137 inexpensive handmade holiday gift ideas, part 1

Wrapping presents on a holiday table, photo

Why Christmas when we’re in the throes of summer? I know. I worked six years in retail. In my experience, nothing incited more groans than Christmas being stocked on the shelves in August. However, I think this a worthy exception. After all, if you’re going to have a handmade Christmas, you can’t very likely undertake the proposition in December, now can you? (This post contains affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something, I may earn a small commission. You can read my full disclosure here.)

I’m excited to share this prodigious list of Christmas gift ideas that I compiled years ago. I forgot that I had it, but Tracie, a Crafty Nest reader, reminded me when she asked for inexpensive handmade gift ideas that I might have come across in my search for camp crafts.

This is the first of seven parts that I will post over the next few weeks (Monday, Wednesday, Friday). Keep in mind I culled most of these ideas from the internet years ago, but I added some I found recently plus a few of my own. I hope these ideas will inspire you to create your own unique gifts. I can’t wait to see what you come up with!

Originally published August 25, 2010. Updated August 10, 2020.

Part 1: Home & garden crafts
Part 2: Christmas-themed crafts
Part 3: From the kitchen
Part 4: Handmade stationery, albums & calendars
Part 5: Themed gift sets
Part 6: For children
Part 7: Media & services

Part 1: home & garden crafts

1. Make a set of coasters

Make coasters using 4-inch ceramic tiles. Paint a simple design on them. Or decoupage napkins, paper, or photos onto them. Glue felt on the back to protect surfaces from scratches. Then tie them with a holiday ribbon. Or make coasters out of buttons, magazine pages, or fabric scraps.
Tile coaster instructions
Woven magazine coasters
Woven button coasters

Quilted fabric coasters

2. Personalize a picture frame

Choose a plain picture frame and decorate it with polymer clay, paint, paper, seashells, beads, buttons, ribbon, glitter … you get the picture.
Photo frames decorated with paper
Painted picture frames

3. Embellish napkins & make napkin rings

Make a set of inexpensive cloth napkins into a special gift by adding a personal touch. Add a monogram to each one with cross-stitch, embroidery, needlepoint, or embellish with buttons, appliques, or stencils. Include a set of handmade napkin rings.
Fruity button embroidery napkins
Chain of heart napkins
Scandinavian iron-on patterned napkins
Recycled fabric napkin rings

4. Dress up storage boxes

Storage boxes are decorative and useful. Just ask Marie Kondo. Get several different sizes from a craft, office, or stationery store and cover them with paint, fabric, or decoupaged paper. Stack the boxes inside each other. Try starting with these square nested boxes or round nested boxes.
Fabric covered storage boxes
Kate Spade inspired boxes

Round birdseed balls, photo

source unknown

5. Feed the birds

Make bird seed balls with seeds, suet, peanut butter, Christmas tree hooks, and leftover ribbons.
Peanut butter birdseed ball recipe
Suet snack recipe

6. Get artsy with mosaic

Make a mosaic tea-light holder. Or decorate a box, dish, flower pot, or picture frame with mosaic tiles. Or try a mosaic stepping stone or bird bath. A mosaic address plaque or individual house numbers would also be fun. For small projects, try these small, pre-cut mosaic tiles.
How to make a mosaic
Turkish tealight mosaic candle holder
Mosaic stepping stones
Mosaic house number plaque

Painted wine bottle, photo

charliescraftroom.com

7. Paint a bottle

Paint an empty wine bottle and fill with olive oil. Top with an oil pour spout that can be found at a gourmet cooking shop.
Turn a wine bottle into an oil bottle
Van Gogh on a wine bottle

8. Frame a piece of your own artwork

Grab a small stretched canvas or two … or twelve, follow an online painting tutorial, and frame it when you’re done.
Live painting class: still life pear
DIY: frame a canvas painting
A simple way to frame your own art (video)

9. Compile a family tree

Create a family tree photo collage, pedigree chart, shadow box, embroidery, wreath, etc.
12 family tree ideas you can DIY
Free family tree printables

10. Ease those aches and pains

Make a soothing herbal eye pillow filled with lavender and flaxseed or buckwheat. Or a microwaveable heat-therapy bag stuffed with rice.
How to make an herbal pillow

Rice heat-therapy bag
Lavender hot/cold pack

11. Make candles in containers

Teacup candles. Scour garage sales for cheap but interesting tea cups. Start with a wick, melted old candle ends, and add a little scented oil, such as lemongrass or grapefruit.
How to make teacup lights
Seashell candles. Fill seashells with melted wax and a short wick, then let cool. A variety of shells big or small make cute bath lights.
How to make seashell candles

12. Make candles with molds

Floating candles. Include a wide bowl and instructions to float the candles in water with the recipient’s favorite blossoms.
How to make floating candles
Cookie-cutter candles. Package them with cookies make with the same cookie cutter, then tie the cookie cutter onto the outside of the package.
How to make cookie-cutter candles

