Are You Too Busy Or Uncrafty To Make Handmade Holiday Gifts? Think Again!

Almost a week into December now – got your holiday gift list taken care of yet?

I didn’t think so. (And if you are one of those ridiculously organized people that had all your shopping and crafting done by the end of September – well I kind of hate you. Just kidding. Sort of.)

As promised, I’ve rounded up another bunch of simple recipes for holiday giving. (What’s that? You don’t celebrate or do the gift thing for the winter holidays? You still might enjoy making some of these up for yourself or to give away for no reason in particular!)

Skip the traffic jams, avoid the crowded shops and save some money. Instead you can hunker down in your own kitchen with some fragrant ingredients. In a matter of a few hours you could have a thoughtful present for just about everyone on your list. Even the guys. Really.

I wasn’t kidding last week when I said the operative word here is “easy.” I know you’re busy and I know that at this point time is of the essence.

None of these recipes will take you more than a couple of hours to complete – so they are perfect for that last minute gift-making blitz. But if you need to order supplies and ingredients you’d best get on that soon so you’ve got it all together in time.

Just about everything you need for your handmade holiday gifts can be picked up at your local health food store. And you can troll second-hand shops for cute bottles, containers and baskets for packaging. You can also find all of it, including beautiful glass vessels to house your creations at Moonrise or Mountain Rose.

I got kind of excited going through my notes to find my old favorite recipes, and digging up new and exciting ones. So excited in fact that I ended up with way too many for one post. So, tomorrow, you’ll find a few more and the next day…well you get the idea. I’ve got at least three days worth of cool gift ideas to share. By the weekend you’ll have lots to choose from.

For The Craftier Among Us

I know I promised ideas for the craft-challenged (like me), but I decided to throw in these two fun ideas for those of you that can wield a needle and thread. You don’t need a sewing machine for either of these – but if you do have one you’ll be able to whip out some quantity in a short time.

Aromatic Eye Pillow

Photo by cherrypitpac via Flickr

The gentle weight of flax seeds combines with herbal aromatherapy to create a soothing, restful experience. Eye pillows induce a restful sleep, can relieve a tension headache, and they’re a boon to meditation for folks who tend to be distracted by visuals.

For each eye pillow you need:

2 pieces of fabric, each cut into an 9 X 4 inch rectangle (silk feels wonderful on the eyes, but cotton, flannel, linen or satin can work well too. Try to avoid synthetic fabrics.
Thread (in a matching or contrasting color)
About ¾ cup whole flax seeds
2 Tablespoons lavender flowers
1 Tablespoon rose petals (dried)
1 Tablespoon chamomile
(Herb mix can vary depending on what you like or what you have, but flax seeds are essential)

Place the two pieces of fabric together with the wrong sides out. Sew it all together, by hand or machine, leaving one half of one of the short sides open. Turn right side out so the pretty side is showing. Fill the pillow with the flax seed and herbs. If you have a funnel you can leave a smaller opening – which makes the final sewing task a little easier.

Here’s the part where you need to have a little know-how:  fold the top edges down and carefully sew the last bit together so that your handiwork does not show.

Spicy Tea Coasters

I came across this recipe in two different places this year, and I’m anxious to give it a try. This is one of those rare herbal gifts that’s just as appropriate for the guys as for the girls. (For more ‘guy recipes’ check out Crunchy Betty’s roundup post here – she’s got a cool recipe for a handmade car freshener over there for those of you that can sew.)

When a warm cup is set on one of these coasters it will release its spicy fragrance. Give a coaster (or a set of them) by itself or accompany it with a cute mug and maybe a tea strainer and a couple of yummy tea blends.

For One Coaster:

2 pieces of fabric, about 4 X 4 inches
About 6 Tablespoons of ground spices (Cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom, ginger are all good. You could even just grind up some mulling spices.)

Making these is the same as the eye pillow above. Place fabric together with the wrong side out. Sew it up leaving a small opening for filling with herbs. Use a funnel if you have one to fill up the coaster and then sew the whole thing shut.

