DIY and Reusable Party Decorations
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Mikey’s first birthday party was the first party my husband and I hosted as a couple, and by that point we had been together for almost 7 years. We had people over for dinner, of course, but never a party. Nothing to celebrate our 30th birthdays, my law school graduation, holidays, or whatever other reasons people use to come together. We’re both introverts who avoid being the center of attention.
That’s not to say that I don’t go all out. I do, and Mikey’s first birthday is proof. Sad, sad, proof. I went a little nuts. I invited, oh, everyone we ever knew. I had it catered, had special invitations made, had two outfits for him to wear, and, because it was an Argentine Gaucho theme, had Helena bring over her saddles and bales of hay so the kids could have their pictures taken.
Ever since then, overly produced themed birthday parties leave a bad taste in my mouth.
The one thing I did right was listen to my mother regarding tableware. She felt strongly that paper plates and plastic utensils were a waste of money. She finds them unattractive, flimsy, and bad for the environment. True on all counts, but I didn’t see where we had a choice. She did. In the clearance section of Target she found brightly colored ceramic plates in several patterns. She found matching melamine ones for the kids. She bought enough for everyone attending, and taught me this lesson.
Buy real party plates in fun colors that will work for most party themes. In our case, primary colors since most boy themes (cars, super heroes, animals, etc.) are usually red, blue, green, and yellow. Use them every time you have a party.
I’ve used those plates for birthday parties, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, large dinners, summer barbeques, and ill-fated attempt at Bunco, to name a few. All you need to do is change the flowers and a few incidentals to create a totally different look. Believe it or not, the table never looks the same.
Last year I took that same philosophy and made party decorations I could use again and again, no matter the occasion. I’ve used them at least twice since then, and I am always asked how I made them. They’re easy to make, and I made sure to make them in such a way that you can turn your product waste into party decorations, too.
Here are instructions to make your first set of party decorations.
Here is what you’ll need. Everything (for all the projects in this post) is available at large craft stores, like Michael’s or JoAnn’s.
- Card stock. Do not buy scrapbook paper. You’ll be tempted by the cute patterns, but scrapbook paper is thin enough to curl easily, and it won’t withstand years of use as well as card stock. Speaking of patterns, avoid those with words, letters, or anything that would look silly upside down or cut in half. You’ll be making precise cuts, and an upside-down headless dog won’t look cute on a banner. Unless you’re Tim Burton.
- Yarn. You can use other fibers as well, but you can buy a pound of yarn for around $5.00, and that’s more than you will ever need.
- Glue sticks. Buy the ones with a “no wrinkle” formulation.
- A ruler. You’ll be measuring, so a simple straight edge will not work here.
- A hole punch. Any shape, just make it large enough to thread yarn.
- A cutting device. I recommend a rotary cutter to make quick work of the project. If you don’t have one, you can use the ones at a copy center for free. You can also use an exacto-knife or scissors.
- Buttons. You’ll see.
Fold your card stock in half. You want paper thick enough to stand on end, but not so thick that it cracks when creased.
Take your ruler and a pencil and along the folded side of your card stock make light marks at 0, 4, 8, and 12 inches. Obviously the 0 and 12 inch marks are the ends of the paper. They aren’t necessary, but I still do it.
Next take your ruler and pencil and along the open side of your card stock make light marks at 2, 6, and 10 inches.
Finally, take your ruler and pencil and connect the marks at 0 and 4 on the folded side of your paper with the mark at 2 on the open side of your paper. Do this for all the dots. You’re basically making triangles. Or, like Nicholas noted, a giant zig-zag.
Tip: do this with a light hand. I made sure my lines were dark so that you can see them. If your lines are faint, you won’t see them later. If they’re heavy, you’ll become intimately familiar with your erasure.
Cut out your triangles and separate everything into three piles. You’ll have a pile of doubled-sided folding triangles, single-sided triangles, and goofy triangles.
Grab the double-sided triangles first and lay them out to determine a pattern. You can also wing it.
Determine the length of your banner. Pull that amount of yarn and add an additional 8″ on each side for tails. Lay it out on a large table and position your triangles. See how you like it. I don’t cut the yarn at this point in case I want the banner longer or shorter.
Apply plenty of glue to your triangle and press down firmly for a few seconds before moving on to the next one. When you are done, cut the yarn and finish off the ends with buttons.
Are you ready for your second set of decorations?
The second set of decorations uses the single-sided triangles. The first banner looks great from every direction and can hang from ceilings, across walkways, etc. Banners made from single-sided triangles are better suited for hanging against walls, furniture, or anywhere you won’t see the backside.
These are the most popular homemade banners I have seen. They are often made from scrapbook paper, which is fine if you don’t plan on using them for multiple parties/years. You already know the drill, I’m sure. Prepare your yarn as detailed above. Take your hole punch and punch holes at each end. Thread your yarn like a running stitch and finish with buttons.
(See the pencil marks on the orange triangle?)
Congratulations! You have banners!
(I’ve spread out the triangles a bit in the middle to show you both doubled-sided and single-sided banners can be adjusted for spacing after they are already made.)
We have two more decorations to go before we use up all our card stock. Here is your third set of decorations.
Using the entire pack of 48 sheets of card stock will get you a grip of triangles. You can use them all to make banners, but you can also use some of them to make a fun chandelier garland.
- Three paper punches in sizes ranging from 2″ to less than 1″
- Baker’s twine, #10 size yarn, jute, etc. You need thin fiber, in other words. Embroidery floss is too thin.
- Glue in low or wrinkle free formulation.
Cut your baker’s twine in roughly 18″ lengths. Punch fun shapes from your scraps, making sure you have enough for a front and back side. Generously glue each side, press down firmly, and wait a few seconds before moving on to the next one.
Allow them to dry, and then hang them from your chandelier. You won’t use buttons to finish these off. Instead, trim the twine to the very edge of the bottom shape, like this:
Here it is all together.
What’s that? You see the fourth set of decorations? Yes, just take your triangles–even the goofy ones–and thread them on skewers to make quick cake flags. Easy.
Now, go throw a party!