I’m not holiday jumping I swear – there’s almost less than a month left for Christmas crafting! If you’re going to make something, but you better get to it! To help you along, here are some suggestions for great gifts to make.
Fire Starting/Grill Kit: assemble a crate of items to build a great fire or get grilling. You can include waxed pinecones (great fire starter – you can make them scented by adding candle scent), cinnamon sticks, lavender bundles, grapevine clippings (great to grill over), cedar planks (for grilling fish), long fireplace matches, apple wood chips, kindling bundles.
Brunch Kit: assemble (almost) everything you need to make a great brunch in a mixing bowl or a basket lined with a special cloth tablecloth or kitchen towels. Include pancake/waffle mix, muffin mix, dried fruit and nuts, tea, coffee, maple syrup, honey, flavored sugar (lavender or rose are nice).
Display Shelf: everyone has something they could use a nice shelf to display, and they’re easy to make in any style. All you need is two “L” brackets, some screws and a plank. You can get creative with the plank – board games, oversized hardcover book covers, a side of a wood wine crate, a side of wood cheese boxes or wood tea crates, or a plain wood plank that you decoupage, paint, stencil, cover with fabric or what have you. There a various styles of brackets you can get, from the utilitarian grey metal to scrolled cast iron, to wood. You can also add storage to the shelf by adding jars (nail the lids to the bottom of the shelf so the jars can be screwed onto them) or wire baskets to the underside.
Family Recipes Cookbook: Every family has a repertoire of great dishes – whether it’s a modest pasta salad to garlic mashed potatoes to an elaborate seven layer cake with sugared flowers on top. But few families have all the good stuff corralled into one spot. You can go high tech and use an online publishing software or website (Snapfish offers something like this) or you can go old school and create handmade scrapbook-style cookbooks. You can go low key and do color photocopies and put them together into a binder. What ever method you choose, you’ll be giving an heirloom that can be passed down for many generations.
Tasting Kit: You can tailor this to wine, beer, olive oil, what ever your recipient is passionate about. Design and print tasting placemats (outlines for each glass or dish with a space to write the name of the item beneath it), score cards, and info sheet (how to conduct a tasting; you can find this info online). You might also include a book about the topic you’ve chosen, invitations and reply cards, and something that could be used at the event – a wine decanter, nice corkscrew, beer glasses, olive oil cruet, or a nice serving dish.
Hooks: Weird, I know. But you can turn so many things into hooks and everyone needs them – in the kitchen for potholders, in the bathroom for towels, in the pantry for twine, in the hall for hats. You get the idea. Hooks can made out of so many different things to suit so many different tastes – bent spoons and metal serving pieces bent into a candy-cane shapes make instant hooks – just used a drill bit for metal to drill a hole through the top and include a screw to mount it. You can also fashion hooks out of old curved drawer handles, metal rake heads, metal rulers, sturdy tree branches, costume jewelry (Bakelite bracelets mounted with an O-ring bracket would be cute for kitchen towels), small metal strainers with long handles make interesting basket hooks (corralling office supplies perhaps?) – use your imagination and you can come up with something for anyone. Maybe put the hooks and shelf together into one gift – great for someone who’s just moved or is redecorating.
Monogrammed Something: Not everyone likes monogramming, so know your recipient well. For those that do, a kitchen towel or napkin set with a classy single initial are great for those that like to entertain. For kids, an embroidery plaque of their name makes a cute addition to their room (and a keepsake to be treasured). For kids you can also embroider, cross stitch or stencil their first initial onto a tote bag and fill it with books or art supplies. You can make monogrammed candles by pressing a metal initial into the side of a pillar. You can customize a set of beer glasses or a hand mirror with glass etching cream. You can make a personalized set of post cards or stationary. You get the idea.
Lace Up Cards: Great for the crafty youngster. Design or draw your own basic images – flowers, houses, animals, etc. on heavy cardstock or cardboard, and pierce the perimeter with an awl or small hole punch. Include brightly colored yarn and a plastic blunt needle (you can find these at craft stores) and your little crafter can learn to “sew”.
Canning Set: For those that still practice this wonderful craft of self reliance, canning jars themselves are the perfect gift. Jars are worth their weight in gold – usually $7-10 brand new for a dozen, they can often be had for much less (or free) second hand. But you can never have too many. Even recreational canners like me hoard dozens of them. Quilted jelly jars or the Ball “Platinum Series” jars are the most estetically pleasing ones. Add to the gift by including a box of new lids (these are the one component of the jar you can’t reuse for processing), powdered pectin, and here’s where the craftiness comes in – designed jar labels. Most canners prefer round labels that can be adhered to the jar lid (the part you can’t reuse) because it reduces the amount of prep the jars need (scraping off last year’s label from the side) from use to use. Or you can design a cardstock tag label that can be secured to the jar with elastic or twine. In addition, you can include fabric squares for sprucing up finished jars. If you can find one available in your area, a gift certificate to a you-pick fruit farm or orchard is a nice addition as well.
Stocking Stuffers: Yes, as adults we still do stockings. It’s a tradition I can’t give up. A few ideas: felt hand warmers (fill them with ceramic pie beads and you can microwave them and tuck them into a pocket before going out into the cold), felt eyeglass sleeve, postcards, magnets or pushpins, hand made lip balm, mini scrapbooks, hand made votive candles, hand made jewelry (earrings made from charms are easy and neat), ornaments, candy, labels (freezer, canning, spice or hobby-specific), recipe cards, hobby specific items – like pinecone firestarters for the camper, laminated baking equivalents for the baker. Anything small works in a stocking.