From the category archives:

The Perfect Gift

Painted Boxes

May 8, 2014

DIY: Pretty Painted Pencil Boxes. Good looking on your desk, and they make a great gift!   |   Design Mom

By Gabrielle. Photos and Styling by Amy Christie

Sometimes, I’m just in the mood to make something, so I come up with a project just because. This is one of those projects. Happily, this project happens to be stunning, and would make an excellent gift!

The boxes themselves are pretty fantastic, but fill them with some poppy pencils or note cards, and they’re even better. Make one for your mother. For your child’s teacher. For your best friend. Or just keep one on your own desk — they’re so pretty, they’re hard to part with.

DIY: Pretty Painted Pencil Boxes. Good looking on your desk, and they make a great gift!   |   Design Mom

I wish you could all come to my house to see these because, believe it or not, they are even more beautiful in person. I was even surprised at how lovely they turned out to be. And the how-to is so simple!

DIY: Pretty Painted Pencil Boxes. Good looking on your desk, and they make a great gift!   |   Design Mom

With a little tape and your favorite color scheme, you’re set to begin making beautiful designs.

DIY: Pretty Painted Pencil Boxes. Good looking on your desk, and they make a great gift!   |   Design Mom

Come see this simple project unfold!

Click here for the full tutorial.

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Easy & Pretty! Make an Etched Soap Pump for Child's Teacher   |   #teacherschangelives

By Gabrielle. Photos and styling by Amy Christie.  //  This post is brought to you by Office Depot’s #TeachersChangeLives program. Register your child’s classroom, so the students have the school supplies they need to succeed.

The end of the school year is approaching fast and I know you’re  thinking about something nice you can do for your child’s teacher. As you may remember, a couple of weeks ago, I wrote about teachers having to buy supplies for their classrooms out of their own pockets (you guys left the best comments!), so it won’t surprise you to hear that I think the best gift would be a donation for classroom supplies using Adopt A Classroom + Office Depot!

Final Infographic (new colors)

Teachers buy so many things for their students — from basic food, to warm coats, to field trips — and there are so many good, straight out of the box, practical items that would make great gifts. But I know sometimes it feels special to give a handmade gift, so I thought it would be fun to come up with something that would work at school or at home, and that could be personalized too.

Etched soap pumps fit the bill wonderfully! They’re easy to make, they look great, and you can pair them with a classroom donation, or give them as a stand alone gift.

Easy & Pretty! Make an Etched Soap Pump for Child's Teacher   |   #teacherschangelives

This is a smart, usable gift for teachers, but really, it will work for anyone on your list at any time of the year — a housewarming gift, a hostess gift, a neighbor gift at the holidays — or make some for your own house.

Easy & Pretty! Make an Etched Soap Pump for Child's Teacher   |   #teacherschangelives

The etching is so fun to do, you’ll want to etch every piece of glassware you have. Gather friends and have an etching party!

Easy & Pretty! Make an Etched Soap Pump for Child's Teacher   |   #teacherschangelives

Come and check out this simple project.

Click here for the full tutorial.

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DIY Hair Twists with Wooden Beads   |   Design Mom

By Gabrielle. Photography and assistance by Gina Vide of Willowday.

My girls have worn their hair long — shoulder length or longer — for years now. It wasn’t always so, and I’m sure it won’t always be so. But for now, like many families, we keep a generous stash of hair bands in our bathroom drawer ready to secure hair into ponytails, braids, and buns as needed. So when my friend Gina from Sweden sent me a photo of wooden bead hair ties she’d made, I had to get in on the action too! They work just like a standard rubberband — you put them on with a typical figure 8 twist, then adjust them so the beads are on top. The beads are such simple accent, but they add loads of charming personality!

Of course, they remind me of the hair bobbles of my childhood — with colorful plastic balls at the ends. But these are much gentler on your hair and more modern looking. Plus, you can make them in any color you like!