Don’t forget to attach some sort of label so the lucky recipient knows what to do with this aromatic square of fabric!

It Smells So Good In Here!

Herbal Incense

I used to hate incense – because the only kind I knew of was scented with synthetic frangrances (often fruity). I thought it made the room stink rather than smell good. But when I got into herbs I discovered the simplicity (and aromatic superiority) of just burning dried herbs, barks and resins to scent a room or a space.

Of course I now know of many excellent commercial incenses that use herbs and essential oils to make the aromas – but homemade incense is still my favorite way to go.

Loose herbal incense is best burned on a charcoal round.

To make the easiest version of an herbal incense, you just combine some herbs, barks and/or resins of your choice. Place a pinch of this blend on a charcoal (not the briquettes you use for barbecuing – but a disc or block that is sold specifically this purpose.) The charcoal is set in an incense burner or even just on the top of a wood stove or a non-breakable dish (metal is good) and the entire charcoal gets lit. It works like a charm and it’s as pure as it comes.

Although many single herbs can be burned as an incense (think frankincense or cedarwood), your incense gift jar will look prettier with a combination of herbs, roots and barks. Here’s a couple of blends (Thanks Irene!) to consider:

  • Cedarwood bark, fennel seeds, rose petals.
  • Rosemary, juniper berries, cinnamon chips, cloves, allspice, ginge
  • Orange peel, cinnamon chips, cloves, cardamon pods
  • Palo Santo bark, cinnamon chips
  • Copal resin chunks with rose petals
  • Frankincense and myrrh resins

Or, if you’re lucky enough to live near an herb shop, pop on over there and open up some jars to mix and match to your own sniffing delight.

Choose your combo, mix the barks, leaves and resins together in a small bowl, then fill a clear glass jar with your personalized incense mix.

But maybe you’d prefer to make an incense that has a more traditional look – like a cone. That’s really not all that hard either. The easy-peasy way to do this is to pick up an Incense Kit from Mountain Rose Herbs – it’s got all the ingredients you need, plus instructions.

Don’t want to buy the kit? The gang over at delivers excellent step-by-step instructions for making cone incense here.

Aroma Spritzers

These are about the easiest of all the gifts to make – just a combination of distilled water, vodka and essential oils. It’s all about the packaging. You’ll need an attractive bottle with a spritzer top and you’ll want to bust out your inner artist in designing a label. I like to use cobalt blue glass bottles, but even plastic shampoo bottles work.

Fingertip misters can replace the lids on most bottles

The spritzer tops are often referred to as finger-tip misters. You can buy them here – and choose your bottles too. The misters fit most standard glass or plastic bottles.

You’ve probably seen aromatherapy spritzers in fancy bath and body shops and in gift shops – usually with a hefty price tag. Aroma spritzers do triple duty as a toner, facial mister and room freshener.

Remember though: essential oils do not disperse well in water. The addition of vodka helps the process but it is important to shake bottle well before spritzing. Be sure to put this on the label.

Amounts listed below are for four (4 oz.) spritzers, increase or decrease as needed to make as many as desired.

16 oz. distilled water
4 teaspoons vodka
essential oils (see recipes below)
4 four-ounce bottles with spritzer tops

Mix all ingredients together. Use a funnel to pour into bottles and cap with spritzer top. Label.

Creativity Spritzer: 24 drops clary sage, 24 drops lemon, 8 drops lavender and 4 drops vetiver

Love Spritzer: 40 drops sandalwood, 40 drops bitter orange, 16 drops ylang ylang, 4 drops rose

Energizing Spritzer: 24 drops lemon, 16 drops greranium, 12 drops rosemary, 4 drops peppermint

Notes: Be sure to purchase sandalwood essential oil from a reputable source as it is an endangered plant.

Thanks to Irene at Moonrise Herbs for the Creativity and Love essential oil formulas!

