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Handmade gift ideas

Adrienne Wyper / 21 December 2017

Giving a handmade present shows you’ve invested time and effort. These ideas are simple and inexpensive to make, with a wide appeal.

Lavender bag

Sew a heart-shaped lavender bag

Lavender bags are a traditional homemade present that’s a moth repellent, perfect for dangling from coat-hangers, tucking into drawers or hanging from handles. Stuff with toy filling (or old tights) for a simple, unscented heart.

How to make

Enlarge the heart template below until it measures about 12cm at the widest point. (To enlarge, print out then enlarge with a photocopier, or print out and draw outside the outline and repeat until it’s 12cm wide.) Use it to draw two hearts on your fabric. Cut them out. Pin, then sew, right sides together, with a 5mm seam allowance. Leave a gap for turning through, and filling. Turn the right side out and fill with dried lavender. Sew up the gap. Stitch on thin ribbon for a hanging loop. Finish by sewing on a button, bow, or tying in a lavender sprig.

Mulled wine spices

Make a mulled wine kit

Christmas cheer in a glass! Give these mulled wine spice bags as they are, or with a bottle of red wine.

How to make

Cut a muslin or cheesecloth circle around 20cm in diameter. (Draw around a side plate for a suitable size.)

Put five cloves, three cardamom pods, a cinnamon stick piece and two star anise in the centre. Gather the edges and tie tightly. Take a luggage label and write the ingredients on one side and a mulled wine recipe on the other – see ours, below. Tie the label to the bag.

Find out how to make mulled wine

Handmade bath bag

Stuff a scented bath bag

These little bags hang from the tap while the bathwater runs, infusing it with scent and spa-style luxury. Good things to fill them with include sea salt, oats and powdered milk, which make the water milky and soothing, Epsom salts, which ease muscle soreness and aid relaxation. On the floral front, dried rose petals or buds, lavender and marigolds (available online, for example from Healthy Supplies), are pretty and add scent. To boost the scent, sprinkle a little essential oil on the petals in a bowl and toss to mix.

How to make

Cut a muslin or cheesecloth circle around 20cm in diameter, or use any little sheer drawstring bags that held jewellery or soap.

Stir your chosen mix together, then place a couple of tablespoonfuls in the centre of the fabric. Bring together the edges and tie tightly, leaving a loop to hang from the tap. Place several into a pretty jar, basket or gift bag, and add an ingredients label.

Flavoured oil

Add flavour to oil

A gorgeous gift for foodies, oil infused with chilli, garlic, herbs or pepper, to enjoy with bread, in salad dressing, to swirl on soups, or drizzle on pasta.

How to make

Sterilise bottles and lids by washing with very hot, soapy water. Rinse and air-dry. Heat 500ml olive oil, then pour into bottle with flavouring: four teaspoonfuls of dried chilli flakes, and two red dried chillies; four peeled garlic cloves; three washed and dried rosemary stems, or five washed and dried sage leaves. Add a teaspoon of black, green or pink peppercorns to any of the above, or combine the flavourings. Label and store in a dark place for a couple of weeks, shaking occasionally. The oil will keep for up to three months, stored in the fridge.

Find out how to make flavoured fruit vinegars

Lavender sugar

Fill sugar with flavour

For keen bakers, how about flavoured sugar? It’s a delicious ingredient they’ll love.

How to make

For vanilla sugar, split a vanilla pod lengthways (you can use one you’ve already scraped the seeds from) and add to a decorative jar with 500g caster sugar. For an impressive finish, layer white and golden sugar.

Try citrus sugar, delicious in hot drinks and cocktails, as well as in or on cakes. Wash and dry an unwaxed lime, orange or lemon, then remove the zest. Leave it overnight to dry out, or spread on a baking tray and place in a low oven, at around 50°C for around 15 minutes. Stir into a jar of 500g caster sugar.

Or create lavender sugar, adding two teaspoonfuls edible dried lavender flowers, or cinnamon sugar, with one teaspoonful of ground cinnamon and a cinnamon stick.

Potted bulbs

Plant a bowl of bulbs

Indoor flowering bulbs such as hyacinths, crocuses or narcissi brighten up any room on dark winter days. You can ‘force’ bulbs to flower in time for Christmas (find out how to force bulbs) but it’s a little labour-intensive, so if you’re not confident, wait until nearer Christmas, then buy ready-potted bulbs, and repot them into prettier containers. Consider delicate china teacups, glass bowls, or even an upcycled tin can. Alternatively, wrap hessian or other fabric around the pot and tie with ribbon or raffia.

And after the bulbs finish flowering, they can be planted outside for next year.

How to make

Choose your container, add a couple of pebbles for drainage, remove the bulbs from their pot, and plant them in the new one with enough soil to fill it. Decorate with polished stones, glass beads or marbles, or push in pussy willow stems or berried twigs, or tuck in a moss layer. Tie a ribbon bow around the container.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.