Mexican Do It Yourself
Whether you are gearing up for Mexican Independence Day on September 16th, Cinco de Mayo on May 5th, or planning a special Mexican Fiesta for your favorite crowd, these easy DIY party decorations are sure to get your creative juices flowing.
There’s nothing I love more than creating the perfect decorative details to delight my party guests and make the occasion even more memorable.
I've gathered a few of my favorite ideas that I hope you’ll enjoy that are both low-budget and simple to make:
- Hanging/Wall Decorations
- Table Decorations
Mexican Chili Pepper Pom
Spice things up with cute chili pepper shaped poms perfect for hanging in the party area. No one will ever guess how easy and inexpensive these are to make!
You Will Need
- Beading wire
- Green & red tissue paper
- Wire clippers
- Stack five sheets of red tissue paper, and cut out a 9” square. Cut out five other progressively smaller squares from the stacked red tissue paper, the smallest being 4”. Recommended sizes: 9”, 8-1/2”, 7-1/2”, 6-1/2”, 5-1/4”, 4”. All measurements are approximate.
- Fold the entire stack of each size square into an accordion fold about 1” thick.
- Scallop the edges by cutting the ends of each accordion folded stack with scissors to round the corners.
- Cut a 30” piece of beading wire with the wire clippers, then bend it in half.
- Place the 4” accordion folded tissue paper between the wires and slide it all the way down. Twist the wire several times over a distance of 3/4”.
- Add the next accordion folded stack, and repeat for each. Between the largest three pieces, leave 1” of twisted wire between them.
- Cut 9” squares from several sheets stacked green tissue paper, then accordion fold.
- Make 3” cuts from both ends along the creases of the folds.
- Place the green stack 1/2” up from the largest red square and secure with twisted wire.
- Gently separate the sheets of tissue paper to fill out the pepper shape, bending the wire into a crescent if needed.
- Leave a wire loop on top to attach to string in order to make an attractive hanging decoration.
Geometric Paper Garland
Papel picado is Spanish for “perforated paper” and is a Mexican folk art tradition. Geometric designs range from simple to elaborate, and are perfect for any Mexican-themed fiesta.
You Will Need
- Multiple colors of tissue paper
- Spool of twine
- Double-stick tape
- Optional: ruler, cutting pad, rotary cutter
- Cut 5”x7” pieces of tissue paper in various colors.
- Fold the sheet in half, then starting from the folded side, make 1/2” accordion folds. You will have an edge after folding back and forth four times; leave it and do not fold.
- Starting 3/4” of an inch down from the short side of the folded strip, cut two lines from the crease sides to create triangles spaced 1/8” apart. You will end up with 4 triangles.
- Open the folds so that the side with the extra long edge is folded out, then cut out four more triangles while being careful not to cut through the existing ones. Repeat this step with the remaining 3 folds.
- If desired, place finished sheets between two paper towels on a flat heat-resistant surface, and iron them on the lowest setting to remove creases.
- Place a row of double-sided tape along 7” side of a single sheet. Press a length of twine into the tape and fold over to secure. Space sheets 4”-6” apart on the twine for best results.
Handmade paper flowers are another Mexican fiesta tradition that add colorful exuberance to the party atmosphere. Hang them on walls, create exotic bouquets, or spruce up tabletop decor with oh-so-easy yet stunning flowers conveniently made from themed party napkins.
You Will Need
- 3-ply paper napkins in a variety of colors, small and/or large
- Twist ties, beading wire, string, or pipe cleaners
- Open up four napkins completely and place in a stack. If using a mix of small and large napkins, place the smaller ones on the inside.
- Make accordion folds back and forth, about 1” thick.
- Once the napkins have been folded, scallop the edges by cutting the corners into a rounded shape on each side. Alternatively, for a spiky appearance, create a “reverse scallop” by cutting a curve from corner to corner along the short ends of the accordion folded stack.
- Place the twist tie, wire, string, or pipe cleaner in the center of the folded strip, then secure tightly.
- Fluff the folds to create a ruffled, flowery appearance.
- If desired, create a garland by attaching flowers to a length of twine or string and use to decorate walls, doorways, tables, or railings. Alternatively, attach to pipe cleaners, wooden dowels, or pencils to make a tabletop bouquet.
