Homemade Gifts

It is ok to cringe at the thought of ”homemade gifts.” You are probably thinking about that awesome* pipe stem cleaner bracelet and pasta on a string necklace that you got from your cousin’s kid. Homemade gifts are not just for kids anymore. Now that you and your significant other have decided to go the route of single income parenting, you might be reconsidering the extravagent gifts that you used to buy for your friends and family for various birthdays and holidays.
*and by awesome I mean hideous

My own forte in homemade gifts is certainly baking. I have two great bread recipes that I often use around the holidays. For one stick of butter, some yeast, sugar, milk and flour, I can get four loaves of yummy homemade bread. I also use a ”friendship bread” recipe that makes 10 small loaves of applesauce or pumpkin (or whatever you want to add to it) bread. I usually give away these loaves throughout the winter holiday season to rave reviews. This is a really easy thing for me to give to the neighbors and mailman among others. Cookies or fudge could be another route to go. One thing to consider, though, before running out to your local bulk goods store and buying 25 pounds of flour (I do that – no kidding!), is whether you actually enjoy baking and whether the ingredients will be cost-effective.

If you don”t enjoy baking, then I don’t recommend this as a route toward homemade gifts. Baking 25 loaves of bread over one weekend requires commitment and a kitchen in which you enjoy spending time. Also, if you choose to go with a recipe that calls for fresh vanilla beans or saffron or other more expensive ingredients, you may want to calculate whether or not you”ll actually be saving money. Another thing to think about when creating baked gifts is how long it is going to take you. I love eating frosted cookies, but I will not do them myself except for a very special occasion. It just takes way to long to frost most cookies/cupcakes/etc.

If baking is not for you, consider other crafts that you enjoy and think about how you could give away those projects as tasteful gifts. Here are some ideas:

A handmade, crocheted baby afghan might be a treasured gift for years to come. If you know how to knit (I don”t and I admire you if you do!), consider knitting an article of clothing for a family member as a gift. An embroidered wall hanging or pillow cover might be just the thing for your great-aunt. If you can use a sewing machine (I can”t – that is one of my least favorite crafts), then try piecing together a quiet, cloth activity book for your favorite nephew. Or make a quilted wall-hanging for your mom.

Paper/Photo Crafts
My mother-in-law is a card-making genius! I have received many beautiful handmade gifts of sets of greeting cards from her over the years. If you can work it with paper, scissors, and embellishments, try giving some of your handcrafted cards away as gifts. Do you like to scrapbook? Make up a few scrapbook pages for the grandparents or your sisters (try to include some embarrassing pictures of them of course). Create a photo calendar for family or friends. There are many websites that allow you to upload your pictures and create your own calendar for a minimal price.

Beading/Embellishing Clothing
My neighbor makes the most beautiful denim skirts out of old jeans. She uses scrap fabrics, buttons and beads to embellish them. Another friend creates beaded jewelry that she often gives away as gifts.

Gifts of Time
One thing that I have appreciated since becoming a parent is that gift of time. Do you have a friend or family member who is a new parent? Instead of spending money on a big gift, offer to clean their home or watch the baby while they take a needed nap. Fix a meal for them or offer to do some grocery shopping. Maybe there is an older person on your giving list who would appreciate a once-a-month visit.

Here are some other things to consider when thinking about homemade gifts. Will the cost of ingredients/supplies actually be less than buying gifts? What is the time commitment and is it worth it to you? Keep your eyes open for sales at stores where you might purchase supplies, such as JoAnn’s Fabrics and Crafts, Michaels and even WalMart. If you decide to make your own gifts, consider making things in bulk. For example, if you are going to bake cookies, double or triple your batches so you have gifts for several different families. If you decide to make cards, make cards in big sets. I have found that it is actually easier to do an assembly line of sorts when making cards. Making 76 similar cards to give away in sets of 4 throughout the year to various people is easier for me. I get it all done in one weekend and then have beautiful, handmade gifts to give throughout the year.

Happy Gifting!

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