My husband and I have a tradition around this time of year: Each year we make a big batch of some sort of edible gift, and package it beautifully to give to every member of our family. In the past it’s been smoked sea salts, caramels, and hot chocolate mix; this year we’re considering jars of red pepper jelly or infused vinegars.
A homemade gift can be far more meaningful than anything you buy in the store. It shows you care enough about the recipient to spend something far more valuable than money: time.
And on a more practical level, making and giving homemade gifts can shrink your carbon footprint, since you’re bypassing all the resource-guzzling manufacturing, packaging, and transportation steps. The environmental benefits are increased even more if you choose a project in which you’re upcycling old materials.
So round up your crafting supplies and take a look at some of my favorite projects, culled from Pinterest and beyond.
- Wine bottle planter - Save all those old wine bottles, invest in a glass cutter, and turn them into planters that will water themselves. Plant them with herbs or decorative foliage for a gift that’s sure to be a conversation piece.
- Chalkboard mugs - Gather up all those miscellaneous mugs you’ve collected over the years, or head to a thrift shop to pick up a bunch, and embellish them with a wide band of chalkboard paint. Tie a couple of sticks of chalk to the handle and fill them with tea bags… they’re a great gift for a teacher or a secretary.
- Hot chocolate truffles - These decadent ganache balls can be dropped into hot milk to make yummy hot chocolate. Imagine packing a few in a cellophane bag with some homemade marshmallows.
- Sugar scrub - For the women on your gift list, make up some batches of fragrant sugar or salt scrubs. It’s less expensive than a gift certificate to a spa, and just as indulgent. Save some glass jars and their lids to pack them in.
- Coasters from old sweaters - A wool sweater that’s starting to get the worse for wear can find a new life in sets of felted coasters. Machine washing and drying the sweater will turn it into sturdy felt, then you can use a template to cut out square or round coasters or even larger trivets.
- Glass jar lanterns - Upcycle glass jars into beautiful lanterns and candle holders. You can use translucent paints or tissue paper and Mod Podge to decorate the lanterns, and use wire and beads for pretty handles.
- Button bracelets - A collection of buttons, either amassed yourself or picked up at a flea market, can be turned into a wide assortment of pretty and unusual jewelry.
- Candy tin toys - Who knew that the little tins that hold Altoids and other breath mints, could be turned into tiny toys perfect for tiny hands? Pinterest is filled with crafters who have turned these tins into play sets, doll houses and, my favorite, a tiny bed for a little stuffed mouse and its teddy bear.