Try This for the Holidays

Elegantly simple, infinitely practical, absolutely doable crafts projects for the holiday season.


No matter what your religious or spiritual beliefs, there’s usually room for well wishes and good intentions. Instead of dragging out the watt-hungry Christmas lights this holiday season, light up a doorway with a little positive energy.

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Born on the wind

Good vibrations: Tibetans have a tradition of hanging prayer flags (called lungta, which translates as “windhorse”) on their homes, temples, and sacred places. These simple colored-fabric squares are inscribed with prayers that are thought to be carried on the wind to the ends of the earth as the fabric is caressed by the breeze. We couldn’t think of a more meaningful way to decorate your home for the holidays than sending your own positive thoughts and well wishes to the world. Add to your family’s holiday tradition by making blank flags and passing around a pen to let your holiday visitors cast their own hopes, practical or profound, to the wind.

In the fold

Old words stand for something new: It’s sad but true that not every book can stand the test of time. Hundreds of thousands of books are discarded in the United States every year. Here is a supremely simple and fun way to recycle a hardback book into a holiday decoration. As a centerpiece or on a side table or book shelf, these traditional shapes say “Christmas” with a contemporary accent.

Instruction book

a) If your book isn’t blessed with beautiful endpapers (the paper on the inside front and back covers), add something special of your own. Measure and cut the paper, then adhere with a glue stick.

b) In the photo opposite, the angel’s “wings” are creamy white against the olive green inside cover of the book. To make them, fold the book’s first and last pages in the opposite direction from the rest of the book. The wings should go up and out from the bottom of the spine. The angel’s “gown” should go down and out from the top of the spine.

c) To make the angel’s stylized head, insert a small eye hook into the pocket where the book spine meets the hard cover. Add a brass washer, then a simple wooden knob. A spot of beeswax or clay will hold the knob in place atop the washer.

d) Every Christmas tree looks better bedecked with a star. Again, use the natural pocket formed at the top of a book’s spine. It makes a perfect holder for this iron star, which was used in brick and mortar construction in centuries past.

Editorial fluorish

Jump off the page: These days, who’s not looking for creative ways to recycle the stacks of old magazines and catalogs that clutter our shelves? And who doesn’t prefer Christmas ornaments that are one-of-a-kind, out-of-the-ordinary, and simple to make? Well here’s a no-brainer. Cut circles and squares from the colorful pages of discarded publications, stack them, staple them, then unfold them into lovely, jewel- bright spheres and diamonds.

Light layers

The wow of physics: Here’s a fun bit of kitchen chemistry—and a beautiful way to light your table for holiday dinners. This quick project uses the differences in density, viscosity, and surface tension of common household liquids to layer stripes of delicious, luminous color that glow with warm candlelight. No need to buy fancy glassware that you’ll only pull out once a year. Transform what you already have with this simple and beautiful equation.

Experiment with what floats atop what. If you’d like, mix a drop or two of food coloring in the various liquids to expand your palette and your possibilities.

Uniquely gifted

Make something out of nothing: It’s strangely rewarding to take a handful of unpromising materials and turn them into something lovely just by the grace of a little creativity and a tiny dash of time. Sure, we could spend money and deplete resources on some vibrant holiday wrap. But this alternative version is pretty lovely in a high humble sort of way. In the time you would normally spend shopping for papers and tags, you can make making these earth-conscious, eye-friendly gift wraps.

Bagging it

Santa's little helpers: Mesh bags are still a favored way of bundling fruit and vegetables for sale. The bright colors and peek-a-boo spirit of the bags make them a natural for bundling packages of holiday gifts. The bags are a snap to modify for their new role. Simply peel off the label, then exchange the black utilitarian tie for a bright ribbon or raffia. Wrap the gifts first in newsprint or thin tissue paper to keep your secrets safe, then drop them in the mesh bag. A thin circle of recycled wrapping paper or a creative tag is all you’ll need to finish the job. They’re fun, they’re frivolous, they’re stylishly frugal. Just right for our Christmas wish list.