So often in the frantic pre-Christmas chaos we can get caught up in the ‘spirit of giving’ and end up shelling out for some socks and scented candles that no one really wants. So why not get your Martha Stewart on and add a personal touch to the festivities by making your own gifts. We’ve found five ideas that are ideal DIYs for the time poor, or those on a tight budget. They’ll create the homemade touch this Christmas, without having to learn to crochet, cook or craft.
Not only is this super quick and easy to do, it looks great, and being a bit boozy – is a sure winner. All you need in a bottle of middle range gin (which are all on sale at this time of year), frozen cranberries, a cinnamon stick, a couple of oranges, some sugar, a big jar and some little ones (old coffee jars work well). Fill about a fifth of your big jar with frozen cranberries and add the cinnamon stick. Then with a potato peeler, peel ribbons of rind from your oranges and place in the jar too. Dissolve a few heaped tablespoons of sugar in the gin, and pour into the jar before topping up with the remaining alcohol. Leave to soak in a cool dark place for a few weeks. Just before Christmas, sieve your mixture and decant into smaller jars. Look for individual gift jars that are between 300-400 ml; as most bottles of gin are 700ml this means you can easily make a few gifts from the one bottle. Add the rind and a few berries into the individual jars for decoration and add a label or ribbon to finish it off. Come Christmas day, it’s a beautiful liquor to drink with lemonade.
Fabric-covered diary or notebook
For anyone super-organised or a bit arty, a diary or notebook is always a popular choice. Individualise the gift by making a creative covering. All you need is a notebook, a measure of fabric, strong double-sided sticky tape and whatever other crafty touches you like (ribbons and buttons are always good embellishments – but remember to get some fabric glue). Lay out your book on top of the fabric and measure around it, adding a 2cm boarder and cut. Then add the double-sided sticky tape about the inside covers along the boarder. Much like laminating school books, fold the fabric over and attach to the sticky tape. Voila, a personalised notebook.
A living gift is a sweet and homely present that will keep on giving for as long as the new owner keeps it watered. Buy a small plant, such as a herb or flower and plant in a basket or even large mug. Decorate with a Christmas ribbon and you have yourself an unusual, homemade gift. Chives and basil work perfectly for anyone that loves to do some cooking, otherwise, Peace Lilies or orchids make stunning homewares.
‘Homemade’ mince pies
Mince pies are a Christmas tradition, but making them from scratch is a Herculean task that I’m sure not even Nigella actually does, and in the immortal words of the internet, ‘ain’t nobody got time for that’. Luckily, you can get the homemade feel, without having to torture yourself making pastry or fruit mince. Buy a few sheets of sweet, shortcrust pastry and some nice fruit mince – which helpfully, is sold almost everywhere at this time of year. Defrost the pastry slightly so it softens and cut out circles to fit your muffin tin. Add a dollop of the mincemeat (the fruit), and cut out and pop on a pastry lid. You can get decorative with the lid, using star shapes, lattice or the traditional full-flat cover. Brush over a little egg wash and sprinkle with sugar, then bake. It could not be easier! Little tip, if you want to add an extra kick to this Christmas treat, add a splash of brandy to the fruit mince and serve with cream. You’ll be everyone’s favourite.
This one is a tad more fiddly, but super impressive and definitely worth it. Thinly slice about four large oranges and a couple of lemons (rind included), cover with about five cups of water, glad-wrap and leave to soak overnight. In the morning, heat the fruit mix in a heavy bottomed saucepan on high until the rind is tender. Add warmed sugar (about one kilo) and stir until dissolved. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 50 minutes. To check it’s ready, add a dollop to a cold (refrigerated) plate, then return to the fridge for five minutes. If after that five minutes it’s runny, it’s not quite ready, but if you push it with your finger and it wrinkles, you’re set! Remove from the heat and add a hearty splash of brandy then distribute evenly into sterilised jars (remember, hot marmalade into hot jars or cold into cold jars).
What are your favourite DIY Christmas gifts to make and receive?
Kate H Jones is a lifestyle and pop culture writer at Clavicle Capitalism.