By Laura Schmitt
As I look over the marvelous pile of handmade gifts that lay in front of me, I think to myself "Look out Martha, there is a new crafter in town and she doesn’t even own a glue gun!" I am giddy with excitement over my crafty-ness and I’m further thrilled that I can say our family crafting has not only saved us money, but helped us to cut back on consumerism, recycle, and even better still, it has helped me to re-create meaningful family traditions in my life, as well as create a meaningful set of values to pass on to my children. In this text you will learn how to become a crafting goddess. Don’t be afraid, it’s so easy and I promise you don’t even need a sewing machine or glue gun!
Becoming a crafter saved our family hundreds of dollars every year, and here is how. I have a BIG family, as many of us do. Blessed with a large number of loved ones, I found that holiday spending swirled into a whirlwind of debt that I could not stay on top of. Even when I budgeted myself with a small cap for each family member and close friends, the total dollar amount spent on my family, my in laws, and our dearest friends was outrageous. One summer as I started planning my holiday budgeting, I called it quits! I vowed not to look at another sales flyer or mall sale for a single purchase and to make everything at home instead. Upon hearing the news, my husband gave me the “isn’t that sweet” smile, followed by the “no way are you able to make gifts for that many people” speech. Well I started in September that first year and I was done by November and instead of spending a small fortune, I only spent the small amount it cost me to gather my materials. It was wonderful! For example, gift baskets have always been a big hit for the women in my family. Instead of dropping $20-$50 on a pre-purchased gift basket, I checked out thrift shops and found baskets for 50 cents a piece. I stocked up on about 20 baskets and got them ready for packing! Instead of the overly scented store bath lotions, I bought a gallon of natural lotion in bulk and scented the entire gallon with less then one small bottle of pure essential oils. For soaps, I gathered some vegetable glycerin soap base and used the same pure essential oils and herbs in my home to decorate soaps to give with the lotions. And to complete my baskets, I purchased large containers of Epson salts for scenting with…you’ve guessed it, those original bottles of essential oils! For the cost of 3 gift baskets in the mall, I easily put together 30 gift baskets at home, and I must say…it felt wonderful!
Saving money is well and good, but saving our planet from added garbage and wastefulness is even better. Now instead of coming home with dozens of shopping bags and pre-wrapped wasteful packaging, I came home with one shopping trip of ingredients to create gifts for many. All those old glass jars, cookie tins, and miscellaneous containers I’d been saving over the years suddenly became a valuable commodity in my new craft world as they were new again with possibilities to house so many scrumptious products. In fact, I even took it a step further and made my own cloth bags for wrapping, and decorated brown paper bags at home for items that weren’t getting bagged. Now my cloth bags can be used year after year. This is such an important part of teaching my children the importance of re-using and of being a wise, simplistic consumer. If I cannot demonstrate those actions, they may never truly learn them from me.
Now that we are a family of four, the importance of instilling value in our holiday events has surfaced in a powerful way. With each gift that is given I want my children to know the love and thoughtfulness that should go into it. I want them to learn that we give to those we care about when and what we can to let them know we love them and that we do so without expecting anything in return because it brings us joy to give. When our babies are older, we hope to start a tradition of giving away one gift to charity for each gift received for the children.
These types of values and examples mean so much to me in parenting. It helps to ensure that the holidays are magical and not greed festivals for the kids. As a child, stringing popcorn, creating ornaments, and spending time in the kitchen with my family were all the fun and exciting and memorable times of the holidays. Helping, sharing, and being with loved ones was what it was all about. Now that my kids are getting old enough to help, they can begin the traditions with their mommy and daddy, and making gifts is a tradition that we can start early in the year and work on together throughout. What could be more rewarding?
So, you’re convinced that you want to join the ranks of craft queens, but you don’t know how or where to start? Well, here is a list of ideas for beginner craft gifts that is sure to please!