DIY Hair Twists with Wooden Beads   |   Design Mom DIY Hair Twists with Wooden Beads   |   Design Mom

I think a small box with 3 or 4 of these would make such a sweet gift. You could create them in springtime colors and include them in an Easter basket. Or they would be wonderful to make a birthday party — a happy little activity that guests can make and use right away.

DIY Hair Twists with Wooden Beads   |   Design Mom

I’m just crazy about the contrast of the glittery band or colorful shiny elastic against raw wood. If you prefer a glossier look, you could paint the beads to match or compliment the elastics. The combinations are endless. These hair twists are easy to make; fun to make alone or with friends on a craft night!

DIY Hair Twists with Wooden Beads   |   Design Mom DIY Hair Twists with Wooden Beads   |   Design Mom DIY Hair Twists with Wooden Beads   |   Design Mom

A special touch for the girls in your house — and for yourself as well. Let’s start making!

Click here for the full tutorial.

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A cute gift idea! Customize a fishbowl with these (free!) downloadable doodles. #DIY

This post is brought to you by Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Donate $5 and give a miracle to a child in the hospital this Christmas.

CMNH Logo

By Gabrielle, created with Amy Christie for Design Mom.

As I mentioned last week, I’m working with Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals to raise awareness and encourage donations. This month, a million children will be spending the holiday in their hospital bed, and they could really use a miracle. So CMN Hospitals’ created a campaign where you can donate $5 to honor one of those children. They even have a real-time counter that tracks donations, and every time $5 is gifted, the counter goes down by one.

That warm and fuzzy feeling you get when you do something good is probably enough temptation to donate, but as a little extra encouragement, I mentioned I would personally send one of my favorite children’s books to 50 (that’s right, 50!) different readers who donate — I’ll randomly pick 50 people among all who donate, which means if 100 people donate, there’s a 50/50 chance of receiving a book. Just a $5 donation! And you could receive a book worth $20. Not a bad deal.

iPad Mini

BUT. Apparently books are not the temptation I thought they would be (hah!), and I’m hoping for a bigger response with this post. So I’m upping the prize. Way, way up. Fifty people will still receive a book, but there’s a new grand prize, too! Let me know you made a donation (by commenting below, or on the earlier post), and you’re automatically entered to Win an iPad Mini. Plus, I’ll donate the value of an iPad Mini, in the grand-prize winner’s name to CMN Hospitals!!!

Yep. A $5 donation (or more!) enters you to win. Once again, this is not a CMN Hospitals contest, it’s just me doing what I can to help. I really hope you donate — I’d love to send you a book, and I hope you win the iPad Mini! You have until December 25th, and as of this posting, your chances are good. : )

A cute gift idea! Customize a fishbowl with these (free!) downloadable doodles. #DIY

While you ponder donating, I thought it would be fun to share a fun DIY gift idea for those children cooped up in a hospital — a simple fishbowl customized with sea-themed doodles! I think watching a little fish paddling around its bowl could be a calming way to spend some time. And adding happy illustrations to the bowl is an easy way to make this simple gift into something special.

As you probably know, you have to be careful about what you bring into a hospital gift-wise — no latex balloons, fresh flowers, stuffed animals or used toys. I called our hospital and asked if a small fishbowl would be okay, and they said yes, but you might want to ask your own just in case, because each hospital has different guidelines.

A cute gift idea! Customize a fishbowl with these (free!) downloadable doodles. #DIY

Just think, a simple doodle can transform a plain fish bowl into a fun and interesting home for our finned friends — without having to buy (or clean) extra accessories.

If you’re worried about your doodling skills, we took care of that for you. With the help of illustrator Stephanie Frey, we have three underwater scenes you can print off and trace on your choice of fish bowl.

A cute gift idea! Customize a fishbowl with these (free!) downloadable doodles. #DIY

You can choose from a school of fish, the ocean floor (with pirate’s treasure!), and seaweed and coral — or choose all three!

Ready to find out how simple it is? Come see!

Click here for the full tutorial.

