Making things with our hands is a Christmas tradition in my extended family. The picture above shows my sister Mollie contributing to the stockings that are spread out on my folks’ big round table. The–the stockings–most of them homemade, of course–have grown in quantity and quality of stuffings so much that there is no longer space for them to hang on the mantle (also, we discovered quite by accident, that chocolate that close to the crackling fire will melt), so they are laid on the table these days.
My mom sews beautiful wool quilts and knits socks, gloves (yes–gloves!) and sweaters. Among other things. My dad, a “wood butcher” as he calls himself, makes gleaming pens and other items out of exotic woods, birdhouses, rocking horses, cedar chests, violins . . . (sigh). This, as you can imagine, is a heritage that is not easy to live up to! Every year around Thanksgiving, I start to feel the itch to pull out fabric and ribbon and glue and sparkly thread and make . . . something. I used to make several quilts every year, for Christmas giving. Watching the delighted face of a family member who pulls a quilt out of a gift box, and spreads it out in front of them to admire, is pretty heady theatre.
And you know how I enjoy theatre.
But it has been awhile since I’ve made the time to tackle that big of a project. But small projects–I can fit in a couple in an afternoon, with my kiddos chatting happily around me and “helping” and still have the satisfaction of making something pretty with my own hands. So here are a few ideas for you, my Gentle (and also, probably, O’er-busy) Readers, just in the nick of time for a bit of Christmas giftery! Hey, you’ve still got a long weekend before Christmas, right?
So, take a gander–my sisters and I worked on this list during our first Three Sisters Podcast–make a list of your own (you’re not finished with Christmas yet, are you?) make yourself a big cuppa tea or coffee, and get busy!
Three Sisters Podcast, Episode 1 ~ “Thrifty & Creative Gift Giving Ideas”
1. Dip large pretzels in melted almond bark or chocolate, then roll in crushed nuts or peppermint candies, place in dandy thrift store mug, wrap up with cellophane and tie up with ribbon.
2. Homemade granola, tied up in a bag with raffia bow.
3. Melt almond bark, add crushed peppermint candies, and spread out on a cookie sheet to cool. Break up into pieces and put into plastic goody bags. They sell these nice little bags at Wal-Mart with Christmas designs on them, in a couple of sizes. I always pick them up after Christmas when they are 50 or 75% off.
4 We made felted wool mini-wreaths at Daring Angels a couple of weeks ago, and they are so cute and so pretty! Directions here: http://belladia.typepad.com/bella_dia/2007/12/advent-day-22-t.html.
5. Homemade sugar scrub is very, very easy to make and pretty if you put it in a jelly jar with a piece of fabric pulled over the top. For a Christmasy touch, add pumpkin pie spice to it!
6. Make homemade candy–divinity, chocolate covered cherries, fudge, cherry mash candy, etc., and wrap it up in a vintage tin or a small take-out container (the cardboard kind with the handle) with waxed paper or parchment.
7. Dress-up clothes for kids. Go to the thrift store and find scarves, hats, fun clothes for dress up. Kids love to play dress up! You may even find some items in your own closets for free!
8. New or gently used stuffed animals from the thrift store. Wash if needed, but be careful to tumble dry low. A few fake furs melt when they get too hot.
9. Mugs, household items like casserole dishes, fancy wine glasses, vintage cake pans can be found at thrift stores. If you have a wine lover in your family, get a few pretty wine glasses (they are $1 at our thrift store) and wrap with a bottle of wine from Trader Joe’s and some cookies for a thoughtful, personalized gift.
10. Cookie/cake mixes in a jar: there are directions for these online. I’ve received them before, and they are very pretty and very useful!
11. Anne’s muffin mixes http://annedovel.com/homemade-muffin-mixes-thrifty-gifts-threesisterspodcast
12. Homemade vanilla. But you have to start this in June for best tasting vanilla.
13. Homemade fudge sauce or caramel sauce in individual sized containers.
14. Make up a big batch of snack mix and divide into bags with a ribbon, raffia or cloth tie. Add a pretty gift card. “Puppy chow” is a great gift, too, though I don’t allow it in my house because it’s so addictive.
15. Homemade jelly or other preserved goods. Pick up jelly jars for pennies at the thrift store during the year. This year I made pickled peppers. Do you make pickles? Pickled beets? Pickled okra? Salsa?Take a look at the prices for jars of these items in the store. They have gotten pricey, and yours are probably better, anyway. Add a colorful square of cloth and some ribbon to dress up your jar.
16. Goat’s milk soap–or any handmade soap–wrapped in a pretty washcloth with a bow. Or add one of those poofy scrubbies and some bath beads to a basket with your soap and new washcloth. Moms and college students always appreciate pampering-types of gifts.
That’s it! I’m sure this list has served to inspire you to get busy with your hands this weekend and make something special for somebody you love.
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