Teacher Christmas Gifts

It probably comes as no surprise that  love making Monster’s teachers presents for Christmas.  This year, he is in the bumblebee class at school, and I found the perfect fabric for a bumblebee teacher – it has apples and bees!  I’ve noticed that all of the teachers wear their ID’s on a lanyard around their necks, so I thought it would be nice to make them some to go with their class theme (I blame all the different animal squadrons we’ve been in for making me use a theme in everything!).  I also made them each a clip keychain, because I have one myself and it’s super handy!  And since it’s Christmas time, I wanted to give them each a bumblebee ornament (which Monster got to help me make).  Plus a gift card to Target.  Can you tell we love our teachers??

So without further ado, let me show you how to make some gifts to spoil the teacher (or friend or relative) in your life!

I made the lanyard and the keychain at the same time, since they use basically the same supplies and methods.  To make both, you’ll need:

Cut a strip of fabric 4″x36″ (one yard) for the lanyard.  Save the scrap from the end (since the fabric you bought was 42-45″ long).  Then cut a piece 4″x11″ for the keychain.

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Not pictured: the scrap from the lanyard piece that you will use

Press the short ends of the lanyard fabric towards the wrong side, then press in half longways.  Open it up, and press each of the raw edges into the center fold you just made.  Fold it back in half again to make a 1″ strip with no raw edges showing, and stitch a scant 1/8″ around the whole border.  Repeat for the 11″ strip, but don’t press the ends in (the raw edges will be covered later on they keychain).  Repeat one more time for the 4″ wide scrap, again making a 1″ wide strip.

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Folding up the lanyard. It’s the same for the keychain and the scraps except for turning in the raw edges at the ends.

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1″ strips for lanyard, keychain, and the scrap

For the keychain, loop the 1″ strip you just made onto the swivel clip.  Then use a wide zigzag to make a loop from the raw ends.  Move the zigzag connection down towards the clip, and cover with the scrap that you sewed, trimming and tucking the raw ends between the layers of the keychain.  Stitch around the scrap to secure and complete the keychain.

Key Ring Construction

Left: Zigzag to hold the ends in place. Right: See how the scrap covers the zigzag right next to the clip? And the raw edges are tucked between the layers to be hidden.

To complete the lanyard, slide the 2nd swivel clip onto the 1″ yard-long strip and stitch in place (think about making a V shape that will accommodate the wearer’s neck comfortably).

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Pin and stitch the swivel clip in the center, making a V shape

Then, loop the back like a necklace and stitch on the Velcro – I was careful to make the hook side face away from the neck so it won’t be scratchy.  You could just sew it, but many schools require that teacher’s have a “quick release” on their lanyards in case of strangulation (crazy, but we want our teachers to be safe!).

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Completed lanyard and keychain!

Last year, Monster was too little to help with making anything for his teachers.  But this year, he is obsessed with painting!  Anytime I ask him what he did at school, that’s the first word out of his mouth.  So I knew when I saw this adorable bumblebee ornament made from a light bulb, it was the perfect craft for us to do together!

I used a box from our favorite “fruit squeezes” to hold the bulbs.  The box comes with one hole which was perfect for the bulb, and I just used scissors to cut out the 2nd.  Then I laid down a paper bag with some paint, handed the toddler a brush, and he went to town painting them!

Paint Lightbulbs

He did a really excellent job, I only had to touch up a couple of spots later on – and he had a blast!

Once the yellow paint dried, I added black stripes and a black head (where the screw part was inserted into the box – an egg carton comes in handy for drying).  Then I used a glue gun to add googly eyes, pipecleaner wings, stinger, and antennae, and a pipecleaner to hang it by.  And don’t forget to sign your work!  Monster can’t help with that yet, but maybe next year!

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I signed Monster’s name and the year on the bee’s butt!

I feel like the ornament will be much more meaningful to his teachers, knowing that he actually contributed to it rather than me doing everything or buying them things.  And I hope that the lanyard and keychain are useful to them!  At the very least, I don’t know that there is a human on this earth who wouldn’t like a Target gift card, and especially a teacher, who I know puts her own money into my child’s schooling.

