Handmade Christmas Gifts (I have faith in you)

Hi blog reading friends (both old and new),

Even though I’ve been around for a little over a year and have a very loyal readership that’s been with me from the beginning, I’ve recently acquired quite a bunch of new readers.  (Is it the volume of posts and pins?  The recent return to writing week-daily?  The slow-release ginger magic?)

So, since we are in a gift-giving time of the year, and since I try to make gifts and save money when I can, I thought I’d share a few ideas I’ve had (in the past) that I think would work well as Christmas gifts (whether individually or with something else).

For the full scoop — including a tutorial bedecked with sarcastic, strange, and/or pithy comments, — just click on the image to be linked back.

Oh, and unlike most of my round-ups, which are complete with inspiration from the World Wide Web, these are actually all my own ideas, pics, and… again… sarcastic, strange, and/or pithy comments.  So if you’re going to link or pin anything here, please attach the permalink, not just the blog’s URL (I’d do the same for you, my little chickens!).

Glass etching

DIY Chalkboard

Painted spoons

Handmade Clipboards


Things that (P)inspire Me: Teacher/Neighbor Gifts

**To read previous post in this series, go here.

This week’s “Things that (P)inspire Me” post could be best friends with the “Twelve Weeks of Christmas” series… total B.F.F.  This week, I want to look at Teacher/Neighbor gifts, but with a GPP spin — thrifty, crafty, and heart-warming (I just added the “heartwarming” part for today…. it seemed appropriate).

As I mentioned in this previous post, I think it’s important to remember teachers, neighbors, and any service providers during the holiday season, as they are often underpaid and under-appreciated.  This doesn’t mean you need to give them something particularly personal, as you are not necessarily “friends” with them, but some gesture will always be well-received (I speak from 6+ years as a teaching artist).

So, I have turned to Pinterest as a vehicle for organizing these ideas, and along the way I’ve offered my own tips.  A lot of these “pins” are things I have tried before but didn’t get any pictures.  As always, please click on the image for a link to the source website.


Epsom Salt & Sugar scrub

Ooohh… spa-tastic.  I made these last year for my mom, mother-in-law, and Josh’s aunts (so does that make them my aunts-in-law?).  At the time, I just used epsom salt, pure olive oil, and Vitamin E oil, but I like this recipe even more (and it’s just as easy/cheap).  Here’s a pic (it’s from Do It Yourself Crafts).

I especially like these during winter because they exfoliate as well as moisturize.

DIY Sewing Kits

Pinned Image

This super cute sewing kit was made over at Frugaliciousme.com.  The creator of this particular project was inspired by a similar (but far less cute) sewing kit at Anthropologie, originally priced for $48.00 (what!??!?).  This could easily be done for less than $4.  Dollar Tree has sewing kits for $1, mason jars can easily be purchased at any craft store or Wal-mart.  The top part is a pin cushion, and that could be made just by gluing polyfill (or balled-up plastic grocery bags), and covering with fabric.  Perhaps another option for a more firmly packed pin cushion would be to fill a nylon knee high with sand, tie the end, then cover with fabric.  Attach a label or tag, and ba-bam!

I want one!

Heating Pads and Hand Warmers

Pinned Image

This particular project comes from The In Between Girls, however I have been using the same method for years.  These hearts are actually meant to be used as hand warmers, but if they were made bigger, they’d be great as heating pads to treat sore muscles.  My grandmother has made countless heating pads this way (she sewed them).  I did the non-sewing kind myself, and all it took was a clean tube or knee high sock (though I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this kind of presentation with a gift), filled with rice, and closed with a knot on the end.  Stick in the microwave for about a minute, and that’s it!  When filling with rice, I would recommend not letting it be too packed in, because you want it to have some flexibility, especially if you want to be able to wrap it around your neck (but not in a creepy way).

Linen Spray

homemade linen spray

homemade linen spray

Yeah, I pinned myself.  I made these the other day, but I really believe they’d be perfect for acquaintances like teachers and neighbors.  In case you missed it, here’s a link to check out the whole tutorial.

Obviously, these ideas have a bit of a girly touch to them, so maybe your loyal mailman or child’s T-ball coach wouldn’t appreciate linen spray or heart-shaped hand warmers as much as…. sayme (“Cold hands are for sissies!”).

That’s where baked goods come in!  Here’s a link to a GREAT resource for even more teacher/neighbor gifts for both genders:  Sassy Sites: 161 Gift Ideas.  If you scroll to the bottom, you’ll see a lot of fun ideas for the DIY-challenged.  I’ll admit some of these are a bit kitschy-er than I would probably do, but they could definitely be a good jumping off point for you.  Here are two (less kitschy) examples:

S’mores Kit


Cowgirl Cookies (or cowboy)

Put all the ingredients into a jar and attach directions.  Mmm……

Cowgirl Cookies

Hope these help you in the gift scramble!   (Christmas is only two weeks away, after all — Eesh!)

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Other things you might like…

Things that (P)inspire Me

Twelve Weeks of Christmas

This hilarious picture of Ryan Gosling:

It’s like he’s speaking directly to me?  Right?!?

Early Christmas Shopping (Twelve Weeks of Christmas Preview)

Have you started your holiday shopping yet?

Today is September 26th, which means we are three months away from Christmas!   This may seem like a light year away, especially when you break it down:  that’s 13 weeks or 91 days away; that’s Halloween and then Thanksgiving; that’s the ENTIRE season of Fall; that’s one semester or two quarters of school.  It seems so far away…

However, if you are like me, you are already brainstorming about Christmas gifts, and not for what I want — though I have already set my sights on one thing in particular in case Santa is reading this — but rather what I want to give to other people, i.e., loved ones, charitable causes, et al.

