Around this time of year, Rose Keiko Higa often finds herself making holiday cards for family and friends. An art history major at Oberlin College, in Ohio, she uses cut and layered paper to craft Christmas cards, and paints traditional Japanese New Year’s cards on watercolor paper.
“Written words can be such a meaningful gift on their own, it’s nice to be able to create a vessel for them in the form of a handmade card,” Higa says.
Not only can handmade cards feel more special than store-bought or digital ones (or none at all), but gathering to make them can be a social activity for kids and grownups ahead of the winter holidays.
“They’ve always been a thing but they’re definitely having a moment now, with more people wanting to keep in touch in a low-fi way,” says Leslie Corona, senior home editor at Real Simple.
Handmade cards also speak to a time “when more people are thinking of ways to reconnect with their inner crafter,” says Oma Blaise Ford, executive editor of Better Homes & Gardens.
“It’s a great craft for people who just want to dip their toe in. You can just make one or two cards. It doesn’t have to involve a mass mailing,” suggests Ford.
PHOTOS: Handmade holiday cards are gifts in themselves; some tips
And DIY cards “touch on issues of sustainability and not consuming as much over the holidays, ” she says.
Christopher Paul Stevens, an artist in the Atlanta area, makes distinctive holiday cards from old-fashioned looking block prints of winter scenes, and sells them on Etsy.com at 111 Restoration and Vintage Goods. Judy A. Steiner, an artist in Ada, Michigan, makes cards featuring elegant Christmas trees formed from watercolor brushstrokes in shades of green and blue.
“It’s kind of neat for both purchaser and receiver” to know cards are handmade, says Steiner, who has been making cards for decades and sells them through Steiner Studio on Etsy.
While paintings are often expensive, she notes, handmade cards are a more affordable form of art, a gift unto themselves.
Tips for beginning card-makers include:
AIM FOR QUALITY, NOT QUANTITY
Avoid getting too ambitious, warns Corona. Don’t set out to make 300 cards by hand. Or if you do, make it very simple. It’s a good idea to try making just five or 10 beautiful cards for closest family and friends. Attempting anything overly grand can become overwhelming and stressful, she says.
“You want to walk away from it with a positive memory,” she says.
CONSIDER WHAT YOU HAVE AT HAND
Before heading to the craft store, look at what you have around you. For example, round basket coffee filters or cupcake liners can make great snowflakes: Fold a few times and cut out designs along the sides and top, then paste them onto card stock, suggests Ford.
If you put a few drops of food coloring in some warm water, you can fold, dip-dye, and then allow the filters to dry before cutting the snowflakes. They’re similar to tissue paper but much more durable, Ford says.
Other decorating tools you might have include colorful washi tape, designs you could cut out from past holiday cards, paper doilies, ribbon, felt, markers, paint and stickers. Gold-leaf adds some bling.
Paper paint samples from the hardware store can be cut into triangles to make a Christmas tree, suggests Bridget Mallon, editorial director of the home website The Spruce.
Free printable templates for designs can be found online, she adds.
MAKE IT A POSTCARD?
Are your cards being mailed? To save money on postage, consider postcard-style cards without an envelope. Just make sure you send your cards as early as possible, and be aware of any weight or size restrictions.
For larger or multidimensional cards, it’s easiest of course to hand-deliver or enclose them in a gift box. You could attach a little spray of sturdy greenery or foil-wrapped chocolate coins.
MAKE IT AN EVENT
“Having a card-making party with friends is a fun way to get together during the season and knock something off your to-do list at the same time,” says Ford.
Encourage kids to help, says Mallon: “Their imperfect drawings and scribbles will bring a smile to your loved ones’ faces. And they can create cards for their friends or classmates.”
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