I love creating holiday gifts for my family and friends. It gives me a thrill knowing I can make useful gifts for a fraction of what it costs to buy them in a store.
If you enjoy adding a personal touch to your gifts, try some of these budget-wise ideas:
Decorator's Tool Kit. Do you have a friend who has just moved into a new home or who continually rearranges his/her furniture? If so, s/he will find this handy kit indispensable. Assemble the following items in a basket, wooden box, bucket or tote bag with a handle: a 30-foot measuring tape, light-weight hammer, pliers, a selection of picture hanger and nails, wire cutters, both types of screw drivers, several sizes of plate stands and plate hangers, push-pins, a bundle of raffia, a mini sewing kit, and spackle.
Seed Saver Kit. Do you have gardening friends who enjoy exchanging seeds and cuttings throughout the year? Create a kit to make it easy and convenient. Find a lidded box or tin and collect eight or 10 baby-food or spice jars. Spray paint the lids in whatever color paint you have about the house. Provide sticky-backed labels, a pencil for labeling, several small paper bags for seed collecting, a ball of twine, scissors and recycled Popsicle sticks or wooden spoons to use as plant markers. Include photocopied instructions on seed collecting from a garden book and fill one of the jars with seeds from your garden.
Fire-starter Kit. Fill an antique box, large basket or ceramic pot with a combination of hand-gathered pinecones, bundles of twigs cut to the same length and tied together with raffia or recycled holiday ribbon, and mini-rolls of newspaper cut to 12-inch lengths. Include several matchboxes you have decorated with leftover holiday wrap and ribbon. Add sprigs of pine bough or eucalyptus branches for color.
Basket O'Soaps. I bet you have dozens of little boxes of soaps you've collected during your travels sitting in a drawer somewhere. This is a great way to put them to use! Scrounge up a basket (another thing people usually have stashed away gathering dust) or cover a small box with unusual paper. Wrap each soap box in tissue paper (retrieved from gift boxes). If the soap isn't boxed, simply gather a bit of paper around it and tie with ribbon or raffia. Decorate the wrapped soaps with shells, buttons, pressed flowers or leaves, foreign coins, old stamps or images cut out from magazines. Nestle the soaps in the basket along with torn tissue paper, moss or eucalyptus leaves.
Luminaria Kit. Collect six or eight lunch-sized brown bags and fold the tops of the bags down several times. Slip a piece of cardboard into the bag and use an Exacto knife to cut out designs (pine trees, snowflakes, hearts, etc.) on one side of the bag. For a star-studded effect, use a tack or pushpin to create tiny holes all over the bag. Include a bag of sand, votive candles and hand-decorated matchboxes with your luminaria.
Zen Water Garden Kit. Find a hand-thrown bowl, or ready-made pot with a matte glaze at a thrift shop or the flea market. Gather a handful of river or beach pebbles. Purchase a bag of floating candles and decorate several matchboxes with cut-out sections of a Japanese or Chinese language newspaper. Include instructions for use: "Fill bowl with water. Arrange stones in bowl. Add floating candles and a blossom or leaf."
Paint-Your-Own-Birdhouse Kit. Purchase or build a wooden birdhouse (most arts-and-crafts supply stores sell ready-to-paint birdhouses). Provide two paintbrushes and a small set of acrylic paints. Include a length of wire and an eye screw so that the birdhouse can be hung when completed. Add a fake bird and a tiny sack of birdseed to the wrappings.
Narcissus in a Teacup. Purchase an antique teacup from a thrift shop, or sacrifice one from your own collection. Plant one or two bulbs in the cup, adding moss to cover the base of the bulb(s). Follow your nursery's care instructions to get the bulbs started so you can present your gift as it begins to sprout.
Kit Davey, Allied Member, ASID, specializes in re-design, staging, design consulting and professional organizing. Email her at KitDavey@aol.com, call her at 650-367-7370, or visit her website at A Fresh Look.