Saturday, 30 November 2013

Tips for making your own christmas crackers or Bon-bons!

I like making my own Christmas Crackers!

I like being able to get the colour that I want to match the rest of the table as I rarely got for the traditional colours. I also like to be able to pop my own "surprises" in the crackers instead of getting a piece of plastic rubbish that just get trashed immediately.

Some years I get excited and go all out with my crackers- other years, its pretty basic and laid back.


Over the years I have developed some short cuts (and long cuts) for making crackers and thought I would share them with you.

Here's what I do...


This year I am going for a lavender and mint colour scheme and I can not find any crackers in those colours. I thought about white or silver for a while and then when I looked through the various papers I had in my craft room - and I found the lavender!


The white Fleur-de-lys pattern actually came from the wrapping from a bunch of flowers that I had saved. I cut the plastic up into strips that happened to fit very well onto the cracker bases and taped them at the back with sticky tape. The pearly bits are just pearlised white paint dobbed onto the plastic and left to dry. I painted them once the cracker was almost finished as it was easier to stabilise the cracker than paint the pieces of loose plastic. 


I used cracker bases this year from Spotlight - $2 for 10 - but have used toilet rolls and paper towel rolls in the past as well. The Spotlight ones are bigger so if you want to put a bigger gift in them, then this is the way to go. I usually make the cracker to this point before I stuff it. Its much easier to tie one end closed with the insides resting on the tied bit than to wrestle the ties on and keep the gift inside.


Before I stuff the cracker - I put the "snap" inside. Thread it from the already tied end (much easier to get it through the hole) and then pop a small piece of tape on one end to hold it in place on the open end. Then you can slide the gifts inside without loosing the snap out the other end. I got these snaps for $2 for 10 at Spotlight as well - have a look in the Christmas section.


I like to pop lollies in with my crackers. I find that chocolates melts in our Christmas heat and can ruin the cracker if the temperature get too high. I also now use wrapped lollies, as when the cracker gets pulled, the contents can go any where - including the floor! I found wrapped fudge in a variety of flavours at my local Woolies. These were 10 for $5


This year I have "Thong" key rings and those plastic bracelets with Christmas messages on them - Love, Joy, Peace etc. I also popped in a couple of Christmas wine glass identifiers for the more mature members of the group and some Christmas bubbles to blow for the less than mature members of our table! Have a look in the party section of the Cheapy shops for party favours that suit what you are trying to do that year.

I have a neighbour who know the most wonderful jokes and has a great source of really good Christmas themed jokes that he supplies me with each year. I just print them out and cut them up into sets of three, fold then up and add them to the bits to go inside the cracker.


One year I found a supply of snowflake pocket watch necklaces on e-bay that I managed to pick up for 99c to $2.50 each (by being online each day and haunting the sellers site and swooping in at the last second to add a few cents to the last bidders price. Somewhere in China is someone who never want to see my e-bay name again - I bought 15 of them all up over 2 months... with free postage too!)


If you wanted to get very professional, you can use a rubber band to hold all the items together before you drop them into the cracker.


When you have added all the bits that you want to put inside and you have tied up the ends, store them in a place where they wont get crushed. I have a basket that happens to fit mine in perfectly. Mine are never as robust as the shop ones as mine are made of paper on the outside, not cardboard like the shop bought ones.
 


This year I am not putting my Christmas hats in the crackers... Why? Simply because I can not find any to buy in my city! I have tried making them out of tissue paper in the past and it hasn't been so successful so when a neighbour suggested cone hats on the table - my problem was solved. The hats will now form part of the table settings and be a bit more robust and possibly used next year as well...

I'm not so enamoured by the red on these hats and are considering covering them with mint or lavender trees, if I can find them! (How hard can that be after all??)

 
Try putting "home made crackers" or Bon-bons into a search engine set to images and see what comes up if you are low on inspiration. I have a post on making crackers from scratch that might get your creative juices flowing too! 

Could be a great project for the kids to get stuck into over the holidays if you want totally unique handmade crackers for your table!

