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Homemade for the Holidays

Homemade decorations are easy on the pocketbook and pleasing to the eye; they keep kids busy and make wonderful conversation pieces. What could be a better use of holiday hobby time at home?

Stringing popcorn and cranberries in the tree and hanging hand-cut snowflakes in the window are timeless visual celebrations for the crafter and beholder alike. Some folks, of course, are inclined to further embellish their decorations: a little glitter on the snowflakes; maybe frosted gingerbread people are hung on boughs between the popcorn and cranberry garlands.

Still other folks like to venture into new territory. Here are some ingenious, less-familiar holiday hobby ideas from crafty Rogue Valley ladies. They range in scope and price, but most are fairly affordable.

The Button Tree

Get out all those tins of buttons and strays from around the house. Pick up a Styrofoam tree at a bargain store and some short pins that have fancy heads from a sewing center or craft store.

"Just pin different, colored buttons all over this tree," says Gloria King, retired school teacher and former owner of Scrapbook King in Medford. "If you have spaces left over, you can glue in little pearls."

Add detail by layering the buttons — small on top of large. Or look for a color or design pattern among your buttons and design the tree around that.

"The possibilities, as they say, are endless," says King. "I did one all in pink and green, and it was so cute."

Toilet-paper-tube Hidden Message Book

This is a clever use of leftover paper and is satisfying for kids to make and give to grandparents, teachers or friends.

Have the kids collect toilet-paper rolls and paper scraps, including wrapping paper. You'll also need a hole puncher, scissors, card stock and embellishments, such as ribbon, string, stamps, pens, etc.

Each crafter flattens three or four tubes with a rolling pin or hand. Wrap the tube on the outside, leaving the ends open. Stack the tubes and lay the stack on a table the long way. Punch two holes on the short side of the left end, through all the tubes. Tie something through the holes to create a binding.

The right side is still open. Cut card stock into slips of paper that will fit in the tube. Cut the strip just a tad longer than the tube so that when it sticks out, it looks like a tag. If you want, punch a hole in the end that's sticking out and tie on a fancy ribbon or yarn bow.

"You can pull that little strip out, and on that strip you can stamp something, write a message, put little pictures," says King. "And you can enhance the tubes themselves with stickers, glitter glue, old wrapping paper."

Hand-crafted cards

Put as much expense into these as you wish. Use handmade papers and professional tools or last year's cards and glue.

Either way, there's nothing more special than receiving a homemade holiday card.

"It brings the maker and the recipient back to the joyfulness of childhood, when you did crafts," says Linda DeWald of Jacksonville, who won first place at the 2009 Jackson County Fair homemade card contest. "Each one is a little treasure."

DeWald's 's collection runs from intricate, iris-folded washi paper trees to this year's simpler model, featuring images and messages DeWald has gathered year-round. Her materials are carefully labeled and organized in project cases, and her work space is creatively crowded.

"A Christmas craft day for the kids would mean collecting kid-friendly supplies throughout the year," says DeWald, who suggests covering the table with a large piece of display cardboard available free at many big box stores.

"Have pens and markers, ribbon cuttings, paper, stickers, wrapping paper, greeting cards, stamps. Let them run amok, and when they're done, you can throw the cardboard away."

Create sheets of messages on the computer, trying out different fonts to find the one that suits.

"The biggest tip is double-stick tape," DeWald says. Use regular double-sided tape or double-sided foam tape, which adds a raised, 3-dimensional effect.

For the time- and patience-challenged, simply embellish premade holiday cards by adding layers of decoration. Save postage fees by keeping the cards flat and small or hand them out yourself.

The benefits of family time around the hobby table are precious, says DeWald. "Crafting affects positive change and encourages creativity and communication. Plus it's very satisfying to think up something and then make it."

Homemade for the Holidays