Inspired by a letter from the Kuklis family of Cozad, Nebraska, we offer this Christmas tree skirt craft. A variation on the Kuklises' original version, which featured white cotton fabric sewn and edged in eyelet lace, we've used stretch velvet (it's easy to glue, making it suitable for us sewing-challenged elves!), glue-on trim, and gold glitter paint. However, there are countless fabrics and paints your family can use to make your own handprint creation (see below for some other easy suggestions). Whatever you choose, this handmade project is sure to be the most treasured gift underneath your tree each year.
Red velvet and gold paint were our materials of choice for the tree skirt shown on these pages -- we liked the rich, festive colors -- but you can select the fabrics and paints that best suit your family. Whatever you choose, here are a few tips to keep in mind. Nonraveling fabrics like fleece, felt, and stretch velvet are the easiest to glue. With woven fabrics, you'll probably want to sew the hem instead. We recommend acrylic craft paint instead of fabric paint, which can be hard to wash off your kids' hands. Don't sweat the occasional mistake. Little drips, blobs, and misspellings will always remind you of a moment in your child's life.
Consider experimenting with other prints on the skirt. For example, you might include the whole family's prints, your kids' feet alongside their hands, or even include a print from the family pet. Want to avoid the messy hands? Here are two fun options: trace around your child's hand with a marker, then go back over the outline with puffy paint. Or trace your kids' hands onto colored felt, cut out the hand shapes, and glue them onto the tree skirt.
Find the center of the fabric square: Fold the fabric in half horizontally, right side in, and then in half vertically (thereby folding it into quarters). Mark the center of the square -- the corner of the fold -- with the marker.
Cut a circle from the fabric: Place one end of the yardstick on the center dot, measure out 30 inches, and mark another dot. Do this every 3 to 4 inches to create an arc. Cut the fabric along this dotted line (you may not be able to cut through all four layers at once). Unfold the fabric; you should now have a 60-inch circle.
Make an opening for the tree stand: Open up the fabric, place a mug (ours was 5 inches in diameter) over the center dot, and trace around it. Cut in a straight line from the edge of the tree skirt to the center dot, then cut out the mug-size circle.
Hem the edges: Lay the fabric right-side down. Squeeze a 12-inch line of glue along the outer edge of the tree skirt. Fold over a ½-inch hem and press it down to secure. Continue gluing 12-inch segments until you've hemmed the entire skirt, then use the same technique to hem the center circle and the straight-cut line. Let the glue dry.
Trim the skirt: 12 inches at a time, glue the fancy gold trim around the edge of the tree skirt, about 2½ inches in. Let the glue dry.
Make the handprints: Pour a shallow pool of gold acrylic craft paint on the paper plate. One at a time, have each child press her palm into the paint so it's coated, then have her press it down firmly and evenly on the skirt. Advise her not to wiggle her hand on the skirt and to lift it straight up when she is done (it can be helpful to practice on paper first).
Do any touch-up: If the prints are uneven, you can fill in thin spots with a paintbrush and some gold paint. Or you can completely paint over the handprint with gold glitter paint, as shown here.
Add the names: Have each child use the squeeze bottle of paint to write her name next to her handprint (you'll have to write for the little ones). Again, practicing on paper can be helpful.
Add the date: Cut an ornament shape from the felt, use the squeeze bottle of paint to add decorations and the date, and let it dry. Glue the ornament onto the skirt, near the most recent handprints.
Dress up your tree: Place the center hole around the tree stand and arrange the skirt around the base.