Other Christmas Gifts We’ve Made

29 11 2008

A Photo Clock:

Family Fun magazine had this idea in their April 2004 issue. Buy an inexpensive or used clock, and remove the plastic cover with a screwdriver. Make a colored-paper circle to go around the center post that reads “We love you all the time!” Glue it on in place. (Cut a slit up the circle if the hands don’t come off.) Cover the numbers with glued-on family photographs. Replace the cover.

Fur-lined Leather Mittens:

I used the instructions in “Secrets of Eskimo Skin Sewing” which are more straightforward than any I found on the internet. Your library could certainly get this book for you if they don’t have it already.

Homemade Moccasins:

You can make these fur-lined by making inner booties out of fur. I usually get recycled fur coats at thrift stores. If they are in bad shapes, they can be almost free.

Fleece Pillows:

The advantage to fleece, besides that it is made out of recycled plastic and is warm even when wet, is that the edges do not need to be finished. So you can make pillows or scarves or whatnot out of it and not do any sewing. We’ve also made simple fleece scarves by cutting a long strip of fleece and cutting fringe into the ends.

Hot Chocolate Cones:

When we make these, we use a homemade cocoa or hot chocolate mix. I’ve made many variations, but encourage you to experiment with spices (we’ve had good luck with both cinnamon and chile) and with ground chocolate, not just cocoa, as an ingredient.

Family Cookbooks:

You can make good ones at Kinkos, on your computer in a pocket size that can go into a cd jewel box, or at Shutterfly. The important thing is the research to get your family recipes.

Homemade Baby Onesies:

You can do these at a distance with a service like Spreadshirt, or you can make them at home with iron-on t-shirt transfers from the office store. We did a concert flyer for a baby in my husband’s band, an Ella Fitzgerald vintage LP cover on a pink onesie for a new baby girl cousin named Ella, and several others. They’re always well-received.

Homemade Crayons:

Lots of online recipes for these. The key is to use a cool mold (we loved the results with mini-tart pans) and to mix the colors thoughtfully (black and gold crayons in one cup make cool disco crayons, as do white, light blue, and silver crayons). We gave these in shiny silver movie film canisters with personalized labels.

Mix CDs:

Simple, but always appreciated. Cool packaging makes all the difference.

Bathtub Tints:

Crayola makes bath fizzies in colors for kids. A homemade copy is easy: Mix three parts baking soda with one part citric acid and add essential oils and paste or powder food coloring. Mix thoroughly. Let it dry and put it in a container with a cool label. Add a measuring spoon or detergent scoop. We give kids a set of three small jars — one red, one yellow, one blue — so they can mix the colors in the tub.

Year-in-Review Care Package:

One of the most fun gifts to make for us has been this one, which is another riff of a magazine article. We write a Christmas letter reviewing and describing the neatest new discoveries of our year, and send it in a box with some of the discoveries enclosed. In 2007, the box included a jar of jam from the farm down the street from our house, the recipe for No Knead Bread, stickers from a fundraiser I’d participated in, pirate trinkets, homemade laundry soap, homemade hot chocolate mix, and other things we’d made and/or discovered and/or learned. This year will include fancy flavored maple syrups and pepperonis made locally, poetry from friends I met at Split This Rock, and who knows what else? The idea is to capture your year — the things you learned and liked and were inspired by — in a little care package.

We’ve made lots of other gifts. These, however, are the ones that 1) worked, and 2) were actually appreciated. Mileage varies on homemade stuff for me, the queen of non-dexterity. What gifts have you made that you were proud of?

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