If you are looking to incorporate realistic or live flowers into the decor, take a look at this beautiful and unique handmade decoration. This easy-to-make DIY decoration looks totally professional and makes a stunning accent or focal point.
You Will Need
- Block of floral foam
- 3 dozen real carnations or fake flowers
- Kitchen or pocket knife
- Straight pins
- Crochet needle
- Optional: Large safety pin, beads, jewelry wire, tassel, metal charms, etc.
- Using a kitchen or pocket knife, shave a floral foam block into a roughly spherical shape around 5” in diameter; does not need to be perfectly round or smooth.
- Measure the circumference of the foam sphere with a ribbon, then tie and cut off ends.
- Push a few straight pins through the ribbon to fasten it to the foam.
- Thread a large safety pin through the ribbon, and hang beads, charms, tassels, etc. from it for added decorative effect.
- Cut off another length of ribbon to serve as the hanger. Fold it in half, pass it under the diametrical ribbon, and knot it at the surface of the foam block. Use a length of ribbon at least 18” and up to 48” depending on ceiling height; if incorporating multiple hanging decorations, you may wish to vary the height for a more dynamic presentation.
- If using real flowers, make several watering holes by stabbing the foam with scissors or a utility knife, and soak for 10 minutes. Skip this step if using fake flowers.
- Using the small end of a crochet needle, make a small indention and press in the first bloom, ensuring that the stem is buried to where the stem widens under the bloom. Repeat with remaining flowers, adjusting slightly to create an overall spherical shape.
- Alternatively, omit the safety pin and ribbon hangers, and insert a painted dowel to display as a bouquet accent or tabletop decoration.
Papier Mache Maracas
These colorful rhythm instruments used in traditional Mexican music make great interactive decorations. Arrange them in centerpieces, attach together to make maraca “wreaths,” or write your guests’ names on them as unique and memorable keepsakes.
You Will Need
- Mod Podge, or cornstarch paste (recipe follows)
- Dipping bowl
- Paper (e.g. copy paper, newspaper, newsprint)
- Decorative paper (e.g. tissue paper, paste paper, scrapbook paper, wrapping paper)
- Scissors or utility knife
- Thin paper board (e.g.. cereal boxes, poster board)
- White glue
- Dry beans, grains, or hard plastic pieces
- Optional: Mason jars (for drying), clothespins
- Optional Decorating Ideas: Glitter, acrylic & puff paint, ribbons, stickers, etc.
Cornstarch Paste Recipe
- 1 part cornstarch (e.g. 1 Tablespoon)
- 10 parts warm water (e.g. 10 Tablespoons=scant 2/3 cup)
- Whisk together cornstarch and water on the stove top, then bring to a boil.
- Cook for 5 minutes, then remove from heat and pour into a widemouthed bowl.
NOTE: Paste will keep in refrigerator for 2 days; add up to a teaspoon of warm water to thin.
- Cut paper into 3/4” strips a few inches long (~4”).
- Inflate small party balloons with air and tie off.
- Dip the paper strips into a bowl of Mod Podge or paste and moisten well, then remove the extra paste by pulling it gently through your index and middle fingers squeezed together.
- Place moist paper strips on balloon so that the edges of each strip should overlap.
- Leave a nickel-sized hole around the balloon tie, and repeat with paper strips for a second layer. If using copy paper, 2 layers is sufficient; thinner paper like newspaper or newsprint will require 4 or 5 layers.
- Add the decorative paper in strips or squares atop the previous layers in one layer by applying paste with fingers or a brush on one side (this is unnecessary if you use tissue paper).
- Place balloons upright, tie end down, in mason jars to allow for even drying overnight.
- Once paper is completely dry, cut the tie off of the balloon and remove.
- Use a funnel to put a tablespoon of dry beans or grains inside the maraca. Seal with a piece of paper covered in Mod Podge or paste.
- Create a triangular handle out of the paper board by drawing five straight lines 1-1/2” thick. Cut along the two outermost sides, and score the three interior lines with scissors or a utility knife.
- Fold the cardboard backwards along the scored lines. Cover one of the outermost strip with white glue, and attach it to the other outermost strip so that they overlap. Allow to dry, securing with clothespins if needed.
- Wrap a 3” strip of copy paper around one end of the handle after it has dried, allowing the paper to extend 1” beyond. Cut the extended paper edge into three fringes down to the cardboard at each bend.
