We love everything about giving handmade holiday gifts, but sometimes just finding the inspiration for what to make is a task unto itself. We turned to our Facebook community for some fresh takes on the thoughtful yet thrifty gift-giver’s art, just in time for the holiday season. For our Facebook question of the week, we asked you “What handmade gifts do you give for birthdays, holidays or other special occasions?” and here’s what you told us.
Tom 'Tommaso' Valeriano I make end-grain cutting boards.
Helen Brown My stepmother always did rum balls and Russian fudge with walnuts...never heard any complaints, they were too busy munching.
Heather Smith I have made homemade soaps, knit handbags, jams, pickles, knit dishcloths, knit socks, cookie baskets, and breads.
Lexan Koenig I make food — chocolate truffles, raw truffles, granola, cookies, cakes — and hand crafted organic soaps.
Laura Aubill I knit scarves and blankets and make jewelry.
Gina Reich Guzman Baskets of homemade bath and beauty products.
Betsy Whitmer I'm making natural potpourri: Orange, lavender, nasturtium, mint - and rose, geranium.
Laurie Channell Smith We give our homemade wine as gifts.
Ian Batra Vanilla Sugar: Stick a vanilla bean or a few in a container of organic sugar for a couple of months. The sugar will pick up a strong scent of vanilla. Then put it in decorative jars and give as gifts. It's always appreciated.
Kathy LeBlanc Castro Homemade fig cake. Everyone loves it and waits for it.
Chrissy May Rubio Beef jerky and grain-free granola.
A Natural Nester I make a lot of homemade edible goodies. This summer, I've made monkey butter, triple berry jam and hot pepper honey mustard, all stashed away for holiday gift giving. Another gift I make is homemade smudge sticks (from homegrown, dried herbs) and blessing kits. You can read about them at A Natural Nester.
Michele Tingle Reid I'm doing a lot of jams/jellies and pickled hot peppers for Christmas gifts this year. I'm also crocheting a lot of birthday gifts and making lavender sachets for random gift-giving occasions.
Karen Dininny Spafard Candied orange peel. It takes me days to make enough to give my entire extended family (one jar per family), but I love doing it, and I love how happy everyone is to receive it. Candied orange peel is very "green" because it uses the part of the orange that otherwise gets thrown away.
Skye Matthews-Savage Along with whatever gift I give, I usually wrap it in a pretty furoshiki — a large square patterned scarf — instead of paper. I wrote a poem that explains what it is and include that along with some directions on other ways to use the furoshiki to wrap or carry things. They are very useful, and can be tied to carry wine bottles, books, melons, or as a shopping bag and a sling to carry flowers. Furoshiki has instructions and sells them, but I make them out of fabric and serge the edges at home, or repurpose scarves purchased from Goodwill.
Jodi Jandreau-Guy Flannel receiving blankets for new babies.
Sheila N Vinson I do afghans. As I make them I'm thinking of the person it will go to and then when they get it they get a hug from me every time they wrap up in it.
Phoebe Grace When I had alpacas everyone received crocheted beanie hats made from the yarn. I've also given maple syrup from the trees we tapped, jams, chutneys, pickles, etc., from our harvests, repurposed old windows made into mirrors and earring holders, and hand-dipped candles. The best handmade gift I've ever received, however, was a plain box, which my four (grown) children covered with decoupaged pictures of us. Inside were numerous strips of paper on which were written favorite memories of their childhood and reasons they were thankful for the things I had done for them. Yes, I cried like a baby as I read them!
Noel Lopreore Homemade tomato jam for Christmas. Everyone gets them, including the garbage collector, and everyone loves them!
Claire Laporte I save wonderful bottles and make spicy oils and sweet oils for hostess gifts & Christmas gifts.
Brandi Ball Unique jam & jellies, fruit butters, pickled peppers, a meal basket with homemade noodles and canned pasta sauce, and infused liquor.
Renee Sauceda I like to make rain sticks out of snake gourds.
Sandy Hultgren I have calendars made up of photos I've taken during the year. I tend to visit a lot of national parks, so the photos are almost all nature.
Katrina Rdmn Cross-stitched switch plate covers are my signature gift.
Renee Walker I make vanilla sugar, orange vanilla sugar, ginger syrup, smoked salt blend and hot cocoa mix. This summer, I made some preserves that everyone is asking for more of, so I'm adding pepper jelly and apple butter to the mix.
