gather and grow

Homegrown, hand-spun living in the city

It’s that time of the year again. Each year, I think I’m going to be too busy or overwhelmed to craft handmade gifts for the holidays. But each year, the idea of the store-bought Christmas — running around stores to the tune of holiday muzak and pouring money into stuff made thousands of miles away when I don’t know its environmental and human cost — is ultimately much more overwhelming, and frankly makes me writhe on the inside. So, I end up playing the elf, and always have fun with the process. Of course, there is also the option of opting out of the gift-giving entirely. But as the Milkwood folks point out in their thoughtful post, that’s not an easy one to follow through, especially for those of us who have little people in our lives. The compromise I’ve made is the one articulated by Bill McKibben in his Hundred Dollar Holiday: trying to limit the amount of money I spend for Christmas to a hundred dollars, drawing on my creativity to make simple, handmade gifts, and focusing more on reflection, the gift of time, and connections with my loved ones.

For those of us who take the handmade route, the question is always: “What to make this year?” Since my family and friends end up reading these pages, I can’t really reveal what I’m working on right now — especially since I may have already dropped a hint or two — but here are some of my favorite ideas from past years:


Lavender sachets for the linen closet, from More Last-Minute Knitted Gifts by Joelle Hoverson. These pyramid-shaped sachets take just over an hour each to knit, and are filled with oh-so-fragrant lavender buds to protect linens, yarns, and hand-knits from moths.


Pointy elf hat, also from More Last-Minute Knitted Gifts. A couple of years ago, I knitted one for each of my nephews, nieces and godchildren. That may sound like a lot, but these are incredibly fast and satisfying to knit, especially when working with nice, bulky yarns in lovely bright colors.

sugarscrubVanilla brown sugar body scrub for pampering a loved one. I followed this recipe, but used dark brown sugar instead of light.

recipe book cover copy

Recipe book of favorite recipes — the ones you find yourself cooking over and over again, the ones that a guest at your home would most likely get to enjoy. Dan and I made these last year for our families and friends, and it was a big hit. We used a simple Word template (somewhat tweaked) for a nice layout,  and added photos of our most delectable meals to illustrate the pages. You could do what we did and organize the recipes according to season.


Jar of home-made granola — with recipe attached so that the lucky recipient won’t be forced to come knocking on your door when the goods run out.


Fingerless mitts for the outdoorsy, wood-chopping kinda guys in my life (Ravelry link here).

jamminHomemade jams, jellies, fruit butters, and marmalades — sweet to make and sweet to receive!

eucalyptussoapSoap. This one is less of a last-minute craft, simply because the soap needs time to cure. The how-to probably deserves a post of its own (sometime soon…). But in brief, the method I follow is cold process soap-making, and if you’re eager to get on it, good instructions for beginngers can be found here and here. Pictured above is the first-ever batch of soap I made, green bars of eucalyptus soap.

Lastly, a couple of gift ideas that I haven’t yet tried to make myself, but that stand out to me as both practical and attractive:


Sleeve for laptop, tablet, or journal by Maya Donenfeld — see the free tutorial here


Upcycled sweater slippers by We Can Re-Do It — they look adorable and so cosy!

Still looking for more ideas and inspiration? Check out these pages:

4 thoughts on “Handmade holiday gift ideas

  1. Lois Field says:

    So glad you enjoyed the story in a bag. I need to make a few of these bags up myself for the little ones. Now to just get into the field to my bucket of rocks we’ve collected before they are buried in more snow. 🙂 You compiled quite a list of great ideas here.

    I haven’t read Bill McKibbon’s book yet, was it good?

    1. Mari says:

      Hi Lois, you would definitely like that book! It’s simple but really powerfully offers an alternative vision to the holiday madness and stress that most people don’t even enjoy.

      1. Lois Field says:

        I put it on my list of “want to read” books before it was released and then never got around to getting it. I may have to put it on a wishlist for family who insists on buying me a gift this year. 🙂

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