December 6, 2010

Gift ideas - Homemade gifts

This week I thought it would be fun to post some gift ideas since most of us are in full holiday shopping mode now!  To start off, here are a few suggestions for handmade gifts.  Handmade presents are often--though not always--less expensive than a store bought gift, which is great if you have a lot of gifts to give this year.  However, they also reflect the time and thought that went into preparing the gift.  Here are a few ideas for crafting, baking, or sewing gifts you can make yourself:

A tablecloth or a set of napkins makes a nice gift.  If you know someone with an unusual table size and you have the sewing skills, a tablecloth can be a really practical gift.  A set of cloth napkins can be used by almost anyone; choose a solid color for the most versatility or a fun pattern that seems to reflect the recipient or match his/her home.  Fabric stores often have discount fabrics that work well for napkins; you only need a yard or two, but just make sure that it's a machine washable fabric like a thick cotton or linen.

I made these brown linen napkins this summer using this Martha Stewart tutorial:

Basic Linen Napkins
From Martha Stewart's Encyclopedia of Sewing and Fabric Crafts

- basic sewing supplies
- 23-inch square of fabric for each napkin
1. Press two folds into each side of the fabric square; the first fold is  1/2 inch wide; the second is 1 inch. Unfold the second crease. Fold one corner in so the second crease lines up. Press.
2. Unfold the corner, and refold on a diagonal with right sides together. Stitch along the crease made by the folded corner. Repeat with the remaining corners.
3. Trim the points from the corners to  1/4 inch, tapering at each end of the seam. Press the seams open and the corners flat.
4. Turn all four corners inside out (which is actually right-side out); press again.
5. Stitch down the fold all the way around, so you have a seam 1 inch from the edges.

If you don't want to tackle napkins, a simple item to sew is a pillowcase.  Soft, patterned fabrics are perfect for kids, and you can choose a fabric that matches their room or their interests.

My mother made this flannel pillowcase for our son; he loves to point out the trains, trucks, and airplanes.  Here is a free tutorial on how to make a pillowcase.

Another option is to buy pillowcases and embroider the ends.  You can add a design or monogram (go here for a list of embroidery stitches and here for a list of embroidery patterns), or even just use your sewing machine to add a few bands of design in a contrasting thread color.

If sewing isn't your thing, homemade goodies are also fun to bake and give.  Dress them up a bit by wrapping a box or tin of cookies in a festive dishtowel or filling a little basket with a towel, cookie cutter or spatula, and some edible treats.

Tag always makes some really cute holiday linens.  This poinsettia jacquard dishtowel ($7.25) is a little more traditional, and the merry moose towel ($6) is a playful option.

Another great option is to find a inexpensive new or vintage cake stand, tray, or platter and include the serving piece as part of your gift.  I found this Blue Willow platter at a flea market for $3; it would be pretty loaded up with some pecan bars (see recipe below), tied with an ivory satin bow.

Pecan Squares
From Southern Living

2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
2/3 cup butter
3 tablespoons whipping cream
3 1/2 cups coarsely chopped pecans

1. Sift together the flour and powdered sugar.  Cut in 3/4 cup softened butter using two knives or a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse meal.  Pat mixture on the bottom and 1 1/2 inches up the sides of a lightly greased 13x9 baking dish.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until edges are lightly browned.  Cool.
2. Bring brown sugar, honey, 2/3 cup butter, and whipping cream to boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat.  Stir in pecans and pour hot filling into prepared crust.
3. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until golden and bubbly.  Cool completely before cutting into squares.

Don't forget to download some gift tags from Better Homes & Gardens and print them on white card stock to top off your homemade gift.

More ideas...
There are so many great websites with ideas for homemade gifts.
Here are a couple of my favorites:
 The Long Thread has lots of creative craft ideas
Better Homes & Gardens has also compiled a list of presents you can make at home


Nikki said...

Nicole! I love your blog and can't wait to try my hand at making linen napkins! I've just begun sewing and am always looking for easy projects!

Nicole said...

Thanks, Nikki! Let me know if you have any questions. There are other ways to make napkins that probably don't involve as much ironing and folding! :) But I like the way these turned out -- no exposed seams.

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