The Year of Making Things

craft time
Earlier this year, I declared that 2014 would be The Year of Making Things. I definitely wanted to write more and, of course, make more of myself in the year to come. But it was also a bit more practical than that. Yes, I wanted to create art, but I also just wanted to make tangible things. Put things together that I could use, that would serve a purpose and be personal.

As it turned out, arts and crafts are a wonderful solution when you’re broke. Handmade gifts, if done right, can be so much more meaningful and special to give to your nearest and dearest. And, depending on how you procure your materials, sometimes you can really make something out of next to nothing. Here are three gifts I made for friends over this past year, and their approximate costs:

Shrinky Dink Night Light
The idea behind creating the Shrinky Dink nightlight was inspired by Kuchi Kopi, a fictional character on the animated television show Bob’s Burgers. In the show, Louise, the youngest of the Belcher children, owns a lot of Kuchi Kopi-branded swag, including a night light that makes a prominent appearance in the episode Crawl Space. My old roommate and I loved the idea of Kuchi Kopi and wanted a night light for ourselves. Since they don’t sell them as merch, the best thing I could come up with was my own little version using a Shrinky Dink glued to the front of a night light base.


Because the bases were bought in bulk (I think I had like 12), and the Shrinky Dinks came in packs of 10, I have been giving out night lights like nobody’s business. They are my go-to homemade present, and I have never received a complaint.


• 10-Pack of Blank Shrinky Dink Sheets: $12
• Six-Pack of Night Lights: $15.00
• Super Glue: $4

Time: About an Hour
Each Nightlight: About $4


Personalized Puffy Paint Shirt
Our friend was moving away to California, so my boyfriend and I wanted to make him a present. We had seen a really cool shirt on the subway: a guy standing by us was wearing a colorful shirt with a neat pattern, where, once you looked closely, you realized the design was made up of colorful penis outlines. It was a very cool shirt.

We thought our friend would appreciate that shirt but had no way of finding it (hint: Googling “colorful penis shirt” gets you nowhere), so we decided to make one ourselves. We also knew we were buying him a stuffed animal he wanted, so we decided to make a small version for the stuff hippo, as well.

We went to Michaels, where, too embarrassed to ask if they had any small shirts that could fit a stuffed hippo–a blank one, because we had to draw penises on it—I asked if they had any baby-sized shirts and ended up buying a three-pack of baby creepers, which we pinned as a shirt on the hippo. We also bought a white tee from Old Navy for our friend and a pack of puffy paint. The end result looks nothing like the shirt it was inspired by, but at least the hippo and our friend have matching outfits, should they choose to cruise together in the California sun. Also, bonus, we now have 2 spare baby creepers that make us feel like total creepers.


• Pack of Puffy Paint: $12
• Old Navy White Tee: $7
• 3-Pack of Baby Creepers: $9

Time: About an Hour
Total for Gift: About $12, not counting hippo


Advent Calendar
I love the idea of advent calendars and have been lucky enough to be the recipient of a Haribo one a couple of years ago. If a candy a day does not motivate you to make it to December 25th, I don’t know what will. I’ve also long wanted to try to whisky advent calendar, but upon looking at the 300 pound price tag (AHHHHH), I realized I could just stick small bottles of airplane vodka in drawers for much less. This inspired me to make my own.

The good news is that it’s easy to get a good set up. I bought a pre-made set of 25 paper drawers online and decorated it with stickers, many of which I just had lying around the house. I’m pretty sure the holiday set was a freebie sent with a plea for donations. The filling of the drawers can get expensive– there are some cool things in there like keychains and toys. But I was able to balance that out with origami pieces, Shinky Dink charms, and other smaller things.


• Set of Advent Drawers: $12
• Total Budget for Filling Calendar: $15

Time: For decorating, 30 minutes; for hunting/gathering, a good month
Total for gift: $27, though having something to look forward to for 25 days in a row: priceless


So, should you find your wallet a little light this holiday season, get out your markers and glue, and consider making something for your friends and family. It’s thoughtful and heartfelt, and even if things don’t work out as planned, it is the thought that counts.


Kimberly Lew is the proud writer of plays, blogs, and the monthly check when the rent is due. Check her out at

Photo: Chrissy Farnan



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