Berkeley Parents Network
Google Custom Search
Home Members Post a Msg Reviews Advice Subscribe Help/FAQ What's New

BPN is now a 501(c)(3) non-profit and we are building a new website! Read more, and see how you can help: BerkeleyParentsNetwork.org

Homemade Holiday Gifts

Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Holidays and Special Events > Christmas and Gift Giving > Homemade Holiday Gifts


Questions & Advice Related Pages

Homemade Gifts - Artsy/Inexpensive Ideas Please!

Dec 2011

Hi creative BPNers. I'm looking for inexpensive ideas for xmas gifts. We have about 20 relatives to give gifts to and we just don't have the money (or inclination) to buy ''stuff.'' I have a 2 year old and was hoping to involve her in the gift making, but I'm short on ideas. Last year (and the year before...) we gave people framed pictures. I think we need to give something different this time. Or some variation. So can you please share your ideas on what and how to make for presents and how to make it look more expensive than it is? I'm more interested in actual objects to give than coupons I'll probably never honor or donations in someone's name (not my style). Thanks! Also - what have you received that was homemade that you loved or loathed? I really appreciate your thoughts! creatively blocked


Buy a set of quart sized (maybe larger) mason jars and create brownie mix kits. Google ''Brownie Making Kits'' for the recipe. We give them every year and people really use and love them. Your little one can help layer the ingredients in the jars and make gift tags for them. A piece of ribbon and you're all set. Likewise ''Bath salt making Kits''-- same deal. Hot cocoa kits, too. crafting it up
I made wine glass rings one year and they came out really well. You can buy the rings and the beads at bead stores--make a set of 8 different ones for each gift. I punched holes in a piece of cardstock for each gift and wrote on it--your 2 yr old could decorate those I think one of the best home-made gifts I received recently was cookie mix in a jar--a clear mason jar with the different levels showing. The top was lovely with a fabric/ribbon/button decoration (need a glue gun to do that well) and the instructions on a card. There are so many sweets during the holidays, so it is nice to have a mix to make up later. Or if you are not into sweets, you could do soup mix. I wouldn't worry about making it look expensive--people will appreciate the time and thoughtfulness. happy crafting
I'm not super crafty but one gift that relatives especially loved were homemade placemats. Sometimes we had our daughter draw pictures on a piece of 11x14 paper then attached it to a brightly colored piece of 12x18 construction paper. On the back of the construction paper we'd write a message, the year and sometimes include a photo. Then just have the entire thing laminated at a local copier. It's personal,cute,inexpensive and useful. Also, the front of the placemat can be something besides a kids drawing -- a poem, photo collage, whatever the recipient might like. Prefer homemade gifts
Many years ago, my cousin and her kids made beautiful Christmas tree ornaments that I still LOVE and my little kids were very excited about putting them up this year.

To make them, she got hollow, glass ornaments (some round ones and some bells). They dripped and swirled paint inside of them (red, green, blue, white and may be some other colors...we have about 1/2 dozen of them and they are each unique). Once the balls dried, they put tops on them and tied ribbons around the top...

I have no idea where to get the hollow glass balls/bells, but I am sure you could find them on-line. Good luck!!!


My experience of giving handmade gifts is definitely a mixed bag. Although most people love a handmade gift, sometimes people don't appreciate it, unfortunately. But don't let that deter you! If you wrap something artfully, the effort will make even the least expensive gift look good.

Some ideas: Knitted or crocheted hat/scarf/mittens/booties/afghans/coffee holders (yarn from Michael's or Beverly's)

Reusable bags with cute design (Toys R Us, Target, etc.) -- good for everyone and the environment

Reusable water bottles or travel coffee mugs (Starbucks has coffee mugs you can buy and decorate -- not super cheap, tho)

Homemade jam (sweet fruit or savory (caramelized onion jam)

Ready-to-make mixes in mason jars -- chocolate chip cookie or oatmeal cookie dough, soups -- buy ingredients in bulk and wrap with ribbon and instructions

Homemade peanut brittle/kettle corn wrapped in cute boxes or bags

Coffee mugs with tea/coffee/cocoa inside

Flavored sugar/vinegar/oils -- look online for recipes

Homemade quick breads -- banana, lemon, ginger, etc. -- buy ingredients in bulk

Desk calendars

Coffee table books -- usually these are in the sale/clearance section of the bookstore A fellow crafter


I love your post, and am looking forward to some interesting responses, especially hoping to hear what homemade gifts people enjoyed receiving. So here's my contribution:

I'm mostly handy in the kitchen, so what I make tends toward food gifts. ''Cookie mix in a jar'' (google that for images and instructions) is one that I like to make. I make a few for myself at the same time, since they come in handy when you want to quickly make a small batch of cookies for a snack or to take to a potluck. I make other baked goods as well (like biscotti or coconut macaroons), but people can get so overloaded with sweets this time of year. Jams, jellies, pickles are good, but they kind of feel more like hostess gifts than something you'd put under the tree.

