A D.I.Y. Christmas: Be Your Own Elf- Part 1

So last christmas I found myself in a dilemma that many face: I have over a dozen people to shop for, and not enough money to get them all nice gifts. What’s a girl to do? Give really nice gifts to some, and scrimp on the rest? Not me, I decided to hand make gifts for everyone. Baby’s got quilts and stuffed fleece pigs, the adults got “his and her” wine bottle cozies, (made to look like little tux’s and dresses) and the boyfriend got a bound rug remnant (that I got from school for free), a stained book rack (that I picked up at a thrift shop, and stained and assembled myself) and a memory book bound in leather and photos of watch parts, stained and wrapped in ribbon and filled with envelopes. Spoiled! I think so. Here’s some of the best ideas I found, and I would LOVE to share them, in case you find yourself pinching pennies this holiday season.

Pillow from Etsy.

I started by searching for “Home Made Gifts” and “DIY Gifts” and came up with a good lot of ideas. I also had to shuffle through pages, and pages of ideas, and some were not so DIY, and some were not so cheap, and some have the basic idea listed, then say “you can find instructions on the web.” Really? That’s why I’m on your site! There are so many ideas, I have to break it up into 2 parts…

Home-made Meal, and Bottle of Wine: Give the gift of Italy! You can place the items in a cheap basket (from a thrift or craft store), or a colander from one of my favorite stores, the World Market. You can also find some decent $3 bottles of wine at the local supermarket, and some pasta, sauce, cloves of garlic, and loaf of french bread. Or simply place an IOU around the wine with a promise of a home cooked meal for a loved one. Remember: gifts of food should be prepared last minute. So I give you permission to procrastinate on this one.

Never Ending Cookies: Give the gift of cookies, made by you! Give them in a cookie jar, with a note of a promise to fill the jar once a month.

Movie Night Package: Put together a basket with a gift certificate to a video rental store, a microwave bucket of popcorn, soda, and some candy. You can even put it all in a large tupperware bowl, perfect for popcorn.

Recipe Book: If you are like me, and have collected magazine clippings of recipes and recipe cards from relatives over time, you have plenty of recipes to make a home-made book. You can buy a blank book, and hand write the recipes in it based on genre. Or if you want, start a new collection, and glue them to blank pages, 3 hole punch them, and add them in a binder. Separate categories with binder tabs. If it’s in a binder, it’s easier for someone else to add their own recipes.

This little cute book came from Etsy. 

Mini Bread: You can make mini loaves of bread, like pumpkin or banana, you can wrap them in plastic wrap, and a ribbon, and place them in a basket (from a thrift shop.) Place in the basket some packages of spiced tea, cocoa, cider, then tie a little bow on the basket with the recipe for the bread.

Secret Santa for Big Families: Along with personal and specialty gifts that you purchased for members of your family, you can arrange a “make or bake” among siblings and family members due to the help of a secret santa name drawing.

Home Made Coupons: This is an option for any family member. You can make coupons that offer babysitting, cooking, lawn care, house cleaning, massages, or special treats.

Lessons: Offer lessons to someone or give advice on your area of expertise. Mine is easy. I’m an interior designer, and could offer someone a free consultation, advice, or decorate a room.

Avoid New Paper: Wrap your gifts in brown bags turned inside out with nice ribbon, comic section of the paper, tea towels, nice bows, and boxes that are eco-friendly.

Thrift Shop: Here’s a cheap, and no frill way of getting gifts to someone. Simply go to the thrift store, flea markets, antique stores and such, and look for dish sets, funky glass ware, baskets with knick knacks, fabrics (that you can wash and wrap in ribbon.) You can adjust your gifts to the person’s tastes.

Give Art: Do you paint? Sew? Knit? Make mittens, paint a picture, a quilt, tote bag, or such for members of your family of friends. Thanks natural talent! Here’s a site with HUNDREDS of sewing ideas!

Jumble Exchange: This is something you can do with girlfriends. Get together clothing, shoes, jewelry, beauty products that you don’t find yourself using, but are still new-ish, decor items, and such that you would normally take to a second-hand store, and get together with your friends to have an exchange. Meet up at someone’s house, and place the items on a table. Everyone picks out what they want, one person, and one item at a time, until everyone has what they want, and what’s left at the end gets donated. You can also bargain with someone else that got something that you really wanted.

Picture This: Last year I went to local thrift stores, and got children’s book’s that reminded me of friends, cut (or photocopy) the pages I wanted to frame, and gave them to the people who the pictures reminded me of. My sister and I took a lot of pictures last year… And I found a page from If You Give A Pig A Pancake, where the little pig talked about taking pictures, and framed it for her. I framed another antique book page about a little boy and his new watch for someone who loved watches. It’s a cute idea, especially for younger people in the family.

Make pillows or stuffed animals: You can get fleece for animals, there’s a great template on Martha Stewart’s web site for animals. You can also make quilted pillows, or just really soft throw pillows for anyone.

The stuffed pig from Martha Stewart’s Site.

Herb Garden: Start an herb garden in the summer, and give it to a loved one that likes to cook.

Quote Someone: Collect quotes from famous poets and authors, and paint them neatly onto a canvas, or write them onto neat paper, and frame them. You can find cheap frames, ready to be painted at Thrift stores.

I love this Elton John Quote.

Give the gift of Oil: Peel the label off and paint an empty wine bottle with non toxic glass paint, and fill with olive oil, and top the bottle with a pour spout found at a wine or cooking shop.

Photo Collage: Create a photo collage with collected memories from a loved one. If they are a younger loved one, Facebook is a great place to get pictures from.

Ring Bound Book: I created one this year for my Boyfriend of little things he’s collected over the year. Movie tickets, concert tickets, Airport Luggage stubs, and brochures are perfect for this project. Here’s a great tutorial.

Hand Warmers: We live in Wisconsin. And you know what that means: 6 months of winter. You can easily make little hand warmers in any shape and size with materials like felt, cashmere, terry cloth, or cotton. You can fill them with rice, beans, pie plate warming beads, and for a good scent a little potpourri or herbs like lavender. Microwave that little puppy, and you’re good to go!

Family Tree: If you are up to date on your family history, you can create a hand rendered tree, or even a nice print out of your ancestors and give it to family members to hang onto for years to come. I would have loved getting something like this, since I don’t talk to some family members anymore, and the information would be hard to come across.

Charity: You can select a charity of choice, and donate money to them on behalf of someone you know. I know they don’t get something tangible, but they get the gift of knowing they helped a great cause. And I like that feeling.

There’s a good chunk of ideas there! I’ll post again shortly with many more good ideas to get your little workshop going! Happy Elf-ing!


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