Diorama Present Toppers. Say Goodbye to the Bow.

Here are the things I’ve done to avoid writing this post today.


1.  Rearranged all the accessories in my living room.

2.  Cleaned out the kitty litter box.

3.  Checked the chickens to see how far along in their moulting they were.

4.  Painted my nails.

5.  Went for a 2 k.m. walk on the coldest day of the season so far.

6.  Winked at myself in the mirror for a period of 15 minutes.

7.  Sanded my heels with the Emjoi.

8.  Chopped some firewood.

9.  Watched Dr. Oz.  (clearly I’m in deep trouble because by the sounds of it every single thing I eat will soon kill me. Even rice.)

10.  Rearranged all the accessories in my living room.  Again.


Now, it’s not that I didn’t want to write this post because I’m not happy with it.  On the contrary.  I didn’t want to write this post because I’m SO happy with it.  I pretty much just want to forget the words and get on with the pictures.

So let’s put me out of my misery and just do that shall we?

I’ve done every kind of bow that can be accomplished by someone with opposable thumbs and a fairly flexible foot.   I’ve done standard bows, paper bows, light up bows, neck tie bows.  I’ve done them all and I’ve loved them all, but this year I didn’t want to just do bows.

Enough with the bows.

Bring on the Diorama present toppers.

I have no clue how this idea came to me but it did and I’m thankful because it’s the best thing anyone has ever done.  Ever.  In the entire world.  Me.  I did it.

And now you can do it too.




I had the idea to create a scene on top of a present instead of a bow because I plain old thought it would look great and would be REALLY fun to do.  It does and it is.




You know how people get a runner’s high?  I got a crafting high after creating this.




It took a while to figure out exactly how to do this so that it looked elegant and not “KrAFtsY!”.  You know.  The dreaded crafting with a “k”.  Krafting.  Uch.




Rule #1.  Don’t use store bought miniatures props (trees excluded).  And DEFINITELY don’t use store bought figurines (people).   The scene will be more realistic and more “humanized” as my friend Jamieson calls it, when you don’t actually see people at all.  You just need evidence of people.  Like these ski poles leaning against a snow covered tree.  Or the skis in the photo above.



Footprints through the snow help you create a scene. I made the footprints by making a stamp out of a potato.

Wanna go with a little more kitsch?  You can do that too.





Want a great tip for wrapping paper?  Go to your local kids toy store or craft store and buy a roll of artist paper.  I’ve spent the past billion years looking for plain white wrapping paper.  It’s not easy to find.  It always has slight stripes, or a tone on tone pattern or whatever.  A roll of white artists paper, the kind that goes on a rod on top of an easel is pure white, heavy, opaque and when you tape it … it stays TAPED!   And the best part?  It’s $8 for a 75 foot roll.  That’s a lotta wrapping.


For me, half the fun of getting a present is the wrapping.  Ditto for giving a present.  It isn’t ALL about what’s inside the box. It’s about  how it’s presented too.

Once I’ve done my Christmas decorating and present wrapping you’ll see all of the diorama present toppers in their spectacular glory.  Until then, these two should give you some inspiration to you know … think outside the box.




  1. Lila says:

    I’ve read all (I think all) the comments but I didn’t see anyone ask what kind of glue you used on the car/truck wheels. I would like to do this for a gift for a boy who LOVES Hot Wheels and I know he will want to use them. What kind of glue holds securely but peels off easily when it’s desired?

  2. Kim says:

    Yes. It is a wow. Maybe I’ll do this next year for a few presents! Kids would go CRAZY for it. (& expect if every year. So maybe not!).

  3. Amber Elliott says:

    I’m assuming your awesome snow was created by spray snow (aerosols can for windows?)
    I did similar boxes last year, but I bought heavy brown cardboard boxes, that have lids, from a craft store, so the recipients could have them or give them the following year. I put cookies in my boxes…yummy. :D

  4. danni says:

    Because I love all of you, every single person who is ‘one with Karen’…. I will share where I get all my cool *&^%, including, the white roll of paper. Grosgrains, boxes, papers, all manner of foolishness. Quality is very good. I was nervous bc it is not expensive, it’s great stuff.

  5. Chana says:

    Wow, Karen! This is adorable. I never would have thought to put little scenes on a present. I find this an ingenious conversation starter. LUV IT!

  6. Jamieson says:

    Incredible inventiveness delivered with unparalleled artistic aplomb, as always. I’m so disappointed that the video tutorial fell through; that would have been a very fun e-class.
    PS Thanks for the shout out. ;)

  7. Mia says:

    Love how the car contrasts (trying to avoid “pops”) against the stark white. How fun if you could do a post with photos of present dioramas that readers sent in! Yes?