Score card:
Green-ness: If you made these from materials that you had or saved - its probably quite green but as it all ends up in land fill anyway... maybe not so green after all. 
Frugal-ness: This is not a frugal way to put crackers on the table at all!
Time cost: Fair bit of time - maybe only an hour to make an assemble 20 - if you have the gifts, lollies and hats ready to roll that is!
Skill level: Cutting and pasting - I don't have the patience for anything to fancy!
Fun-ness: Great fun to make and have them match what you are trying to do!

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Making a home made, hand made watch strap...

I'm really rough on watches!

I wear them all the time and they often get immersed in water, banged and scratched and generally worn out! I buy them for $10 from the local Big W/K Mart but its not the watch itself that gives up the ghost. Its usually the watch strap that breaks.

Its very frustrating to have a collection of watch face's - albeit a little dinged - but not be able to wear them. I went through a phase of buying new watch straps for them and ran into that old age problem of the strap being more expensive to replace than the whole watch...?! The cheapest watch strap I could find was $12 and it lasted about two months.

I did go and buy a proper leather strap for $25 and reckon I might have got an extra three or four months out of it...

Its been an ongoing problem for me for a while now and I think I have finally I solved it!

Here's what I did...

 
This is the $10 Big W special watch with the current broken strap!
 
(Sorry photos are bad. My camera's battery goes flat 1/2 an hour after I charge it - these are taken on my phone and are really bad - sorry)

 
What I did was get some 'hat' elastic. Its about $2 at one of the cheapy shops.
Make sure it will fit between the watch and the bit that the strap was attached to. (Its called a spring bar according to my husband)

 
I measured out three strands about three times the length of the old watch strap.

 
And then folded them in half and attached them by running the ends of the elastic through the loop and pulling it tight 

 
At this point I experimented with various patterns and knots (a la macramé) but found it to difficult to make sit nicely for my level of experience (and patience)

 
So I put some decorative (and very simple) knots randomly along each strand of elastic.

 
On both sides. The idea here is to disguise the knots that I'm going to have to put in the elastic to tie it together underneath.

 
I tied four strands together but you could tie one on one if you wanted smaller knots.

 
Ta dah!

 
One you have adjusted it to be the tightness you need - take into account that its going to stretch a bit - just cut the ends off

 
Like so...

 
And there you have it - A badly photographed, $2 handmade/home made watch strap!

 
 
I have been wearing this for a week now. A few of the knots came undone and I ended up anchoring them with a dob of glue.

 
So far so good!
(Gosh - was it that early...?)
 
 
As a watch wearer, this has been a long time coming for me. The guy at the local shoe/watch repair place and I are quite good friends as I have been buying watch straps off him for years (I hope he doesn't go out of business now!?) I needed a waterproof alternative that was cheap enough but more importantly worked.
 
 
I have bought more expensive watches in the past but haven't found that the bands last much longer for the extra money. It is a lifestyle thing. I am rough on my hands and I don't take my watch off for anything but showers as I lose them once I start doing things like that. So partly its a choice.
 
 
The advantage of the multiple strands is that if one breaks or comes undone, the others will hold it on until you get a chance to fix it. But considering that simply taking it off and tying a new knot is all it takes to "fix" it  - you can fix it on the run.
 
 
I would like to have put some beads on it where the knots are but none of the beads I had would fit over the elastic. So I will have a look out for beads that do fit and resurrect some of the other watch faces I have and maybe make myself a fancy going out watch or an outfit coordinating watch or maybe I'll make 'em and give 'em away to some kids I know!
 
 
If you have the skills, you could make a friendship bracelet and slide the watch face onto it. I think it would wear pretty quickly though and there is always the issue of how you take it off for a shower or a swim, unless you attach the old clasps to it. The elastic just stretches and slides off. The cotton wont do that.
 
 
I tried string and macramé techniques but couldn't figure out how to attach it to my wrist and be able to remove it - but there maybe other people out there with the know how!
 
At any rate - its working for me so far!




Score card:
Green-ness: 5/5 for not supporting Big Industry with the planned obsolesce of cheap manufacturing for ever! 
Frugal-ness: 5/5 for being able to replace up to 5 watch straps for $2 with the same purchase of elastic 
Time cost: Probably about 20 minutes from who to go
Skill level: Just knotting (lots of internet instructions for knots if you want to be fancy!)
Fun -ness: great fun to fix my watch for an inth of the cost of replacement!
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