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DIY: Easy Profile or Silhouette Pillows. A wonderful personalized gift!

By Darcy Miller. Find her on Instagram and Twitter.

Note from Design Mom: This project is by Darcy Miller — you may know her as the long time Editor of Martha Stewart Weddings, and one of the most talented people on the planet. I met Darcy a couple of years ago and have loved exchanging emails with her and following her adventures on Instagram. When she reached out with photos of these charming pillows, I knew right away I wanted to share them here! Without further ado, here’s Darcy:

With Thanksgiving coming very late and Channukah coming very early, I was a little last minute on this year’s holiday gifts. But you’d never know it from what we gave my husband — it’s a personalized, handmade present that just happens to be easy enough to make quickly.

DIY: Easy Silhouette Pillows. A wonderful personalized gift!

When it comes to gifts for my husband, my daughters and I are always big on making things. My middle daughter Ella, who is eight, loves to sew and takes lessons at a wonderful little sewing shop named Pins & Needles. Over Thanksgiving weekend we decided to make Daddy throw pillows for his office, inspired by pillows that Rachel (the owner of Pins & Needles) whipped up for her nieces. First, we went to B & J fabrics and picked put materials that would go with his couch — a rich black velvet and gray flannel and linen.  Then we spent a few hours sewing together at Pins & Needles (truth be told, Ella did most of the work — and even squeezed in making jeggings for her sisters!).

DIY: Easy Silhouette Pillows. A wonderful personalized gift!

The pillows were a huge success, and seriously easy to do. Now we want to make more for our grandmother’s couch — one for each grandkid — but that’s 8 more pillows(!), so we might be waiting for Christmas break when Ella has more free time to sew. Along with being the perfect thing to give to grandparents, these profile pillows would be a great gift for a engaged couple or for newlyweds; how cute would it be to have the 2 silhouettes facing each other on the pillows?

Click here for the full tutorial.

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DIY: Etched Snowflake Ornaments in Birch. So easy!   |   Design Mom

This project post is brought to you by Lowe’s Home Improvement. Create your perfect holiday setting with help from Lowe’s.

lowe's logo

Text and images by Amy Christie for Design Mom.

Birch snowflake ornaments! This is the 3rd (and last) project in our mini-series of cool things you can make with a wood burning/etching tool. Project 1 is here. Project 2 is here. Birch trees are just lovely for the holidays. Paired with a slip of ribbon or twine, an evergreen bough or two, and these little ornaments will instantly give your home a rustic, woodsy, holiday feel, and have you ready to greet the first snowfall with a big grin.

DIY: Etched Snowflake Ornaments in Birch. So easy!   |   Design Mom

The interior of the birch branch was soft so etching was very easy and the process was very quick.

DIY: Etched Snowflake Ornaments in Birch. So easy!   |   Design Mom

And these couldn’t be more affordable to make! You could cover your tree with them. Or hang them on doorknobs around the house. You could give a set to your niece who’s just settling into her first apartment. Use them as gift toppers, or give them as holiday party favors!

DIY: Etched Snowflake Ornaments in Birch. So easy!   |   Design Mom

Don’t worry if drawing snowflakes isn’t your thing — feel free to copy mine! The designs I made are totally easy and simple to mimic.

DIY: Etched Snowflake Ornaments in Birch. So easy!   |   Design Mom

Flex those fingers and let’s do this.

Click here for the full tutorial.

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DIY: Etched Cutting Boards. So easy and they make a really cool gift.  |  Design Mom

Text and images by Amy Christie for Design Mom. Tree illustrations by Eloise Renouf.

As I mentioned yesterday, I’ve created a 3 part series of cool gifts you can make with a wood-burning or etching tool. Today’s project: cutting boards! (Find the first project here.) When the holiday season rolls around, I often wish I had a whole new collection of platters to set my table with, so I knew these would make great gifts! Just think, with a few strokes of a heat tool, wooden cutting boards can go from lacking to lovely.

