Handmade Christmas Gifts (I have faith in you)

Hi blog reading friends (both old and new),

Even though I’ve been around for a little over a year and have a very loyal readership that’s been with me from the beginning, I’ve recently acquired quite a bunch of new readers.  (Is it the volume of posts and pins?  The recent return to writing week-daily?  The slow-release ginger magic?)

So, since we are in a gift-giving time of the year, and since I try to make gifts and save money when I can, I thought I’d share a few ideas I’ve had (in the past) that I think would work well as Christmas gifts (whether individually or with something else).

For the full scoop — including a tutorial bedecked with sarcastic, strange, and/or pithy comments, — just click on the image to be linked back.

Oh, and unlike most of my round-ups, which are complete with inspiration from the World Wide Web, these are actually all my own ideas, pics, and… again… sarcastic, strange, and/or pithy comments.  So if you’re going to link or pin anything here, please attach the permalink, not just the blog’s URL (I’d do the same for you, my little chickens!).

Glass etching

DIY Chalkboard

Painted spoons

Handmade Clipboards


Handmade Gifts (and other reasons I’m patting myself on the back right now)

So, I said I wouldn’t return to the regularly scheduled blogging for another two weeks (holidays are hard!), but I did want to do a little show-and-tell with some of the gifts I gave this year, particularly the handmade ones.


As you may remember, Josh and I made the (ambitious) commitment to making all of our Christmas gifts for family by hand.  We knew this would help us save money and create truly personalized gifts, but we also wanted to see if we were up to challenge!  You have already seen some of the gifts (via previous blog post), but I’m going to show them again anyway.  Because I can.

Here we go:

For my mother, I took a song that reminds us of each other (“You Are My Sunshine”), printed it out (it turned out to be three pages) and framed it in three black Ikea frames.  And then I proceeded to wrap it up, ship it off, and not take a darn picture.

(Insert tear-jerking picture here)

Oh well…

For my mother-in-law, I gave the beloved linen spray:

homemade linen spray

You remember that stuff I made here?  I gave it to her as a Christmas gift (along with a host of other bath/good smelling/candles-girly things).  I think this stuff is fun for any occasion, and definitely a great alternative to Febreze… or other sprays with ingredients that are more than five syllables long.

For my orange-wearin’, University of Tennessee supporting father, I gave him the string nail art of the state of Tennessee (check out the tutorial here).

Tennessee nail string art

After the warm fuzzies of successfully completing a crafty venture set in, I decided to do the same for my Georgia-born brother-in-law, this time making Atlanta the heart and point from which all of the strings “radiated.”  Not the winning-est pics, but that’s because I only remembered at the last minute that I should snap a few before giving it away.

state string art nail georgia

Instead of buying a $10 pre-cut piece of wood from Michael’s like the last time, I decided to go with a wooden cutting board from the local dollar store (it wasn’t Dollar Tree, so the board was actually $3.99).  Then I sprayed it with a wood stain and painted the sides lime green (my fave detail).

state string art nail georgia

state string art nail georgia

The wooden cutting board came with its own hanger, and I let it remain, in hopes that my “utilitarian” brother-in-law will hang it on the walls of his spartan apartment (fingers crossed).

For my brother, we made a set of Scrabble magnets (heart-warming story found here… well, mildly heart-warming).

scrabble magnets

For Josh’s dad (my father-in-law), we decided to take advantage of a slightly long-term endeavor of mine.  Being a big fan of beer and an even bigger fan of preserving our planet, I have held onto to nearly all bottle caps whose removal I have been responsible for over the last year.  Other members of my family have been helpful in this endeavor as well (I didn’t really have to twist their arms).  At the time, I didn’t have a clear plan for said bottle caps, but I knew I would figure something out (I even have a Pinterest board devoted exclusively to this interest: check it out).

Well, I gave it the ol’ college try, and I came up with a fun art project:

bottle cap frame

I took a Ben Franklin quote (since then, I have learned that he may have not actually said this quote, but whatever), printed it off on regular printer paper, made a matte of hot-glue-gunned beer caps and stuck it in a shadow box (thanks again, Ikea).

In keeping with the beer cap theme, I decided to make some beer cap magnets for my sister-in-law’s boyfriend (who also came to visit us in NYC).  Then I liked them so much, I almost kept them… but Josh said no.  “Oooookkaaaayyy, Jooosh…”

beer cap magnets

I took the beer caps and attached a small magnet with hot glue, but not before I added a spacer to fill the cavity of the beer cap.  And what did I make the spacer out of???  Champagne corks!  Turns out that a champagne cork fits perfectly inside a bottle cap, so after I glue the cork to the bottom of the cap, I used a serrated knife (and took my time) and sawed of the remaining part (and you’ll bet I used the rest for the other bottle caps).


beer bottle cap magnets

Two upcycling efforts in one!

beer cap magnets

For my sister-in-law’s gift, I re-used the same method from the previous post about tile coasters, but this time I used images from her favorite movie of all time, Nightmare Before Christmas (when asked whether she considers it more of a Christmas movie or a Halloween movie, she enthusiastically replies “It’s an ANYTIME movie!”).

nightmare before christmas tile coasters

nightmare before christmas coasters

nightmare before christmas coasters

Handmade Christmas Gifts?  Check!

