Get ahead of the holidays with a little planning for your handmade gifts! Here’s a 5-step plan for scheduling handmade gift creation – plus a FREE downloadable planning sheet. You can do things last minute, but you don’t have to with this detailed plan!
I’m writing this article on June 25th, 2019. That means that Christmas of 2019 is exactly six months away. Some of you read that and groan out loud! You’ve clicked on this article in the hopes that it can give you some sense of control in a world of holiday chaos.
Others of us are excited by the coming holiday season and happy to delve into our handmade gift projects.
When we say holiday season at our house, we usually mean the weeks spanning from Thanksgiving to the New Year. However, you can use this handmade gift planner for ANY holiday season. Or wedding. Or birthday.
Handmade gifts take time to put together regardless of what time of year you’re assembling them. Use the downloadable checklist and planner to get yourself organized for any event that will require handmade items.
If you really want to get serious about your holiday preparations, you may need a good book – like the one we wrote just for you, for just such an occasion!
Handmade Gift Planning for the Holidays
Here are five simple steps to take to get your handmade gifts planned for the holidays.
Please have a notepad and something to write with so you can work through this exercise immediately – right now, as you read this article.
Must Everything be Handmade?
Of course not! This is your holiday season and your list of handmade gift ideas – you do it your way! Most of us will need to purchase some amount of materials even for the most handmade of handmade gifts.
Handmade is more defined by that personal touch and the time it takes to create with your own two hands. The people who receive these gifts will know we love them and took special care with their hearts this year. As Aimee Bender has written,
“That’s the thing with handmade items. They still have the person’s mark on them, and when you hold them, you feel less alone.”
#1 Make a List of Recipients
This may sound too simplistic to even put on the list, but I promise it’s an important first step. Remember that handmade gifts take TIME and ENERGY to produce. Even if you’re beginning early, your recipient list may outstrip your ability to create a handmade gift for everyone. Give yourself permission to amend your list as you brainstorm.
Names From a Hat – Planning with Kids
If you’re planning for Christmas, for example, may I suggest using a simple format like an anonymous drawing? Every Leon Day, my kids and I write out all the names of people we’d like to make gifts for that Christmas. Over the years we’ve narrowed this list down to immediate family and beloved cousins, with a few friends thrown in.
(To learn more about Leon Day and what it has to do with holiday planning, please read the article here.)
Once we have that list of names, we put each one into a hat and randomly pick out names until each one is chosen. You make gifts for whoever’s name you pull out of the hat. This prevents arguing among my kids, as well as provides variety on each individual’s list every year.
I’ve been challenged to produce gifts for people I may not have chosen on my own!
Planning on Your Own
If you don’t have children to include in your handmade gift plans, simply make your own list of recipients. I encourage you to keep it simple. Even with six months to plan, you do have a life to live.
#2 Brainstorm Handmade Gift Ideas
Do some brainstorming about handmade gifts you’d like to make this year. To do this:
- See our short list of handmade gift ideas at the end of this article. These are tutorials and tips by authors and homesteaders we know. These are the things we make on our homestead from year to year to give as handmade gifts. OR, they’re on out to-do list for this year!
- Visit Pinterest for a variety of ideas – use search terms like “handmade gifts”, “homemade toys”, “gifts for men”, etc.
- Don’t forget the library as a source for craft and handmade books of inspiration. Many of these appear in special holiday sections of your local library branch. If you don’t see them, ask a librarian – they’re always happy to help!
- Look around your craft room, stash of fabrics, holiday cabinet. Wherever you keep all those bits and bobs you’ve been squirreling away with the idea that you might make something with them someday. Someday is today – get those things out!
- Be honest with yourself about what you’re actually going to accomplish. By all means, set goals, learn new skills and plan big! Then take a moment to reflect on what you really want to make this year. Disregard anything in your mind’s eye that just isn’t practical for you this year. That doesn’t mean you’ll never get to it! It simply means that you won’t be doing it in the next six months.
Handmade Gifts are Flexible
Keep in mind that one idea can have many different applications. For example, we like to make and give candles as gifts some years. However, there are a lot of different ways to make candles! Here are just a few:
- Hand-dipped tapers can be beautiful and useful – Homestead Honey can teach you how to make them.
- Molded candles in holiday shapes are just as lovely, especially when made from beeswax – Joybilee Farm can show you.
- If you’d like to save a little money on candle molds, you can learn to make your own with this tutorial here.
- Making candles with kids? That’s a whole level of crazy fun that needs it’s own tutorial – we wrote one just for you right here.
- Maybe you don’t want to make your own but would rather decorate pre-made candles. No problem – here’s how.
- Want to make jar candles out of old bottles? You’re so clever – Lovely Greens can teach you how.