DIY: Etched Cutting Boards. So easy and they make a really cool gift.  |  Design Mom

As you whip up a couple of these as gifts for friends and family, be sure to buy extras for yourself! Serving ware never looked this good.

DIY: Etched Cutting Boards. So easy and they make a really cool gift.  |  Design Mom

The technique is the same as it was for the spoons I shared yesterday, however the density of these cutting boards was different, more solid. The etching process changed for each board, but, as you can see, the result is the same.

DIY: Etched Cutting Boards. So easy and they make a really cool gift.  |  Design Mom

Adding a simple design really personalizes something store-bought.

DIY: Etched Cutting Boards. So easy and they make a really cool gift.  |  Design Mom

Ready for round two? Let’s go!

Click here for the full tutorial.

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DIY: Etched Wooden Spoons. No paint, so they're food safe!  |  Design Mom

Text and images by Amy Christie for Design Mom.

It’s getting to be that time of year again: handmade gift-making season! This year, we thought it would be fun to try a new creative tool, a dremel (or you could call it a wood burner), a heated tool used for etching and drawing on wooden surfaces. For the next three days, I’ll be sharing cool and easy projects using this one tool (find the second project here).

First up, mixing spoons! Inspired by this project, I thought it would be interesting to see what super simple designs — dots, plaids and hatched arrows — looked like on the spoons. And they turned out so great, I thought they’d make a gorgeous gift!

DIY: Etched Wooden Spoons. No paint, so they're food safe!  |  Design Mom

Since I had never tried one before, I found it fascinating to work with the etcher — it’s a whole different way to alter an object. And you guys are lucky, because after my experience with these projects I can offer some advice. As a warning, it does get crazy hot and can 1) burn skin, 2) burn a whole through clothing and 3) make burn marks on anything it comes into contact with. Only two of these items are inspired by personal experience and I’m embarrassed enough not to tell you which two. : ) So please be careful!

DIY: Etched Wooden Spoons. No paint, so they're food safe!  |  Design Mom

That said, don’t be intimidated. It was actually really easy to work with. Just be careful, and when you aren’t actively using it, rest it on a surface that won’t burn. And of course, make sure to unplug it when you are finished.

DIY: Etched Wooden Spoons. No paint, so they're food safe!  |  Design Mom

Also, there is a good chance that when you finish, you will smell like what I imagine Smoky the Bear smells like — burned wood. So crack a window, turn on a fan and pretend you’re enjoying a bonfire. The result is well worth it.

DIY: Etched Wooden Spoons. No paint, so they're food safe!  |  Design Mom

Plug in the Dremel and let’s get going!

Click here for the full tutorial.

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Easy DIY! Make a Chandelier Mobile in Any Color You Choose  |  Design Mom

Text and photos by Amy Christie for Design Mom.

Let me guess: someone you know is having a baby, or about to adopt, or is decorating a nursery, and you’re on the hunt for a baby gift that will knock their socks off. May I humbly suggest a pretty little mobile, hand made in their very favorite colors?

Easy DIY! Make a Chandelier Mobile in Any Color You Choose  |  Design Mom Easy DIY! Make a Chandelier Mobile in Any Color You Choose  |  Design Mom

They can hang it above the changing table, or the bassinet — there is a calming peace that comes with the quiet twirl of a mobile.

Or maybe they’ll hang it in the corner of the family room to add some visual interest to the space.

Easy DIY! Make a Chandelier Mobile in Any Color You Choose  |  Design Mom

With air dry clay, an embroidery hoop, string and some paint, the possibilities are endless.

Click through for the full tutorial.

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Print & Fold Schoolhouse Gift Box. Free Printable!  |  Design Mom

Images and text by Amy Christie for Design Mom.

The school year is ending and it’s time for last-day-of-school parties, and gifts for teachers, coaches, librarians and school bus drivers. I’m sure this (free!) printable school house gift box would be gladly received by any educator (or non-educator) on your thank you list!

