Crafts for Christmas Three creative crafting projects for the festive period. Brought to you by the Technology-Enhanced Learning Team at the University of Essex.

Have yourself a crafty little Christmas

Why don't you get crafty this Christmas? Here are three easy-to-do craft projects to get you in the festive mood. Learn how to create a gorgeous gift box for that special someone in your life, a dazzling decoration for your dining room table, and an origami ornament for your Christmas tree.

Bring a touch of homemade charm to your Christmas, courtesy of your friendly neighbourhood TEL Team. These tutorials—made by a talented team of instructional designers based at our Colchester campus—will teach you how to craft objects using paper, card and even pine cones! Keep scrolling for step-by-step instructions.

Wishing you a merry Christmas and a happy New Year! 🎄🎁🎅🎉

From Jennifer, Marty, Mike, Niki, Simon and Sam

About the TEL Team

By teaching staff to make better use of teaching technologies, we support curriculum innovation and digital skills development. We also aid staff in the design and creation of digital and paper-based learning resources.

Based in Organisational Development (part of Human Resources), we're a friendly group of elearning experts, instructional designers and learning technologists.

Work with us

If you are interested in starting a project with us, please send an email to tel@essex.ac.uk.

Christmas star box

Difficulty rating: ★★★☆☆

You will need:

  • Lightweight card stock
  • Scissors
  • Glue (or double-sided sticky tape)
  • Computer and printer

This star-shaped cardboard box isn't as difficult to make as it first appears. However, you do need to be patient and follow the instructions carefully. As the written instructions are a little difficult to follow, we have produced a short video that captures the process of creating this clever gift box.

Step 1: Print and cut out template

Download the star box template and print it out on lightweight card. Carefully cut out your template using a pair of scissors.

Step 2: Score and fold card

Lightly score every line with the scissors to make the cardboard easier to fold. Fold the template on every line. Fold the three tabs inward.

Step 3: Glue and stick box

Apply glue (or double-sided sticky tape) to the tabs. Fold the template in half, so that it forms one large pentagon. Press firmly on the glued areas, so that it sticks well. Leave for a couple of minutes to dry.

Step 4: Expand the box

Push gently on each side of the pentagon. The box should fold in on itself. Tuck the flap down to close the star box.

Share your star box

If you give the box a go, please share your star box on social media using the hashtag #EssexStarBox.

Glitter pine cone place card holders

Difficulty rating: ★★☆☆☆

You will need:

  • Pine cones
  • PVA glue or craft glue
  • Glitter (preferably the eco-friendly, biodegradable kind such as craft bio-glitter)
  • Off-white card stock
  • Calligraphy pen

If you think the star box looks a little too difficult, try your hand at one of these Scandinavian-inspired place card holders instead. Pine cones make an excellent Christmas crafting material. They're plentiful, versatile and you can forage them for free.

This is a simple, yet elegant way to decorate your table at Christmas time. The glitter sparkles under candlelight, and makes for a very magical atmosphere.

Crafting with pine cones is a fun activity for the entire family. So what are you waiting for? Go grab a pine cone, some glue and get your glitter on!

Step 1: Clean your cones

If you foraged for your own pine cones, you need to clean them. Start by removing any dirt or debris with a wet cloth. Once they're clean, bake them in your oven at approx. 100°C for about an hour (low and slow). This will sterilise the cones, killing any bugs or bacteria on them.

Warning: Don't leave pine cones unattended in your oven. Sap can be flammable, though pine cones rarely catch fire when cleaned in this way. Alternatively, you can save yourself some time and effort by purchasing cleaned or bleached pine cones online (or from your local arts and craft shop).

Step 2: Apply glue

Dip a small brush into a pot of school glue (PVA glue). Press the tip of the brush against each tip of the pine cone. Reload your brush with glue as and when required. Don't overdo it! You only need enough glue on each tip to catch and hold a small amount of glitter in place.

Step 3: Sprinkle glitter

Place your glued pine cone in a bowl or plastic container. This will help you catch any excess glitter and stop things getting too messy. Carefully sprinkle glitter over the glued areas of the pine cone. Tilt the cone so that all parts are covered in glitter. Once covered, pick up the pine cone by its base and shake it over the container to remove any excess glitter. Leave overnight to dry. Repeat this process with as many pine cones as you need.

Step 4: Make your place cards

Print or hand write the names of your dinner guests on off-white card stock. The cards should be approx. the size of a business card. Apply a thin layer of glue to the short edges of each card. Dip the glued portions of the card into a container full of glitter. Repeat this process for each card. Leave them to dry.