Oh yeah, and of course the handmade gifty-ness extended to the gifts Josh and I gave each other!

But more on that tomorrow…

In the meantime, subscribe (duh) and check out these links to previous posts (you know, in case you’re wondering how I made some of this stuff).

Handy Dandy Links:

Tile Coasters

State Nail/String Art

Linen Spray (Febreze alternative)

Scrabble Magnets

State String Art: Twelve Weeks of Christmas, Week 12

Welcome to the final installment of…

The Twelve Weeks of Christmas!


This is it!  With Christmas coming this Sunday (What?!  No really!), I have one last DIY tutorial for an easy, versatile, and cheap — did I mention it was cheap? — gift idea.

String art!

So, rewinding… here’s my Etsy inspiration (just to reiterate, this is inspiration — I did not make this one):

(click on image for original source)

Well, I saw this pic (and its sky high price tag) and thought “I could make one of those!”

… and I did:

Tennessee nail string art

In case you’re wondering… or maybe your U.S. geography is a bit rusty… or you haven’t seen that TV show How the States Got Their Shapes (it’s a good one!), this is Tennessee.  I made this one for my father, who is a Tennessee native as well as a HUGE Tennessee football fan (thus the orange background).  The heart represents Knoxville, which is his hometown as well as the college town.  Once I set out to do this project, it only took about three hours and it was surprisingly easy.

Here’s what you’ll need…

  • A piece of wood
  • Small nails (short length)
  • Paint (optional)
  • Embroidery string
  • Hammer
  • Pliers (optional)
  • Patience (at first)

How to Make it:

First, I got a piece of wood.  I actually found this one at Michael’s for about $10 (they make these with beveled edges and in various sizes and shapes).  Looking back, that was not the penny-pinching-est option, but I was strapped for time, so… ya know.

(Later the same day I found THE cheapest option and kicked myself immediately: a wooden cutting board!  And I totally saw the PERFECT size at a local Dollar Store for three bucks.  Ah well… next time.)

Then I added two layers of Tennessee orange paint to the board and let it dry (I just used an acrylic-in-the-bottle-nothing-fancy paint.)

Next, I Google Image searched for a picture of the state of Tennessee.  I found this one and printed it out (I had to use two sheets of paper to appropriately fit my piece of wood).

Then, I cut it out to make a stencil — because you KNOW I’m not about to sketch/free hand that thing.  Uh uh.

I traced around the edges lightly, and then…


Hammer time.

(Sometimes the hammer and nails did not do exactly what I wanted them to and in those cases, I just manipulated the nails a bit with pliers and re-hammered.)


Or halfway there.

The next part actually made me so nervous, my palms got clammy.  I know… weird.  But I get really anxious about these kinds of things!

However, once I started going, it was SUPER easy (just the getting started part I had to get over).

I tied the string to an outside point, then began looping it from the heart to the state lines.  I used ONE CONTINUOUS PIECE OF STRING (I didn’t cut it, I just held it in my hand as I looped it around).

Given the nature of this particular shape, each nail in the heart held many outside points, so don’t worry if you use the same inside heart nail for 10+ loops (as long as you don’t think it will pop off if brushed accidentally).

Here’s the finished product one mo’ ag’in:

tennesse string art nail

I’m not saying it’s perfect, but I’m pretty pleased with it (and now I’ll know for the next time).

As you can see, I signed it — I was giving it to my dad after all — and used a metallic silver Sharpie.  I also used the same Sharpie to color each nail head and add a thin silver line around the beveled edges.  This was not really necessary, but sometimes I can’t be stopped when I’ve got a Sharpie in my hand.  (Josh finally had to reign me in — his exact words were “You’ve done enough.  Put the Sharpie down, Courtney!”)

Hey — let’s look at some more pictures of it!  This time, different angles…  Go Tyra Tennessee!

tennesse string art nail

tennesse string art nail

tennesse string art nail

tennesse string art nail

For a grand total of $12 and 3 hours spent, I have a project that I’m excited about AND that my dad loves!

P.S. — Yes, my dad reads this blog, but he has already received this as an early Christmas gift.  He came to visit this past weekend, and posed with the problem of safely wrapping it for his suitcase on the plane, I decided just to give it to him early and enlist his excellent engineering skills to solve this problem.  Something about cardboard and a platform???  I don’t know… I let him figure it out.  :)


Check out what you may have missed…

The Twelve Weeks of Christmas