Use paint, labels, stencils, decoupage, and embellishments to make your jars look special. Match gifts and jar decorations to the person receiving the gift. Then attach a matching gift card to your jar.
Use glass canning jars, glass bottles, old-fashioned wire bail jars, recycled jars, antique jars, or plastic storage jars. Jars must have tight fitting lids.
Sterilize Jars for Food Gifts
The jars you use to package food gifts should be glass and sterilized before use.
- Check all jars for chips and cracks. If chipped or cracked, don’t use for food. Use new lids.
- Wash with hot, soapy water; then rinse.
- To sterilize jars, place on a rack in a large pot and cover with water. Let water come to a boil and boil for 15 minutes. Remove from boiling water and let dry. Jars and lids can also be sterilized in your dishwasher.
Methods to Decorate Your Jars
Decorate With Paint
Always wash jar in hot soapy water to remove grease or residue.
Select a paint intended for use on the surface you are decorating. Read the label on the paint container to determine the paint’s compatibility with your surface. This rule goes for painting on glass, metal lids, or plastic jars and lids.
Acrylic craft paints are not permanent and can be rubbed or washed off.
- Acrylic Glass Paints are best for glass jars. They come in a wide variety of pre-mixed colors in convenient squeeze bottles to decorate your gift jars. These types of paints can be baked in a home oven to make them more durable and washable. (Read the label) To bake, let the paint dry on the jar for 48 hours. Place glass jar in a conventional oven (not preheated) and heat to 325 degrees F. Bake for 10 minutes. Turn off the oven and allow jar to cool in oven before removing. After baking painted jars can be hand washed. Washing in a dishwasher is not recommended.
- Air-Dry Enamel Paints for Glass are opaque, brush-on glass paints available that air dry to a high-gloss, waterproof finish. Choose a brand that is water-based and non-toxic.
- Paints for Plastic are brush-on paints especially formulated for adhering to plastic and dry to a durable, waterproof finish. Water-based types allow you to clean brushes and spills with soap and water.
- Paint Pens are available in craft shops and come in a wide selection of colors. They are great for detailing and simple jar decoration.
- Fabric Paints can be used for special effects like wording or facial features. Can also be used to decorate lids. They squeeze directly from the bottle.
Paint a design on the jar using pre-cut purchased stencils or a design you cut yourself from freezer paper. You can also paint the design on your jar free-hand. Draw the outline with a Sharpie Fine Point Permanent marker or paint free-hand. Use caution as the Sharpie marker will smudge on glass.
Decorate With Labels
Make paper labels created on your computer and then printed, or draw label on your choice of paper.
To give your labels an aged appearance spatter with brown acrylic paint thinned in water. Use an old tooth brush for spattering.
Lightly sponge the edges of the label using a dense foam sponge and the spattering mixture.
Allow labels to dry; then glue or decoupage to jar.
Decorate with Decoupage
Use Mod Podge Gloss Lustre decoupage medium for your jars.
Decoupage is done in three basic steps: cutting, gluing, and sealing.
- Trim away excess paper from the image or picture you wish to use.
- Using a foam brush, lightly coat the back of the image with decoupage medium. Position the image on the surface and smooth it with your fingers, pushing out wrinkles and air bubbles. Allow to dry.
- Apply two or three coats of decoupage medium over the image with a foam brush to seal the paper. The image appears cloudy when wet, but will dry crystal clear.
Decoupaged jars can be wiped with a damp cloth to clean but cannot be washed in a
dishwasher or submerged in water.
You can create a paper collage jar using decoupage. A collage is a group of pictures or images layered and overlapped to form a display. Use printed photos, interesting paper, stamps, and stickers. Arrange the images by overlapping them for a decorative display. Attach and seal them with two or three coats of decoupage medium.
Decorate with Fabric
If you prefer not to decorate the outside of the glass or plastic jar, add decoration to the lid.