Step 5: Assemble place card holders

Once both the pine cones and the cards are completely dry, slip each card into the top of a pine cone. Your scandi-Christmas glitter pine cone place card holders are now finished! All you have to do now is cook the turkey!

Note: If you dislike glitter or suffer from sparkalaphobia (a fear of glitter), then you can paint the tips of your pine cones with white paint. This produces an equally impressive table decoration.

Fun Christmas fact

Glitter was invented in 1934 by American Henry Ruschmann. He discovered an efficient way of cutting plastic in to thousands of tiny pieces*.

Ruschmann founded Meadowbrook Inventions. Set in the middle of a working cattle farm, the company is still a major global supplier of glitter. This is made clear by their slogan, “Our glitter covers the world.”

* This means that glitter is an often-overlooked micro-plastic. Traditional polyester glitter takes hundreds of years to degrade. It continues to play a small, yet significant part in the ongoing plastic crisis the world now faces.

Thankfully, you can now buy eco-friendly cosmetic and crafting glitter that doesn't contain plastic. Instead it uses aluminium—a naturally occurring metal—and cellulose from eucalyptus trees. With the help of microbes and bacteria in the natural environment, the glitter bio-degrades to leave little to no trace. Look for retailers selling cosmetic, deco or craft bio-glitter.

Origami star table decoration

Difficulty rating: ★★★★☆

You will need:

  • Origami or decorative paper (thicker wrapping paper works well)
  • Scissors
  • String (optional)

If you're after more of a challenge, this five-pointed origami star will test your paper folding abilities. Although the folding sequence is complicated, the finished star is very attractive. Once you've got the knack, you'll find that you're able to make several stars in a relatively short space of time. You can then sit them within the branches of your Christmas tree to fill it out.

Alternatively, you can thread some string to the top point of the star and hang it from a branch (as you would a traditional Christmas tree ornament). These stars can also be made in several sizes and scattered across a table top. This is an inexpensive way to add some elegance to your dining room table at Christmas. This origami model also looks impressive when hanging in front of a mirror.

The easiest way to learn how to fold this model is to watch this video tutorial by Tobias from Homemade Gifts Made Easy. The site has many fantastic paper crafting tutorials that are very easy to follow.

Step 1: Make pentagon-shaped paper

The first thing you need to do is make a pentagon-shaped piece of paper. There are two ways of doing this:

  1. The easy way to do this is to download the template file and cut out the pentagon. Use this as a pattern to draw a pentagon on your preferred choice of origami or decorative paper. Cut out the pentagon with a pair of scissors.
  2. Fold and cut a standard square of origami paper using a clever origami trick. Although this method is more difficult than using the template, the benefit of this technique is that it works with any size of paper, no matter how big or small.

Step 2: Precrease the paper

Start with your paper blank side up. Fold and unfold the pentagon in half. Repeat this on all fives sides of the paper. Next, fold up the bottom straight edge of the pentagon, so that the corners meet the two diagonal creases you just made. Repeat this process on all five sides.

Fold in the left edge along one of the creases you just made. Then fold up the bottom edge. At the same time, pull the corner of the pentagon out and fold it back in on itself (this is called a "reverse fold").

Unfold the model completely. Rotate the paper so that the next side is at the bottom, then repeat the same folds. Do the same thing on all five sides of the pentagon. Completely unfold the pentagon.

Step 3: Squash the model

Pinch all five corners of the pentagon together and pull them toward the centre. With a little manipulation, the paper will collapse into a star shape.

Step 4: Sharpen points

Turn the model over. Grasp the bottom corner of one of the points and fold it inward to meet the centre line of the star. Crease upward forming a sharp, thin point. Repeat on all sides.

Step 5: Lock model

When completing the final point, ease out the edge and tuck the bottom edge of the point under the flap to the left. This will lock the design in place.

Fun Christmas fact

The pop band Coldplay used this origami star design during a live rendition of “A Sky Full of Stars” on Later... with Jules Holland. The performance, along with the glowing origami stars, can be seen in the video below.

About the University of Essex

The University of Essex is home to the curious, brave and bold. We’re a university where curiosity prevails. Exploring new ways of thinking and pushing boundaries isn’t just encouraged, it’s expected.

We were named University of the Year at the Times Higher Education Awards 2018. We’re proud to be Gold rated in the Teaching Excellence Framework 2017 and ranked in the top 30 in The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide. We're also in the top 25 for research quality in the Good University Guide.

We're committed to two things: excellence in teaching and excellence in research. Our students are members of a unique, transformational living and learning community. We equip and empower them to make a difference to the world around them.


Created with images by 1200219 - "texture pattern paint" • andreas160578 - "tap fir tree decoration" • bady qb - "Burst of light in music concert"

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