I think we all could agree that there’s nothing quite like a gift you make yourself. Take, for example, the Mother’s Day gift I presented to Mom the year I turned nine. My scout troop made papier-mache earrings, and the ones I produced resembled nothing so much as a pair of orange golf balls. Some green glass beads and shellac turned them into something I considered quite fashionable and dramatic. Mom’s reaction upon opening the gift was…gracious, to say the least. I never saw her wear them. How could she? The things were huge and being clip-ons they probably would have slipped right off of her earlobes. She claimed to love them all the same and, as far as I know, they still reside in her jewelry box.
My crafting skills have improved since then, I hope, and there have been holiday seasons when lack of funds—or sometimes just the desire to give something more personal—have inspired me to make my gifts instead of purchasing them. One year I made personalized refrigerator magnets from polymer clay. Another year, we made candles and decorated picture frames. As I’m not the most enthusiastic shopper in the world, these gift-making sessions were infinitely more satisfying and fun than hitting the stores.
The Handmade Home: 75 projects for soaps, candles, picture frames, pillows, wreaths, and scrapbooks from the editors of County Living magazine will give you tons of ideas for gifts with down-home charm.
For the green-thinkers among us, Eco-craft: recycle, recraft, restyle by Susan Wasinger provides a number of ideas and instructions for stylish and surprisingly sophisticated gifts made from items that we often throw away. I was particularly wowed by the shopping tote made from coffee bags.
Martha Stewart’s Handmade Holiday Crafts: 225 inspired projects for year-round celebrations has gift ideas as well as inspirations for tabletop decor, gift wrapping, and holiday activities. Ideas for New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, etc. are here and the book boasts the high-quality photography and enthusiastic tone that you’ve come to expect from the Queen of Crafting herself.
As long as you’re giving a lovingly crafted handmade gift, why not include a beautiful card that you’ve made yourself? Ultimate Card Making: A collection of over 100 techniques and 50 inspirational projects by Sarah Beaman provides, as the title might suggest, a wealth of ideas and instructions for making beautiful and unique cards. To keep the presentation of your gift as thoughtful and one-of-a-kind as the contents, be sure to check out The Art of Gift Wrapping: 50 innovative ideas using organic, unique, and uncommon materials by Wanda Wen. The wrappings themselves are gorgeous, and you’ll also find ideas for wrapping oddly shaped objects such as house plants and bottles of wine.
Finally, I must mention Pinterest, the social photo sharing website styled as vision boards. Users pin images related to special interests such as photography, gardening, and design as well as ideas for focused projects such as wedding planning and home decor. Crafters can browse hundreds of images for appealing ideas for crafts as well as handy source links for further information and instructions. What Harry Potter fan among your friends and family wouldn’t be thrilled to receive a Golden Snitch tree ornament? How about adorable “dinosaur tails” for the kids? It’s all there on Pinterest! You have to be invited to join, but the site has a handy “request an invite” button so that before you know it you’ll be crafting your gift-giving heart out.