The Idea List – Getting Started
1. Candles: Make candles and or buy candles and decorate them with dried flowers, using melted paraffin wax to make them stick.
2. Create a cookbook with your favorite recipes and recipes you've collected online.
3. Cookies, Jams, Breads, etc make great gifts!
4. Jelly, Applesauce, Salsa, Herb Vinegar, Oils infused with herbs.
5. Lavender dream pillows or lavender and flaxseed eye pillows.
6. Calendar with pictures of your family and or friends or favorite places.
7. Bath Salts, tub tea etc.
8. Homemade soaps are fun to make.
9. Build a puppet stage and make puppets with felt.
10. Build a simple dollhouse by transforming an old piece of furniture or new.
11. Make fleece throws.
12. Pillows and blankets for living room made by sewing, crocheting, or knitting.
13. Dolls for children are fun to make! Free instructions online at www.SleepingBean.com
14. Basket, stuffed with a strand of white lights inside, put dried flowers and eucalyptus out the top of the basket and a simple fabric bow at top
15. Make Paper, or buy pretty paper and make envelopes, creating a stationary set!
16. Photos in decorated frames make great gifts
17. Brownies, Cookies, Bread Mixes or Dried Soups in a jar or tin.
18. Quillow (quilt that folds into a small pocket and becomes a pillow)
19. Scarves, hats (use fleece for quick easy work)
20. Paint flower pots, give them as gifts with some seeds and a trowel for children
21. Placemats and napkins from cloth
'22. Weave a basket!
23. Bead jewelry
24. Buy a wooden rack/tray/decoration from the craft store, and paint it, tile it, decorate it, get creative!
25. Take some shells and fill them with wax and candle wicks, viola...candles by the shore!
26. Bath kit or massage kits
27. Homemade Liquors
28. Bath Bombs / fizzies
29. Caligraphy (frame a saying, poem, or song)
30. Personalize a journal. Buy a blank book for $3 at the bookstore and insert old postcards, pictures, sayings, poems, whatever! Make it special.
31. Learning boards -you could make a Montessori style board set for very cheap that teaches how to do buttons, zippers, Velcro, snaps etc. You just cut these things off of old clothing and either sew them together onto a fabric cube, stuffed with poly fill, or tack them onto small boards with furniture tacks. You could paint the backs with numbers, letters etc.
32. Doll slings are still kind of fun in cool prints!
33. Or treasure sacks in some print the boys will like with little inexpensive gifts such as coloring books, clay, etc.
34. You can give a child age 3-7 a homemade clay set with the ingredients needed, instructions, and a tool or two to use with it. Then the child can make their own clay, then play with it!
35. A dress up / magic box is a decorated box with homemade simple costumes (a cape, a silly hat, glasses etc). You could put together a theme of some sort and give it as a gift
36. Make a photo album alphabet style book for a child. Make a simple book with paper and string or buy one pre-made and write a letter on each page in lower case. Then glue photos of real life objects from THEIR lives that they know to help with the phonic connection! You can use puffy paint or felt for the letters to give them a texture for learning purposes.
37. Chocolates done fancifully will be much appreciated by your loved ones.
38. Use your favorite fabric to cover a simple book, journal, or photo album. Glue it securely, and add a special message to the beginning page.
39. Do a service as a gift. The old “I O U” coupons are always a welcome gift be it for cooking a meal, giving a massage, or cleaning someone’s car! Get thoughtful with your time.
40. Use the recipes in this booklet to make gifts that your loved ones will go nuts over.
You are prepared with the ideas you need to begin your own crafting adventures and family traditions, and this is just a starting point. The next time your loved one says to you, “How do you find the time and talent to make so many lovely and thoughtful gifts?”, don’t feel obligated to tell them all the wonderful benefits you received from hand crafting their goodies. Just smile and say, “It’s a gift”.
Wife to Eric, Mama to Bean and Bella, and WAHM owner of www.sleepingbean.com.