Best homemade things I've received: my mother-in-law sewed a construction-worker orange vest for toddler son, which he still loves 2 years later (now a preschooler). She also made a counting puzzle/educational toy out of yarn and plastic canvas. There are lots of toys that could be handmade for a young child - I would have adored natural wood building blocks or a handmade toy clock for learning to tell time, or alphabet letters made of something tactile - wood, fabric, felt, etc. I look at etsy from time to time for ideas but the things I love the most are (sigh) far out of my skill range, which is probably why I love them.

Oh, and the number one homemade gift I've received (possibly the best gift of my life) was when some friends drove 40 miles and delivered a table-ready home made chicken dinner complete with side dishes when my son was about 10 days old. Seriously, it brought tears to my eyes then and still now when I think about it. Best gift ever for a new mom, but not something you can wrap up and put under the tree for Christmas. L


I received hand-made note cards one year from a friend who's children were 2 and 4 at the time. She cut out portions of their paintings and drawings and glued them onto folded card-stock. They were beautiful, unique cards that I used for many purposes. If your child likes to paints or draws, this is a great gift -- you can also fashion nice bookmarks. One year I laminated my son's drawings to make long-lasting book marks, but you don't need to laminate them if you don't want. You can also make calendars yourself (not expensive shutterfly ones!) by downloading a template (do a MS OFfice Word search) and adding your own drawings/artwork. Take it to copy world and make as many copies as you like - even better if you add all the birthdays for your family! I do think that 20 relatives is too many for gifts - we give gifts only to children in my world! I do make cookies, granola, and breads to gift, however. glad I'm only giving cookies this year
Great idea! I've done many of these. Cookie/muffin mix: Find a nice jar (you can use canning jars or go to the thrift store and see what there is), then find a basic recipe, fill the jar with all dry ingredients, nicely write down the recipe on a card, tie with ribbon around neck of jar et voila! Candles: Get a chunk of beeswax or wax, you can also melt down crayons, old candles, etc. It's easiest to use a mold-you can make one or buy one (you can even use muffin tins, old cups/glasses). Or you can do the dipping method which takes longer. I've bought wick at Michael's for not too expensive. Look online for detailed instructions. Bath salts: pretty basic ingredients and with a nice jar it's a lovely gift. Tons of recipes online. Bean soup: Find a basic recipe, then again write it down nicely. Put multi-colored beans/peas in a jar (tall thin jars work best). Make a nice design with the different colors. You can also make handmade paper easily with a blender, old paper, egg cartons, etc. Blend in blender with water, pour on old screen (window screen or whatnot) and let dry. Can even place dried flowers in there. Again, check online for details. If you make enough though you could make a little book with a simple binding. Or use the handmade paper as a cover and regular paper as the inside sheets. like to be crafty
I try and do a homemade gift from the kids each year. This year I bought some small bags from Michael's (3 for $1), I had the kids paint the bags then I stuffed them with goodies (I selected nuts but you could do baked goods too). Fun project! Crafty
Having a 2 year old make gifts for 20 people is kind of challenging (and maybe unrealistic)! I do have ideas for older children, but I've noticed that my son (now 11) can only handle making 5-6 presents before absolute boredom and obstinance set in!

1. (Ages 2-teen) Make bookmarks. Have your child decorate one side and put a small photo of the child and a handwritten message with a date on the other side. Laminate (if you don't have access to one, go to a copy place and put several on a sheet, leave room around the edges, then trim later). You can punch a hole on one end and add ribbon with beads, if you want to get fancy. This makes a nice addition to a gift of a book or bookstore gift card.

2. (Ages 2-8) Make pencil/pen cups. Collect empty soup/bean cans. Cut a nice sheet of paper (colored is nice) the right height and an inch longer in circumference width than the can. In light pencil mark off 1'' of space on one edge (this is for overlapping the paper, and you don't want to loose any of the drawing). Have your child make a drawing or sticker collage and sign and date it. Use double stick tape to attach the paper to the can. Buy some self- adhesive laminating sheets and cut to size, again with some over lap, and wrap around the can to protect the illustration. Add pencils or pens to the can; if you're the type who plans ahead, you can get them super cheap at Target after school starts in September.

