Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Handmade Gifts for the Holidays

On the Summer Blog Challenge, the focus today is sharing ideas for handmade gifts. Although the winter holidays are four months away, it is easier to start making some gifts now rather than rushing and not enjoying the process in December.

A couple of gifts that I have made for others in the past that are well-received are:

- Homemade canned food. Summer is a great time to get fresh, organic produce from the farmers market, and can it.

Canned Peaches Pears and Applesauce
Some of the food I canned in 2010.

- Mixes in a jar. One year I put all the dry ingredients for triple chocolate cookies in a jar and attached the directions for making them. This was one of the gifts all the people who received it enjoyed. In fact, several people asked for the recipe for the mix itself so they could make their own versions at home.


The ideas below are ones that I have seen or heard others make that I thought sounded interesting and would make nice gifts.

- Magnets that are made with thrift store jewelry. They’re quick and easy – and inexpensive to make. All you need is an assortment of jewelry, pliers, magnets, and glue gun. There are many images on the internet for inspiration as well as a DIY tutorial.

- Sugar scrub. This is for people who like to take care of their skin and make it smooth. There are plenty of instructions and images on the internet for scrubs. This is one DIY tutorial that is worth trying.


Many years ago, I  was an active participant on Swap-Bot. Swap-bot is a online service that organizes group swaps. It organizing all of the participant information and does all of the partner assignments. On Swap-bot, you can host swaps, join swaps, and chat with other swappers from all over the world.

There were many interesting ideas for swaps that I thought would make meaningful holiday gifts. They are more labor-intensive than the gift ideas above since they are meant to be used over a longer time period.

- Monthly Letters. The gift is 12 letters to the recipient that are meant to be opened once every month in the upcoming year. Each envelope is sealed and marked with the month. Also include one envelope with an introduction letter explaining a little bit about the gift.

Each envelope should have a minimum of one page of writing as well as a small flat item. Some ideas include: found art, a drawing, stickers, bookmark, a photograph, or something else that the gift recipient would like. Make sure that each item is different each month. 

In addition to these 12 letters, include a birthday card on the gift recipient's birthday month and one other card (e.g., Christmas, Easter, Valentine's Day).

In each letter, you could write about yourself and what you like to do that particular month; and the other half could be about inspiring or guiding the gift recipient through the month.

These are some themes that were suggested for each month. They can be used if needed, or come up with some new ones.

- January: Begin or Become
- February: Love
- March: Create or Hope
- April: Connect or Feel
- May: Inspire
- June: Progress or Live
- July: Give
- August: Miss
- September: Heal
- October: Hope or Take
- November: Remember
- December: Achieve or End


- Homemakers Journal/Culinary Scrapbook. Decorate the front and back of a composition notebook (the one with black and white speckles on it). 

The notebooks have 100 pages, and for this journal plan to use 75 pages, leaving 25 pages for the gift recipient to put her kitchen recipes or tips in. Use one page for each item, and do not write on back of any page.

If the recipe or tip is short, decorate around the page in any way preferred. Remember to keep the pages relatively thin so the journal will close easily.

Below is what to put in the journal:

- 20 favorite hand-written recipes (6 main courses, 8 side dishes, and 6 desserts)
- 20 magazine recipes cut out neatly (6 main courses, 8 side dishes, and 6 desserts)
- 10 crockpot recipes (can be either hand-written, photocopied, or cut out from a magazine)
- 5 cookie recipes
- 15 tips to help in the kitchen
- 5 of your favorite appliances or gadgets and why you like them

As for the remaining 25 pages that the gift recipient fills in, share some ideas about what to include:

- Anything that the gift recipient hand writes or does in calligraphy. Write down things that come to mind during cooking and/or cleaning, when guests leave a party, and so on. Add culinary and kitchen quotes, advice from parents and grandparents, and more.

- Hand written notes, letters, recipes, and so on from others. These are particularly special additions.

- Favorite family recipes and recipes handed down the generations. Ask parents and grandparents for their favorite recipes.

- Menus the gift recipient has enjoyed, grocery lists s/he has , and/or lists of product prices (this could be done every few years to see how the price of groceries change. It might be quite surprising!). These could be full-sized or scaled down to fit a few per page.

