashionista needs, do what a smart and creative Recessionista would: make your own gifts and cards and in a super-efficient way.

There are some fantastic books out there that are step-by-step guides to creating to-die-for gorgeous crafts with minimal supplies and minimal time requirements.

Here is a highlight of some of the best out there:

stunningjewelleryDo you like jewelry-making?  Simply Stunning Jewelry: A Treasury of Projects, Techniques and Inspiration by Nancy Alden features 100 necklaces, bracelets and pairs of earrings that range in difficulty from beginning to advanced and styles from delicate to ornate.  I particularly liked the Seed Bead Three-Strand Necklace because it only involved wire cutters, crimping pliers, wire, beads and a clasp.  You can simplify it to one strand and it will still look nice.  It’s the sort of gift you could easily make in different colours for a variety of friends and ideal to give a fresh look to an old LBD for that Christmas party.  Each one should take between 1-2 hours to make, depending on your bead size and your skill level.

Even easier to make are the Tahitian Pearl Earrings which only require baroque black pearls, bead caps, and gold earwires.  Simply by fitting into place with round-nosed and flat-nosed pliers, you can make these in 20 minutes easily!

oneballknitIf knitting is more your thing, Fatema, Khadija and Hajera Habibur-Rahman designers have just released their new book One Ball Knits: Purses – 20 Stylish Handbags made with a Single Ball, Skein, Hank or Spool. This is one of the best knitting books I’ve come across as the bags are beyond gorgeous.  In fact, you’ll definitely want to keep some for yourself!!!  Although the knitting aspect of most of the bags is quite simple and does not take very long because it’s just one skein, the assembling of the bags is quite intimating.  Most of the projects involve non-knitted handles and you have to sew the knitted part to very stylish handles.

One of the easier bags that does have a knitted handle is the Lavender Messenger Bag, but that is possibly the least pretty bag in the collection.  A better option is the Orchid Drawstring Pouch which is also featured on the book cover. Made in bold stocking stitch and knit in the round, it is stylish with no shaping required.  This bag is quick to make and an ideal gift for your friends this season … and for yourself!

My favourite craft this season is holiday card making.  Although I’m big on green for daily correspondence, when it comes to holidays, there is nothing like snail mail, especially if sending to friends around the world.  Somehow the opening up of a holiday card, particularly a home-made one, makes holidays come to life.

If you enjoy coming up with your own designs, with minimal basic tools you can create glam holiday cards, gift tags and ornamental decorations.   Martha Stewart’s Encyclopedia of Crafts: An A-to-Z Guide with Detailed Instructions and Endless Inspiration has step by step guides to pretty much everything craft and most are quite easy to do!

This season, I’m simply in love with Martha Stewart Crafts Ball Point Glue Pen and Martha Stewart Crafts Tinsel Glitter 12 pk because they can truly spice up anything.  Take any old postcard or even black white cardstock and write something with the glue pen – such as your signature – and glitter it.  Suddenly, it’s instantly festive.  To give your card that special finesse and professional look, fold it with a Martha Stewart Crafts bone folder. It may seem unnecessary to buy this tiny tool but I’ve actually found it a must-have; it makes perfect and consistent creases and allows you to make holiday cards easily in an assembly line which is a real time saver.

If you are more adventurous, Hannah Milman, Craft Director at Martha Stewart Crafts, had a brilliant tip to share with Prospere readers:  “Add glitter to family photographs,” she suggests. “Using Martha Stewart’s free online Glitter Painting Center, you can take any photograph even old family ones, scan and upload them onto the site, and glitter select objects.”  For example, just glitter mittens and hats in red, but leave the rest of the photograph as it.  In the end, very little glitter is actually used as only a little bit sticks to the clear glitter glue – a bottle can make multiple cards easily – and you have some instant, affordable and elegant razzle-dazzle to your holiday card!

Inspired by this idea of glittering photographs, I decided to try out my own twist.  I selected and printed favourite photographs of friends and myself over the past year in black and white or sepia and then used a glue pen to write special messages which I glittered and then I glued each photograph inside an off-white piece of card stock that I had creased with a bone folder.  On the cover of the card, I glued a more generic holiday symbol like a Christmas tree or mistletoe that I had taken from magazines or old holiday cards to keep the personalized picture and message inside a surprise.  Voila, instantly festive and personalized cards!

For gift tags, I plan to rubber stamp them with Ford Cares Warriors in Pink stamp set designed by crafting experts at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia because not only were the symbols fresh and fun, but 100% of net proceeds go to the Susan G. Komen Foundation for the Cure for Breast Cancer.

If you are planning a holiday or New Year’s Party, Paperie for Inspired Living: Stationery and Decorations for Weddings, Parties, and Other Special Occasions by Karen Bartolomei, has a very easy step-by-step guide for crafting paper products like an “Accordion Fold Invitation” and a stunning Paper Hat Menu.

Paperie also features how-tos for Holiday Recipe Stocking Stuffer and my favourite was the Candy Cane Cocoa. Just a single index card size recipe, it’s the perfect mailable gift which you can include when sending holiday cards to friends all over the world.

Whatever type of craft you enjoy, there is plenty of fun, quick and elegant ways to enhance your holiday season within your budget.