Planning early helps me to avoid the last minute Christmas shopping trips (super stressful!) and rather, stretch out the gift acquisition over the course of 13 weeks.  I say gift acquisition all italicized-like because I do not just buy gifts — I also try to MAKE THEM. And not just things like the macaroni angel ornament you made in elementary school, though those were undoubtedly charming in their time.  Gifts that make the recipient go “You made this?  Really??”

So before the gift acquisition phase can commence (that sounds so sci-fi/fantasy!), here are some tips and tricks to help you find/make the best gifts without incurring ANY additional credit card debt — No really!

In this picture I was probably thinking about making lists, thus the happy expression.

  1.         List all your family to whom you will actually be giving gifts.  This list will typically include mom(s), dad(s), your spouse/life partner, boyfriend/girlfriend, children, in-laws, maybe grandparents?  If your extended family is like my extended family, we usually draw names and the name you get is the person to whom you give a gift, with a monetary limit of usually $35-50.  This may seem weird but really turns out to be a lot more fun in the long run (See!  I come from a long line of penny pinchers!)
  2.        List all of your friends to whom you will be giving gifts.
  3.        List all of your acquaintances to whom you will be giving gifts.  This may have caused some of you to do a double-take, but think about it: Do you have a relationship with any particular person in your life that provides you a consistent service?  Examples could include: your mail man/woman, your exterminator (if you own a house and actually have conversations with your exterminator, like my mother), your hairdresser/barber, your children’s dance/karate/music/whatever-kids-are-doing-nowadays instructors and classroom teachers, and potentially more.  Because I live in an apartment and do not have children, I don’t have a lot of relationships, if any at all, with a lot of the typical “service providers.”  If you do, you should definitely considering giving them a little something.  This does not have to be anything big, but considering most of these people are grossly underpaid – and I speak as a dance instructor and the daughter of a teacher – it’s definitely a nice gesture that is ALWAYS appreciated.  More on this in a future blog.
  4.        After you have made your three lists, go through each name and figure out what you might want to give them.  You do not have to decide it all in one sitting, but it’s good to have a general idea, especially for members of your immediate family and closest friends, as these people will probably get the biggest gifts and therefore the most gift acquisition attention (that’s right, I brought it back).  Don’t necessarily limit yourself by budget, because there is almost always a way to find what you are looking for in your price range (though if are actor-style poor, you probably can’t get everyone in your immediate family a 42” flat screen TV, but I feel like that goes without saying). 
  5.        From this list of gift ideas, figure out which of these things you could realistically make.  Before you pooh-pooh the possibility of making something, Google it.  The affordable options to hand-making – without need of expensive tools– might surprise you, especially if you keep reading this blog for the next 12 weeks. (Hint.)
  6.       From this list of gift ideas, figure out which of these things you couldn’t possibly make, e.g., a computer (the exceptions are rare enough that they are not worth mentioning).
  7.        Plan when to purchase/make these items. 

In the case of electronics, I think it is wisest to wait until Black Friday week.  I say the week and not just the day because stores will often have similar sales during Thanksgiving week and not just the following day.  However, if you know you are not going to feel up to braving Black Friday, your best bet for good deals on electronics would be online shopping.  (Future blog  comin’ at ‘cha!)

In the case of everything else, unless it is a baked good (which always make good gifts for extended family and people on your “acquaintances” list), you can buy these things in advance, which leads me to number

8.       Buy at least ONE ITEM A WEEK from now until Christmas.  This is the most valuable and time tested advice I can offer.  I am never broke by the time I get to Christmas, I have never accrued (additional) credit card debt, and I have never had the excuse of not having enough money to get my loved ones what I want.  Christmas comes on the same day every year; it is not a ninja holiday like Easter, i.e., it doesn’t sneak up on you in the dead of night and say “Here I am!”  (“What?  But it’s like February, right?”).

9.       Save a few items to buy for the week of Christmas.  This is more of a girly, sentimental thing and not really necessary, but I really love going Christmas shopping when it is actually Christmas time!  I love the decorations, the music, the chill in the air, ya know.  And because I have paced myself, Christmas shopping is neither stressful nor depressing, and I don’t have to wander aimlessly, trying to get ideas because I already know what I want (and I’ve already gotten most of what I wanted previously).

10.   If you have items that you plan to make (and I really hope you do because these are the best!) start making those sooner rather than later.  When I make things for people, I tend to not subscribe to this philosophy as much as I should, and I nearly always regret it.  Lesson learned, don’t procrastinate!

11.   Refer to #8.  No really.  Best advice ever and I just gave it to you for free (and that’s a good deal).

(Most bloggers will only give you a list of ten tips/tricks, but I just blew your face off with eleven.  Right?!)

For those still resisting handmade gifts, I hear your hesitation and I understand — I used to feel the same way!  However, over the course of the next twelve weeks, I hope to change your mind with my first ever series (“Wait, she can’t do a series yet!  She just started this blog?!?!  Who does she think she is?  Miss Interwebs?!”)   . . . AND the series will be entitled:

“The Twelve Weeks of Christmas”   (because what else was I gonna call it?)

Each week I will offer one tutorial on a handmade gift (yippee!) as well as tips/tricks for getting good deals, online shopping, etc.

For my loyal tens of subscribers — in 8 different states and 3 different countries – wha??– DON’T WORRY.  This will not be like when your local department store puts their Christmas decorations on sale in July, because that’s just wrong; this will not be a non-stop Christmas fest and the series won’t be more than one post a week so . . . ya know . . . relax.

And if you’re Jewish and don’t do the Christmas thing, just insert the word Channukah every time you read the word Christmas, and then multiply times eight (haha).

Stay tuned and SUBSCRIBE! —>