3. (Ages 5-teen) Make soap, wrap it in pretty cellophane, put an Avery label with your kid's photo on it. You can get supplies at Michael's or Juniper Tree on San Pablo in Berkeley. I don't actually do this, but my best friend and her daughters have been making soap for their huge family for holiday gifts for years.

4. (Ages 3-teen) Make keychains. Buy the rings, plastic beads and charms (with jump rings) at JoAnn's or Michael's. If you don't have a round nose pair of pliers, pick one up. Buy a small spool of wire at a hardware store--not too thick, not too bendy. Cut a 6' piece, curl one end a few times and attach ring, ''thread'' beads for 3-4 inches, curl a small loop at the end and add a charm. We usually make the ring/wire pieces ahead of time and go to a nice bead store to pick out beads that fit (most don't have big enough holes) and fun charms to match the recipients' personalities.

5. (Ages 8-teen) Make glasses chains. You'll need rubber ends, crimp beads, tiger tail (the ''string''--actually thin wire coated with plastic), small flat nose pliers, and a supply of seed beads and slightly larger accent beads. Cut the tiger tail (hold it around your neck and add an inch), attach a rubber end with two crimp beads (make sure to squish them good!) and begin beading. My son, who has limited patience, usually uses random beads in a color scheme (e.g., blues & greens, browns & black). Finish off with another rubber end.

6. (Ages 6-teen) Make tye-dyed socks. Buy the Jacquard kit at Michael's, and pick up extra rubber bands. Buy white socks with the highest cotton content you can find (I get the gold toe 6-packs from Target--usually the men's socks size 4-10 as these fit most men and women). Follow kit directions. I usually help with the rubber banding as it must be tight for white lines to show up, and my son does the dying. Make sure to cover everything with plastic. FYI: the Jacquard dyes are the brightest (of the kits), but you need wrap each item in plastic wrap for 24 hours before rinsing and washing.

7. (Ages 8-teen) Make reusable grocery bags (to use instead of the plastic ones used for fruits and veggies). Buy a few yards of thick netting and ribbon (to cinch at one end) at JoAnn's, cut to size (use a plastic bag as a model). Sew on a sewing machine.

Most handmade gifts require an initial materials investment, but once you find your thing, you can keep doing it for years! Looking for new ideas, too!


We've had a lot of fun making gifts over the years. My wife is an excellent cook so she's made: apricot jam, fancy cookies, walnut bread, lemon curd, and others that I'm now forgetting.

We've also made non-edible things: coasters, bath salts, candles, etc.

Our most popular gift was also the one where we got in a bit over our head... We sewed a set of four coasters with gorgeous fabric (not cheap! but maybe you could plan ahead, as we did not, and find a deal). It ended up being a HUGE hit, but way more $ and energy than we planned. However, I would do it again when the kids are older... I'd start sooner and shop around for a deal on fabric.

The best one for you for this year would be the bath salts. The only pricey part was finding little canisters to put them in. I forget where we ended up finding ours. But making the different scented bath salts was fun and easy - perfect for kids and craft-challenged adults alike. Mailisha


We make gifts for neighbors and teachers and some relatives. Over the years they have ranged from: bulbs (amaryllis or narcissus) in pots, beautiful rocks with stencils (rub off letters in letters, words or designs), banana bread, homemade jam, applesauce or chutney and marshmallows with homemade hot chocolate. We have also painted frames and mugs at a pottery place although this is more expensive. Creative Gift Giving
I have a friend who just made a calendar for her family.She used pictures of the individual (say an aunt or cousin) and filled a page collage style. One person for each month. She used a template by Costco. She did have to turn the photos into jpegs. She had 15 made, and sent it to her entire extended family. It looked great. Another idea is the do it yourself pottery places. Brush Strokes in Berkeley is good. You pay for the piece, cup, ornament, whatever, paint it, design it, they glaze and fire it for you. Each piece is unique, and your 2 yo can contribute. I have another friend who's daughter made her a plate when she was ten, she's now 20, and it's one of her most prized possessions. dana
We have found some great, low-cost DIY projects (great for small kids) at the website playathomemom3.blogspot.com. The ideas are so simple that you'd wish you'd thought of them yourself! (If you're like me, though, you need someone to give you the instructions.) Since their website is thick w/ general kiddo activities, here are some of my favorite posts: http://playathomemom3.blogspot.com/2011/12/pony-bead- ornamentssuncatchers.html
http://playathomemom3.blogspot.com/2011/11/candy-canes-and-snowflakes.html http://playathomemom3.blogspot.com/2011/11/christmas-candle-crafts.html
http://playathomemom3.blogspot.com/2011/11/bath-bottles- christmas-gifts.html

I did salt-dough ornaments w/ my daughter - she enjoyed helping me mix and cut them and then, of course, painting them! (Don't forget to poke holes at top before baking them...) Hope this helps! happy holidays!


