The family that crafts together ...has fun together


Everyone can help make holiday cards By Sandi Pedersen

The Pedersen's 2000 holiday card with cover design by Sofie  

I started making my own Christmas cards when I was in college. It was easy then. I sent out only 20 cards. Then I married Dan, a very artistic person, and immediately our list doubled. Over time, our family has grown to six and our card list has reached 100 and continues to grow.

The pressure to come up with something new and wonderful each year continues to grow, too. What was once a very simple and relaxing afternoon has become an entire weeklong (or more) project. And yet, we craft on.

We talk about starting in July; that will never happen. We're not in the holiday spirit. We talk about ideas in September; no one has any. We tell each other it is time to start in November. Nah. By the second week of December, I suggest we try New Year's cards instead; that won't do. We work best under pressure, when the stressful days of the holidays are upon us.

We all get a job. Whether big or small, each person's part in the process depends on the success of the one before and the one after. We make our cards assembly-line style and everyone joins in.

We have tried all kinds of styles and methods. Some are on card stock; some are on homemade paper. Some are airbrushed and some hand painted. Some have insides that are completely hand written; some are typed on the computer and photocopied. Some are cut out; some have layers. Some are intricate; some are simple. Some are religious, and some are just silly.

Each new card is born in part from what we have learned not to do. We cannot use an old copy machine that will leave toner streaks on the paper. We cannot give the glue gun step to a small child. We cannot expect to purchase 100 matching pieces of card stock five days before Christmas. We cannot cut ribbon pieces in advance in the wrong size because the store will be closed before we notice the error. We cannot leave cards to dry on beds because someone will need to go to sleep before the paint is dry. We must make sure that the writing on the inside is facing the same direction as the writing on the outside. And all small children must be able to find a clear path to run to the bathroom as needed.

Dan has the last job in the card-making process. He grabs all the stamped and addressed envelopes, jumps in his car and drives into the city. He is racing the clock. It is Dec. 23 and the cards have to be postmarked now. The main post office in Chicago is open later than all others. Even if the cards don't arrive until the day after Christmas, the postmark must be before Dec. 25. This is his rule and the most important detail.

Having said all this, here are my three most important tips to create your own holiday masterpieces:

Rule No. 1: If the kids are totally not interested, let go of the warm and fuzzy Norman Rockwell image you have in your head.

Rule No. 2: Make cards that are appropriate to your kids' ages and skill levels.

Rule No. 3: Keep it simple.

The cards take us about a week, working on the cards off and on in the evenings amidst all the other holiday activities.

This is how the system worked on one of our simplest cards and one of my favorites, created the year my youngest daughter, Sofie, was 3½. She painted a picture of Santa Claus with Dan's supervision. While she was painting, Dan took notes of what she was saying. The painting was scanned into the computer, reduced and printed on photo paper. The inside of the card was typed on the computer and printed on card stock. The left side has quotes from Sofie and the right side has our greeting. Last, the picture of Santa was glued onto the outside.

If you'd like to put your family's imprint on a holiday card, you'll need a few supplies to go along with your great idea. Craft and office supply stores carry a wide selection of paper choices. Experiment with paint and markers and crayons-kids love to draw and color when a brand new set of something appears. Sponge painting is fun and a box full of ribbons, tissue paper and construction paper is always fun. Don't rule out glue and glitter; it may be messy, but kids love it. Even last year's cards can become a supply to be cut and pasted onto new cards.

Cardmaking doesn't have to be difficult. None of this has to put you in the hospital. The cards don't have to be perfect; they don't even have to be all the same. Kids like art. They like when their artwork is appreciated by others; they like to be able to show off their talents; and they like it when you say that something they make is good enough to give away.

Enjoy yourself, have fun and remember: Grandma will love it no matter what it looks like.



Sandi Pedersen is online and calendar editor at Chicago Parent and the mother of three girls and one boy


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