Dawn Marie Perkins Our family has been making homemade, personalized Christmas ornaments for Christmas gifts for years. Each year is something different.
Lawrence Redmond Our signature gift would be homemade maple syrup, done the old fashioned way: collected in pails hanging on spiles, and boiled outdoors under a tent on a wood-fired stove.
Suzanne Bettonville I like to give photo-based gifts. A puzzle, a t-shirt, a calendar. All are easy to do at any photo processing place. Instead of simply submitting 12 photos for a calendar, I create collages with many photos, and add personally significant dates to the calendar. I carefully lay out the pages myself, and then send it to a publisher. Last year I collected all of the funny things my kids said over the year, and put them together into a book.
Erica King We've given our homemade wine, candy & cookie platters, cookie ingredient jars, aromatherapeutic bath salts, jams/jellies, gingerbread ornaments, lotions & oils, herbal tea blends, also time permitting crocheted and knitted things — I make a quick crocheted beer cozy which is nice to keep your hands warm while drinking a cold beer outside in the winter
Destinee Brown Pizzelles (Italian waffle cookies) are so much fun to make with my family.
Karen Pennington Pumpkin Chip muffins, brownies or something I canned may come from my kitchen. Bags, fleece blankets and pj pants come from the sewing machine.
Tammy Lybrand Luckett I like making loaves of bread shaped as a bear. This year I will be doing that plus adding in my new favorite canning project: Lemon Curd!
Erica King We did a gourd birdhouse last year too that the kids decorated — that was a lot of fun
Iron Oak Farm My husband is a blacksmith, so we love to give hand-forged items. They make great "man" presents. I love to basket weave and spin, dye and knit things from our angora goats.
Kate Kolbe Hand-painted silk scarves.
Kelly Dean I love making jewelry as gifts. I sell it at craft fairs and on Etsy. When I give it as gifts, my family & friends know how much love I put into each piece, and they're always touched.
Jeannie Edwards Koenig Cinnamon-roasted pecans are a family favorite.
Mary Lovrien Tab Abraham Gift wrap: We hand paint and decorate large sheets of packing paper.
Mary Lovrien Tab Abraham Our family also gives words as gifts. We write stories about our favorite memories and print them out for relatives.
Anne Keeber Every year I make homemade biscotti in various flavors. Friends of friends are now clamoring to get on my “list” for the biscotti. I make about 15 dozen annually.
Adria Reinhart Ovdiyenko Each year I help my kids make fused glass jewelry pendants and magnets to give as holiday gifts to their librarians and teachers. They are so proud of their beautiful creations and it’s wonderful to see my children's handmade jewelry being worn by many ladies around town.
Roxane Whisnant As a handweaver and alpaca breeder, my most signature gift would be a hand-woven scarf. Several friends and family members have been gifted with this heirloom. But, before I learned to weave, I would put together a nice picnic basket, line it with a cotton print fabric and load it with pickled okra, bread and butter, chow chow, and jams.
Melissa Hollis Flannel heat packs filled with rice and herbs — enclosed in a reusable fabric gift bag. Both are easy to make.
Katy Gildemeister Gawne Soup mix in a mason jar. I did this one year because my co-workers were all watching their diets and I didn't want to give sweets. The mix got raves from everyone. I've also done cloth napkins, cloth “ziplocks,” fabric bags filled with rice (to microwave and heat your bed), reusable fabric wrapping paper, luggage tags and duffel bags.
Paul Huckett I make feta cheese, marinate it in a local virgin olive oil and give it to my family.
Eve Silva Last year I read an article in the Aug/Sep 2011 MOTHER EARTH NEWS titled Food Independence on a 1930s Farm by Harold Oliver. Right at the end, Harold talked about picking everything left in the garden before the first killing frost. It caught my eye, because he mentioned green tomatoes and the year before I had unfortunately let mine go for lack of an idea what to do with them. He also mentioned his mom canning "chow-chow" and how it made everything taste wonderful all winter. I canned gallons of this green tomato sauce. I wanted to give it as gifts but since it was unusual, I included some recipes. I saw an ad for adorable, tiny Christmas tree flash drives. Bingo! I typed up 10 recipe suggestions, loaded them on the drives and attached them with ribbon to the canning jars.
Thank you to all those who submitted your great ideas. Answer more questions of the week at MOTHER EARTH NEW’s Facebook page.