make your own: lemon(aid) banks.

December 1, 2020

It’s the first of December, Giving Tuesday, the start of the the advent countdown, and ten days until the first night of Hanukkah. For many, it’s a season of gift giving and gift making and end-of-year generosity. In a year that’s been exceptionally hard, Rose developed a simple project that helps turn lemons into lemon(aid) and gives us something cheerful to look at.

Paper maché banks can be a gift to give or a project to pass the time. For little kids, let them inspire simple lessons in savings and generosity: a lemon for saving, a lemon for spending, a lemon for offering somebody else. When the bank is filled, crack it open and watch the change spill out. (Or carry a sack of lemons directly to a coin sorting machine to make quick work of the counting.)

Paper Maché Lemon Bank


+ newspaper/ newsprint

+ 1 cup flour

+ small water balloons

+ yellow acrylic or tempera paint

+ brown paint or marker (optional)

+ toothpicks and green cardboard or green felt for leaves (optional)

+ glue (optional for leaves)

+ scissors

+ paint brush

+ sharp blade/ knife

+ small sauce pan or bowl

+ small cups

lemons into lemon(aid) banks | reading my tea leaves


+ Prepare your paste by thoroughly mixing 1 cup of flour with 2 cups of water. Place in a sauce pan and heat on a stove top until the mixture simmers and thickens. (You can safely use your cooking pots for this!) Alternatively, you can microwave for 30 seconds. Stir your mixture to remove any clumps and let cool.

+ Tear your newsprint into 1” strips of varying lengths.

+ Blow up the water balloons part way (too large and the lemons will look oversized), and tie a knot at the end.

+ To exaggerate the tip of a balloon to resemble a lemon’s pointed end, add crumbled pieces of newsprint and cover with tape. (Optional.)

+ Saturate the newspaper strips in the flour paste.

+ Run two fingers down each wet strip to remove extra paste and begin to wrap the strips around the balloon. When working, it helps to have each balloon sit in a small cup so you can work using both hands.

lemons into lemon(aid) banks | reading my tea leaves

+ Cover the entire surface of the balloon with the newsprint and flour paste. Rotate the balloon so all sides are covered. Overlap the newspaper strips, alternating between horizontal and vertical pieces. The more layers, the stronger your bank will be.

+ Repeat for the remaining balloons.

+ Let the balloons dry completely in a sunny window for approximately 12-24 hours.

+ To finish, paint the entire paper maché form yellow.

+ Let the paint dry for approx. 12-24 hrs.

+ Use brown paint or marker (once the paint dries) to make a small brown spot where the stem would be.

lemons into lemon(aid) banks | reading my tea leaves

+ Cut small leaf shapes out of painted card stock or green felt and secure with glue to a toothpick. Insert the toothpick into the end of the lemon and secure the toothpick with glue.

+ With a sharp Exacto knife, carefully insert the blade into the side of the lemon and make a ¾” incision. (Don’t be alarmed if your balloon pops, the dried form will hold!). You don’t want to cut too much, just large enough to get coins through the slot.

+ Fill with coins (of the regular or chocolate variety).


Thanks to Rose Pearlman for developing this project, writing the instructions, and capturing the step-by-step instruction imagery. Rose is an artist, teacher, and textile designer. With a background in fine arts and a love of well designed functional objects, her creations blur the lines between art and craft and pushes the boundaries with non-traditional techniques and materials. Rose teaches monthly rug hooking workshops in and around her home in NYC, and also welcomes commissions for one of a kind constructions in decor and home furnishings. Her work has been featured in fiber magazines, galleries, and numerous online design sites. Her book Modern Rug Hooking is available wherever books are sold. She lives in Brooklyn, NY with her family.



If you’re hoping to expand your gift giving this year to help folks in need, consider making a donation to a local community grouplike the ones compiled on the 2nd Annual Alternative #GivingTuesday List by The Solidarity Room Project.

“While Giving Tuesday focuses on non-profits, there are literally hundreds of community groups out there doing amazing work who don’t have the benefit of that tax distinction. Below is a list of groups you may consider contributing to who we know could use some financial help.”

For more ideas of places to direct money and energy, see the full list at The Solidarity Room Project.

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  • Reply Jess December 1, 2020 at 12:13 pm

    I just love these projects and tutorials that you and Rose share. I have bookmarked many yet haven’t tried my hand at them – maybe this winter is the season. Until then, I love following along with the beautiful photography and sweet simplicity of materials.

  • Reply Jenna December 1, 2020 at 3:47 pm

    These are so cute! I think this is a great DIY 🙂
    Jenna ♥

  • Reply Megan December 1, 2020 at 8:29 pm

    Forgot about paper mache! These will also make great ornaments for our tree and curious toddler 🙂

  • Reply Mimi December 1, 2020 at 9:29 pm

    Thanks for the link (and reminder) on community groups for #GivingTuesday Erin!

  • Reply Cj December 2, 2020 at 9:29 am

    Hi Erin,
    I love your blog, book esthetic and ideology but I wanted you to know that balloons are detrimental to birds and other sea creatures. Watch hugh and anita war on plastic, on Dailymotion.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE December 2, 2020 at 10:05 am

      Yes, totally. I typically avoid and often try to find work arounds (see the alternative I came up with here)! That said, especially in the world of art-making, I sometimes make compromises! Totally understood if you prefer not to do this project, or if you decide to take a longer and more laborious route by making two separate halves and then joining them together with an additional layer of paper maché!

  • Reply geschichtenundmeer December 3, 2020 at 10:36 am

    OMG, many years ago I made similar ones as a kid at school. We made animals, not lemons, but the procedure was the same.

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