CRAFTY HOLIDAY GIFT IDEAS

By Dr. Leonard Perry And Lisa Halvorsen
University of Vermont Extension

You don't have to be Martha Stewart to turn every day objects into beautiful garden-themed gifts for holiday giving. In fact, these projects are so easy to do that the hardest part may be giving them away, as you will want to keep them for yourself!

GARDENING GLOVES--To make this gift you will need acrylic craft paint (available at any craft store or art supply shop); stencils of flowers, vegetables, or other garden-related items; small paint brushes or sponges; and a pair of white or cream-colored canvas gardening gloves.

Lay the gloves flat on a piece of newspaper. Tape a stencil to the back of the glove, and gently sponge on paint. Or draw floral designs freehand. If applying more than one color, allow the paint to dry between applications of each color. To further personalize the gift, write the recipient's name on the cuff of each glove.

TOTE BAG--Or add your own personal touches to a fabric tote bag. Again, cream or white is the best color as the design will stand out better. In addition to the bag, you will need stencils, paint for fabric stenciling, and a stencil brush or paint sponge.

Before you begin, hand wash the bag in cool water using a mild detergent. If needed, iron to remove wrinkles. When stenciling, it's a good idea to work slowly, carefully blotting the brush on a paper towel to avoid drips and smearing while applying paint. Add one color at a time, allowing the paint to dry between applications. When finished, let the bag dry for a week to 10 days.

Tote bags also can be embroidered or appliquéd. Choose a festive floral design, and don't forget to work the recipient's name into the design. For either stenciling, embroidery, or appliqué, it's best to plan your design on paper first, before you start to work.

Although the tote bag itself makes a wonderful gift, you could fill it with a variety of small garden items, including packets of favorite flower seeds, a pair of hand-decorated garden gloves, a trowel or other hand tool, row markers, and a garden book or blank journal for jotting down garden notes. Or how about a jar of homemade applesauce or blueberry jam? Be sure to add a card with washing instructions: Hand wash in cool water using mild soap.

FLOWER POTS--Decorated clay flower pots make the perfect gift for gardener and non-gardener alike. They can be used for a potted plant or a silk flower centerpiece, or even to hold pens and pencils on an office desk.

You can stencil, decoupage, or cover in mosaic tiles, being as flashy or as subdued in your choice of color scheme as you'd like. But regardless of the decorating method you choose, start with a clean terra-cotta pot.

Lightly sand the outside of the pot with sandpaper, wiping off the dust as you go. If the pot will be used for a plant, brush the inner surface with a water sealant (the kind used for wood) to prevent moisture from seeping through and ruining your designs.

For a stenciled pot, give the outside of the pot two coats of acrylic paint. You may want to paint the rim a different color. Next, tape the stencil to the pot. With a stencil brush, sponge, or foam brush carefully dab on paint.

For decoupage, you can use scraps of colorful fabric; pictures of flowers and vegetables cut from a seed catalog or magazine; or even the front of seed packets to decorate your pot. Arrange pieces on the pot, lightly marking where each will go with a pencil. Remove and coat the back with decoupage medium (available at craft shops). Place on the pot, smoothing gently to eliminate air bubbles.

Use a damp paper towel to remove excess medium. When you have finished, apply several more layers of the medium to seal the design, allowing it to dry between coats. Or you can spray with an acrylic spray varnish.

To make a mosaic pot you will need tile glue or adhesive caulk, grout, and tiny tiles or chips of colored crockery (place broken dishes and glasses in a bag and break into small pieces with a hammer). Brush glue or caulking on the pot in an even layer, doing only a small area at a time. Press pieces onto the pot, spacing them about an eighth of an inch apart. Let dry, then apply grout according to manufacturer's instructions.

Another option is to paint the pot in a solid, vibrant color--bright gold or a velvety blue would look nice--adding leaf prints to jazz it up. You can use either real or fake foliage, but choose leaves with interesting shapes or edges. Carefully brush fabric paint onto the underside of the leaf, spreading the paint evenly over the surface. Press this side onto the pot, gently rubbing the leaf with your fingers to make the print. Lift off and allow to dry.

You also can use this last technique to decorate placemats. Buy or make the mats out of a solid, neutral color like ivory or wheat. Silver or gold leaves will give the placemats a formal look. Use of autumn colors like maroon, brown, and orange or spring pastels tie the gift into a particular season.

PRESSED FLOWER NOTECARDS--For this idea you will need pressed flowers, leaves, and herbs; a heavyweight paper folded into notecard-size pieces; glue; and clear, self-adhesive contact paper. If you did not press and save blossoms and foliage from summer annuals and perennials, you can use herbs from your windowsill herb garden or foliage from houseplants. Or perhaps you brought your potted flowering plants in for the winter. For flowers, ones with few petals work best, such as pansies.

To dry, spread the blossoms and greenery in a single layer on a paper towel or sheet of white absorbent paper. Place a second sheet on top. Press by putting a stack of books or other heavy objects on top. The drying process will take about two weeks.

Arrange your dried flowers and leaves on the notecard paper, using a pencil to mark the position of each. Glue background pieces on first, then the focal flowers and accents. Add a message or quote in a nice ink, if you wish. Allow to dry, then carefully cover with clear contact paper to protect your artwork. Press firmly, and smooth out any air bubbles.

These are but a few ideas for holiday gifts to make using flowers and garden themes. Find other ideas by browsing through crafts books or checking out Internet Websites devoted to crafts projects. In addition, check with your local crafts shop to see if any demonstrations or classes are scheduled.



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