13. Sew lavender sachets

They’re equally great for popping in your sock drawer or clothes dryer. For a no-sew version, buy dried lavender buds, fine tulle or other thin fabric, and ⅛-inch satin ribbon. Cut the tulle into saucer-size circles. Place two or three tablespoons of lavender in each circle. Gather sides and tie tightly with the ribbon. Place several of these in a holiday box.
How to sew square lavender sachets
How to sew triangle sachets

14. Assemble a water fountain

The main ingredient of a small indoor water fountain kit is an inexpensive pump. Get a bowl or dish to hold it and some decorative rocks. Include directions or a diagram.
Simple tabletop fountain with seashells
Tabletop fountain with homemade switch

15. Make magnets

Create a set of magnets out of bottle caps, marbles, or just about anything.
Bottlecap magnets
Marble magnets
Pom pom magnets

16. Make a cotton clothesline basket

All you need is a sewing machine, length of cotton clothesline, and some thread. You can add colorful fabric — or colorful thread — to achieve different looks. Make a big basket, a small bowl, or a tote bag with shoulder straps.
DIY cotton clothesline baskets
Cotton clothesline mini bowls
DIY rope tote bag
No-sew rope basket

17. Weave (or coil) a paper basket

Make a colorful basket, bowl, or dish out of recycled paper, magazine pages, or old maps.
Woven map basket
Recycled magazine page bowl
Coiled magazine page dish with lid
Magazine art bowl

18. Make soap

Make handmade soaps and package them with a soap dish, loofah, or natural sponge.
Tutorials and recipes
Making an easy, basic beginner soap
Four ways to make a soap base
Wild & crazy soap recipes

Framed silhouette of a girl, photo

ohdeedoh.com

19. Make a silhouette

Cut silhouettes out of fabric, paper, or vinyl, then frame them as gifts.
How to make paper silhouettes
Silhouette portraits with vinyl
Simple silhouettes
Stitched silhouettes
12 gorgeous silhouettes

20. Make a pencil caddy

Make a pencil/pen cup for someone’s home office. Make it out of wood, glass jar, tin can, etc.
Salvaged wood pencil & pen caddy
Perpetual calendar pencil holder
Upcycled DIY pencil holders
Origami pen holder
Tile pencil holder

21. DIY a sunburst mirror

Make a sunburst/starburst mirror using lazy susans, plant markers, wood pieces, cereal boxes, paper, or bamboo skewers.
Starburst mirror with plant markers
Cereal box sunburst mirror
Lazy Susan sunburst mirror
Starburst mirror with skewers
Rustic sunburst mirror with shims and embroidery hoop

22. Get crafty with wine corks

Create a trivet, bulletin board, or bath mat out of recycled wine corks.
Wine cork trivet
Wine cork bath mat
DIY wine cork bulletin board
Ombre wine cork heart

23. Paint a flower pot

Hand paint a terracotta pot and plant holiday blooms such as amaryllis, paper whites, poinsettias, or English ivy.
Hand-painted chalkboard flower pot
Dip-dye succulent pots
Paint and gold leaf planters
Two-tone rubber-band painted pots

Boxwood globe topiary, photo

rhodeislandaltars.org

24. Make a topiary

Real or artificial, holiday topiaries can add a beautiful touch to seasonal decor. Make your own topiary using 18-gauge wire and needle-nose pliers. Shape the wire into a star, snowman, tree, heart, or a circle. Place it in a pot planted with ivy or another climbing plant. Separate the runners and wrap them around the wire.
Ivy topiary made easy
Boxwood globe topiary
Artificial flowers topiary

25. String some art

Make a work of art out of string. All you need is a piece of wood, hammer, wire nails, and string or embroidery floss. Oh, and a great pattern. Try one of these.
String art DIY ideas, tutorials, and patterns
Deer head string art
How to make script string art
DIY snowflake string art with tutorial
More string art ideas

26. Make a clock

Making a clock is easier than you might think, but judging by images on Pinterest, it’s not easy to make a clock that isn’t tacky. Try one of these not-so-tacky options.
DIY chalkboard clock
Buttons & embroidery hoop clock
Furniture nail clock
Easy scrap plywood clock
Embossed numbers clock

27. Weave a macrame plant hanger

The patterns range from easy to difficult, simple to intricate, colorful to elegantly plain. Here are a range of options on the easy side.
Super easy DIY macrame plant hanger
Colorful copper pipe hanging planter
Macrame plant hanger tutorials with videos
Colorful DIY hanging planter

28. Sew (or decorate) a tote bag

Here are some relatively easy tote-bag tutorials. Don’t sew? Buy a blank canvas tote bag and decorate it with fabric markers and stencils. Or dye it, spray paint it, glue on rhinestones, or iron on a design.
How to make a simple six-pocket bag
Tote bag made from an old pair of jeans
The 20-minute tote
Decorated canvas tote bags
Freezer paper & spray paint tote bags

Crafty Nest 137 handmade holiday gift ideas Pinterest photo

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Made one of these projects? Email your photo(s) to monica (at) craftynest (dot) com, and I’ll share your version here!