There is still time to make some amazing handmade gifts for your friends and loved ones. Here is my short list of useful items that you can easily make without breaking the bank. And, if you are familiar with my premise of preference for disposable gifts (click here to read), you know that these fit the bill!
My favorite handmade and homemade gifts for 2020:
Homemade Vanilla Extract. These can be made in bulk and will not take a lot of time or money to put together. For a recipe for making your own homemade vanilla extract, click here. Everyone seems to be baking since we are home more than ever. A bit of homemade vanilla will elevate any recipe to gourmet status! If you want to augment your gift (which isn’t necessary), add measuring cups, a pretty oven mitt or a bag of Ghirardelli chocolate chips.
Homemade Cranberry Liqueur. I received a pretty little bottle of this a few years ago, and it has stuck in my head ever since. Again, it can be made in bulk and is attractive and festive. For an easy recipe, check this one out at the blog Grits and Pinecones (click here). To zhuzh it up, though not necessary, add a crystal cocktail glass from the thrift store or antique mall, a fresh lime, and a recipe for a Cranberry Vodka cocktail (which is really this liqueur with a splash of lime).
Aunt Pinkie’s Pumpkin Log. This is delicious and versatile. We love it for dessert as well as for breakfast. It freezes well, and one log can easily be cut in half to make two good sized gifts. I love taking slices of pumpkin log arranged on a pretty holiday plate to parties and holiday gatherings. You can find the recipe here. If you want to up the “wow” factor, put it on a beautiful holiday platter (maybe a Spode Christmas Tree piece), cover in plastic wrap and deliver to the lucky recipient.
Spiced Pecans. A bag of these will be a treat for an entire family! And again, make a big batch so that it can be packaged as several gifts. Aunt Pinkie’s traditional recipe for spiced pecans is: 2 T butter, 1/4 c Worcestershire, 1 T ketchup, 2 dashes hot pepper sauce (I use Tabasco), 4 cups pecans and salt. Melt butter, Worcestershire, ketchup and hot pepper sauce in a saucepan large enough to also hold the pecans. Once melted, add the pecans and stir until all the pecans are coated. Bake pecans on a parchment, foil or baking mat lined cookie sheet for 20 minutes in a 400-degree oven. Stir every 5 minutes. Once toasted, sprinkle with salt and allow to cool. They are best if they can rest for a day or two before serving. Package them in a cellophane treat bag, a pretty box, or an antique pressed glass nut bowl.
Mug Mats (also called mug rugs). I think these are just cute. They are little (4 to 7 inches in diameter) felt or quilted mats that serve as a personalized coaster for someone’s coffee/tea mug. Because they are small, they do not take much time to make. If you are a no-sew kind of person, you could glue embellishments on the mat (leaving an opening, about 3 to 4 inches, in the center for the mug to sit). And if you embroider, you could make a cute, quilted version with an embroidery pattern. Again, this is something small and fun that can be used at work or at home. Check Pinterest for inspiration and instructions. The mat can be given alone or with a package of quality (homemade) hot chocolate mix, a package of marshmallows, and a holiday mug!
A Lap Quilt or Lap Throw Blanket. This will take more time to make, and if you choose to make one, you have to get started now. What makes this particularly useful is that the winter is a great time to have a small blanket to wrap around cold shoulders or lay over a lap. Again, this can be useful at home or at work. You can make an easy no-sew fleece version (click here for an instructional video from Joann’s), a block flannel version that requires sewing, but no quilting, or create a pieced quilt using a design of your own choosing. I like a simple 4″ x 4″ block pattern with two or three coordinating fabrics as either a traditional quilt or flannel no quilt style. I have made several of the flannel versions photographed above. Give the lap quilt to the lucky recipient in a roll tied with a pretty bow or put it in a holiday box. Be sure to sign and date the back.
Coffee Cake, Fudge, or Bread. Though we often think of the holidays as being associated with too much food, it is always nice to have a few treats around the house. Since most of us will not have much company this year, large quantities of snacks may not be necessary. Luckily, many treats can be frozen to enjoy over time. Put an assortment or a special treat on a holiday plate (maybe re-gift a plate you have received in the past) and deliver to the intended receiver.
Cloth Napkins. If you have an embroidery machine or a sewing machine that embroiders (or maybe you are good at hand embroidery), cloth napkins are always a useful gift. With more people concerned over the environment and single use items such as paper napkins, cloth napkins are making a comeback. For my quick tutorial on how to embellish and make cloth napkins, click here and here. If the gift recipient is concerned about the environment, then the best way to wrap this present is with one of the napkins; then tie a pretty ribbon around the bundle.
Homemade Christmas Tree Ornaments. I love the white polymer clay ornaments that so many folks are making these days. They can be given as a set of ornaments around a theme or use one as a gift tag or embellishment on a gift. Check out this post from Little Sloth for directions. Or search for air dry clay ornaments and make your own clay. Check out this recipe at the Kitchen Table Classroom.
Essential Oil Blend. There seems to be an essential oil for everything! Can’t sleep? Try lavender. Feeling like you are catching a cold? Try Thieves/On Guard/Defender. Have a headache? Try peppermint oil. Why not create a blend of essential oils for someone as a gift? If made to diffuse, give them a diffuser to go along with it. Maybe a blend to brighten their mood or freshen their home would be a welcome gift. Or a blend for sore muscles could bring comfort. With a bit of research and a few essential oils, you can make a useful blend for someone. An option would be to give the recipient the oils and a recipe for the blend.
Now if you still need ideas for gifts for friends and family, read these posts (gift ideas, 110 gift ideas for adults, and gifts of food); there is something for everyone and can be easily purchased. Always keep in mind the recipients and their stage of life…what will work for the recipient and be useful, fun and/or appreciated?
What are your favorite gifts to make for family and friends?