I highly recommend this guide on simplifying the holidays from the Center for a New American Dream -- it has an extensive list of gift ideas that are free, homemade, easy, etc. http://www.newdream.org/resources/publications/2011-05-simplify-the- holidays-booklet Their motto is ''more fun, less stuff.'' Indeed! --trying to simplify--
Infused olive oil (with herbs, e.g. rosemary). Dry herbs (in oven if you're short on time, otherwise hang to dry), infuse oil (over stove if you're short on time, or just leave herbs in the oil jar for a few weeks if not), put in cute bottles from a kitchen store, and voila. Not totally cheap but affordable, and makes a nice and thoughtful present. Google search for how to infuse the oil. Love olive oil
Bake! I love getting and giving homemade gifts. You could bake some cookies, bars, etc and wrap them up in cute boxes or paper. Even at 2 my son loved to help with baking. I would measure out the ingredients and let him pour it all into the bowl, and let him help stir. He loved it. You could have your child help with home made cards to go along with it. I would have my son draw or paint all over big pieces of paper, and then cut it into little cards to attach to the gift. Have fun!
What I did with my 3 year old this year was to buy mini 4x6 photo albums or ''brag books'' with a cloth cover(I found a set of 3 for $5 at Aaron Brothers in San Rafael). I had my son do his handprint with paint on the cover, which was so much fun for him. After it dried, I put a picture of him inside and sent it to family members as holiday gifts, along with a home made card from him. For the card, I had him draw on each one with markers and put holiday stickers on them. He especially loved doing the stickers. My family loved it, and each gift was only a couple dollars. Happy Crafting!

Crafty Holiday Gifts Ideas?

October 2003

My husband and I have a lots of people to give gifts to during the holidays, and over the years have enjoyed making things to give that are easy and fun, and relatively inexpensive - bath salts & bombs, fruit-infused vodka, CDs that we burned, packets of bulbs for planting, fleece hats, etc. . . this year we're both out of ideas, and it's too late to learn how to knit. Any good ideas for gifts that can be sort of mass-produced, are relatively inexpensive, but are still sort of creative and nice to receive? Thanks! Stumped


We do crafts holiday, too. The most well-received have been candles, soap, picture frames & breakfast trays. I get lots of ideas by just wandering around Michael's & looking at crafts webpages online (Yahoo search gets you tons of pages).

Food is almost always a good one- those layered mixes seem to be really popular, truffles, chocolate dipped pretzels, etc. Have fun, virginia


My husband and I also make gifts for family & friends each year. Some recent gifts we've made: granola in interesting pottery, flavored honey in glass jars with honey spoons, flavored sugars (for teas & baking), peanut brittle in painted boxes,& marinated olives in decorated jars. This year we're making BBQ sauce we saw in Sunset a few issues ago & will give BBQ brushes with them. Sunset & other food magazines often have suggestions for homemade gifts this time of year. Also, check a bookstore for cookbooks that specialize in homemade gifts. Good luck! Carolyn
How about fridge magnets? Buy large, smooshed marbles (flattened globs of clear glass about 1 inch oblong or ideally round) at a craft store and glue anything on the backs - tiny photos, fabric, magazine photos, whatever and make a set personalized to the recipient. Use an Altoids (or similar) tin, glue same paper to top as a box.

I've also made candles with glass beads, preserved ferns or any holiday greenery pressed to the sides and poured into thrift store-found glasses. Tie ribbon, sprig of foliage around glass stem. A bit messy and you need to be careful of hot wax.

I also cover blank books. Just buy handmade paper or fabric and glue to outside of a blank book, (artists sketch books come in small sizes or go to Ross) using hospital corners. I trim at the binding head and foot. You can glue a flat-ish decoration to the front as well. Or use paper stamps to personalize. I made a book for household things (handyman, painting names, ''honey do'' lists, etc.) and put a house stamp on the front.

