Every crafter can cite chapter and verse all of the reasons to make
your own decorations and gifts for the holiday season: they come from
the heart, these are the kinds of items from which memories are
made, they’re unique, sometimes one-of-a-kind pieces, and last, but not
least, crafting decorations and gifts saves money. It’s an impressive
enough list to start even non-crafters thinking about joining the fold.
Okay, you’re hooked, and chomping at the bit to get started. There’s
just one little problem, though — where do you get project ideas? You
could go the usual route, and leaf through craft magazines, or browse
crafting web sites, all perfectly acceptable. It’s just that sometimes
that almost seems equivalent to buying the gifts and decorations. You’re
going for that real “made it myself” feel, so there ‘s only place to
look for inspiration — your world. Like any artist, you need to draw on
the things you come into contact with every day.
Four women, all either professional or hobbyist crafters, agreed to
talk about how their world provides them with inspiration for new
projects. When you read their comments, you’ll be surprised at just how
much there is around you to draw from.
Paula Krapf is the Chief Operating Officer of Author Marketing
Experts Inc., a consultancy that designs marketing campaigns for
self-published and print-on-demand books, but she is also a dyed-in-the-
wool crafter. Here’s what she had to say:
“I’m a hobbyist, in scrapbooking and rubber stamping, and I find
inspiration a number of ways. The first is through the magazines I
receive, which always show off new techniques and products.
Rubber Stamping Madness, Simple Scrapbooks, Memory Makers, Paper Crafts — those are a few of my mainstays and I look forward to receiving them.
“However, since I have a great stash of ‘stuff’, sometimes the best
inspiration comes after I dig through my stuff and play around. Each
year I make a minimum of 50 hand-made Christmas cards and another 20 to
30 hand-made Hanukkah cards. I literally open my drawers full of rubber
stamps, pull out my inks and start stamping with different colored inks,
and then throwing in other techniques, such as watercolors, pencils,
embossing, etc., until I find the designs I want to use for that year.
Each year has to be different, and many of my friends and family say
they look forward to receiving a unique design each holiday.
“Although I have a lot of product on hand, I usually have to buy more
product to make the number of cards I need to send out, and when I’m in
the craft stores I always scope out new items I’d like to incorporate
into my work.”
Jennifer and Kitty O’Neil are sisters, authors of the book Decorating with Funky Shui: How To Lighten Up, Loosen Up, and Have Fun Decorating Your Home (Andrews
McMeel Publishing, 2004), and the granddaughters of Chic Young, creator
of the comic strip Blondie & Dagwood. Their crafting,
do-it-yourself decorating, and flea market shopping articles appear in
numerous national magazines and Web sites. Because the O’Neils are
professional crafters, they are constantly on the line when it comes to
“We are craft writers, and we have to come up with fresh ideas on a
regular basis. We do a lot of home accents and gift crafts in our
magazine columns, so for inspiration we often go to high-end department
stores like Bloomingdale’s and look at what they have on display. Then
we brainstorm craft projects that use the same color combinations,
materials, or overall look. Great for trend watching!
“We also look for non-traditional craft materials at unusual places
like hardware stores and auto parts stores. We saw real copper pipe in
the plumbing section of Home Depot and ended up using it to make a
gorgeous copper screen room divider.
“When we craft, we always start by making an imperfect prototype
before finalizing that craft for a how-to. We make all kinds of mistakes
on that prototype before we try to make the final one.
“One of our favorite holiday projects is making felt animal Christmas
ornaments. Felt is a natural for Christmas, and it is so easy to work
with — it’s great for crafting with kids. You can make the ornaments as
simple or as complex as you want. We like to add sequins and outline the
shapes with embroidery thread in a complementary color.” Marieka Heinlen is a classic example of how a crafter’s skill can
translate into other parts of her world.
Marieka illustrates books using
a collage of ink, paint and fabric. A recent work project had her
relying on her crafting abilities:
“A new series of board books I’m working on (Toddler Tools) inspired
me to come up with a way to play with kids and learn interactively at
the same time. As a new mom of a toddler, I am just starting to try to
reinforce the good social skills and values we read about.
“To bring the characters in the books to life, I cut out small
figures of thick paper and glued them to craft sticks. I bought the
paper, craft sticks and fabric remnants at a local nonprofit art scraps
store that runs on donations. I cut out small, basic clothes from
colorful fabric and helped kids ‘dress’ the puppets by gluing the fabric
on with white glue. We used crayons and yarn to make faces and hair to
look like individual kids.
“From there, we act out scenarios from the books, whether it be
sharing, cleaning-up, manners, or taking a nap. For instance, for
working on manners, one puppet (kid) can hand another puppet a gift
drawn on a post-it and then we practice saying, ‘thank you’ and ‘you’re
welcome’. For sharing, you can pass a toy drawn on a post-it back and
forth, and use nice language about taking turns.
“Each play theme is based on one of the books, but this can be done
with any favorite book that teaches lessons or social skills for small
The next time someone asks you what you’re doing and you answer, “I’m
working on a craft project,” be sure you say it with pride. Because, as
these women illustrate, it takes the ingenuity of an inventor, and
the design and color sense of an artist to create what you’re about to