  8. Shit…I need to quit my full time job, get divorced and kick out my kid so I can truly give my full attention to my blog. I suck! You so rock…I bow to your no bow toppers. Bow and bow pronounced two ways..hmmmmm will you look at that!

  9. Bonnie G. says:

    Shhh! Once the paper idea gets around the price will double (or maybe even triple ) – just kidding.
    Karen, they are so attractive and I am sure your giftees will appreciate your effort to make the presents special. I agree with your theory Karen, that there is just something about getting a beautifully wrapped gift! ….can’t wait to see more. Happy Holidays!

  10. nancy says:

    I use butcher paper, it’s $40 bucks for a really heavy roll. I have no idea about much paper it is but it be a lot. That would go with your cleaver motif as well.

  11. Tracie says:

    Holy Hannah, that is the cutest, bestest idea I have ever seen!! You floor me….

  12. Julie says:

    i love the nature’s poop bow! i think i’ll start with that and work my way up to diorama!

  13. Candice Stansell says:

    Oh man I did a diorama on my Christmas presents about 20 yrs ago; I so though I was the shit and now you are Karen!! I used just plain white garment boxes and drew with silver and shiny purple pens, dragonflies on the box then added green big cut up cheapy bows and pink middles for lily pad ( that I saw Martha Stewart make some similar but I made mine better) then made sweet little twists with cheap silver ribbon connecting the multi sized lily pads like vines; it was beautiful. I wish I had taken a picture of it

  14. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    You never fail to think up something that will amaze me..this is truly one of your best!!

  15. Kris Wilson says:

    So beautiful, and creative! I love it! And thanks for the tip on the wrapping paper rolls, that is so sensible! I think Ikea sells those rolls too. Had a thought for everyone worrying about destroying the lovely scenes, maybe wrap the boxes like they do in the commercials, where you wrap the top separately from the bottom, so the lid just lifts off. Diorama preserved! Hope we get to see more, it would be cool if your readers could send in pictures (maybe to your facebook page?) so we can glimpse everyone’s creative genius! Thanks Karen!

  16. brenda says:

    so clever! You never fail to amaze us. My Dollar store has a pack of two trees for ……$1. On my way over there today.
    And you are right, the dioramas are more realistic without the little krafty figurines

  17. LazySusan says:

    All of the presents I’m giving this year are too small for something like this, unless I go super-miniature. That said, I do a little scene on the mantle every year, with little white felt houses, and that will be expanded now, with white trees, footsteps in the snow, a wood pile, and maybe some skis and poles! You do come up with some great crafts, Karen! This is wonderful!

  18. Brenda J. Moore says:

    These look wonderful for display and will be a blast of fun for whomever the gifts are for…BUT – are they really going to want to ruin that beauty and your labours of love ? Hope the gifts can slide out the side. :)

  19. Valerie says:

    Brilliant decor for presents Karen! Children of all ages will be positively fascinated.

    In years past I saved the comics section every weekend throughout the year so that I could use those pages at Christmas time to wrap gifts. One year I made enclosure cards from pictures I printed on my copier.

    I agree that white wrapping is difficult to locate. If you are unable to obtain artist paper on a roll but are close to a medical supply store then the paper that is used to cover examining tables is just the ticket.

  20. Gretchen Sexton says:

    I would NEVER want to open the present! These are precious! LOVE. Just love.

  21. Scott says:

    Funny! It looks like your skier had two left feet.

  22. Mary Werner says:

    You got me at the first pic of potato prints – this IS the best ever and you are genius!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I will be doing this for the faux presents under my tree. (The real ones are at my daughter’s house.) My genius part will be wrapping all the junk I don’t have room to hide.

  23. Tigersmom says:

    I love that you always manage to show us something creative and crafty while avoiding the ever-dreaded crafting with a K look. Every now I then, I know I’ve messed up when something I’ve done takes on that appearance and instantly becomes a don’t-it-yourself.

    I think the footprints are my favorite part. Although I love it all. I have 2 ceramic Victorian houses I picked up at an estate sale that are going to go monochromatic white and become part of a scene in my Christmas décor along with some faux snow and stamped footprints now. Thank you for making your fabulous ideas available for all to steal.

  24. marilyn says:

    they are pretty cool

  25. Rose says:

    Love it! you are starting a new trend. One ball of fluff looks like a little chicken in the snow.

  26. Heather says:

    Absolutely brilliant. But you already knew that. :)

  27. Linda J Howes says:

    My sister always way outdid on the present wrapping and the best part was that we had to give it back to her so she could re-use it. Even if we wanted to keep it and re-use it ourselves, or just keep it because it was so nice, we couldn’t. All bows, paper, boxes, whatever, we had to give back. Isn’t the wrapping part of the gift??? And shouldn’t one be allowed the joyousness of tearing the gift open if they so choose???

  28. Maria says:

    It’s very pretty.

