The other year, we threw a surprise party for a friend's daughter who was 21. Being a steampunk aficionado, we spent an evening working out ways to design and create a themed party for her, while keeping a tight budget. The idea was to have as much as possible for as little as possible - I think the whole party, food included, was meant to be under £100.
The results were amazing, and only involved a little paper, cardboard tubes, glass jars, scissors, twine, glue and good old-fashioned grit. Oh, and a lot of imagination and gold paint spray.
The following tips are perfect for any celebration, especially for a money-saving New Year party.
To decorate a wall or garden, bunting is ideal as it takes up a lot of space and can transform a plain wall into a perfect party room.
Rather than throw out old cotton or linen sheets, wash them, and cut out small triangles of equal size. Take some soft twine or strong wool, and attach each triangle to the twine, allowing a couple of inches space between each triangle. To attach, simply fold a little bit of the cloth over the twine and either staple or do a running stitch. Alternating colours of cloth makes for a pretty pattern.
2) Teasing tea-lights
Baby food jars can make great ornaments, especially if you want to light up your garden. Tying 20 or so to a tree and filling the garden with twinkling tea lights is a wonderful touch, or dot them around
staircases or mantelpieces to add a bit of seasonal sparkle.
|Go home Lantern, you're drunk|
Baby food jars
Some thin but strong wire - jewellery wire or picture wire
Some natural foliage from the garden
Some battery-operated tealights
Clean as many baby food jars as you can. Put a tiny layer of leafage at the bottom of the jar. Use the wire to create a little 'basket handle' around the lip of the jar. Make it as high and hooped as possible. Cover any unsightly knots and ties around the jar with a little (non prickly) foliage. Test the tealight and make sure it can sit reasonably straight on the foliage. Otherwise it gets drunk and falls over, like the wee lantern on the left...
3) Lovely labels
Make food more inviting by creating themed mini menu cards to stick into dishes and sit alongside cakes.
Print out some coloured paper to match your bunting / colour theme.
Many crafting website offer free print-outs of party paper in myriad colours and patterns, and fix onto a sheet of card.
Any card will do; empty boxes or Christmas cards are perfect, as it helps to recycle and clear up after Christmas.
Choose whichever shape suits you and make a template to trace around as many as you need.
Take a nice pen; gold or silver or black make stand-out descriptions. When the ink dries, use a little sellotape to stick toothpicks onto the back of the card and use to adorn your table.
4) Paper chains get perky
A great way to use up leftover paper is in the making of paper chains.
Whether you use coloured paper, newspaper or shiny metallic paper, the outcome can look swell. We used old photocopied sheet music, copied onto some cream-coloured paper I had leftover from my wedding craft box. The effect was striking.
Choose your paper scheme cut into even strips
Glue or use double-sided tape on one end and hoop each strip through to complete a chain.
And why stop at chains? We also traced some cogs of different size onto cardboard, traced onto metallic coloured card and created a string of brass-shimmery cogs, fastened with metal paper fasteners.
5) Paper roses
I made roses out of an old, battered version of my favourite book and a copy of the Financial Times - where I met my husband - for my wedding bouquet, and for my bridesmaids.
This was the FIRST time I had ever made the roses - and the FIRST time I had ever done ANY flower arranging. So I guess it was a success!
|Me with my bouquet getting ready|
|One of my bridesmaid's bouquets|
In addition to being lovely wedding bouquets that really will last forever (and cost next-to-nothing to make), I have given out single ones and smaller arrangements. These make magnificent gifts for individuals and a wonderful ornament for the dining table if you are having a family meal or dinner with friends.
Some 16- gauge green florists' wire
Paper - lots of it
A glue gun
Some thin jewellery wire
Some sparkly beads from broken necklaces
Any stick-on sparkles
These will take time but I PROMISE they will look amazing.
Cut five sizes of petal. The smallest should be as small as the tip of your index finger, the next a little larger, the next larger still and so on until you have some large and broad petals.
Imagine a rose and shape each of your cut out books or coloured paper like a real petal. Slightly curl the tips of the two larger size petals to make them resemble real rose petals.
Start with twisting a small bead onto a piece of wire, and wrapping it around the top of the florist's wire. Imagine this as the stamen of the rose.
Then start to wrap the smallest petals around the wire, using a little hot glue at the bottom of each one to fix it. Use five of each size for each rose.
Start on the second size petals, fixing them around with glue on the bottom of each one, slightly overlapping each one.
By the time you get to the third layer it will start to look like a rose bud. On the last layer, you will need to cut a little bit into the bottom of the petal so that it can wrap around the bottom of the rose better. You can start to shape the petals a little when it is formed. Use a little ribbon or green tissue paper to cover up the messy base of the flower, cutting it like the sepals of a real rose.
It takes about 40 minutes. So it does take time, but these roses last forever. And if you want to go the extra mile, try making these bespoke - perhaps out of photocopies of someone's favourite poems or book. I suggest using a COPY of their favourite book... don't just chop up their limited edition signed by Margaret Atwood. Just a suggestion...