Print & Fold Schoolhouse Gift Box. Free Printable!  |  Design Mom

Remember this house gift box from Christmastime? Well, this schoolhouse gift box is just as easy to construct — simply print, cut, fold, and secure with tape. Choose from the yellow or red school house, or use the white version and add tissue paper in your school colors. Then fill with treats or small gift!

Print & Fold Schoolhouse Gift Box. Free Printable!  |  Design Mom

By the way, Design Mom readers are just the best ever! It’s thanks to a reader suggestion this gift box came to be. (Thanks Fiona!) I love hearing from you with suggestions for projects and gift ideas you’d like to see.

Print & Fold Schoolhouse Gift Box. Free Printable!  |  Design Mom

Let’s get to making these cute things!

Click here for the full tutorial — and the free printable, too.

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DESIGN MOM: Gold Leaf Plaster Votives. Easy DIY.

Text and images by Amy Christie for Design Mom.

Spring is the season for bridal showers and baby showers (raise your hand if you’re hosting one in the next few weeks). So I thought it would be fun to come up with a really pretty party favor that feels special and a bit glamorous, and these gold-leaf plaster votives are just the thing! (Bonus: they’re easy to make.)

Clean white and sparkly gold leaf makes a fresh combo. Plus, plaster offers a nice, soft white and it is so much fun to work with — it can be molded into whatever we choose! And then to make it more candlelight friendly (read: candlelight can shine out), a power drill works wonders, while gold leaf makes it shine.

DESIGN MOM: Gold Leaf Plaster Votives. Easy DIY.

You can use any type of disposable container for a mold — paper cups, cleaned out food containers — the shape is up to you. And keep in mind, you’ll need two — for these votives, an outer and inner mold is needed to create the shape.

DESIGN MOM: Gold Leaf Plaster Votives. Easy DIY.

A steady hand and an ability to handle a little mess (it’s a bit dusty) is all it takes to tranform plain plaster into peaceful little lights.

DESIGN MOM: Gold Leaf Plaster Votives. Easy DIY.

Come see how it’s done!

Click here for the full tutorial.

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DIY: Easy Painted Egg Cartons

Text and images by Amy Christie for Design Mom.

There is a good chance your egg usage during this month is a bit higher than other times of the year. So I’m guessing you may have a few empty egg cartons laying around. I’ve always had trouble throwing them out because, gosh, I can probably make something with them, right?! Yes! The answer is yes! The cartons make seasonally-perfect gift boxes.

Each tiny cup is a perfect spot to nestle little gifts, treats, ornaments or cascarones. And with a simple paint job, they’re super cute to boot!

DIY: Easy Painted Egg Cartons DIY: Easy Painted Egg Cartons DIY: Easy Painted Egg Cartons DIY: Easy Painted Egg Cartons

The carton is a blank canvas of possibilities, calling out for cheerful stripes or dots. Let’s paint!

Click here for the full tutorial.

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Text and images by Jordan of Polkadot Prints for Design Mom. Edited by Amy Christie.

In Australia, where I’m from, Valentine’s Day s is celebrated more by couples and ‘grown ups’ — we give flowers, chocolates, notes, we go out for dinner, etc. Because of that, that I’ve never been a big fan of the commercial craziness that surrounds this holiday. But really, when you get down to the nuts and bolts of the day, it’s really about loving others. And that? I am totally into!

Today’s Valentines DIY is a simple and easy project that your kids will love to help you with. These little bags would make a sweet little gift for your teenagers, your children’s classmates, and neighborhood friends. The ‘Love One Another’ flavour is unusual for Valentine’s Day, but I think it’s so fitting. I hope you like it!

Once you have all your supplies together, it really is quite simple.

Click here for the full tutorial.

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By Amy Christie

Let’s welcome February with a sweet little project — complete with free download!

Handmade Valentines are the best. Handmade Valentines that include a bag of sweets, the best ever. This little treat bag is just as simple to put together as the house gift box from last month and absolutely perfect for all your Valentines.



