In an attempt to continue the "useful or beautiful" theme with Christmas presents this year, I decided to be slightly boring and email my stepsister to ask what my nephew would like (or rather, what she would like) for his Christmas and first birthday presents.
She had decided that she was going to ask people not to give him a gift, but to donate a toy to an appeal instead. Or, if they really wanted to get him something, to choose a book or toy from a charity shop, as he has a lot already.
It was with that in mind that I offered to make something for him. The craft bug has apparently bitten, despite the Wreath Incident. I debated a crochet blanket, but after seeing an Instagram picture of Penny's incredible Spiderman comic wardrobe, I was inspired.
On one of my lunch time walks around the charity shops near where I work, I saw a wooden toy chest for sale for £5. An idea was formed…
I started off by searching out comics. This was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be - in the end, I found some at the car boot sale I bought quite a few of my other gifts from - but only because my boyfriend stumbled across a stall where a boy and his dad were selling some of his old toys. He asked if they had any comics, and sure enough a huge stack was produced from the back of the car for 10p each - a bargain.
I sanded down a couple of parts of the box - it had been drawn on a bit by the previous owners, and had a large blob of the ubiquitous glitter glue on the top! I then painted it with a satin effect wood paint (which we had lying around the house from decorating our living room). Satin has a much smoother finish than gloss, which makes it a lot easier to slap on! It took a couple of coats. I also painted the top (only one goat), even though I was going to decorate it, as I'd read online that wood absorbs the glue very quickly and the pictures peel off.
I then started to arrange my pictures on top (arrange them first! It's time consuming but makes sure you don't end up bunching all the same colours, and that you have enough). I glued them down using PVA - you can buy specialist decoupage glue, but it's very expensive and I didn't think it would arrive in time. The glue does wrinkle the paper somewhat. I discovered that by glueing the surface rather than the paper, this was reduced a bit, but you still have to smooth it down carefully. Most of the wrinkles do disappear as it dries.
I finished it with three layers of clear varnish (again, using something that we had in the house, a wood varnish which was leftover from renovating our floorboards). The first coat did make the paper slightly see-through but that disappeared as it dried. I also hit on the slightly more childproof idea of covering it in sticky backed plastic, to preserve the top - but that idea occurred to me on Christmas Day, by which point it was a bit late.
Simple, heartfelt and really rather frugal - the whole project cost me less than £10 - and even if I do say so myself, I suspect it will be around for longer than yet another plastic toy.