- A directory of stores the gift recipient frequently shop at for groceries and cooking supplies along with numbers and latest "finds."

- Photos of food s/he prepares and/or pictures of kitchens where s/he makes food.

- Labels on canned and boxed goods; fresh fruits and vegetables; and unusual ones on rarely-bought items.

- Paper clips can be added to hold little fragments and slips of paper, receipts, and other little pieces along the edge of the papers or in hand made pockets.

- A list of each person's favorite foods, least-liked foods, and staples you keep for each person.

- Notes on herbal care, varieties planted and used, ways used, herbal remedies, and more.

- Essential oils and how to use them in washing dishes, mopping the floor, disinfecting, and so forth.


- Gifts in Nested Boxes. This is more of a way to package gifts than it is a handmade gift. Gather a variety of gifts and boxes in different sizes. Each of the boxes must fit inside each other. 

For instance: you could use a 32-count matchbox inside a 250-count matchbox inside a box a little larger than that. 

Boxes can also be any shape and it's nice if each one is wrapped or decorated. 

This also can be done with envelopes of varying sizes. You can either use pre-made envelopes or make your own envelopes out of decorative or scrapbooking paper, or wallpaper.

Handmade Envelopes with a Twist
Example of nested envelopes I made
from wallpaper samples.


- Handwritten Recipe Book. This is a variation on the idea above, just focusing on recipes that are favorite ones. Each one should be handwritten rather than cut from a magazine or photocopied.

If there are hand-written recipes from grandparents or great grandparents, those could be included also. Even ask relatives (e.g., siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins) and request those special recipes. Ask if they would hand write the recipes to include in the recipe book. In this way, the recipe book turns more into a legacy gift that would be a good gift for a child, teenager, or young adult who is just starting out on his/her own.

Put the recipes on only the right side pages. So, when they each are making the recipe, they can take a few pictures, print them, and include them into their recipe book as the left page.

This will be a treasure book of memories and treats the gift recipient will make now, that they can share when they have a family of their own. They will be able to pull out their childhood recipe book and go through them with their children. 

I like this idea because it is similar to one of the things that Sophia, Olivia, and I have done this past year for homeschooling: creating recipe scrapbooks. 

Sophia did one in in which she made one recipe for each letter of the alphabet. (The recipes were from the children's cookbook called Alpha-Bakery that is produced by Gold Medal Flour.) I took a picture of each recipe she made, and then she placed the photograph on a typed copy of the recipe. Her cookbook is in a 8 1/2" x 11" binder, and each page is in a clear page-protector.

Olivia's photographs are included in her Five in a Row Cookbook. The cookbook is designed so there is space by the recipes to place photographs of what she made. This book will be used over three homeschool years, so it will be a wonderful memory of time spent in the kitchen learning and making food.


- Book of Adjectives. Make a book honoring someone special. For example, say someone is 40 years old. Staple together 40 sheets of paper and decorate each one with an adjective describing something that you love about that person. 

This kind of gift does not need to be fancy. Simply folding a few 8 1/2" x 11" sheets of paper in half and stapling them at the center is all you need to start--the real power is in what you say. 


Although handmade gifts take more time and effort than store-purchased gifts, they are unique, thoughtful, and show the recipients that you care about them.


Nicole GF said...

The cookie in the jar is one of my favorite gifts to get!

Carrie Robinson said...

Do you have any posts on canning? :) I am just starting canning this summer and could use some pointers! Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I really love the personal gifts where you write special things. Those are such meaningful gifts and are so rare in our "gift card" lifestyle.

Unknown said...

I love jar gifts. They're pretty, yummy, and easy to make for a great gift!

Anna Murphy said...

Wow, you put some work into this post. Thank you for all the details. The adjective book sounds really neat. Being a crocheter, my gifts are usually shawls or fingerless gloves.

Unknown said...

I love the book of adjectives!!!!

Unknown said...

I LOVE the 12 month card idea. I might change it up and write a card every month on the 21st and give it to my husband as an anniversary gift.