Feel free to steal my ideas to make your own teachers something nice and useful for Christmas, and let them know how much you appreciate them!

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Chalkboard Serving Tray

Radar’s brother and his wife are notoriously hard to shop for.  If they ever want or need something, they always just get it for themselves!  So I have to get increasingly creative each year to give them a special gift for Christmas.  This year, I was really excited when I found this idea for a chalkboard serving tray on Pinterest!  It’s the perfect gift for them – they often have friends over for wine and snacks, and a cute serving tray makes the perfect way to share your favorite goodies while letting people know what they are.  (It can also come in handy if you have friends with allergies – what an easy way to label ingredients!)

As usual, though, I put my own spin on the project.  The biggest problem I had with the original is that she suggests using super glue to attach the handles… and I just can’t get myself to trust glue to hold a tray loaded down with heavy food and breakable serving dishes!  So, even though Radar is gone and I usually leave power tool work for him, I braved the garage (with my helpers, as you’ll see) and came up with my own, sturdier version!

Supplies:

  • 1″x12″ board, 4 ft long (get the nice wood – you’ll be able to see it around the edges)
  • 2 drawer pull handles, whatever variety suits your recipient
  • Stain, with cloth for wiping
  • Blue painter’s tape
  • Rustoleum spray-on chalkboard paint
  • Pencil
  • Tape measure
  • Screwdriver
  • Drill with standard bit and Forstner bit (I’ll explain in a minute)

Cut your board into 2 foot sections.  You can go longer, but it’s going to be harder to carry and also larger to store, so I kept mine on the smaller side.  If you’re like me and don’t feel like making a trip to the ER because I tried to use my husband’s saw and took off a finger, they will cut your wood for free at the hardware store – take advantage!  Use the drawer pulls to mark where the screws should go.  Use your standard drill bit, which should be about the same size as the screws that came with the drawer pulls, to drill 4 holes in each board (one for each screw).  Then, to keep the tray from rocking when it’s set down, use the Forstner bit that’s a little larger than the head of the screws to drill a little trench for the screw heads, so they’ll be recessed.

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All your supplies, minus the kid! He’s obsessed with screw drivers…

You’ll see, when you insert the screw into the hole, the head will be flush with the board, creating a flat, stable surface on the bottom of the tray.  Don’t drill too far with the Forstner bit, though – your screw will stick out too much and you’ll have trouble getting it all the way into the handle.

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Drilled holes with recessed spaces for the screw heads

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Side view with screw inserted – no head sticking out!

Take your screws out and stain the top, bottom, and sides of the boards.  The stain I had was really dark (it’s called Jacobean if you like my look!), so I painted about 1/3 of the surface at a time, then wiped with a rag to keep it from seeping in too much.  Let it dry overnight.

Then, tape up your boards.  I used extra-wide tape and just lined it up with the bottom of the side, then folded up onto the top.  I definitely recommend taping the sides, because there will be overspray when you add the chalkboard paint.

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Two serving trays, ready to get their chalkboard addition

Once you’re all taped up, spray away!  I usually do this on the grass, because it grows and goes away, but if there’s snow on the ground, an open garage with a drop cloth works too!  Follow the directions on the can; I sprayed a layer, left it 24 hours, then did another coat.  Then carefully remove your tape, screw the handles on, and voila!  You have a beautiful serving tray for yourself or to give someone for Christmas!

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The bottom and the top of my serving trays; one went to a friend who is moving in to her first house on Thanksgiving!

Don’t forget to include something to write with for your recipient!  They make these great chalk pens nowadays, too – so much better than traditional chalk!  They make such neat lettering, and come off with a damp cloth.  You can also personalize around the border of the chalkboard surface – add a name and wedding anniversary, or a playful quote.  As usual, the sky is the limit!  This versatile, useful gift is sure to be a hit with whomever you give it to.