Christmas on a budget

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Is Christmas shopping going to break the budget? It doesn't have to.

This year, more people are celebrating Christmas on a budget, creating unique, handmade gifts that are far more thoughtful and personal than a grab-and-go item from a big box retailer.

With just a few easy steps, one can transform a white, long-sleeved jersey top into a fashionable dip-dyed shirt customized to reflect the recipient's personal taste.

Wash and dry the shirt to remove and chemicals or sizing that would resist taking the dye.

Using Rit liquid dyes and hot water, fill a large plastic container to a depth of at least six inches. Dip a sample strip of paper towel or material to test the color, adding more dye to darken the fabric or more water to lighten it. Let the solution settle so there are no bubbles at the surface.

Take the shirt and determine where you want the dye line to end. It is best to dye the sleeves and bottom separately. Place the remainder on the garment in a plastic bag and secure with a rubber band to protect it from accidental splatters. Remember, fabric wicks water, so dip the sleeves until the fabric reaches the desired color. (Remember, it will dry slightly lighter.) Dip the hem of the shirt and allow the fabric to reach the desired color, then rinse the entire garment in cold water to remove excess dye. It is best to rinse the garment until the water runs clear. Let the shirt dry and repeat the dipping process again.

Set the colors with synthrapol (found at craft stores). This detergent will keep the colors from bleeding onto undyed portions of the fabric.

Don't throw that dye out yet. Unfinished wooden items and bamboo blinds can also be dipped for custom home decor. These items can be dipped until the desired color is achieved and dried on paper towels.

In the same theme, white pillar candles in varying shapes and sizes can be custom colored to fit any home decor.

Melt beeswax in a lined double boiler or slow cooker with a non-stick insert. Use a vegetable peeler or knife to shave bits of crayon into the wax (about a fourth of the crayon). Stir with a wooden spoon to blend and let any bubbles settle. Dip a white taper candle into the wax to test the color. Remove wax from heat.

Dip the pillar candle base into the colored wax to the desired height and hold it for five to 10 seconds. Let dry, tinted end down, on a covered surface. Dip additional candles at varying heights. The wax may have to be returned to the heat source to maintain the proper consistency if several candles are dipped.

Bundle the candles into gift sets, wrap with a ribbon and attach a gift card.

Teacup candles are another delightful gift to make use of the remaining beeswax from the previous project or by melting down old candles.

In a double boiler, melt down old candles and remove old wicks with tongs. Take some new wicking and tie around a wooden skewer and attach the other end to a wick sustainer. Dip wicking and sustainer into wax to coat them. Remove the stick and place the sustainer in the bottom of an old teacup. These can be found at flea markets or garage sales, or even in grandma's cupboard.

Pour wax, stopping about 1/2 inch below the rim. Allow to harden, about an hour. The wax will dry with a small well around the wick. Take a skewer to poke several small holes around the wick and pour melted wax onto the surface until it is 1/4 inch from the top.

Those handy with materials and a needle might consider making scented sachet bags to tuck away in dresser drawers for fresh smelling clothing.

Cut four inch squares of material, patterned or plain. With right sides of two squares together, stitch a one-fourth inch seam around the sides, leaving a one-inch opening on the last side. Turn sachet right-side out and fill with lavender, cedar or other fragrant herbs. Stitch closed.

Embellish with lace, bows, charms or tiny fabric flowers. Stack three sachets together and wrap with a ribbon. Attach the gift card.

Small gift baskets can provide a welcome mini stay-cation for family or friends during the holiday.

Home-baked treats in a decorative tin, tucked into a basket with a mug, hot chocolate mix and a book makes the perfect holiday escape for the reader in the family.

Popcorn, a fleece blanket and a good movie tucked away in a gift basket will help another friend while away a few snowy hours, as well.

Offer a busy mom a mini-spa by tucking homemade bath salts, a scrubby, a scented candle into a basket and embellish with a ribbon-tied back scratcher on the handle.

Small gift baskets can be customized to the recipient's personal interests and are limited only by the imagination.

Crafting gifts and re-purposing items from around the home is a good way to economize on holiday expenses while offering recipients gifts that are as unique as they are, without breaking the bank.

Happy Holidays.

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