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Christmas craft corner: make your own wreaths, gifts and decor

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Put on the Christmas music, pour a festive drink and grab a handful of those yummy little After Eight straws.

Christmas is a time when many of us love to craft, whether it’s making something new to decorate our home or a little gift for someone else.

From wreaths and centrepieces, to tree ornaments and handmade gifts people actually want, here are five Christmas crafts perfect for making in front of a crackling fire ...

Simply stunning wrapping paper

Anybody else have a closet full of old, semi-crumpled rolls of Christmas wrapping paper? It’s a weird thing, buying Christmas paper. You think you’re running low, but really, you just don’t want to use the sad, tired old pieces clinging to their rolls when the shiny rolls in the store are so much prettier.

That’s why I love the idea of buying one roll of wrapping paper, except it’s something I’ll never get sick of. Savvy crafters are buying bulk rolls of craft paper, except it isn’t plain, old brown like something a butcher would use. It’s matte black. You can order a massive 720-foot roll online for about $70 that will probably do all of your gift-wrapping for several years.

This black paper is easily customized with a handy chalk pen. (Have you tried chalk pens? They are life-changing.) So, if you’re sick of the same old Santa-and-reindeer wrapping paper, imagine the possibilities of making your own.

Wrap the gift up and get doodle-happy with swirls, candy canes or polka-dots around the corners. How about lyrics to a Christmas carol or a silly inside joke you share with them? You don’t even need to buy those sticky gift tags because you can write the person’s name right on the wrapping.

Kid-friendly tree ornaments

I’ve been making salt dough tree ornaments with my kids since they were babies, but it’s a pretty imperfect process. The dough is so salty that it makes my hands feel gross and it isn’t easy to get them baked properly. Luckily, Pinterest has come to the rescue with a new, no-bake version smells amazing!

Mix together 1 cup flour, 1/2 cup of salt, 1/2 cup of cinnamon (and any other delicious Christmas-y spices, if you’re good in the kitchen and understand what those might be?) and 3/4 cup of very warm water.

Mix it all up, roll out the dough on pieces of wax paper (so it doesn’t stick to your counters) and let the whole family go wild with cookie cutters. I think gingerbread people shapes would be great since the dough looks like gingerbread.

Let the ornaments dry for one to two days until they’re nice and hard. Then you can decorate them with acrylic paints or puffy paints or just seal them with Mod Podge. Bonus: Mix a little extra cinnamon in with your paint so they smell extra delicious while they’re hanging on your tree.

A classic centrepiece

Looking for a crafty way to jazz up your table for the holidays? Look no further than your recycling bin ... well, sort of. Start collecting matching glass jars that once held spaghetti sauce or pasta -- they’re basically the same mason jars you’d buy in the craft store -- until you have three to five. (Odd numbers are best in design.)

Once the jars are washed out and dried, paint them in seasonal colours using acrylic paints. Maybe you want them all white or cream or prefer the look of a row of red, white and green? If you want a rustic feel, you can use a piece of sandpaper and rub it lightly over any raised or depressed areas in the glass (where they might be lettering or a logo etched into the glass) once the paint is dry.

Line the jars up in the centre of your table and fill them with (real or fake) sprigs of holiday greenery, twigs, pinecones and holly. You could even go a step further and surround them with a string of battery-powered twinkle lights or candles.

Useful plus durable homemade gifts

Instead of trying to draw on a Dollar Store coffee mug with a Sharpie and bake it in the oven to set the ink -- it just isn’t effective, no matter how many tutorials you try -- why not make a gift that actually can stand up to the dishwasher?

Creatives of all ages love going to paint-your-own pottery shops like Clay Cafe, but you don’t need to have exceptional art talent to make a beautiful gift there. They have hundreds of different pieces of bisque (chalky-feeling, white ceramic) there for you to paint from basic mugs, bowls and plates to picture frames, salt and pepper shakers and business card holders.

Once you’ve paid for your piece, you have unlimited access to the paints, stencils and tools and you can go back as many times as you’d like until it’s done. Make sure to do three coats of each colour (to avoid a streaky finish) and sign your name on the bottom so the person knows you made it with love. They’ll be happy to receive something they can actually use -- yup, even in the microwave and dishwasher -- that’s also meaningful.

Hassle-free wreath

Wreaths are usually one of those items that are actually cheaper to buy ready-made rather than make yourself. (As a serious crafter, I can attest that that’s almost never the case.) I think that’s because the base of a wreath, whether it’s Styrofoam or fake greenery, it is weirdly expensive to buy in a craft store and then you still have to buy a ton of items to decorate it.

I’ve already tried and liked several alternatives, like making those poofy, mesh wreaths and more recently, making a wreath out of two wooden embroidery hoops. This year, I’m trying something new: making a holiday wreath from an old picture frame.

Old frames are easy to find and often already sitting in our basements. Remove the glass and backing, wipe off the dust and paint the frame a nice, seasonal colour (hmmm, a deep forest green?). Then decorate just two corners -- like the top-left and the bottom-right -- using a big bow, sprigs of holly or wooden letters. You could spell out “joy” or “merry” or even do your family’s last name.

Not only will this wreath look great in your foyer, but you won’t have to spend a big chunk of Christmas shopping money on a dumb wreath form.

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