- Attach the handle by gluing the fringes to the body of the maraca over the patch covering the hole through which you funneled the dry beans/grain. Allow to dry
- Reinforce and blend the joint by pasting down 4 layers of the same paper strips used to create the body of the maraca, plus a layer of the decorative paper. Add decorative layer down the length of the handle if desired. Decorate as desired.
Simple and quick mini-maracas make great name-cards or place setting decorations. They even look great as a Mexican-inspired bouquet accent to really wow the crowd.
You Will Need
- Plastic Easter eggs
- Dry beans, rice, other grains
- Jumbo paper straws, 1 for each egg
- Small paint brush
- Hot glue gun
- Masking tape
- Mod Podge
- Crepe paper, tissue paper, etc.
- Place one teaspoon of beans or rice inside the Easter egg, then close.
- Cover the seam of the plastic egg with tape to keep sealed.
- Cut the Jumbo straws in half to create handles.
- Use hot glue to attach the straw to the center of the widest side of the egg. Once the glue has dried, use strips of tape to reinforce the glue joint.
- Brush Mod Podge over a section of the egg, then attach strips of crepe paper. Repeat until the whole egg is covered.
- Apply a final layer of Mod Podge to keep paper from peeling off, and apply other embellishments as desired.
A beautifully decorated pinata is often the centerpiece of a Mexican fiesta; the tradition of filling a decorated papier mache shape with candy and prizes embodies the spirit of hospitality and generosity.
Whether or not you plan to break it open the traditional way with bats and blindfolds, displaying a hand-decorated version is sure to impress.
You Will Need
- Piñata in your favorite shape
- Gold Spray Paint
- Twine or String
- Crepe streamers
- Hot Glue
- Decorating Ideas: Tissue paper or crepe fringe, tissue paper or napkin flowers
- If not prefilled, add candy to the pinata before decorating it.
- Remove all accessories from the store-bought pinata (e.g. donkey tail, decorative accouterments, hanger). If you cannot remove the wire hanger, tape with painter’s tape.
- Lay down newspaper or a tarp in a well-ventilated outdoor area and completely cover the first side with spray paint. Allow to dry according to package directions.
- Flip the pinata over and repeat on the other side; after allowing to dry, check both sides in case touch-ups are needed, spray, then leave to dry completely overnight.
- Remove tape from hanger, if applicable.
- Decorate as desired. We suggest attaching tissue paper or napkin flowers as described in previous tutorials with hot glue.
- To make crepe fringe: Cut an 18” length of crepe streamer, then fold in half. Continue folding in half until you have a 3”-4” section of crepe. Make cuts along the crease side, being sure to leave a fingers-breadth of room along the opposite edge for attaching. Unravel to use as decorations, or roll it up to create a very small flower.
Find more great DIY pinatas at studiodiy.com
Make quick but thoughtful decorations with this cute idea in centerpieces, as party favors, or connect them together to create a most original mini pinata garland.
You Will Need
- Two drinking cones
- Hot glue
- Tissue or Crepe Fringe
- Decorative Ideas: Small crepe flowers, streamers, stickers, scrapbooking embellishments, etc.
- Prize ideas: Candy, Mustache, Stickers, Party poppers, etc.
- Cut the tips off of two paper drinking cones.
- Cut a length of ribbon ~6” long, fold in half, and knot it at the bottom. Thread the loop through the hole of one of the cups and secure with tape on the inside.
- Cut three strips of ribbon ~3” long and tie them together at one end. Pass them through the hole of the other cup, and secure with tape to form a tassel.
- Fill cones with prizes, then carefully hot glue the cups together along the rim.
- Glue down crepe or tissue fringe and other decorations with hot glue to finish. Personalize with each guests’ name, if desired.
If you are looking for a how-to guide for making the real deal from starting with papier mache strips to finishing with handmade fringe, check out this excellent and detailed video tutorial: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=44JYARhkFe8.
Cacti and succulents are common to the southwestern landscape, and make very beautiful decorations. In addition to the potted variety, this unique idea puts together natural elements with good decorative taste.
You Will Need
- Potted ball cactus
- Reinforced leather garden gloves
- Serrated knife
- Cylinder vase
- Optional: Sand, stone accents, votive or tealight candles in glass holders
- Sever the cactus tops from the roots using a serrated knife and holding the head of the ball cactus gently in garden glove.