Cover the top of the jar lid with fabric or a small lace fabric or paper doily. Use holiday or gingham fabric cut with pinking sheers. Add three to four inches to the diameter dimension of the jar lid for coverage and decoration. A circular piece of batting can be used under the fabric for a stuffed appearance. A counted cross stitch design can also be used on top of the jar. Place the fabric over the lid on the jar or place over the lid seal and then add the screw-on band. Lace or braid can be glued around the band.
A variety of items can be used to embellish your decorated jar. Make your embellishment compliment the contents. If your gift jar contains a Gingerbread Cookie Mix attach a gingerbread man cookie cutter. Add a holiday cookie cutter to a Sugar Cookie Mix. Attach a tea ball or infuser to a jar of tea. Attach a wooden spoon, rubber spatula, or wire whisk to other mixes.
Make a tag or card to coordinate with the jar decoration or contents and attach with a ribbon or raffia.
Embellishments include ribbon, holiday garlands, gold braid or cord, raffia, lace, buttons, beads, charms, tassels, or bandanas.
For gluing items to jars, silicon-based glue for glass works best. It also works well for gluing wood to glass, metal to glass, or plastic to glass. It can also be used to attach items to metal or wooden lids. Silicone-based glue dries slowly so you will have to prop the jar carefully until the glue is dry.
A glue gun can be used for attaching light objects such as ribbon to the jar for instant hold.
White craft glue is used for gluing unbaked polymer pieces to a jar or lid before baking in the oven.
Gift Jar Contents
Use your imagination and consider who the gift is for when deciding on the contents. Food mixes are very popular. Gift jars can also contain sewing notions, keep sakes, games, snack foods such as trail mix, nuts n’ bolts or chex mix, candied nuts, candied popcorn, Christmas candy or jelly beans, coffee, tea, flavored vinegars and oils in glass bottles, potpourri or fragrance gel, bath salts, and a baked cake-in-a-jar.
If you plan to give a food mix, first choose the recipe and ingredients. Food mixes often look better when the ingredients for the mix are layered in the jar. The recipient can mix the ingredients before using them.
If you plan to give a mix you will need:
- A small bottle to tamp down the ingredients as you layer or place them in the jar.
- A canning funnel or piece of card stock to make a simple funnel for filling jars.
- Paper towels to wipe powdery ingredients off inside of jar.
Tips for Packing Food Ingredients
- Layer ingredients in the jar in the order given in the recipe.
- Wipe down the sides of the jar with a clean paper towel after adding powdery ingredients such as sugar, cocoa, or flour before adding the next ingredient for a better appearance.
- Pack down all ingredients firmly as they are added. If you don’t, you won’t have enough space to fit in all the ingredients. Generally, a quart holds 6 cups of packed down ingredients; a pint jar holds 3 cups of packed down ingredients.
- If ingredients do not come to top of the jar, fill space with crumpled plastic wrap or waxed paper to prevent the ingredients from shifting and mixing.
- After packing ingredients into jar, seal with the lid. Attach a card with the recipe, instructions, a list of any additional ingredients, and a holiday greeting.
Use a pint-sized wide-mouth canning jar with a two-part lid (flat seal and screw-on band) when baking a cake-in-a-jar. The wide mouth allows the cake to slide out of jar. Choose a cake-in-a-jar recipe or adjust your favorite cake recipe to make in jars. Place one cup of prepared cake mix in pint jar. Bake according to directions. Jars and lids must be sterilized before using. (Use new lids) Bake cake and add lid as soon as cake is removed from oven. Carefully place flat seal on top of jar and then the screw-on band. Jar is very hot so do not burn yourself. Allow jar to cool and then test to make sure the jar is sealed. If the cake does not seal properly, eat cake, refrigerate or freeze until ready to eat. The sealed jars of cake can be stored without refrigeration for up to two months. Attach a tag with the name of the cake and that says, “Best eaten before (two months from date the cake was baked).”
Give yourself plenty of time to decorate your gift jars and plan the contents for each person on your Christmas list. Fill the jars, then sit back and relax. Sip a cup of hot spiced cider and enjoy the holidays.