With the free printable, scissors and double-sided tape (and a few sweets), your Valentines will feel the love for sure.

Click here for the full tutorial and free printable.

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By Amy Christie

When I was first driving, my key chains out-numbered the passengers I was allowed to have in the car. They were big, clunky and heavy but so very cool. : ) Nowadays, I think of my keychain as a piece of jewelry — I crave something with color and design, something that feels good in my hand — and these wooden key chains fit the bill. I think they would make such a pretty “just because” gift for a friend, and they would be perfect to celebrate someone’s new driver’s license as well!

This project isn’t as detailed as you might think. Using markers instead of paint, there is less fiddling and dry-time is non-existent. Then with a little patience and strength, an ordinary blade can cut through the wood. Simple materials, simple tools, simple project.

Here’s how it’s done.

Click here for the full tutorial.

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By Amy Christie

I’m so pleased with this little project! I collaborated with Jordan of Polkadot Prints to design a darling house-shaped gift box that is as easy as pie to put together. You’ll want to make one for neighbors, postal workers, teachers — pretty much everyone you know!

Simply print off the free template, cut it out and double-side tape it together.

Fill it with a few small treats and your gift-giving list is done in a flash!

Click here for the full tutorial.

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By Jennifer Samuelson of Anise Press. Edited by Amy Christie

It’s the beginning of December, which is the time of year that I start to fret about things like finding the perfect gift for Grandma, mailing holiday cards to loved ones, and helping my kids decide upon hand-made gifts for their siblings. You too? Time for both of us to take a deep, calming breath, because this block printing tutorial will take care of all our problems.

Block printing looks a little intimidating at first glance, but trust me, it’s very intuitive. It’s a great way to get children and adults involved in creating art that can be produced in multiple originals. Though younger children won’t be able to cut their own blocks, they can create artwork and print with a little assistance. Older children (from about nine and up, depending on coordination and hand skills) will be able to complete a project alone, with some supervision.

Your children can use these block printing techniques to design holiday greeting cards for friends and family, stationery sets as a gift for a teacher, or personalized thank-you notes.

Are you ready to get started?

[click to continue…]

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DIY monogram ornaments

By Marisa of Omiyage. Photos by Alexis Edghill. Edited by Amy Christie

I love making things all year round, but there’s something extra-special about crafting for the holidays, don’t you think? Last year, we made these felt monogram ornaments and they were definitely a hit!

DIY monogram ornaments

We sent them out instead of Christmas cards, tied them onto gifts and placed them on our own tree. Everyone, young and old, loves receiving personalized items. But the best part of these ornaments (besides the fact they’re simple to make) is that you can customize them with any colour combination or font style you please!

DIY monogram ornaments

You can even choose to sew them by hand or by machine — whichever you’re more comfortable with. It’s like a choose-your-own-adventure in one little ornament!

So, let’s get started!

Click here for the full tutorial.

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By Amy Christie.

Sparkly, shiny baubles have a way of brightening my mood. I’ve been known to wear my best items to do housework occasionally, just because it feels good! With the holidays and surrounding festivities coming up quickly, I am eager for new pieces to wear. So I decided to make some!

For these pendants, I shied away from the understated and discreet and decide to make something bold and lustrous. Gold is making a comeback and it is definitely shiny.


Think these look too hard to make? They are totally doable. I mean it.

Polymer clay is a very versatile medium, the possibilities are seriously endless. Add that to how easy it is to manipulate, all the various finishes it can have and how it sticks to itself without glue — and creating things with it is pure fun! I’m really digging the black and gold trend right now and, as I mentioned, the gold is perfect for adding some shine to your holiday party apparel.

Click here for the full tutorial.

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By Amy Christie.

Candlelight is so inviting and comforting, especially on the chilly dark days of fall. What if you could include a little message with the candlelight?

This is such a fun project! Using basic plaster and simple materials, you can create the perfect gift for a someone you love. Give a romantic message to your sweetheart, or a collection of supportive notes for your best friend.


Click through for the easy DIY.

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