- Add a few pebbles to the base of the cylinder vase; this adds weight to help prevent the centerpiece from toppling over if bumped accidentally. You may wish to place sand in the bottom under the pebbles as well for more weight and depending on aesthetic preference; pebbles will keep the cacti from sinking into the sand.
- Enhance the natural beauty by adding stone accents and candlelight that will add a warm glow to the table ambiance.
Colorful fringe can spruce up the plainest interior without requiring much of the budget. Choose tissue paper in the red, green and white of the Mexican flag or match your key colors for an attractive flair.
You Will Need
- 20-by-30-inch sheets of tissue paper
- Binder clip
- Double-sided tape
- Small bamboo skewers
- Cut tissue paper into 5-by-15-inch rectangles.
- Fold them in half widthwise, then stack and clip at folded edge.
- Cut a long fringe into the open edge and unclip.
- Wrap the folded edge of 1 fringed piece over twine and secure with tape.
- Repeat with remaining sections.
For Bowl Band
- Cut 1 piece of tissue paper to wrap around bowl, twice as wide as you want the finished band to be.
- Fold it in half lengthwise.
- Fringe the open end with scissors.
- Attach to bowl with tape.
- Fold 1 sheet of tissue paper in half several times, and cut out a 3 1/2-by-1 1/4-inch stack.
- Fold in half widthwise; fringe the open edge.
- Unfold and adhere double-sided tape to the crease of 1 piece.
- Place skewer in center, and press to seal.
Also, check out Martha Stewart's papel picado at marthastewart.com
Peppers are important to the Mexican cuisine, and make cute decorations as well. Carving bell peppers is a fun way to celebrate the culture of southwestern spice as well as incorporating themed accent lighting into the tablescape.
You Will Need
- Bell peppers in assorted colors
- Small paring knife
- Large scooping spoon
- Tealight candles
- Begin by removing the top and coring the green pepper. Make a series of short cuts at angles around the stem of the green pepper, creating an opening at least 3-1/2” in diameter.
- After removing the top, clean out the middle of the pepper with a spoon to remove seeds and core.
- In the side of the pepper, make a vertical cut that stretches from 1/4” below the opening down to 1/4” up from the bottom. Then working carefully, shave from the center of the cut to make a slit-like opening. Repeat at intervals as desired.
- Place a tealight candle inside the pepper so that it sits flat before lighting.
Decorated Sombrero Chip Service
Make a statement by decorating your own sombrero and using it to serve up the tortilla chips at your next Mexican themed celebration.
Not only a testament to your crafting skills, it incorporates the decorative tradition of the iconic sombrero by bringing your personal creative touch to make a grand impression.
You Will Need
- Pre-made plain sombrero
- Fabric glue
- Decorative elements: sequins, rickrack, ribbon, pom-poms, yarn, beads, tassels, etc.
- Glue pom-poms around the outer brim of the sombrero.
- Attach rickrack to the top side of the brim, to add decoration without getting in the way of serving.
- Wrap yarn or ribbon around the cup of the sombrero, creating a thick and colorful boarder. Add a tassel, bow or knot if desired.
- Glue sequins in a regular or swirling pattern to the cup of the hat to add an extra dash of dazzle.
- After everything is dry, arrange chips around the brim and enjoy!
Sombrero Placecard Holders
You Will Need
- Small terracotta pots & larger saucers
- Acrylic paint
- Small paintbrush
- Small pom-poms
- Hot glue
- Skewer stick
- Paint the saucers and outside of the pots with acrylic paint. Allow to dry.
- Decorate further with paint, such as a bands, stars, triangles, and other geometric patterns.
- Hot glue the pom-poms around the outside rim of the pot and add other glue-on decorations.
- Cut the skewer sticks in half, or adjust to appropriate height.
- Create the namecards with markers, then use hot glue to attach the namecards to skewer sticks.
- Take the decorated terracotta pot and fill it with M&M’s, then place it in the center of the saucer containing the candies. These will help keep the namecard straight as well as providing a colorful and tasty treat.
- Insert the namecard skewer through the hole in the pot to display.
- Alternatively, use hot glue to attach the pot to the saucer if desired.
- Another option is to decorate large pots and saucers and place a small vase under the pot. Then stick a couple of flowers through the hole that extend down into the vase holding the water for an attractive centerpiece or tabletop decoration.