    The truth is that when you give the person the present all that pretty is going to get ripped off and thrown away as they dig in for the creamy Christmas present center. Or stick the present under the tree and all of it will fall off. Or the cat will eat it and either hork it back up or have to be rushed to the vet.

    That being said. These would be lovely as part of the decorations. And you’ve done a really good job. And it’s a very unique idea. Well done.

  29. Su says:

    The red car with the tree and the ski poles and the footprints!! I bow to your cute creativeness….

  30. Louise says:

    “. . . it’s the best thing anyone has ever done. Ever. In the entire world.”
    It absolutely is! I love these. You’re a genius!

  31. Janet says:

    The footprints, skis and poles are pure genius!

  32. Susan Gentry says:

    Love it!!!!!!!!! Silly question I am sure all your readers already know, but…where do you get the white trees? I know where to get the twigs!

  33. Kim C. says:

    WOW! I’m pulling my eyeballs back in to think of the right adjectives to tap out here. Incredible!!!
    Brilliant! LOVE the footprints, they speak volumes and really do make the scene. I can make up my own little winter’s tale to go along with your beautiful work. :-)
    I can’t wait to try this. I’m just a wee bit sad that most of my gifts have to be mailed. At least we’ll have a few around our own tree!
    Also, thanks for the tip on the white craft paper.

  34. Feral Turtle says:

    This is so cute. I love the skis and the footprints are the icing on the cake!

  35. Tracey says:

    Oh wowzers…that is really amazing Karen, just beautiful!
    What an imagination you have! This may come easy to you, but I’d have to see the rest of them because otherwise I would just Copy these two.
    I’d hate to have them destroyed when the present is unwrapped. I think that would make a fabulous Christmas “Village” scene as well. Instead of the usual kind with all the usual Christmas colours and the tacky looking teeny tiny Victorian plastic people. (No offence to those that like those Victorian village getups) I just like the monochromatic look….and no visible people. Yes, that’s what I’ll do this year…I always wanted to do a village.

  36. Stephbo says:

    “I got a crafting high after creating this.”

    Sweetie, it’s the glue. Put it down.

  37. barbee says:


  38. sandra says:

    Fabulous. No need to put a gift inside. No one will want to destroy the wrapping. Such a fun and clever idea.

  39. Mindy says:

    Pretty damn cute. I’m diggin’ the snowman and the footprints. I bought a crap ton of those trees this year and can’t wait to use them. I did the toy cars with a mini tree on top for my diy ornament gifts this year. I love them.

  40. Laura says:

    Brilliant! You topped even your pumpkin diorama!!!!

  41. calliek says:

    There are days when I look around at all the things I’ve amused myself doing and thought ” woman, you have waay to much time on your hands, who thinks of this stuff? ” And then I read your blog and realize I am an amateur.

  42. Tina Chopee says:

    You are So hilarious!!! Hahahahaha This is ingenious! The next step in the evolution of Christmas Congratulation!

  43. Chris says:

    Awesome and freaky, but that makes it more awesome. Thanks for the tip on the wrap! Think outside the box just topped off your post nicely lol.

  44. Jody says:

    I am so impressed! Are these decoy gifts or will people have to destroy these works of art to get to the present? If I am ever ambitious enough to do this maybe I will use a box with a removable top. Beautiful! Bravo!

    • Karen says:

      They’re ridiculously easy to make Jody. And FUN. I normally like wrapping presents, but get bored with it. I could do hundreds of these and not get bored. These are indeed decoy gifts, lol. But I’m going to unwrap them carefully and put actual presents in there, then wrap them back up again. They are SO much fun to do! ~ karen

    • Jody says:

      From a different Jody….I’m going to do this for a gift for my niece. She’ll be home from NZ so I’ll do a Christmas beach scene. Or a plane flying scene. Or..my head hurts with so many ideas.

  45. Laura Bee says:

    Holy moley! Freaking spectacular.
    I used to do a lot with pine cones & hot glue. These are right up my alley.
    The little red car was me tonight..out getting greenery. Snip snip. Ask Lynne Knowlton about that!
    But I picked a bad spot to turn around and ended up stuck in the mud at the edge of a cornfield. Walked to the nearest house and Scott helped me get it out. Forward..back…forward…back…forward!! I will be dropping of a box of cookies & fudge to him & his wife – who said “You’d better take my Jeep.”Although we didn’t need it.
    I did not cry. I am very proud of that fact. I have come a long way with controlling my emotions.

    Back to the subject – hubby does miniature wargaming models, I’ll just have to “borrow” his scenery snow.
    Oh-and I got the lights up! :)

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Lynn! The truth is this was going to be my first real video workshop for everyone. Bows and Dioramas. But the materials sponsor fell through at the LAST minute. As in the day before they were supposed to ship the materials out. And I was SO excited to do the workshop. :( ~ karen!

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