I hadn’t ever seen a party cracker until I was in college. These are one of those things I completely freaked out over, how fabulous – I love things that combine surprise and destruction and the need for two people to open it! My mother got a box from an imports store. Traditionally the crackers were favors at Christmas parties – Absolutely Crackers has a complete history for you. As far as I know they usually contain a charm, a joke and a tissue paper crown. The cracker is basically a tube filled with goodies, tied at both ends, and inside is a snap, a strip of cardboard with a friction spot which makes a loud popping noise when pulled from both ends. It takes two people to open, you grab ahold of the end of the cracker or just the end of the snap and pull POP yay!
I bought a make-your-own cracker kit from a great little store around here – Wishbone (tragically, without website). They came with snaps glued to the inside of the tube, all one had to do was fill the tube and shut it. It is just as easy to make your own – you just need the snaps.
There are two places I know of you can order snaps from. One is here in the US – Olde English Crackers – the order form is on the first page – (they also have a page on what is, how to open, and history of). The other is Absolutely Crackers which is located in the UK but I have have heard good things about their shipping times. They have components (snaps, hats, jokes). They also have fill your own and make your own kits. Both places sell prefilled crackers, as well as offering crackers you can fill yourself and special wedding crackers. Plum Party sells silver foil wrapped crackers too, filled with confetti and whistles!
Here are some illustrated instructions on how to make a basic cracker out of a paper towel roll and tissue paper. Here are some instructions with interesting pictures. This site has christmas cracker jokes. About.com has instructions too. I like Oriental Trading Company and US Toy for small toys to fill the crackers with, and I also like the large colorful confetti which come (separated) as hearts, stars, and dots . Then again there are always Party Busters.
I am planning to make a more structured set of crackers using foil for the holidays, I hope to send them instead of cards. But I’ll post that experiment as well.
A friend and I went in on a box of snaps together a while back and I had been looking for a reason to make a party cracker ever since. I had planned on Fourth of July themed ones with those champagne bottle poppers, fireworks glasses, confetti, etc. Buuut, I was lazy and they never got made.
This is my first try at making these. On some crackers I’ve had the end of the snap is glued to the inside of the end – so that the cracker will break open when tugged. I wrapped too many layers of tissue paper to allow for the cracker to rip open so I left the snaps lose to be tugged and the cracker ripped open afterwards. I added some things that were too heavy, I’m afraid there will be much dropping and falling when these are snapped. And I have this little worry that the stuff inside will catch on fire from the spark the friction strip makes (these strips are louder than any commercial crackers I’ve had so far). I hope it doesn’t catch on fire. Obviously. If I make these this way again I will add only two layers of tissue paper and tack down the snap ends, I like the ripping open effect! And I will keep the contents lightweight. I made some tissue paper crowns to go inside too – directly below.
By the way, the clear gridded ruler you see in these pictures is one of my favorite things, you can find them in fabric stores and sometimes in art stores.