10 DIY Projects for Teens

By Joanne Thomas

"I'm bored!" Kiss this stereotypical teenage lament goodbye with a stash of inexpensive craft supplies and a plethora of project ideas. Fun craft projects that are easy to customize and take only a few hours to put together make excellent activities for a rainy day and can keep a sleepover's worth of teens entertained. Teens can make hoards of gifts for birthday and holiday parties, or just a little something nice for themselves, all while learning handy skills that might bloom into new hobbies.

Wrapped Jewelry

Wrap embroidery thread in bands of various colors around a shoelace or length of cording to make a color-blocked necklace. Knot all the threads together with the cording at one end, then simply wrap one color around and around the cord -- with the other colors of embroidery thread wrapped underneath -- until you're ready to switch to the next color. Use variegated thread, which changes color along its length, to make color changes even easier. Keep the rounds of thread tight to conceal the cord underneath. Bind the two ends of the finished necklace tightly with extra thread before trimming all the loose ends. Add jewelry hardware or a thread loop with a button to secure the necklace around your neck. Use the same technique on plastic bangles for a thread-wrapped bracelet.

Related: Good Ideas for You: DIY Tribal Necklace

Decoupage Coasters

Customize coasters for your bedroom using printed photos, artwork, decorative scrapbooking paper, gift wrap, maps from vacations or any design you like that can be printed on paper. Cut the image to fit a blank coaster or tile, either using the exact dimensions of the coaster or leaving a narrow border around the edges. The decoupage technique couldn't be simpler: Paint white glue over the tile with a paint brush or sponge brush; smoothly press the paper image in place; add two more layers of white glue; then finish with a coat or two of acrylic sealer spray. Let every layer of glue dry completely before applying the next, and use a sealer that's clear and waterproof.

Related: The Love Nerds: How to Make Coasters with Scrapbook Paper and Mod Podge

Clay Trinket Dish

All it takes to transform a flat circle of modeling clay into a handy trinket dish is a little dimension. Roll out a thin sheet of oven-bake or air-dry modeling clay, then cut out a circle, oval, square, rectangle or more complex shape using a craft knife or special clay knife. Form a dish shape by gently curving the sides upward by hand or by pressing the shape inside shallow bowl. Add decoration before shaping the dish by embossing the surface -- press a fork, doily, evergreen frond or bubble wrap into it, or gently trace a design with a stylus. Use your dish to hold jewelry, keys and loose change.

Related: Urban Comfort: Evergreen Imprinted Clay Dishes

Geometric T-Shirt

Plain T-shirts are inexpensive, easy to find and fun to customize and wear. Make a plain T-shirt special using fabric paint and painter's tape to create stripes and other geometric shapes. Place a plastic bag inside the shirt to prevent the paint from seeping through to the other side, mark off lines with strips of tape, then apply fabric paint between the lines using a paint brush or sponge brush. You can be heavy-handed with the paint or use a gentle touch, use multiple paint colors, go horizontal, vertical or diagonal, or forget the tape and paint your design freehand. Heat-set the paint following the instructions on the packaging before wearing it.

Related: Cotton and Curls: DIY Lined Graphic Tee

Origami Mobile

An origami mobile is pretty easy to create and adds a touch of handmade whimsy to a teen's bedroom decor. Find origami tutorials online or in a library book, practice your chosen origami shapes with scrap paper, then move on to decorative scrapbook paper, colored paper or crisp, white printer paper. Fold multiples of a single shape, such as the classic crane, or a collection with a similar theme, such as flowers, animals or butterflies. Thread the shapes onto lengths of nylon thread or fishing line, and hang them from a natural branch or embroidery hoop for display.

Related: Clad and Cloth: DIY Origami Crane Mobile

Running Stitch Scarf

A simple scarf embellished with parallel rows of running stitches is very simple to make and the results can be quite striking. Cut a long rectangle or large square from any fabric of your choice. You can use a single or double layer of fabric. Choose a knit fabric and you don't need to sew hems. Mark parallel lines along the scarf using a ruler and tailor's chalk or a fabric marker, then simply sew a running stitch along each line with embroidery thread, knotting and trimming the thread tails at each end. Make the stitches as large or small as you like, but keep them even and don't pull too tightly or the fabric will gather up instead of lying flat. Use a single color or multiple colors of embroidery thread, variegated thread or different shades of the same color for an ombre effect.

Related: Design Sponge: Embroidery 101: Running Stitch + Ombre Summer Scarf

Fabric Bulletin Boards

Cover a cork tile or place mat with fabric to make a bulletin board that's both fun and functional. Place the cork board on the wrong side of the fabric and cut around it, leaving an extra inch or two of fabric around all the edges. Iron the cut-out fabric well, using plenty of spray starch to give it a smooth, stiff finish. To stick the fabric to the cork tile, cover its front surface with white glue or spray adhesive, then press the fabric smoothly over it. Fold the sides of the fabric neatly around to the back of the tile and hold them in place with more white glue or spray adhesive, or switch to a hot glue gun. These bulletin boards are light, so you can hang one or more on bedroom walls using special adhesive mounting tape.

Related: Crazy Little Projects: Fabric Covered Bulletin Board

Knit Headbands

Headbands are a perfect project for beginners to knitting, as well as more experienced knitters who want to try out a new stitch. They're basically a narrow rectangle in whatever length perfectly fits around your head and can be knit in virtually any stitch pattern. Work a few inches of I-cord at the beginning and end of the band to use as ties, graft the two ends together or knit in-the-round for a seamless band matching the circumference of your head. Style options range from a skinny headband in cotton yarn to keep hair off your face on a hot day, to a thick, winter wrap in ear-warming wool.

Related: Tracy Tran: Knit: The “Filly”- Horseshoe Lace Headband

Felt Pencil Case

As a non-fraying fabric, felt is the perfect material for making a no-sew pencil case. Fold a rectangle of felt into thirds, apply a little fabric glue along the inside edges of the bottom two layers to form side seams, then stick adhesive hook-and-loop strips inside the lower edges of the upper and middle layer to create a flap enclosure. You can adjust the length of the flap, and choose a vertical or horizontal style case. If you prefer to sew, use a heavy thread in a contrasting color to topstitch or blanket stitch the side seams. Embellish the case with embroidery, buttons, applique or fabric trims. You can use the same method to make a phone, tablet or glasses case.

Related: Ginger Melon Dolls: Free Pencil/Glasses Case Pattern

Beaded Keychains

Take two or more beads with large holes, thread them onto a length of leather cording attached to a keychain ring and you'll have a stylish keychain in a matter of minutes. Tie the cording to the ring so that it has two tails dangling down. Just thread the beads onto the two tails, double-knot the ends underneath the last bead and trim. Optionally, tie extra knots between the beads. Find suitable beads at a specialist bead store or the jewelry section of a craft store, paint plain wooden beads, make your own out of polymer clay or choose lettered beads to spell out a name or phrase.

Related: Creature Comforts: DIY Key Fobs + Bag Charms - A Darby Smart Challenge

Tip

Before rushing out to the craft store, check around your room to see if you can recycle or reuse any items you already have. Unravel that scarf you'll never finish knitting to use for a headband, make a bulletin board using fabric from a too-small shirt or upcycle a torn poster for the decoupage coasters or origami mobile.

About the Author

A writer of diverse interests, Joanne Thomas has penned pieces about road trips for Hyundai, children's craft projects for Disney and wine cocktails for Robert Mondavi. She has lived on three continents and currently resides in Los Angeles, where she is co-owner and editor of a weekly newspaper. Thomas holds a BSc in politics from the University of Bristol, England.