If you want to make holiday gifts this year, and your skills are well past the ice-pop-stick reindeer stage, you know that it requires some forethought and good materials.
But for crafty newbies, it pays to remember that although do-it-yourself gifts can make delightful presents, there are some dos and don’ts to consider before you wrap a hand-knit scarf or photo collage in lieu of a gift card or a store-bought present that comes with a receipt.
First and foremost, consider the person who will be receiving the gift, says Stefanie O’Connell, a New York actress and author who chronicles her classy frugality in The Broke and Beautiful Life.
“You think that a keychain made out of candy wrappers is adorable, but remember that giving isn’t about you, it is about them,” O’Connell says. “What do they like, appreciate or need?”
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In other words, don’t give brownies to a relative who’s on the Paleo diet or a huge expressionist lamp to a minimalist friend who lives in a studio apartment.
To ensure that the recipient actually likes the gift, keep it practical, O’Connell adds. If the gift isn’t something that can be used or consumed, it will take up space “and be accommodated until the recipient no longer feels guilty about throwing it away,” she says.
Capture someone’s personality: Serial crafter Stefanie Johnson, of Concord, Calif., also advises thoughtfulness before you start: Identify someone’s hobbies or “obsessions,” or focus on a positive characteristic each person exudes that you appreciate and want to capture.
“Once I find an idea that I feel fits the person, I start by shopping online for craft supplies, then at a local dollar store,” Johnson says.
As you dig around websites and stores looking for materials, you’ll get other ideas. Johnson’s gift examples include handmade T-shirts for kids with wording on each that pertains to personal qualities, like “nurturing” or “comedian” or “sassy pants.” “I want the kids in my life to know their traits are awesome and unique,” she says.
For one occasion, she made sweatshirts for all the adults in her family that had a printed family photo and the words “dysfunctional but lovable.” Johnson says that was 10 years ago, and her mom still treasures and wears it.
She also suggests memory boxes that can have collages of photos on the outside or mosaic patterns. Inside would be a note that says something positive and personal about the recipient. Or it could be a jewelry box or a hobby box. Call it whatever has meaning for each person and decorate it accordingly.
Holiday heirlooms: Interior designer Jennifer Adams embellishes glass ball ornaments for a DIY personalized gift. “Who doesn’t love a holiday ornament for a gift?” Adams asks. “It’s a keepsake that can last for generations.”
She suggests hitting garage sales and thrift stores for solid color glass or plastic ornaments, and personalizing them with glitter pens, paint and/or silver and gold Sharpie markers to make designs. You can also stuff clear ornaments with beads, feathers or glitter.
They’ll drink to this: Los Angeles-based cookbook author Julie Morris, author of Superfood Smoothies: 100 Delicious, Energizing and Nutrient-Dense Recipes (Sterling), makes a personalized smoothie mix that provides 10 to 12 powdered servings per gift. She pours the powdered ingredients in a decorated Mason jar, then completes the gift with directions that detail what’s needed to finish, such as “just add a banana and a cup of almond milk and blend.”
Another of Morris’ ideas would appeal to anyone with a culinary bent: Fill a basket with live herb plants such as parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. If you want to add some humor, call it the Simon and Garfunkel special.
O’Connell adds just a few words of caution. “Remember, you’re an adult now. The leaf you picked up and stuck to a candle isn’t cute anymore. It’s a fire hazard.”