Do-It-Yourself gifts sometimes get a bad rap. Think about how many macaroni necklaces and Popsicle stick frames you made for your parents as a child. But, DIY gifts can be the most thoughtful and personal of presents. They can also be quick and inexpensive. Sure, Popsicle sticks are cheap, but you may want to give something you can be proud of now that you're all grown up.
Here are some of my favorite grown-up DIY gifts, and I promise no 5-year-old will be showing up with any of these on Christmas.
Photo: Photo Illustration / George Marks / Hulton Archive/ Getty Images
Candles make a classic holiday gift and they are easy to personalize with colors, decorations and scents. It's easy to make these glowing gifts. Take some cues from the slow-cooker queen Stephanie O'Dea who uses old candles and of course, a Crock-Pot, or try beekeeper and crafter Heather Mezzacappa method. She uses beeswax of course in her roll-up candles.
Time Commitment: If you're in a rush the rolled up beeswax candle is the way to go, setting you back less then 15 mins to make. The crock-pot candles must "cook" in the cooler for 2 hours and cool for another 4.
When you give a delicious food gift you're giving so much more than something to eat.
Give a frozen meal to busy parents and give the gift of a family dinner during the hectic holiday season. Try lasagna, enchiladas or TDG's Escarole and White Bean Soup. Consider doubling the recipe and freezing a dinner for yourself too!
Sauces and tapenades
Another option... Give peace of mind to the frazzled hostess: offer to bring over sauces and tampenades to serve at the holidays. Last year food blogger Laura Sampedro gave jars of homemade olive tapenade, garlicky white bean dip and red pepper pesto as Christmas gifts. She suggests putting a sticker on the bottom of each jar with a best-eaten-by date (two weeks in the case of these sauces and tampenades).
Baking can be the perfect way to spend the holiday break with kids. Jar all the dry ingredients needed to make whole wheat oatmeal cookies or another favorite treat. Remember to pack all ingredients tightly into a jar and note what ingredients they'll need to supply themselves such as eggs, milk or vanilla. Go one step further and make the cookie dough yourself so all the receiver has to do is slice and bake. Try sugar or icebox cookies and include cookie cutters or sprinkles for added fun.
Time Commitment: Dinner or the tapenades will take you an hour or so. The ingredients will take you a few mins to grab from your cupboard or purchase at the store, and the frozen dough will take you about 30 minutes.
Give a simple gift that will help your friends and family stay warm and save money. When placed along the bottom of windows and doors, a draft snake can help cut the chill in the air and could save significant cash on home energy bills. At its most basic a draft snake is simply a piece of fabric sewn into a tube and filled with stuffing. But there is so much more personality you can put into this simple craft project. Try buttons, unique fabrics or the classic snake "tongue."
Time Commitment: You'll need time to source the right materials for your snake but only an hour or so to create him.
When written on handmade paper even the silliest of letters seem deep and meaningful. This year make your own paper to give as stationery or to write heartfelt notes to your family and friends. The bonus? That paper can be made out of your junk mail. Adina Levin walks you through the process in this video.
Time Commitment: Once you get the hang of it, a few pieces of paper can be done in an hour. While you wait for your paper to dry, practice your penmanship for those heartfelt notes.
You can go a million different ways with bookbinding. For anything from a simple pamphlet to a bound journal you'll need a few basic materials: an awl, a pair of scissors, filler paper, a razor blade or craft knife, string, glue, and paper and/or cardstock for the book cover. I found a few videos that will walk you through the process. A tip for unsteady hands: I have a hard time cutting even straight lines in all of my filler papers, so I try to use paper that can be ripped (thin watercolor paper, for example). A little unevenness is acceptable: I like the homemade feel it gives.
Once the book is made you can get really creative. Try gluing wine labels on the book cover, creating a tasting notebook for a vino-loving friend, or print out family recipes for a personal cookbook for your relatives.
Time Commitment: You can easily make one book in less than an hour. If you decide to bind your book with glue, leave time for the glue to set.
Get Your Glue On
Crocheting gifts is a DIY tradition. Even if you haven't picked up a crochet needle since elementary school you can certainly master a potholder (which would go perfectly with a homemade dinner). If you're feeling like taking on a bit more of a challenge, try fingerless gloves. According to Do It Yourself contributor Sarah Goldschadt, these gloves are, "much easier than regular gloves as making all the fingers seems tricky." And, they are perfect for the habitual texter, BlackBerry addict and iPhone enthusiast in your life. Goldschadt found a great pattern on Crochet Me, and whipped up a new winter look for herself (she's modeling them at right) in a matter of hours.
Time Commitment: The potholder will set you back an hour, and according to Goldschadt the gloves will take "around four hours for both (once you mastered the first one, the second one is a breeze!)."
Is there anything you can't make in your slow cooker? In addition to tons of tasty edible recipes, Stephanie O'Dea's slow-cooker recipe book, Make It Fast, Cook It Slow: The Big Book of Everyday Slow Cooking, includes instructions for making glycerin soap. You'll need your slow cooker, glycerin blocks, stirrers, soap molds and coloring. Here's the full Slow Cooker Glycerin Soap Recipe. Make a few extra bars to have on hand for emergency gifts.
Time Commitment: The process will take you 2-3 hours from start to finish. Don't forget to let the soaps cool before removing them from the mold.
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