Handcrafted holiday decorations are a lot like Grandma's cookies: Sure, you can buy something similar at Vons, but for anyone with the time, energy and spirit of the season, nothing beats homemade. We asked artists Nora Bole, Durley Meyer and Megan Story to share a couple of easy projects that cleverly incorporate recycled materials. Below you'll find the simple step-by-step instructions, and if you like the look but don't have time? There's still hope. Read on.
Project No. 1: Seed spheres
Bole and Meyer create distinctive, decorative spheres by gluing seeds, beans or spices to craft-store foam balls. The artists use one material per sphere -- perhaps anise, chocho seeds, cinnamon sticks, cloves, lima beans, pumpkin seeds or white beans. Each is glued at the same angle to create repetition of form and color. When several spheres have been completed, they can be displayed individually or grouped together in a basket.
The shortcut: Order from Bole and Meyer. Their custom designs come in small (2-inch diameter), medium (3-inch) and large (4-inch). Non-scented balls range from $7 to $13 each; scented balls from $9 to $15. Their website: home.comcast.net/~nd_arts.
Project No. 2: Mod mini trees
When finding modern Christmas crafts that weren't fussy or old-fashioned proved to be difficult, Orange County artist Story decided to create these contemporary holiday trees using old sweaters and sequins.
"I think the contemporary cone shape makes the trees look modern, while using recycled sweaters keeps the warm and fuzzy feeling of something handmade," she says. "Plus, reusing sweaters is so much better than throwing them away."
For the taller trees, Story begins with inexpensive foam cones purchased at a craft store. For the smaller shapes, she used cardboard from yarn spools. Story lays each cone on its side, rolls it on a piece of paper and traces a pattern.
After using that pattern to cut the sweater, Story sometimes sews beads onto the cut material. Then she sews the material into its cone shape. (Story says she uses a machine, but "it would also be cute to use yarn or embroidery floss to hand-sew the seam.") Then the sweater is fit onto the cone.
A thin layer of cork, also available at craft stores, is hot-glued on the bottom, hiding uneven bits of fabric and providing a no-slip base. Decorative sewing pins can serve as additional accents.
Like the look but not the work? Story's prices for a set of three trees starts at $28. Her website: www.tella.etsy.com.