Hand Crafted Gifts 

For Holidays & Any Days | By Lois Breneman


When you give a handmade gift, made with your own hands and mind, you are giving a part of yourself, and I find people especially love to receive something using your own natural talents, whatever they may be. If you are skilled in woodworking, ceramics, poetry, writing, calligraphy, photography, music, painting, cooking, organizing, gardening, crafts, sewing, knitting or crocheting, use your talents in gift-giving. Some gifts could be given in the form of a coupon to do later, according to the desires of the person receiving the gift. 

Handmade gifts are not only fun to make with other family members, but the person receiving the gift often also feels the love that has gone into the making. Young children as well as older, and even young adult children will love making these gifts with you! At various times I have helped my grown children make gifts to give to their friends, and we've both had such fun doing it together! Why not invite your daughters and daughters-in-law to enjoy a day with you making some gifts to divide up or just to help them? Or do the same with your grandchildren! You can do the same with a good friend or your mother. This can be a wonderful bonding time! Of course, baking cookies, bread or making candy are great gift ideas, but you don't want to start those too early. 

Hopefully you will find some other creative ideas below that you may want to give a try this year. Most are very easy to do! Have fun!


Ingredients: 1 cup salt, 1/2 cup cornstarch, 3/4 cup water and food coloring. 

Mix well and heat until mixture thickens. Roll into ball and chill. When cold, roll out mixture about 1/4" or a tiny bit thinner. Cut into cookie cutter shapes. Place on wax paper-lined cookie sheets. Decorate with glitter, beads, sequins, poster paints, nail polish, old jewelry, felt, another color of ceramic dough or any scraps. Be sure to make tiny holes with a large needle for hanging or insert a paper clip while wet. These make wonderful Christmas ornaments that last for years if packed away carefully in a cool, dry place. I have some ornaments that I made which will soon hang on our tree for the 40th year - still in great condition! My favorites are gingerbread men, hobby horses, Christmas trees, angels, sleighs, bells. A candy cane can be made by twisting two "snakes" together with the colors already mixed into the dough. The pastel colors in mine didn't even fade. An ornament is nice to give to friends. Everyone loves an unexpected gift! A box of these handmade ornaments makes a nice wedding gift, since most newlyweds don't have ornaments when they get married. 


Pour equal amounts of applesauce and ground cinnamon into a bowl and mix well into a dough. Roll out and use cookie cutters to cut stars, gingerbread men, etc. Insert a small hook from the jewelry department of a craft store into top of each ornament (or a paper clip or ornament hanger will do). Let dry on wax paper for a few days, turning over every morning and night. When dry (3-5 days depending on temperature and humidity), use white craft paint to add "frosting" accents. These make great ornaments and should have a scent even next Christmas, if you store them in plastic zip lock bags. After many years when they lose their scent, cinnamon oil can be rubbed over them to perk up the fragrance. 


You can make beautiful candles in your kitchen! Buy several 1 # boxes of paraffin in the canning department of your grocery store. Each candle will take all four slabs in a 1 # box, plus some extra melted paraffin. 

*Melt several 1/4 # slabs of paraffin in a double boiler. A large coffee can of paraffin immersed in a pan of hot water on a medium burner will work fine and the wax will not ruin your pan. 

*Use a small amount of melted paraffin, to "glue" the four 1/4 # slabs together, with a candle wick in the center - at least two inches above the top. You'll need this to hold on to while you apply the paraffin. 

*If you want a colored candle, add a crayon to the hot paraffin. White, periwinkle blue or light green are some colors our family has tried. They are all pretty, especially the periwinkle.
* Using an electric mixer, beat the melted paraffin until it sets up and turns a lighter color. 

* Using a rubber spatula or a table knife, apply the paraffin to the sides of the candle (work quickly - before it hardens), while you hold onto the wick and tip the candle to the side. If the paraffin does harden in the bowl, simply reheat and beat again. 

