Say the word ‘hamper’ and everyone thinks of the classic wicker basket with leather straps stuffed full of luxury edibles. To buy one like this costs upwards of £60 at Fortnum & Mason’s – but you can easily put your own together, tailored to the recipient’s taste – or taste buds - and save yourself a fortune.
Start with the basket
Hobbycraft has to be your first stop. It stocks a huge selection of traditional, wicker-style baskets in a range of different sizes, starting from £8 for the 25cm size.
You’ll also find woven and paper baskets and trays in all shapes and sizes on the Hobbycraft website or in their stores, plus everything you need for packing: raffia and shredded tissue for keeping jars and bottles intact, tape, labels and cellophane wrap.
Remember that even with lots of packaging, a deep hamper will hold a lot more than you think, so err on the side of caution if you don’t want to overspend on your budget.
Choose a container that can be used again – in the garden, for instance, or for storage, as a washbag or a laptop case.
Visit our Christmas section for more gift ideas
A fruit hamper looks impressive packed into a round basket with a handle, then swathed in cellophane and tied with a big bow. Opt for hardier, more unusual fruits, like pineapples, physalis and passion fruit, and add nuts, dates and a jar of stem ginger.
Choose a shallow tray for a selection of cheeses – each in their own wooden box, if you can find them (and swathed in an extra cling film if smelly). Pop in a packet of savoury biscuits and add a bottle of port. Keep in a cool place.
Make your own truffles, fudge, toffee and coconut ice and pack in cellophane bags tied with bright ribbon. Add in little boxes of store-bought seasonal favourites, such as chocolate cherries or gingers, violet creams and maple brazils, and arrange the lot in a small wicker ‘treasure’ basket with a lid.
To replicate a traditional hamper for someone with savoury tastes, classics include exotic mustards, a pot of Stilton, smoked salmon, Gentlemen’s Relish, pickles and chutneys, port or claret. For a sweeter tooth choose luxury biscuits and jams, top-end chocolates and a bottle of Manzanilla sherry.
A round basket is perfect for a pot plant gift. Tuck pretty packets of seeds around the side and tie ribbons to the handle.
A wooden crate complements garden items. Line with wood shavings, add packets of summer-flowering bulbs, a pair of gardening gloves, a trowel and fork and a book on planting.
Visit the Saga Garden Centre for gifts for gardeners
For a seamstress, put fat quarters of similar fabrics (floral or tartan themed, or different designs in the same colour), sewing scissors, pretty buttons and complementary sewing thread into a basket with a lid.
For an artist, pack a flat tray with a sketchbook, brushes and charcoal, crayons, sketching pencils and pastels.
A baker will appreciate a cake tin containing a selection of cake decorations, cupcake cases, icing bags and nozzles and cake colouring.
For the grandchildren
Bags or baskets packed with goodies from favourite films are always a winner. Think Star Wars, Harry Potter, The Little Mermaid, Shrek, Dr Who, Lego or whatever their current passion is.
For older kids, stuff an attractive washbag with nail varnish, lipstick, eyeshadow palettes and perfume; or go for a tech-y theme with a new mobile case, ear buds, a smart watch and a selfie stick in a laptop case.
For the cat or dog
Fill a food bowl with their favourites: packets of food, a catnip mouse or a dog chew, Dreamies or Good Boy drops.