Martha Stewart, as much as I love to hate her, has some good ideas in past mag. issues. Gwyneth


My favorite homemade gift is a loose-leaf notebook that a friend covered with pretty fabric and filled with some of her favorite recipes. I still use it all the time. I also always like magnets; you could paint small tiles and glue magnets on the back or design something (photos, etc.) on the computer and print it out on magnetized photo paper. robin
What fun! My daughter and I decorated wine glasses one year for gifts. We bought inexpensive glasses and ''super-glued'' rhinestones on. I think we also used some glass paint to embellish them. We had seen some similar glasses in an expensive gift shop in the city. We gave them with a bottle of champaigne or sparkling cider and suggested that they were for New Year's Eve celebrations. Another idea is to similarly decorate picture frames. A friend recently recieved a pretty frame with rhinestones and paint around it. I thought I could make that! Find some plain acrylic stand-alone frames (or the ones with magnets on the back for the refrigerator) and paint and glue around the edge!...now I'm getting in the ''crafty mood'' too!
Have you considered basket weaving? I've made wicker baskets at family camp, and it is a very simple and satifying craft. Maybe this isn't mass-producable as you are looking for, but you can finish a nice little basket in about 2 hours, and wicker supplies are available at many craft stores. If you search the internet with ''basketry'' or ''basket weaving kits'' you can find some ideas. You could fill the basket with baked goods or handmade soaps.

You can also make tote bags or t-shirts using leaves and acrylic paints. You simply brush paint onto the back of the leaf (the side with the veins, not too much paint) and press onto the fabric. To get fancier, use masking tape to stencil squares or other shapes, paint in the block, let dry, then layer leaf prints on top.

Another option is buying fleece for blankets or scarves and going around the edge with yarn using a simple blanket stitch.

An incredibly easy craft, good to do even with very small children, is making beeswax candles. Supplies are easy to get at craft stores. Other types of candles are another option.

I'm interested to hear other ideas! Sima


In the past I have purchased decorative bottles from Pier 1 or Cost Plus and made infused olive oils. I made strands of colored beads and attached labels/ gift cards to them. They seemed to go over well. You could also do scented body oils or massage oils. I have a book with some olive oil recipes, which I would be happy to share. Lisa
There were a couple of years that I made my own holiday gifts, too. Some things were big enough to give by themselves, other things were combined for a grab bag-y like gift.

Rolled beeswax candles were the favorite. I even made sets as favors for my wedding - I think it comes to less than a buck and a half a pair (for tapers). You can make tapers, pillars, or votives. Just order the honeycombed beeswax sheets and get the appropriate sized wick (thin for tapers and thicker facor thicker candles). Then you just roll them up. I have been ordering beeswax sheets from a company called DeDant for years. The most recent phone number I have for them is 877-432-3268. They are a beekeeper supply company but have small (10 sheets) and large (50 sheets) boxes of the nice honeycombed beeswax sheets in a ton of colors, and they will ship it to you either free or for very little. They have the best prices Iíve found.

Another favorite was small bags of mulling spices - I get requests every year. My recipe is: a lot of dried orange peel, a lot of whole, rolled cinnamon bark (maybe broken in half shortwise), a little less whole allspice, a medium amount of whole green cardamom pods, a small amount of star anise (I always pick out the whole ones for this mix since it's prettier that way), and very little whole clove (be careful because it can really take over). You can get most, if not all, of the spices in ethnic stores (especially Middle Eastern) or the Cheese Shop(?) on San Pablo Ave 1 block south of University in Berkeley. I haven't used dried ginger, bay leaves, or black pepper corns but I've seen them in store bought mixes. You can look at the store bought stuff for a general amount guide and specific spice ideas. And, as an added touch you can get nice sheer fabric bags at the Paper Plus Outlet on San Pablo Ave just south of Gilman in Berkeley.

We've done boxes of hand made (blank) card sets. You can buy the blank cards at almost any art supply store and do almost anything from watercolor to stamping. We always did paper collages and art using scraps of handmade, Japanese, and decorative papers on the front of the cards. You can also add ribbon, small twigs, pretty buttons, you name it. You can get ideas from browsing in a Papyrus or other fancy stationary store.

My husband once made stationary for my mom by scanning an image she was fond of onto a computer disk (from a scrap of nice wrapping paper from a special birthday gift), goofing with it a bit in Photo Shop, and printing it out in color on nice blank paper. He also did matching envelopes. She loved it and is still using it.

Finally, we also have done flavored vinegars (raspberry was a favorite but orange is good too), candies (Mmmmmm, truffles), beaded earrings (they doní t have to be elaborate), cookies and small loaves of quick breads or cakes (always a hit), and bookmarks.

Hope this gives you at least one idea you didnít think of. Crafty Girl


Home   |   Post a Message  |   Subscribe  |   Help   |   Search  |   Contact Us    

this page was last updated: Nov 16, 2013


The opinions and statements expressed on this website are those of parents who subscribe to the Berkeley Parents Network.
Please see Disclaimer & Usage for information about using content on this website.    Copyright © 1996-2014 Berkeley Parents Network