*Apply paraffin to the top.
*While still wet, tip candle over, holding onto the wick and sprinkle with clear glitter. Beautiful!
*Put candle in freezer for a few hours or more before burning, and it will burn more slowly.

You will need: Ivory Snow Flakes ~ Perfume or scented oil ~ Food coloring Moisten soap flakes with water to the consistency of very stiff dough. Divide into several bowls if making a large quantity, so you can make a variety of scents and colors. Shape about 2 tablespoons of mixture into balls. Place on wax paper to harden for several days, turning each day. Wrap in colorful cellophane and tie with a ribbon to give as gifts. Arrange in a small box or in a small basket lined with colorful tissue paper.

*For a lovely variation of the candle above, find four coordinating pictures from old cards. Make candles for Christmas, anniversaries, birthdays, Valentine's Day, you name it! Adhere pictures of your children, husband or friends on candles for great personalized gifts!

*As soon as you have glued the four slabs and candle wick together, trim the four pictures (on card stock with nothing on the opposite side) to fit each side. 
*Using the whipped paraffin, apply around the edges of the pictures and on the top with knife. 
*Apply glitter on the wet paraffin. 

*The pictures will glow when the candle is lit!
*Use either Christmas cards or everyday cards, if you want to use the candle all year round. 

*This is a great gift idea and can also be made to decorate you own home. 

*Older kids can help and younger ones can watch. This is a project that needs your undivided attention, so you might have your husband or a friend supervising younger children as they watch, since hot wax is involved. 

Ingredients: 1/2 cup cornstarch, 1 cup cold water, 1 pkg. unflavored gelatin, 2 cups boiling water, food coloring or poster paint. 

In saucepan, mix cornstarch with 3/4 cup cold water to form a smooth paste. Soak gelatin in remaining 1/4 cup cold water and set aside. Pour boiling water slowly over cornstarch mixture, stirring. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture boils and is clear. Remove from heat. Stir in gelatin. Cool and divide mixture into separate batches, placing each in small containers with screw-on lids. Add coloring/paint. Refrigerate to store. Paint is transparent, strong and durable with a high gloss finish. May be used on wet or dry paper.

Using similar directions above, make square, round or oval hot pads. When setting a hot dish on the pad, it will give off a pleasant aroma. I used cotton fabric, with a double layer of white fleece as extra padding, then sewed around, leaving a 3-4" opening, turned right side out, poured rice between the two layers of fleece, added some potpourri oil and sewed the opening shut.

Select appropriate buttons with a shank from a fabric store that would make pretty earrings. There are so many beautiful buttons that work for this project, even ones that look like ceramic. Remove the shank with pliers. Purchase earring backs from a fabric or craft store. Glue the earring backs onto buttons with jewelry glue. 

Children love tossing beanbags and they are so easy to make! This is a great stocking stuffer. Simply cut a circle from a scrap of pretty fabric – about 4 ˝” in diameter. There are also so many choices of children’s fabrics available. Sew a 1/4 “ seam around the edge, leaving an opening to turn the fabric and fill it with small dried beans or rice. Hand sew the opening shut. 

Fill washed laundry scoops with wrapped candy hugs and kisses. Wrap plastic wrap around the scoop and gather it around the handle, tying with a pretty ribbon. Attach a note saying, “Hugs and Kisses from me to you!”

A fun favor or ornament! Glue a roll of ring-shaped candy such as Lifesavers to a wide side of a package of gum. Glue 4 round peppermint candies to the bottom against the gum pack for wheels. Make a loop of narrow ribbon and glue the ends to the top of one end of the candy roll. Glue a caramel on top of the ribbon ends for the engineer’s cab. To the other end of the candy roll, glue a chocolate kiss for the smoke stack and another kiss on the same end of the package of gum for a plow in front. Remove the tag from the second kiss.

By Lois Breneman © 2003, Revised 2007, 
Heart to Heart Newsletter

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