Fun Holiday Craft Ideas Directly From an Expert

Amanda Cissner, crafter and owner of muffintops
Amanda Cissner, crafter, and owner of muffintops.

Making holiday crafts is a terrific creative outlet. Crafter Amanda Cissner, owner of muffintops, says another appeal to crafting, especially for gifts, is the level of personalization that goes into each project. Tapping into someone's hobby or interest is the key to creating precious handmade presents. Cissner specializes in whimsical felt and fabric designs with distinctive personality and flair.

Holiday Crafts: Amanda Cissner Interview

What first attracted you to crafting?

I'm not really sure. My mom always did a lot of crafting when I was growing up, and as a child, I did projects for 4-H. Then, as I got older, I thought crafting was a little cheesy.

But about five years ago, I thought it was cool again. It's fun to think up something, to draw from your imagination, and see it come to life. Sometimes it doesn't go exactly according to plan, but occasionally, the process goes better than you thought!

Now, I think it's exciting to go through each creative phase, and it's really inspiring to see what others do.

You work with a lot of different mediums, but felt seems to be a favorite. What do you like about it?

I'm not the best at sewing, and I really like that felt doesn't require you to be as precise as other fabrics - for example, you can cut it, and it doesn't unravel. It works in so many different formats, and I get a great level of detail. Plus felt is relatively inexpensive, even the hand-dyed stuff. So I can try different types on projects, and if something doesn't work out quite right, I haven't lost much.

The first felt pieces I made were pretty basic. Over time, it's become more fun to figure out what the felt will do. I usually draw a little paper pattern, cut it out, and then pin it to the felt and cut again. Some of the Christmas ornaments I do without a pattern, simply because I've worked with the same design for so long, it becomes easier each time.

For some projects, I experiment with batting and creasing, again, just to see what the felt will do.

Snowman ornament made by Amanda Cissner
One of Cissner's holiday ornaments.

How do you plan projects, especially when you're trying to develop holiday crafts?

For me, it comes down to, "what do I have time to do?" For instance, I've had a couple of friends who've had babies recently, and I planned ahead with those gifts and they turned out well. But, I've worked on stuff two weeks before the holidays before, too!

Time is really a factor for me. There are some ornaments that I've made enough times that I can knock those out pretty quickly. During the holidays, if my husband and I plate up cookies for someone, I'll make up one of my little birds to add as a finishing touch.

With other designs, if I make one, and I'm happy with the way they turned out, I'll make a bunch of them to get ahead.

Are you someone who stays up all night working on something, or are you more methodical?

I definitely stay up all night working, mainly because I get so excited about a project I'm working on!

Advent calendar ornaments crafted by Amanda Cissner
Cissner's advent calendar ornaments.

You've started making advent calendars. Why did you choose do those, and what do you like and dislike about the project?

I saw that Restoration Hardware had a cute advent calendar, and it reminded me of the wooden one my mom painted when my brother and sister and I were kids. If I'm remembering correctly, I got more than my fair share of angel-hanging, because I would say that my brother or my sister did it last year!

So I thought the advent calendar Restoration had was cool, and I remembered how much I enjoyed it as a child, but I didn't want to pay for it! Making one myself was much more fun, and less expensive.

I set out the ornaments I've worked on so far, think about what I want each one to look like, the pockets, all that. Each little ornament I make, I really think they're fun to do, but I guess the only thing I don't like about the project is that everything is a bit smaller than I thought!

Craft Ideas for Decorating and Gifts

What ideas do you have for some easy holiday crafts that people can make for holiday decorating and gift-giving?

I think that ornaments are really fun and super easy. Instead of getting fancy wool felt, for example, use a sheet of craft felt. You can do so many things with it, like adding beads to it, yarn adornments, glitter discs, stuff like that.

I've also seen some really cute ideas for felt table settings: napkin rings, placemats, coasters, and table runners.

And it's so great to make something that you can personalize. Think about someone's interests, and just go from there. I recently made some cartoon character ornaments for a friend who loves the anime movie My Neighbor Totoro. She was really surprised and delighted, because she likes these characters so much. You can make craft gifts like this easily.

My Neighbor Totoro character ornaments
Ornaments based on characters from the movie My Neighbor Totoro.

What type of Christmas ornaments do you make?

I started doing some just for our family tree, and they're not very traditional. They're very personal - we have little things that amuse the two of us and I use up scrap felt this way.

For other gifts, I try to do some traditional things, but it really depends on the people and the holiday they celebrate and what they exchange. I usually stick with more secular designs.

Your business, muffintops, specializes in baby shirts with adorable felt designs. How did that get started?

When I got back into crafting, I made myself a t-shirt, and thought it turned out well. But, I didn't think too many adults would want a felt giraffe on a shirt. So while I was quite taken with my "craftiness," I thought it was always just going to be a thing I did for myself.

Then some friends commented on how cute these shirts would be for kids, and even placed requests for specific animals. Each time I made a new one, someone else would say, "Make a shirt for my son with a duck on it - we'd love that" or "My daughter really loves purple and bunnies - can you do something like that?" So it made me think that maybe there was a market there for such items.

Muffintops baby giraffe T-shirt
One of Cissner's muffintops' baby t-shirts.

What other products are you developing?

I'm expanding into adult shirts, baby blankets, diaper bags, and maybe nursery bedding. I have many ideas!

More Craft Ideas

~Tracey L. Kelley

Fun Holiday Craft Ideas Directly From an Expert