**updated Nov. 11, 2009**

In 2007 it was my goal to give something handmade to everyone in my family. It was so inspiring and satisfying to give gifts of my own creation that we’re planning to do an entirely handmade Christmas season this year (2008). I have given Rainer and the kids the option of doing Handmade or Second Hand, just as a bit of a buffer zone.  And, of course, these ideas aren’t just for Christmas.  Birthdays and Father’s Day and many other special days – and even completely normal days – can be made better with a handmade gift.

Maybe you’ve taken the Buy Handmade Pledge and you want to supplement it with a few of your own, maybe you want to handmake a few gifts for special people, maybe your kids drag you kicking and screaming into a world of holiday crafts, but whatever level of seasonal craftiness you’re aiming for, here’s a peek into how we’re trying to get a handle on it, with pictures of gifts the kids and I have made in past years.

Peppermint Cookies

Peppermint Crunch Cookies recipe here

First, we drew up a list of everyone to whom we give gifts. I have four columns: family (they get multiple gifts and stocking stuffers), friends, kids’ friends, and co-workers/mailman types. People in a column tend to get similar gifts or we are inspired by the list of gift ideas already in that column. We sometimes make a further list with hobbies, interests, and favourite colours for people that are a little harder to peg.

My father’s family has done a handmade gift exchange for years now. We draw one name from a hat and make that person a gift. Over the years we’ve seen a lot of incredible ideas, from whimsical bird houses to exquisite embroidered tablecloths to delicious handmade chocolates. But we all agree that giving to the men is harder than giving to the women, so I’ve tried to include ideas that work well for guys, too: BBQ spices, knitted hats, training books, and others. Brainstorming their hobbies can help you link a craft type to a great idea: maybe his hobby or favorite TV show will give you a hook for freezer paper stenciling, for instance.

Second, we brainstormed a list of basic creative categories: kitchen, painting/drawing, polymer clay, jewelery, knitting, embroidery, sewing, photography, etc. That gave us a set of basic skills from which to rocket off on paths of brainstorming, paths I’ll share with you.

Kitchen

  • chocolates
  • candies
  • cookies and other baked treats
  • make ‘mixes in a jar’ – playdough, cookies, muffins
  • for enthusiastic BBQers – spice rubs for meat
  • fizzy bath bombs, bath salts, or other bathroom treats
  • flavoured oils
  • candied orange peels
  • interesting jams or other canned goods: jalapeno jam, lemon fig preserves, etc.
  • handmade soap
  • lip balm and many more recipes for lotions, scrubs, etc
  • flavoured alcohols – soaking fruit in alcohol can do marvelous things – great for the guys
  • Can’t believe I haven’t added this yet: go paint your own ceramics – piggy banks, serving platters, mugs, etc.
  • Delicious gifts from the kitchen at TipNut including flavoured sugars and vinegars, liqueurs and popcorn seasonings.
  • Protein Granola Bars – especially good for your athlete friends. Include the nutritional info on a tag.
  • Two in one: Ginger Ale syrup and candied ginger

Coffee or Tea?
Painting/Drawing

  • frame your art
  • a set of cards and envelopes
  • write and illustrate a storybook (either from your kids or from you to them – go on, unleash your inner first grader!)
  • decorated frames for art (see photo above – easily done with ribbon yarn)
  • Last minute delight: printed fleece scarves

Polymer Clay

Jewelery

tiny sweater ornaments... Knitting

apron pocket embroidery Sewing/Embroidery

Kids' freezer paper t-shirts

Freezer Paper Stenciling

a big hit with us this year, freezer paper stencils (or butcher paper, for us Canadians) are simple and stunning.

  • napkins, placemats, tablecloths
  • shirts
  • jackets
  • pants
  • wall-hangings
  • tote bags
  • fabric closet organizers
  • Freezer paper placemat tutorial – I want to do a snowman set

P1030465

Photography

  • mini scrapbook
  • altered book – a more artsy/edgy version of a scrapbook, or just a really fabulous way to mix art and words in an old book. (like the one I did for my sister last Christmas)
  • a photo collage, either digitally or with the glue stick in hand. If your kids have a camera, they might want to ‘go undercover’ and take pictures of loved ones for a few weeks and then use those to make the presents.
  • Family photo house.

Fingerprint artMisc.

  • A tutorial for making candles from scratch – and reusing the ends of old ones, too
  • coupons for chores or walks or dinner dates, etc.
  • Sandra’s thinking of making a puppet theater and puppets for a certain someone
  • hand-bound books: don’t just think about journals: runners need training logs, readers like book logs, and birders like their lists, too.
  • Contact people in your family and ask for a holiday recipe and a holiday memory. Make a booklet.
  • flower pot people
  • music mix CD (an oldie but a goldie)
  • yarn doll
  • kits: whether a small embroidery kit for a niece, a learn to knit box for your cousin, or a bag you’ve sewn with exotic food ingredients inside, these collections are always a big hit
  • paint/glue/embellish wooden shelves and pegboards
  • accordian envelope book
  • For the kid/crafter/scrapbooker/mail artist in your life: handcarve an eraser stamp set – super easy. I do mine with just erasers and an exacto knife.
  • Or, on a similar note, foam stamps.
  • A sweet organizer for necklaces and bracelets.
  • Round up of online ornament tutorials at Dabbled
  • Handmade notepads
  • while you’re at it, why not handmake your own fabric labels to sew into your knitwear or sewing? Or give them to a crafter.
  • Memory Jars.
  • Framed family tree
  • Grooviest rock gift idea of the millenium. It would probably take 4 minutes to make these, including shopping for the supplies.
  • Three tutorials for stunning crafts with paper including a wreath, an advent calendar and decorations

Collaborative

(whether they’re little enough to need help or you’ve realized that making together is more than twice the satisfaction)

  • embroidering the kids’ drawings onto fabric – either as framed art or as part of a functional piece like a bag or a quilt (see The Creative Family for ideas and tips)
  • freezer paper stencils are perfect – find a piece of your kids’ art that has a bold outline and turn it into a gift. Wearing the green shirt with Tias’ orange dino on it makes me all warm and giddy.
  • hand-dyed yarn – using KoolAid or other food colourings, you can make the knitter or crocheter in your life very happy with solids or multicolour.

Shhh, he's sleeping

Handmade Cards:

Wrapping and Tagging:

  • I was so very happy to discover the Japanese tradition of Furoshiki. It melds the joy of a well-wrapped gift with the reusability of cloth. The website Furoshiki.com has wonderful descriptions, explains why they’re not quite square, shows techniques, and has cloths of various sizes to order. This government sponsored Furoshiki pdf is a great visual primer.
  • a tutorial for simple paper tags
  • From paper shoes to the best envelopes around, here are some great templates to get your brain cells jittery with inspiration. Here are even more templates for cards and boxes, including matchboxes.  Making little matchboxes, decorating them to the hilt, and hiding tiny treasures in them is such fun. Check out this photo or this one or this dramatic black and gold one for inspiration.

Inspiring and Helpful Websites:


Katie's fingerless mitts

Happy Making! (and don’t forget to share your links and ideas)