Want to create gifts for friends and family for free? Looking to learn more crafty skills? Want to recycle instead of buying new gifts that may make their way into the dumpster? I’ve been hosting holiday craft skillshare parties for the last seven years and my friends love them! It’s a creative way to spend quality time with friends and to build community through sharing skills. I’ve also hosted these at Burning Man in the central cafe, the SF Free School, and many Really Really Free Markets.

The first step is to identify friends who want to learn and friends with crafty skills to share like journal-making, textiles, painting, drawing, sculpture, collage, writing, print-making, scavenging, and more. Send out a Facebook or email invitation with details about what kinds of skills to bring and examples of crafty upcycled materials that might be useful – creativity scores points here. Ask your friends to host mini workshops for the other participants and list the workshops in the invite. Create a schedule so people can attend more than one workshop if they want. Announce it as a potluck and / or music jam to make it more festive.

My most popular workshop is collage art card making. Anyone can do it. Create collages on used holiday cards to share the holiday spirit with friends and family. You can make color copies of the collage onto cardstock to send out a card to all your loved ones or make a unique card for each person.

Hand printing cards is also a fun new skill to learn. The easiest method is to carve a stamp out of rubber stamp material. You can use a carving kit found at most art stores. A free option is to do the print with stencils, which can be created readily with scissors, exacto knives, or box cutters. Remember how to make paper snowflakes? Just make a cut out and then paint or draw into the open spaces onto a card.

Here are some examples of upcycled crafty materials:

  • Images from used cards, magazines, old photos
  • Scrap paper, colored paper, cardstock, used wrapping paper, old maps
  • Backing material, like cardboard, boxes, old pieces of small furniture, wood
  • Scrap fabric, used clothing, busted bike tubes from a bike shop
  • Binding material such as string or wire (especially good for jewelry-making)
  • Decorating material – beads, feathers, small rocks, ribbon, leather, glitter, sequins, paint, markers
  • Glue, scissors, tape, rulers and other helpful tools
  • Use your imagination!

You can save up the craft materials in the preceding months by setting out a dedicated box near the trash, asking your friends to bring these materials and going scavenging beforehand. Help a friend clean their room or move and take the leftovers. Go dumpstering at the local fabric store or ask for scraps inside. Make wallets or purses out of busted bike tubes, easily collected from your local bikeshop.

Most cities have a recycled art supply store or thrift store, with artistic materials that can be bought at a steep bargain, especially in bulk. Ask an artist friend to bring scraps from her work process and some well used art-making supplies. You can create one place for sorting materials divided up into categories of stuff in boxes or just spread the materials randomly over a tarp or newspaper for easy cleaning.

Finally, when your guest instructors arrive ask them to make stations for their workshops. Create a separate space for potluck food and dancing party. Get ready to make art not trash!

Mira Luna


Mira Luna |

Mira Luna is a long time social and environmental justice activist, community organizer and journalist, working to develop an alternative economy. She co-founded Bay Area Community Exchange, a regional open