How to Make a Paper Bag Turkey | Thanksgiving Decorations | Martha Stewart
How to Make a Paper Bag Turkey
Looking for a fun way to celebrate this holiday season? Whether you’re crafting homemade decorations for Thanksgiving dinner or just want to get into the spirit of autumn, making a turkey from ordinary paper bags is a quick, simple and creative activity that is sure to please children and adults alike. This project only requires a few simple materials and will add a bit of thrifty Fall flair wherever it’s displayed.
Making the Turkey
Gather your materials.For this project, you’ll need only need a handful of basic items—3 brown paper bags (1 large paper grocery bag and 2 smaller standard paper bags), 1 sheet of white 8 ½” x 11” typing paper, a few sheets of newspaper, a pair of scissors and a hot glue gun or some craft glue. Any additional materials will be up to you, depending on how elaborate you want the presentation of your finished turkey to be.
- Your turkey will be made of just three easy pieces: one big bag for the body, and the two smaller bags to serve as the “drumsticks.”
- Making a paper bag turkey only takes a few minutes from start to finish, leaving you with plenty of time in your day to finish playing, decorating or tackling other crafting projects.
Form the body of the turkey.Take the large paper bag and fill it ¾ full with crumpled newspaper. This will help fill out the body, giving it a plump appearance and preventing it from collapsing once its ready to be displayed. After the bag has been stuffed, fold the corners down diagonally and glue them in place. Tuck the folded tab down one more time and glue it to the underside of the turkey.
- Shape the body of the turkey by hand until it’s smooth and round. Be sure to work out any square edges of creases from the original bag.
- Be careful not to tear the bag while sealing or shaping it.
Shape the drumsticks.Grab the two smaller paper bags—you’ll be using these to craft the “drumsticks” of the turkey. Make one hand into a fist and stick it into each bag, molding the opening of the bag around your wrist. This will give the bag its recognizable drumstick shape. Remove your hand from the bag and fill the rounded end with newspaper. Twist the opening of each bag shut and secure it with a dab of glue.
- Like the body of the turkey, the drumsticks will need to be filled in order to hold their shape.
Cut the booties for the drumsticks.Your drumsticks aren’t complete until they’re dressed with a pair of frilly white booties, like a traditional Thanksgiving turkey. Cut your sheet of typing paper in half lengthwise, then fold each piece in half, again lengthwise. Use your scissors to make a series of cuts in the open edge of the paper to create a neat fringe.
- Try to make your cuts about ¼ inch apart.
- Your cuts only need to be about half the width of the paper.
Put it all together.Wrap a paper bootie around the end of each drumstick and secure them with glue. Then, place the drumsticks on either side of the sealed end of the turkey and glue them down. That’s it! The result is a quirky, lifelike baked bird that you might just mistake for the real thing.
- Attach the drumsticks to the tapered sides of the body where you folded down the edges of the big bag. This will give the turkey a more realistic look.
- The different parts of the turkey will have a little weight to them once they’ve been filled. Use enough glue to make sure that everything holds.
Finding Creative Ways to Present Your Turkey
Put it on a platter.Arrange your paper bag turkey on a serving platter over a bed of parsley or tissue paper garnish. Surround the turkey with fallen leaves for a splash of vibrant color. With the right details, you’ll have a mouthwatering craft turkey worthy of a fantasy feast to show off to your friends and family.
- If you don't have a real serving platter lying around, make your own out of cardboard, construction paper and colored markers.
- Make sure to let everyone, especially small children, know that your paper turkey is not for eating.
Add colorful designs.Before you fill the paper bags, decorate the outsides for a more artistic, funky finish. Use crayons, markers, washable paint, stickers or glitter and customize your turkey with polka dots, swirls or dazzling patterns using your favorite colors. Grab a friend, sibling, parent or child to decorate your turkey with, then compare and display them together when you’re done.
- If you’re using paint or a felt-tip marker that might saturate the paper bags, allow them to dry before stuffing or shaping them.
- When making paper turkeys with your kids or students, have them write down one thing they’re thankful for somewhere on the big bag.
Fill it with “stuffing.” For an unexpected tasty twist, ditch the newspaper and fill your turkey with popcorn, candy or other easy-to-eat finger foods instead. You can then have someone “carve” the turkey by cutting a flap in the top and have something to snack on until the main course is served. This imaginative serving style is sure to be a hit at holiday parties!
- Popcorn makes a simple stuffing because it’s light and takes up a lot of space, but you could use just about any snack food, like chips, pretzels or chocolates, to fill your turkey.
- Try filling the drumsticks separately with caramel corn to make “dark meat.”
Put your paper bag turkey on display.In addition to being a fun and easy project to do with your friends or loved ones, your paper turkey will make a unique arrangement for the coffee table, arts and crafts desk or kitchen counter. It will look especially good surrounded by other festive Fall decorations. Best of all, you can store the playful papercraft away or simply make a new one the next time the holiday season rolls around.
- A paper bag turkey will fit nicely with other homemade holiday decorations, such as hand turkey cutouts, popsicle stick snowflakes and construction paper pumpkins.
- This will make a great activity for parents and teachers to do alongside their children or students.
- If the paper bags you’re using have any logos, writings or markings on them, carefully turn them inside out before you begin crafting.
- Line the inside of your turkey with wax or parchment paper to prevent splotchy grease stains if you plan on filling it with buttered popcorn.
- Make sure you have enough of whatever food item you choose to fill the large bag.
- Hot glue is preferable to other adhesives because it dries quickly and creates a strong, lasting hold.
- Take caution when working with the hot glue and scissors. Kids should ask an adult for help with the cutting and gluing portions of the project.
- Staples should be avoided, as there's no way to use them to secure the different parts of the turkey without mashing them.
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