**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 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.
- 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
- 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
- sewing pins
- key chain danglers or zipper pulls
- brooches and earrings
- handmade beads for the crafter in your family
- decorated drawer pulls
- candle holders
- leather bracelets
- wine charms
- button bracelets and necklaces
- super cool button pendants from Crafty Pod
- beaded necklace video
- Super simple, stylish button chain earrings
- slippers or felted clogs
- tiny sweater ornaments
- mug cozies
- quicker than scarves: cowls aka neckwarmers (this one uses those funky buttons you’ve been collecting and this one is simple, reversible, can be very manly, and uses up scraps if you want)
- Pocket Creatures (either as written to warm the hands or stuffed and sewn shut as toys)
- felted Mancala game(a good guys gift)
- dishcloths/facecloths to go with the handmade soap
- Christmas stockings like this gorgeous white and red beauty or these simpler ones
- 653 Patterns to knit with less than 300 yards of yarn
- Quick knit for the cyclists in your life: Bike Helmet Earmuffs
- Chunky mittens with snowflake embroidery: Warm Mittens
- Fabulous wire knitted earrings in the winter issue of Knitty.com
- easy fleece hats
- teddy bear
- woodland creatures from Doodle Stitching
- embroider clothes, hats, napkins or placemats, pockets for drawstring bags/totes (Pokemon motifs may figure heavily in gifts for friends this year)
- draw and then embroider family portraits (inspired by the idea of using kid art as embroidery patterns in The Creative Family)
- sew clothes (Sandra may be getting a version of the very simple but funky Built By You shirt, and Sew What: Skirts! is another source of ideas for gift ideas, particularly the forgiving wrap skirt)
- library bags – when I was little, Mom made me a denim tote with flowers and my name embroidered in wool and a pocket for my library card. I still have it.
- felt luggage ID tag ( Doodle Stitching again)
- embroidered felt ornament
- A Month of Gifts to Sew – a fabulous, rich collection of ideas.
- A fabric scarf holder. Such a great idea, particularly if you know a knitter.
- Don’t forget bags with rice or flax for heating in the microwave. Easy as pie using a nice dollar store dish towel.
- Nini Makes has a family of Christmas trees to embroider. Think of the table runner, or a framed cloth, or a stocking…
- Simple applique. Add a little red and white to a T shirt or hat for a baby or child. Or adult, frankly, because I can see a lot of potential in this combination of leaf shapes and simple embroidery
- Easy, bold, modern tree ornaments.
- Fabric boxes: simple patchwork fabric box and an undercover crate. These could really be great for a guy. Use the right fabrics, and even think about freezer paper stenciling on a picture of gear that matches his hobby, making a place for his bike helmet, or camera gear, or Wii controllers, for instance.
- Embroider or trace these cute elves on something.
- Burda Style’s free sewing patterns for gifts
- Got an active kid? Simple but really wonderful Japanese bean bag tutorial
- tutorial for a custom camera bag
- Perfect stocking stuffer for the sock-knitter in your life, or great to send in the mail: DPN protectors tutorial.
- turn a stuffed animal into a puppet
- sew up charming birds and make them into a mobile if you wish, or just make them as toys or ornaments
- A list of embroidered gift ideas for babies through adults
Dozens of charts for Christmas trees – cross stitch, beading or knitting
Classic felt ball ornaments (a great, safe gift for someone with a baby or toddler)
- A smattering of embroidered felt ornaments to inspire (really great for crafty kids, too)
Sew a yoga mat tote
- Sweet kitchen towels
- Create a canvas mini album
- Too easy, too awesome Snowboarder Hat that even kids can do.
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
- tote bags
- fabric closet organizers
- Freezer paper placemat tutorial – I want to do a snowman set
- 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.
- 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
(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.
- Simple holiday cards
- FamilyFun card ideas
- Card idea issue of Kids Craft Weekly
- I’ve got three ideas you’re free to use: a tree card, a present card, and an ornament card
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:
- Craftzine blog: from shrinkydink robot jewelery to costumes to paint chip notebooks, this website not only tells you how to do things but also inspires you to think of a dozen new handmade possibilities each day. Lots of gift ideas for the non-family adults and the men in your lives.
- Family Fun Magazine: hundreds of ideas and all of them do-able. From creative family newsletters to ornaments to recipes to many, many others, this should be on your radar for finding ideas that real kids can do. Fabulous ideas without being overly fussy.
- Craft Leftovers: little projects from few supplies. Great ideas for stocking stuffer-type projects, like the lovebug clutch (for the oddments a knitter always needs to have on hand, for instance).
- new to me, but I’ll be digging through the archives: Scrumdilly-do! – kids craft ideas
- DIY Kids
- One Hour Craft
- WhipUp.net – oodles of ideas
- DIY Holidays photo pool
- Corporate Free Christmas
- A list of ideas at Down to Earth.
- An interesting blog post on some of the quandries faced by those giving handmade items.
- A Flickr group or two and a Ravelry group on the topic.
- handmade gifts for guys from CraftStylish
- 100+ Handmade Gifts for the Craft-Impaired
- Sew Mama Sew’s 2008 Handmade Gifts month of sewing ideas, so cool that it’s broken down by type of person you’re giving to
- Martha Stewart.com has a six-week Christmas Workshop. Like so many other sites, it’s great that they’re breaking ideas down into categories like ‘gifts for him’ and ‘gifts for kids’
- Daily holiday inspiration and patterns at Lime and Violets’ blog – Advent features. I particularly like the delicate knitted leaf wreath
- Handmade Holidays website at Blogspot – full of great, simple ideas and printable freebies.
- 10 Elegant, Inexpensive Gift Ideas at Step Lighter.
- Lots of inspiration at 30days.
- Oodles of tutorials at CraftStylish
Happy Making! (and don’t forget to share your links and ideas)