- Or, what if you have extra beeswax but don’t want to make candles at all? Never fear, Fit as Mama Bear can teach you how to make simple Homemade Lotion Bars that use only 1/2 cups of bees wax – easy peasy!
The point is, if you feel inspired, don’t be intimidated by the hardest version of your idea. There are a lot of ways to make one handmade gift. If you’re interested in candle making, we have a great book for you below!
Categorize Ideas by Type
- Baked goods
- Ornaments and crafts
- Sewn items
- Knitted, crocheted, spun or woven items
- Wellness items like tinctures, salves and soaps
- Kitchen products like canned foods and homemade extracts
- Assembled items like toys and home furnishings
- Any category I’ve missed here!
*See the special section at the end of the article that outlines some handmade gift ideas that take time (weeks to months) to complete. We also have some last minute gift idea links to share, just in case you need them in a pinch. These gift ideas often come together easily and frugally. They may find their way onto your handmade gifts list simply because of that.
However, remember that the point of this exercise is to prevent last minute holiday frenzy. Please read our sister article on Making the Holidays More Meaningful to give you some extra inspiration.
#3 Make Assignments
With your list in hand, start jotting down gift ideas for each person on your handmade gift list. Choose two to three different ideas per person to give yourself some variety.
Handmade Gift Disclaimer:
I think handmade gifts are as much about the creator as they are about the recipient. When I’m making a gift, I do think about the person who will receive it and what they might like the most. However, I give equal consideration to what I can craft from the heart.
I also ask myself:
- What do I already have on hand this year that I can use to make these gifts?
- Is there a skill I’ve recently acquired that I can use to create something I’ve never made before?
- What will be the most frugal option for me, both of money and time?
- Do I want to make something that will require more money or more time? Sometimes the answer is yes!
- Have I produced something on the homestead that can be used to create a gift that it totally unique?
Remember, these initial notes are just that – initial. These are brainstorming sessions that you’re recording on paper. You’re not married to any of these ideas yet.
Let them ferment in your brain for awhile. Come back and amend the list after you’ve thought about these handmade gift ideas.
#4 Add More Names/Semi-Handmade Ideas
Handmade gifts can be a very relative concept. Does a bag of home-grown oranges count as “handmade”? What about potted herbs? Items purchased in bulk that need only a few embellishments to be “gifty” – do those count? Of course they do!
You and I both know that you’ve been mentally adding names to your handmade gift list even while you’re reading this article. There are people we want to bless with a thoughtful gift this year that may not make it onto our “Handmade Gift List”.
No worries! Make a special category (or use the one on the download) for these 2nd-tier handmade gift people. Who might appear on this list?
- Extended family
- Members of your congregation
These are all people who are important to you and your family. However, you have neither the time nor the budget to hand-make something for each one of these wonderful folks.
Gift Ideas that are Semi-Handmade or Home-Grown
So, what to give these lovely people? Here are a few ideas:
- Home-grown or bulk purchased fruits and vegetables like apples, pumpkins, citrus
- Holidays prints like tea towels and tablecloths that can be painted with a monogram or name
- Individual plates of holiday treats assembled from an assortment of purchased baked goods
- Quickly sewn linen bread bags with store bought bread inside
- Potted herbs or winter-flowering bulbs with upcycled canning lid markers
- Packaged seeds and a pair of new garden gloves
- Dried ears of popcorn, a stick of organic butter and hand-written instructions on how to pop popcorn on the stove top – bonus points if you grew the popcorn this year, but it tastes the same either way!
In short, what do you have already on hand and a lot of that you could upcycle into a basketful of gifts for these special people on your list?
*You may find more inspiration for these semi-handmade gifts in the “These Are Pretty Quick” section below. Quite often these quick gifts are easy to assemble because they’re made from things you already have on hand.
#5 Schedule your Handmade Gifts
This next step involves getting out your yearly calendar and penciling in crafting plans for your homemade gifts. Nothing need to be set in stone – you can be flexible with enough lead time. You and I both know, though, that all these lofty goals of handmade gifts will never materialize without a schedule.
Be easy on yourself if life happens between now and the holiday season but make a plan and stick to it as best you can.
This is where having categories of handmade gifts will come in handy. Look at the categories you’ve made in all your brainstorming. Baked goods should be made the month of the event, probably within the week of the holiday. However, homemade vanilla extract needs to tincture for several months before it’s really tasty.
Therefore, baked good and extracts will end up in different places on your calendar. So, write them in. Go ahead, I’ll wait…
Handmade Gifts Inspiration
We promised you a short list of handmade gift ideas and here you are! Like I said before, these are things we’ve actually made or have on our to-do list. These are from authors and bloggers we know and read often.