For The Medicine Chest

Maybe you have a few athletes in the family, or a perhaps marathon-runner for a best friend? Give the gift of relief! The all-natural penetrating muscle rub below is easy to make and makes an appropriate gift for anyone that suffers from the occasional sore muscle.

While you’re at it, might as well make up a batch of Healing Vapors. Help your loved ones get through the cold and flu season without having to resort to synthetic, mass-produced vapo-rubs. A small amount of all-natural healing vapors rubbed into the chest or throat area does wonders to ease congestion and loosen a tight cough.

The ingredients are almost the same, you’ll just be switching up the essential oils a bit.

Sore Muscle Rub

1/2 cup olive oil (or St. John’s wort oil if available)
¾ oz beeswax (grated or pre-melted)
Essential oils: 20 drops eucalyptus, 15 drops rosemary, 10 drops marjoram, 10 drops ginger, 10 drops Roman chamomile.
Small jars (Above recipe makes about 4 1/2 ounces, I like to use 1/2 ounce jars, but 1 or 2 ounce jars would work well too.)

Natural Healing Vapors

½ cup olive oil
¾ oz. beeswax (grated or pre-melted)
Essential oils: 25 drops eucalyptus, 15 drops ravensara, 10 drops pine, 10 drops thyme linalool
Small jars (see recipe above)

Heat oil gently in a double boiler or in a bowl placed over a pot of boiling water. Add beeswax and stir till melted. Remove from heat and add essential oils. Pour into jars and label.

Beeswax melting in a makeshift double boiler

Okay – if any of these are lighting that Aha! bulb for you, it’s time to pull your essential oils together and get crafting.

If you’re loving this idea of easy handmade gifts – find out how to make bath cookies and loads of other luxurious bath goodies here. And if you’re a little braver and willing to work a little harder for a unique herbal gift, you might want to try your hand at making yummy face cream or lotion.

Tomorrow, it’s make-in-a-flash herbal gift ideas for the chef or foodie in your life.

Looking for even more creative gift ideas? I’ve shared this post over at Woodwife’s Journal – where other crafty bloggers have shared their own recipes for holiday crafts. Check it out here.

Your turn! What’s your favorite easy homemade gift? Share more ideas in comments.


6 Responses to Are You Too Busy Or Uncrafty To Make Handmade Holiday Gifts? Think Again!

  1. Sarah,
    I love all these gift ideas! We’d love to have you share them on Wildcrafting Wednesday. I’m making Snowmen and Angels with lots of herbal possibilities!
    Still gathering info on the award.

    • Hi Sharon, yes I was planning on submitting this post for your Wildcrafting Wednesday roundup. What a great idea! Good resource for everyone who is trolling the blogs right now for ideas and instructions. I’m also wrapping up today’s post with even more ideas. Either will work for your roundup. Happy holidays and happy crafting!

  2. Mmm, Sarah, just reading this post seemed to make my house smell better! 🙂

    I made some of those spicy fabric coasters eons ago and they were a hit; I think I’ll make up some this year to give as gifts as they’re pretty fast to put together.

    Another super post with tantalizing ideas. You’ve got me all enthused to do some crafting again this year! Thanks 🙂

    • Yay Carole, glad to do my part to keep your house smelling sweet. :-). I’m pretty excited about the coaster idea too. I was just now thinking about who I’d like to give some to.

      Happy crafting!

  3. These are awesome, Sarah. You gave me two things to try: the aromatic eye pillow (probably will have to buy red silk to cover up all the blood from pricking my fingers) and the spritzers. Havi has a variety of spritzers at the Playground (that was my Portland trip) and they smelled wonderful. Plus the fact that I was spraying myself with “joy”, “trust”, “permission”…

    • Oh be careful with your fingers Natalia! But you’ll have fun making eye pillows and the spritzers too. I love the idea of a “permission” spritzer. Wonder what she put in that one. It’s true that spritzing oneself with aromatherapy is always a pick-me-up – no matter what the scent.

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