Many people believe the best presents are those that are homemade. Often they can be cheaper, too. So how can you show you care without spending a fortune this Christmas?
Create your own beauty products
The sustainable declutterer Janine McDonald says: “Make your own body scrubs. These also moisturise, so no need to clutter the bathroom cabinet with different lotions and potions. With your fingers, like making pastry, combine 32g of solid coconut oil and 132g of sugar (use different sugars for different levels of “scrub”), add 20 drops of therapeutic grade essential oil and mix well. Store in a clean, glass jar with a good sealed lid. Pop a ribbon round it with a cute label and there you have it.”
View image in fullscreenMaking bath bombs is worth checking out. Photograph: Aperture Priority/Alamy
The BBC Good Food website’s recipe for making your own bath bombs is definitely worth checking out, too.
Epsom salts can be used in a bath to help with relaxation and tackling aches and pains, while some say Himalayan salts can help with various skin conditions. Mix these with rose petals or dried flowers and an essential oil. Put them in a jar and, as with all gifts that you eat or put on your skin, ensure you list the ingredients and instructions regarding allergies and safety.
Vie Portland, the founder of VieNess, a company dedicated to boosting self-esteem and body confidence, runs workshops and courses showing people “how fabulous you are”. She suggests reusing clean jars and, on the outside, using a glitter glue stick or pen to write, for example, “Appreciation jar” or “Why I am loved”. Then write out personal messages on several pieces of paper. The recipient can open the jar and take out a note whenever they feel they need to. “You can also do memories: write down your favourite memories of your time together. Both of these are great reminders to the recipient how loved and valued they are,” she says.
Photos, pictures, paint and ornaments
Print out photos of friends and family taken throughout the year. You can then make these into a homemade scrapbook, photo book or calendar.
View image in fullscreenGet the children involved in gift-making. Photograph: Inna Reznik/Alamy
Meanwhile, children can draw a picture of themselves and make the frame by sticking pasta to the card or paper and painting it.
You don’t have to be really artistic – good old potato prints can be used to personalise notebooks, with a heartfelt message inside.
Or you can make bookmarks from card, using stamps or with pictures stuck on, hole-punched and a ribbon attached.
How about salt dough pots and ornaments? Take 100g of salt plus 200g of flour and mix with about 100ml of water. Slowly add the water and knead. If the mix is too wet, add more flour, and if it’s too dry, add water. Dry out on a low temperature in the oven. You can add food colouring, cinnamon or a few drops of an essential oil to the water. Then shape into the desired items. If you want it to last, use a sealer such as varnish.
Another version of this is to use baking soda. It is 100g of cornflour to 200g of baking soda and approximately 150ml of water. This version can be whiter and may be easier to paint.
Air drying clay dries out, and you can then paint it. However, baking it can reduce cracking.
Hayley Muncey of Miss Many Pennies loves making unique “book folds”. She says: “All you need is a hardback book (you can check charity shops for cheap books with nice covers) and a ribbon. Then just pencil to mark out your pattern (search “book folding patterns” online) and fold down the pages to show your chosen design. Tie a ribbon around to hold your book in place and voilà!”
View image in fullscreenAn embroidered Christmas ornament hanging in a Christmas tree. Photograph: Maria Janicki/Alamy
If you like sewing, try embroidery. The Wimperis Embroidery founder, Niamh Lily Wimperis, says fabric doesn’t need to be expensive. “Use a bedsheet or any cotton fabric around the home. You can often find threads in charity shops. If not, try a hobby shop or a local haberdasher. Using a heat erasable pen means you can draw straight on the fabric, so you don’t need fancy software. Look for inspiration around you, like nature.”
Catherine Nix is the founder of My Scented Home, which runs dried flower workshops. One of her suggestions is making garlands. Dry some orange slices in a dehumidifier or put them on a cooling rack and leave in a warm dry place for one to two weeks. Then, using a darning needle, make holes through some cinnamon sticks. Thread the cinnamon and orange slices on to string. “Tie a loop at both ends and you have a gorgeous natural garland that looks and smells amazing and will last for months.”
Or make potpourri. Take some dried rosebuds and petals and some dried loose lavender. Mix together in equal quantities. Add a few drops of lavender or rose fragrance oil and then place in an organza bag or a glass container.
Make wreaths (forage and tie finds together on a grapevine wreath from a hobby store), sleep pillows (cotton or organza drawstring bags with a mix of dried loose lavender, dried camomile flowers and mugwort), and bouquets (hang up flowers such as roses and gypsophila for two to three weeks, then arrange and tie with a ribbon bow).
You can make a variety of gift baskets and hampers using bought or recycled baskets or decorated boxes. Use sites such as Latest Free Stuff and Latest Deals for free and discounted items or just fill up with the recipient’s favourite foods.