These Take a Longer Time
The following are handmade gift ideas that will take you some time to finish. Make sure you put these down first on your planner so that you don’t forget to start them. Some you may need to start this month!
- Upcycle Vintage Linens into a variety of useful household items with Joybilee Farm – click here. Chris has a love of linens that I share – it’s part of why we’re friends! I encourage you to read through this article, especially if you enjoy sewing. Then, stay on her site and nose around for tea blends and wellness items you can make, especially if you love herbs.
- Quilts make a wonderfully personal gift and Jenna of Flip Flop Barnyard can show you how to make a simple rag quilt – click here. These quilts aren’t as demanding as a traditional quilt, though you will need a sturdy sewing machine. If you can sew a straight line, you can use her instructions to make a rag quilt.
- Ever tried your hand a paper making? Talk about a fun excuse for a craft day! Create handmade paper, ornaments and tags with this one skill. To make basic paper, follow this tutorial. To get a little more creative for the holidays, follow this tutorial. I actually have a goal to make our Christmas cards this year – this will be a first for me! I will need around 100, so I’m starting this month.
- If you need a Christmas gift that will be so special for a family on your list, try your hand at making this natural creche, also known as nativity sets.
- Make homemade extracts like lemon, vanilla and more with this simple tutorial from Common Sense Home. These need to steep from one to six months, so be sure to schedule them on your planner. The assembly is actually very easy – they just take time to brew. Well worth the effort, though – be sure to save some for yourself! If you prefer an alcohol-free version (my family does), here’s a recipe from Whole New Mom.
- Similarly, homemade syrups make a delightful gift. These don’t take nearly as long as extracts. However, some of them are seasonal – this means that you’ll need to gather certain ingredients while they’re in season to make the syrups. For example, a lovely summer syrup to make is this Herbal Flower and Rose Syrup. Or, here’s a ginger syrup recipe from Attainable Sustainable – Kris lives in Hawaii and grows ginger in her yard! The rest of us can purchase ginger root from any grocery store.
- Homemade apple cider vinegar takes some time to ferment but Healthy Home Economist can show you how easily. Komboucha and homemade sodas also require some fermenting/brewing time. Again, be sure to keep some for yourself!
These Take Just a Bit of Time
These handmade gifts do take some time investment, but not nearly as much as those listed above. You’ll notice that some of them are correlated. That is, maybe you don’t have time to sew anything as demanding as a rag quilt, but you could manage to crank out the baby quilts suggested below.
- Learning to make healing salves and tinctures is something that will be helpful for you in your own life. They also make great gifts! Here’s how to make an Elderberry and Ginger Tincture for colds and flu from Nittty Gritty Life. Tinctures will need to sit for several months. Here is a Calendula Salve for Natural Skin Care from Grow, Forage, Cook, Ferment.
- Homemade soaps make wonderful gifts and they don’t take long to make. However, they do take some time to cure and dry – a couple months produces a nice, hard soap. On my list for this holiday season are this Homemade Candy Cane Soap from Learning and Yearning and Rosemary Mint Shampoo Bars from the Nerdy Farm Wife. If you know someone with sensitive skin, try this Violet Leaf Soap from Herbal Academy.
- Little House Living can teach you how to make a lovely apron without a pattern. If you already know how to sew, this won’t take you much time at all. However, if you’re still making friends with your sewing machine, or you sew by hand, this will take just a little bit more time. If you need a relatively easy project for holiday donations, try these baby quilts – even my kids help me with these! Another simple service project is making hats, which can easily be done on knitting looms – these take me some time, but are worth it. (Other people can knit incredibly quickly with these, I’m just slow).
- Making baskets and wreaths from vines do take some time, but they’re also seasonal-dependent. The best time to prune vines is in the fall or early spring. Use this tutorial to make baskets – this really isn’t that hard, but it does take some practice! If you need something simpler, try these grapevine wreaths. Even easier is the grapevine swag, or garland, tutorial in the middle of this post – which is actually full of more handmade gift items!
- Make maple sugar from maple syrup and your oven with these instructions from Souly Rested. No syrup? Make apple sugar from apples with Learning and Yearning.
- Similar to syrup, Practical Self Reliance can teach you how to make a homemade lemoncello, which is something like a cordial. Speaking of cordial, Farm Girl in the Making can show you how to make raspberry cordial for kids straight out of Anne of Green Gables.
- Jams and Jellies should be made in the season the fruits are ripe, but they are always pleasing! If you’re reading this in the summer (when it’s being written), try this Mulberry and Cherry Jam OR this Corn Cob Jelly. If you want to get really fancy, try making this gorgeous striped jelly from Common Sense Home.
These are Pretty Quick
Make Botanical Prints with summer blooms – remember to schedule it – click here.
Cookie Cutter Crafts to give as gifts – click here.