Photo by Sabrina Stone

Homemade Carnival: Mardi Gras Crafts Projects

09:00 February 17, 2022
By: Sabrina Stone

Whether you're out of state this year for Mardi Gras, at home with the family, or having a low-key get-together, Carnival-themed decorations can make your house as joyful as shimmery wintery lights or spooky Halloween lawn displays.

Some friends of mine never take their Christmas trees down-they just transition them into Mardi Gras Trees.

Here, you'll find tips on how to dress those trees, how to decorate in general for our holiday season, and how to build a shoebox float.

I spent a lot of time agonizing over what the theme of my float should be before I started, and then I realized there's no wrong theme. Shoebox floats are all about getting glue on your fingertips, glitter in your hair, dumping Mardi Gras loot from previous years all over the floor, making a massive, colorful mess, and having fun.

A shoebox float theme can be based on whatever your heart desires. Do you like dinosaurs? Make it a prehistoric float. Do you like football? Make it a Saints float. Do you like unicorns? Make it a magical float. Have you seen a life-sized float that inspired you? Replicate it!

The first step is to gather supplies (this is also an "anything goes" sort of situation).

● Shoebox
(the only mandatory supply)

● Wrapping Paper

● Construction Paper

● Stickers

● Mardi Gras Throws

● Ribbons

● Tinsel

● Dolls

● Trinkets

● Miniature ANYTHING

● Keychains

● Ornaments

● Etc.

Once you're surrounded by things you've collected, things you love, colorful and ridiculous memories, a theme might just appear. For me, it was obvious: music and animals.

I had enough dragons to guard a cardboard castle. They could breathe yellow, orange, and red construction paper fire, perch along the box, or "fly" around on wires. I had enough embroidered rainbow elephants and horses and porcelain bunnies to build a carousel with aluminum foil mirrors and delicate design work. I even considered pulling down a circular hatbox from up in a closet somewhere to use as the base so it would look like the animals were going around and around on painted chopstick poles.

Image: whereyatcom_217581245.jpeg
Sabrina Stone

I decided to go with a music theme. So I gathered CDs, a favorite record, saxophone, and guitar tree ornaments, sheet music ribbons, and a ton of purple, green, and gold sparkly stuff.

Dolls can make great partygoers, dancers, and queens for the float. Since there were none of those on hand, I had to get creative and use my wooden artist model figurine. What's a music-themed float without a musician?

First, I tipped the bottom of the shoebox upside down for the float body stage, then I tucked the top of the shoebox behind it at a 90-degree angle to create the back (a pretty standard shoebox frame design). I used a favorite record, printed in psychedelic reds, blues, and purples, from the local New Orleans Record Press, as the stage drop. In front of that, I positioned CDs and mini-CDs in layers, like speakers. Then, I set my musician up with his saxophone. I didn't dress him because everything around the doll was about to be wildly colorful and also, as my best friend pointed out, "People love getting naked at Mardi Gras." But there's no limit to the type of paint, paper, or fabric costumes you can dress your tiny float people in.

Once my guy was glued down and the backdrop was secured, he got butterfly wings, a whole host of dragonfly and butterfly friends, and guitars at his feet. I glued sheet music ribbons along the edges of the box, pulled the green, gold, and purple tinsel out of a rainbow pack, attached a pink metallic trumpet throw to the front, and trailed Mardi Gras beads in ribbons all around.

If I decide to take my float for a neighborhood tour or enroll in 'tit Rex, I'll attach wheels, but, for now, this whole magical diorama only occupies an 8x13 inch space on my countertop and is exploding with Carnival spirit and joy.

Mardi Gras trees are a much simpler but equally fun decoration project. As I mentioned earlier, some friends of mine never take their Christmas trees down because they repurpose them as soon as we get to the New Year.

Much like the shoebox float, there's no wrong way to decorate a Mardi Gras tree. You can leave your lights up from the earlier holidays. Necklaces, ribbons, and big fluffy boas can be hung like garlands around it. Almost any throw can be turned into an ornament.

I like to use green florist wire to attach throws and masks that don't have big enough loops to go over branches by themselves, as it camouflages well, but you can also use pipe cleaners, paper clips, or colorful ribbons tied in bows, which might even add to the jolliness. Mardi Gras trees can be wonderfully, sloppily thrown together, as long as they're bright and happy-making.

The most classic outdoor decoration is hanging Mardi Gras beads over a wrought iron fence with the krewe medallions weighing them down, but, these days, there's no cap on how elaborate you can get. You can airlift in life-sized dinosaurs, cover your facade in colorful 3D flowers, or hire a local artist to turn your entire house into a themed float.

A few easy ideas are making a Mardi Gras wreath, a krewe cup dispenser, or custom doubloons to hand out. Mardi Gras wreaths can be done like Christmas ones with a pine tree base, or you can string literally anything that brings you joy into a circular shape. Cup dispensers are exactly what they sound like. Every krewe, even the Krewe of House Floats, has customized cups or logos that you can have printed onto your own cups. Plastic cups are so popular because they make for a great, lightweight throw to toss and can be reused over and over again (our cabinets are stuffed with them; they make us smile more than fancy china ever could). Plain wooden doubloons are available for ordering and you can hand paint them, use markers, or even stickers.

No matter what version of Carnival we celebrate in 2022, let's make it fun.

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