We’re excited to introduce Krrbside Questions, a column created solely to answering your queries about living local and being the good neighbor we know you all are. First up with some super helpful advice is Jett Superior, recently featured in our Member Spotlight. This Southern lover of all things secondhand, vintage and handmade has what she calls “crackerjack ingenuity” and a knack for redoing roadside furniture. Have a burning question? Email us at email@example.com and we’ll make sure to get it in the right hands.
The holiday season is around the corner and I don’t have the budget or patience to shop for all my friends and family. What are some nice gifts I can make that won’t break the bank or have me gluing macaroni at three in the morning?
I love this question, because about five years ago I took the handmade pledge and vowed to make or buy handmade for most of my gifting opportunities. That first year I started easy, setting a goal for 25% of my gifts to be handmade. The next year I upped it to 50% and the year after that was 75%. Now, about 90% of the gifts my husband and I give throughout the year are handmade by ourselves or other makers.
The cool thing about giving handmade is that people definitely respond to these gifts with a different level of warmth and excitement. It can be daunting at first, but with a little planning and thought you can pull off a totally handmade — and less expensive — holiday with relative ease. I’ve compiled a list of pretty easy, low-pressure gifts for you to proudly hand over to friends and family.
Infused vodka: This one is simple to make, can be prepped at the beginning of December for gatherings later in the month, and is very customizable for individual tastes. All you need is a large bottle of vodka (we recommend Tito’s), easily-thrifted small jars or bottles and ingredients for flavors. Does your family like apple pie? Make them some apple-cinnamon vodka by cutting up a couple of apples and steeping them in a large glass container with vodka and two cinnamon sticks for a minimum of two weeks. When the time for gifting arrives, pour the vodka into pint jars, seal with a lid and attach a packaging tag to the neck with a short message to the recipient. Cranberry is also a good seasonal flavor, and citrus infusions are timeless.
Cookie dough: Just about everyone I know bakes and they all giveaway a bunch of their most famous delicacies at holidays. While this is great, how about planning ahead for a time when there won’t be magical, to-die for desserts at every turn? Make up three or four batches of your most lusted-after cookies, but don’t bake them. Instead, go to the dollar store for small, airtight plastic tubs. After washing the containers, fill them with dough, print up labels with baking instructions, stick the labels to the containers and then freeze. Grab and go for gifting, and people can have treats at their leisure. Sweet!
Custom glassware: You can procure good drinking glasses cheaply (usually a quarter to fifty cents apiece) at thrift stores and for a dollar apiece at dollar stores. Glass etching paste is around three dollars a tube, painter’s tape (for stenciling) is two bucks a roll, and your imagination is free! All that, a sharp blade and a small learning curve are all you need to make glasses etched with names, designs or inside jokes. Here’s a great tutorial for etched barware.
Altoid tin hacks: You can inexpensively assemble small first aid kits for purses, gloveboxes and desk drawers in leftover Altoid tins. For your outdoorsy folks, put together survival kits for their boats and backpacks. I’ve given away several of each of and they’re always a hit.
I can’t stand buying new wrapping paper for it to just get ripped apart and thrown out. Any suggestions?
Lucky you! The days where uniformly-wrapped boxes are the sole means of gift presentation are way behind us. Packaging and appearance are only limited by your imagination. Paper lunch sacks: You can purchase these in bulk at the dollar store and keep them on-hand for smaller gifts. To dress up your bag you can do something as simple as cutting the top with some patterned scissors, or as elaborate as handwriting a letter or favorite poem on the sides. Drop the gift in, fold the top over and then punch two holes near the fold. Thread twine or ribbon through the holes and tie a simple bow.
Make your own gift bag: Here’s a cool tutorial for making gift bags with newspaper. They look really slick. I’ve made these with large sheets of vintage ledger paper, too.
Pillowcases: What? Pillow cases? Yes. For larger or bulkier gifts, pillow cases can be thrifted for a song. I’ve found some very nice ones with hand-stitched edges and designs for a quarter apiece. Cinch the opening up with a bit of satin ribbon and you’ll have a beautifully-presented gift with a folk art touch.
Practical containers: A wire basket, a canvas bin in neutral colors, a pretty vintage jar, a scarf are all things that can not only hold your gift, but can be a useful gifts in and of themselves.
Check the thrift: I’ve found several brand-new rolls of wrapping paper priced around 10% of their holiday retail cost. A couple of months ago I found some awesome atomic era wallpaper in a blue and green plaid that I’ll be using to wrap some of our gifts in this year.
Draw numbers: My husband and I are both makers. In the interest of fairness, we usually make several of the same item with slight variations for big family gatherings. Last year, we made things in a size and shape nearly impossible to wrap, so we brought a basket filled with several bottles of wine. Each bottle had a number on the bottom; after everyone had drawn we brought in the gifts and recipients got to pick in the order that they drew. The family had so much fun doing this that we’re planning a variation on it this year.
Unconventional papers: When I was a kid it wasn’t unusual to get gifts wrapped in pages from the Sunday comics. This is still a great idea. Old maps make gorgeous wrapping paper, as do pages from dilapidated books. These also look terrific decoupaged onto a shoebox or cigar box. Kraft bags from the grocery store are easily disassembled and make beautiful parcels that look good with virtually any embellishment or ribbon.
So there you have it. What are you waiting for? Get cracking on making this the best Holiday season ever!
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