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SYFY WIRE Gift Guide

SYFY DIY: How to decorate and make geeky gifts for the holidays on a budget

By Caitlin Busch
SYFY DIY holiday crafts and decorations

Heading into the holiday season can be stressful for a lot of reasons. Not only are you juggling multiple holidays (Thanksgiving is less than a month away from Christmas this year), but when you mix in trying to figure out your packed schedule and staring at your quickly dwindling bank account, the most wonderful time of the year is also, arguably, the most arduous. When you have so many gifts to give and so many decorations to attend to, where do you turn?

To the internet, of course! To help you along the way, SYFY WIRE spoke with two artists about how to accomplish all your holiday crafting needs ahead of the season's big start: Thanksgiving. Whether you need tips on where to start, how to find supplies, or how to afford your dream projects, these DIY experts have got you covered.


"It depends first on what people's interests are," YouTuber NerdECrafter tells SYFY WIRE. "Are they more into fabrics like textiles, do they want to sculpt something, do they want to paint something? Because we all have this inkling of what we prefer."

If there's a specific creator you enjoy watching online, look to them for inspiration. There's no harm in copying something outright; that's why the how-to videos are there in the first place. Everything from that person's techniques to the materials they choose will serve as a guiding path.

NerdECrafter says that she always gets her ideas by walking through the aisles of a craft store. Taking in the potential supplies, she says, is a great way to inspire yourself. If you're looking to make some fall- or winter-themed crafts, hang out in the areas of craft stores that are often conveniently tailored for people looking for glittery snowflakes or bunches of fake leaves. Inspiration will strike.

There are countless tutorials online about making autumn- and winter-themed decorations and gifts, from the simple to the extravagant; it's enough to make even the most dedicated crafters and DIY-ers flustered. NerdECrafter suggests wading in slowly. At this point, she says, the market for themed decorations is so saturated that she likes to create very specific crafts but make them accessible to a wide market. Doing so is helpful for curious crafters, too, since not everyone celebrates every holiday and you can tailor projects however you like.

YouTuber Chloe Rose Art suggests thinking about fictional characters you'd want to include in decorations or, especially, in gifts you're making for loved ones. "It would be really cool to recreate something like that on a small canvas for someone," she says. "And if you don't actually have the skill to sketch something out, you can always do something like [using] tracing paper."

Chloe Rose Art has created similar gifts for her two brothers using their favorite colors and their favorite fictional characters, and she says they loved them. "Things like that can make [a gift] quite personal, but you can also do it very, very, very cheap."


NerdECrafter found herself feeling a bit lost years ago when she kept seeing crafts online she wanted but couldn't afford. One, in particular, an enamel pin of a parrot, really caught her eye. "When I saw the commission price — granted, it was very fair — but I didn't have that money," NerdECrafter says. "So I researched more and more and found out the type of material that it was made of, polymer clay, and I went out and bought some for myself. And I thought to myself, 'How wonderful would it be if people who can't afford things can still make it for themselves?'"

After that, she started a YouTube channel that she's dedicated to showing folks not only how to make their own crafts but how to do it on a budget.

A lot of her supplies, in fact, come from dollar stores. "The majority of the paints I use in my videos have always been from the dollar store and they work beautifully. I walk around the dollar store and pick stuff up all the time."

And if you can find coupons for craft supplies? Go for it. Prices can add up quickly, so you'll want to use all the help you can get!

Chloe Rose Art agrees, saying that just because a product is less expensive doesn't mean it's bad. "Get small canvases, which you can get super cheap at places like Michaels, even Walmart — they have crazy sales — and you can get, say, 8-by-8 canvases or even 4-by-4 canvases for like $3."

Even one of the paint brands she works with on the regular, Apple Barrel Paint, is about 50 cents a bottle. "You really only genuinely need the three primary colors, so blue, red, and yellow, and you can make every color you'd need from those three colors, essentially," she explains.


Let's say that the fallen leaves you stole from a nearby park are breaking apart, or maybe you didn't wait long enough for the glue to dry and now you've got a big mess to deal with. That's OK! Sure, it's a bit demoralizing, but trial and error is part of the process.

If you're following along with a specific creator, NerdECrafter says, you can get a boost of confidence when you nail something — and possibly even more of one if that creator messes up. That's why NerdECrafter chooses to show her mistakes along the way.

"That way it doesn't feel like you're alone on this journey of discovering and doing things … that's why I always show where I mess up and where the materials could possibly mess up," she says. "When I first started [making videos] it was not one of the first things I would show, because there's the pressure of 'You have to be the expert, and being the expert, you can't mess up.'"

That's an idea she doesn't adhere to anymore, and no one else should either, she says. "It's bull," she says with a laugh.

"99 percent of the time I share my mistakes," Chloe Rose Art says. "I think part of what people like about my videos is that I do show myself messing up." She says a lot of sites such as Instagram and Pinterest can be discouraging — people show their best work, not the mess or the practice rounds that led to that perfect final product.

"A stereotype is that if you're good at drawing or painting, you're automatically good at crafting," Chloe Rose Art says. "The same applies to different supplies. Like if you're good at using acrylic paints you must be really good at using oil pastels. But it's like anything in life: You're not going to be good at it unless you actually practice."

"Know that you're not gonna be great right away," she continues. "Try not to get discouraged, because if you get discouraged, you're never going to get anywhere. I think a lot of people give up on things because they think they can't do it, but that's because they haven't been at it long enough to actually progress with it. Start with simple things. You'll get it!"