Here’s the thing you need to know about craft projects: the directions always lie. They are lying liars. Since I started this column I’ve realized there’s almost always something left out. The supply list omits a crucial element. The directions neglect to mention a step or two. That is why the end product never, ever looks like the original picture. Those jerks are holding back.
This was never more true than in this week’s game of My Editors Are Trying to Kill Me. Not only did the directions for the three Memorial Day and July Fourth craft projects skip varying steps or fail to mention needed supplies, one project included no directions at all. The package of supplies I received included an old, mostly used paint bottle and a stapler with a diva attitude.
Nonetheless, I am not going to break. No no, I’m the reporter they send to ask the scary guy if he stole the money. I will just say: Rosie O’Donnell, the crafting goddess of decoupage, would not stand to work under these conditions. Oh no, she would not.
Project 1: The drunk lantern, care of Martha Stewart. Sure, this says it’s a kids activity, which makes you think, “Oh easy!”
But then you realize it’s a Martha Stewart kids activity, which means it’s for one of those precious snowflake children who was reading “Finnegan’s Wake” in kindergarten and whipping up a nice sous vide chicken for dinner.
Also, it’s probably not supposed to be drunk, but look at that picture: It has definitely fallen into the well of vodka and brandy a few times.
Goal: Fold construction paper, cut slits. Tape a second color to the top and bottom, staple. Add a little strip to the top. Hang.
Reality: These are the kind of things that sound like a good idea. “I’ll make a festive lantern string for my party” you say, a month before said event, imagining a patio covered with twinkling lights and flickering candles and Jake Ryan from “16 Candles” or perhaps Jared Leto in his “My So-Called Life” days.
Yeah, that’s never gonna happen. Never. A single lantern took about 15 minutes and it looked terrible. Who has time to make 100 terrible-looking lanterns that some annoying kid will probably set aflame with his creme brulee torch? Not. You.
Process: My super crafty friend Shawna lent a hand here. Shawna actually seems to measure appropriately and cut in a straight line.
Fold a piece of construction paper in half and cut. Then fold the edges back by about a half-inch. Attach a strip of decorative paper — which you have magically purchased even though it was not mentioned in the supplies anywhere — length-wise. We used a random different color paper.
You’re supposed to attach the paper with white glue, but all I had was wood glue, so there you go. Shawna thought a glue stick would’ve been even better because the girl knows her supplies.
After attaching the decorative paper, cut slits from the middle fold to the rims where you have attached the decorative paper. Note: Do NOT cut the decorative paper. You have gone too far and cannot come back.
Open the construction paper, pull out all the slits to resemble lantern shape and staple the two sides together. Unless you have an evil stapler that thinks it is just tooooooo much effort to staple two pieces of construction paper together and goes flinging metal staples about in an attempt to put out your eye.
Summary: Go out and get some pretty lanterns from Pier 1. If you must be crafty, make children do this but be kind and give them a real stapler and perhaps some wrapping paper for the decorative strip.
Do not fall over wildly laughing, as we did when we tried to imagine stringing these for a party. Our friends would be all, uh, were you involved with some martinis when you made these? No, no we were not.
Project 2: The dead snowball aka: pompom strings.
Goal: Fold several colors of tissue paper in an accordion shape. Staple in the middle. Cut edges into angles. Open and fluff. Hang fabulously from mantel.
Reality: Some editor decided to get me glitter tissue paper. I don’t know what I did to deserve that kind of hatred, but now there is glitter everywhere.
Do not use glitter tissue paper unless you are bringing it to the Red Wedding in “Game of Thrones.” If they’d used glitter tissue paper at the Red Wedding, everyone would have been too involved picking it off their clothes, the food, the weapons, and they never would have gotten around to all that killing.
Or the sparkly glitter would have distracted them and their battle-ax aim would’ve been off.
We unfolded the tissue paper. We then stacked six pieces using three colors. Accordion that sucker up.
Staple in the middle unless your evil stapler revolts because, oy, the effort. Then cut the edges of the folds into angles. You want nice sharp angles there.
Once you’ve cut all the edges, then you slowly slowly slowly, pull out and fluff each piece of tissue paper. Gently, because it tears super easily!
It’s supposed to look like a snowball or a mini-pompom. Ours looked tired. Like a crumpled piece of tissue paper that Disney forgot to animate. It wasn’t really a pompom, it was more fizzle. I tried, it seemed to say. What do you want from me? It’s cold out.
Needless to say, the cat immediately batted it around the room, sending frigging glitter everywhere. Great.
It’s easy enough to do, even I could follow the directions. It just didn’t really do anything for me.
Project 3: Shim flag
Goal: We’re not really sure because there were no actual directions. We just made some up when we looked at the picture. You know shims, those thin pieces of wood you have from when you tried to fix the windows when the house shifted? Yeah, use those. Glue them together. Dig out some paint and paint a pretty flag. Look at you! You love your country!
Reality: I’m fairly sure Betsy Ross is going to come back from the grave and beat the crap out of me for making this disaster. Take four shims and place them on the table, spaced out horizontally. Cover them with wood glue. Then take another 6-8 shims and attach them vertically to the horizontal shims.
Note that you will now have wood dust everywhere. You know what would make that wood dust even better? Glitter. From the previous project. Just saying.
OK, now paint a blue square/rectangle in the corner, whatever shape that works for you. And then, using a sponge, paint some red and white stripes horizontally. Unless, you know, someone has given you an old bottle of red paint that has about 10 drops left in it, and then you’re going to have to water that puppy up. Because you’re American and you are gonna get that shim flag done, dangit. Pride!
Now comes the hardest part: the stars. Seriously, just give up here. The picture used starfish and totally totally cheated. We painted our own stars because we’re not losers. They look terrible, possibly because the blue paint wasn’t dry yet? Because we can’t paint stars? Whatever.
If you want to be a super-achiever, get one of those paint stirrers from Home Depot and paint it and glue it to the back of your flag as a flagpole. Stick it in the ground until your neighbor cannot take looking at that blight anymore and “accidentally” hits it with his car.
Or sit next to it, and as neighbors walk by, proudly say, “Yep, I made that.” They will pat you on the head and look at each other with pity.
Summary: I mean, it wasn’t hard to do, it just looked bad. Maybe it just looked out-of-place among the meditation beads and yoga mat. I like being American. I don’t have to make a bad craft project to prove it.
And that’s it ladies and gentlemen! Enjoy your Memorial Day and remember: If you like people, you won’t bring them anything with glitter.