Ah! The Ironic Holiday Party! Is there any part of the holidays more almost-tolerable?
This past Christmas I was invited to an Ugly Sweater and White Elephant Gift party. Like I always do when I
procrastinate see an opportunity for a creative project, I hit the internet to help me brainstorm. I already figured that the best white elephant gift was a DIY white elephant gift, on account of all the extra love and whatnot put into it.
After checking Google, I was surprised to find that there weren’t a lot of great results when I searched for “DIY White Elephant Gift”, so I winged it. Wung it. Wang it?
Why a DIY Makes the Best White Elephant Gift
If you’ve never been a part of a White Elephant gift exchange, it’s a gift-giving game that often occurs around Christmas. The goal is to distribute gifts in a semi-random manner, then create animosity, competition, and confusion among your group by allowing people to reject the gift they received and steal one from someone else. This goes on until everyone is miserable, irritated, or suspicious of their friends and everyone goes home with something they don’t need.
What a fabulous tradition!
As a participant, you want people to want your gift, but you also want to impress your friends by bringing something funny, interesting, and unique. This is why it makes such a great DIY project! You have control over the final product and can force your humor onto others.
Our DIY White Elephant Gift: Adult Home Decor Set
I decided to base my gift concept on a motivational phrase I’d had knocking around in my head for a while.
“Floss your fucking teeth or they’ll rot out of your fucking skull.”
I used this as the basis of what turned out to be a fabulous, one-of-a-kind Adult Home Decor set. After browsing local dollar stores and raiding my own stash of Neglected Home Decor, I settled on
- a cheap decorative coaster set,
- an empty 30 x 40 cm IKEA frame, and
- a jar candle that had a label that I could remove easily.
Once I had my canvas, all I had to do is customize these bad boyz! To follow along at home, you’ll need:
- the items listed above
- a printer and paper (preferably something thicker than normal printer paper)
- scissors or a paper cutter (easier to cut straight lines)
- clear packing tape
- Mod Podge or another glue & sealer
All pretty simple stuff! Let’s get going.
Step 1: DIY Inspirational Print
When buying your frame, keep in mind how you plan on printing the page. If you want to do it on your standard size home printer, you might choose an 8 x 10 inch frame. If you have a printing place nearby like a Staples or a FedEx Office that can print larger documents, you might opt for a larger frame.
Since my frame was 30 x 40 cm, I created a 30 x 40 cm, 300 ppi document in Photoshop and laid out my text. I wanted a font that looked classy to contradict the silly aggressiveness of the quote, so I browsed 1001fonts.com and settled on Apples Script. What sold me on it? I love how the thin strokes of the font remind me of dental floss!
Next I played around with the size and layout of the text until I was happy with it. Don’t be intimidated by this step! Just play around with it until it feels right. Or better yet, take a quick look at my tips for laying out text for ideas on how to get started.
Finally, I used the pen tool to create a quick looping line across the page to represent dental floss, then printed that baby out and popped it into the frame.
Step 2: DIY Candle Label
First I removed the label from the jar candle. You can use glue or Mod Podge to attach the new label, but I chose to attach mine with clear packing tape. In a new Photoshop document I created a box just shorter than the width of the tape This way when I cut it out and centered it on the tape, I could use the tape around the edges to affix it to the jar. Make sense?
Next it was just a matter of adding relevant text and laying it out, just like before. Since candles are such calming, ambient pieces of home decor, I thought the label should have a gentler message than the print. I decided the text would read
“Post-Sex Funk Candle”,
and under it,
“why don’t we air the place out a bit”.
For consistency I again used the Apples Script font for the main text, then used a regal-looking font called Castellar for the longer subtext.
I printed that baby out too, cut it out, lay it face down on the tape, line it up carefully, and stuck it to the jar. Then noticed there was cat hair stuck under the tape. Cursed the cat and told her I was going to take her back to the cat store. Looked at the clock. Not much time, decided to improvise. Covered up the cat hair by outlining the label in a black stroke with a permanent marker. Looked ghetto. DAMN. DAMN. MOVING ON.
Step 3: DIY Coaster Set
Last but not least we have the threatening coaster set! Coming up with phrases for each coaster was the hardest part of the coaster set. Considering the underlying power dynamics that often play into a conversation about coasters, I thought something vaguely threatening would do nicely.
“Use a coaster or I’ll punch you in the throat.”
“Get your fucking drink off my table.”
“Respect the wood, bitches.”
Ahh… coasters to say it all, so you don’t have to. The coasters I found already had a floral background pattern on them, but you can use whatever you can find and make it look however you want. That’s the beauty of DIY!
I measured the coasters and in a new Photoshop document created six squares, sized to fit in the middle of each coaster. Like before, I placed my text in each box and spent some time laying it out in a way that appealed to me. Printed those puppies, cut them out. Since these coasters are meant to come in contact with water, I affixed the papers to the coasters with Mod Podge then brushed on several layers of Mod Podge over top of the paper once it was in place.
Lastly, I left them to dry. Actually, they were the last things we were waiting on to be able to go to the party, so I sat there and tried to dry them faster with my mind.
For good measure, I also printed a quick label to tie the entire concept together.
And that’s it!
Here’s the whole set together. Best white elephant gift ever. Totally unique, straightforward construction, and well under the 25 euro spending limit. The host of the party ended up with my gift, and shortly afterward he asked me where I had gotten it. He wanted one for a friend! If that’s not a compliment, I don’t know what is.
Make Your Own! Download Your Own DIY Best White Elephant Gift Set
Hopefully this post sets your brain going with some new ideas for creating your own best white elephant gift… Or an anytime gift! The best part about this DIY is that you can totally tailor it to your own sense of aesthetics and humor, and adapt it for the group or occasion. Don’t like the vulgarity of this set? The concept works just as well for genuinely sweet text (though it’s not as funny).
I encourage you to get creative and DIY your own sassy Something Awesome, but if you’d like the files that I used to create the DIY white elephant gift set above, here they are!
What’s the best white elephant gift you’ve ever gotten?