Holiday Gift Ideas for Everyone on Your List

Create DIY Christmas crafts like homemade bath salts for family and friends this holiday season.

Materials to Build a Fort

Miscellaneous materials needed to create a fort building kit for a child.

Photo by Crystal Stevens

Content Tools

• It fulfills the intrinsic need to create. Making your own gifts allows for a creative outlet; the process is fun and rewarding.
• It reduces carbon footprint. Help eliminate the viscous waste cycle that is inevitable with the holiday season; reduce gas money and travel time by avoiding the shopping frenzy.
• It saves your sanity and allows you to avoid crowds.
• It saves money when you use materials you already have on hand.

Most of these gifts are so aesthetically pleasing they don’t even need to be gift wrapped. Just tie a ribbon or attach a bow.

Following are some simple and creative gift ideas for the special folks in your life.


Build a fort kit

What’s not to love about building a fort? Give children a timeless gift that will inspire imaginative play. Pillow cases or plain cloth bags can be personalized with the child’s name or the words “DIY Fort Kit” using acrylic paint or permanent marker.

Into the personalized bag, place a combination of repurposed household items like old sheets, ropes, linens, clothespins, handkerchiefs, twine, clamps, bungee cords and shoelaces. Add flashlights, batteries, playing cards and snacks for extra fun.


Cloth journal

Use recycled cardboard, such as a used notebook cover. Use a nice piece of fabric, an old piece of clothing, or repurposed linen. Cut the fabric to the size of the cardboard, or a little larger if you want nice pleated and finished edges. Sew the fabric onto the cardboard with a sewing machine.

Cut about 10 sheets of paper half the size of your cardboard. Sew the left edges of the paper onto the back (plain side) of the cardboard/fabric with one seam, down the middle of the journal, so the paper is situated on the right half of the cardboard/fabric. Fold the journal in half, like a book. Sew a button on the front. Attach a piece of hemp to the button by tying several knots around the button. The journal can be closed by winding the hemp around the journal, then around the button. Gift the journal with a sharpened pencil, or a nice pen.


Easy apron

Aprons can be made out of any fabric, including old towels, T-shirts, sheets and linens. Add some iron-on art to the front and, voilà, you have the perfect gift for the aspiring chef. Simply cut the fabric to the desired apron size, fold and sew the edges twice, and add straps.


Step stools

Get creative in the woodshop with these simple stool designs. For rustic stools, use a chainsaw to carve out a stump into the shape of a stool. For fancy stools, use fabric scraps or old linens to upholster children’s furniture. For earthy stools, use sturdy branches for legs and reclaimed lumber for the top. Carve a design into the top or paint a pattern on top.
– step stool design by Eric Stevens


Mason jar holder

Use screws to fasten hose clamps to a piece of reclaimed lumber. Measure and tighten the hose clamps to hold mason jars, and add hanging hardware to the back of the wood. Use the jars to store pens and pencils, art supplies, spices, and more.
– by Jason Crawford and Liz Meitus


Simple backpack

These simple backpacks are best made with a heavy-duty fabric like corduroy or an old quilt.

Cut two pieces of heavy-duty fabric into rectangles 14 inches wide by 16 inches tall.

Cut a piece of off-white muslin fabric 8 inches wide by 10 inches tall. Paint or decorate it as desired, then sew it to one of the 14-by-16-inch rectangles.

Hem the top edge of each rectangle, making sure the decorated muslin fabric is positioned upright.

Add Velcro to the middle top inside section of each rectangle, about 1 inch from the top hemmed edge.

Place the two rectangles together, with the designed muslin facing inward and the Velcro pieces facing outward. Sew the pieces together in a “U” shape at the bottom, making sure the Velcro is at the top.

Turn the backpack inside out so the decoration faces outward and the Velcro is on the inside. The Velcro will close the backpack to keep contents safely inside.

Use old belts, recycled cloth bag handles or fabric of your choice to make two straps for the backpack. Cut the straps of equal length, about 2 inches wide. If the backpack is for a child, a good strap length is about 16 inches, while 24 inches is a good length for adults.

Sew the straps, one on each side, to the top of the plain side of the backpack, and then sew the other end of the straps to the bottom of the backpack. Be careful when sewing the straps so you don’t sew the backpack closed.


Jars or boards of fun

For younger children, fill jars with toys like marbles, arts and craft supplies, blocks, Legos, beads, jacks or bouncy balls, and top with a plastic lid.

For older children, make a memory game. Cut 48 cardboard squares, 2 inches by 2 inches. Draw the same design or write the same word on two squares. Repeat with the remaining squares. You could use stickers or photographs as well. To play the game, shuffle all 48 squares, then place them design side down. Take turns trying to find matches.

Another option is to fill a jar with 48 blank cardboard squares, sheets of stickers, and instructions so the youngsters can make the game themselves.

Or, let them use their own imaginations to come up with a game or games, and simply fill a jar with a piece of fabric, 12 inches by 12 inches, some dice, bottle caps, small wooden blocks, a marker, etc., and include a note that instructs them to use their imaginations to design a game. For the younger children, the more direction the better.


Herbal bath salts and scrubs

Create beautiful handcrafted artisan bath salts, salt scrubs and sugar scrubs using just a few simple ingredients.

For bath salts, simply combine 4 cups sea salt, 2 tablespoons lavender or chamomile flowers, and 1 tablespoon baking soda in a large mixing bowl. Add 15 drops essential oils, and mix well. Place mixture in small recycled jars with tight-fitting lids, such as baby food jars.

For salt or sugar scrubs, combine 2 cups olive oil and 2 cups sea salt or sugar. Add 20 to 30 drops essential oils of peppermint or lavender, and mix well. Place mixture into jars fitted with secure lids.

Decorate the jars with handmade labels and ribbon or twine, if desired.  

Interested in additional handmade gifts? Follow these simple instructions for making handmade.


Crystal Stevens is a wife, a mom, and the assistant head farmer and communications specialist at La Vista CSA in Godfrey, Illinois, and she enjoys creating homemade gifts for family and friends.


Birthday calendars

Using just a few materials,  you can make a timeless and  non-technological method for remembering birthdays.

Cut a piece of reclaimed 1-by-4 wood roughly 16 to 18 inches wide. Paint the wood  if you choose. Hot glue 12-foot-long pieces of ribbon,  old straps, or even strips of  recycled cardboard onto the back of the wood. Write the word “Birthdays” and the  months of the year on the front of the wood. Use miniature clothespins or fancy paper clips on which to write names and birthdays, and then clip them to the ribbons on the calendar. Hammer two nails onto the top of the board and hang with a piece of wire or an old wire hanger.


Art case

Cut a piece of fabric roughly 16 inches wide by 9 inches long. Cut three pieces of cardboard roughly 4 inches wide by 8 inches long. Cut three pieces of heavy-duty fabric or leather roughly 8 inches wide by 4 inches long.

Sew the three pieces of cardboard evenly and with space in between onto the inside of the 16-by-9-inch piece of fabric. Sew the heavy-duty fabric or leather onto the cardboard to form pencil or marker holders.

Sew a button on the front of the case, and then attach a piece of hemp to the button by tying several knots around the button.

The case can be closed by folding the three sections together, winding the hemp around the case, then around the button. You can also sew some fabric or a felt design on the cover if you like.


Recipe book

For the cooks in your life, a handmade recipe scrapbook is a perfect gift.

Find a recipe book, then choose enough recipes to fill the pages. Next, pick out scrapbook paper and embellishments to go along with the recipes.

My book is small (6 inches square), so I kept the pages simple, so as not to take the focus away from the recipes. For the pages with shorter recipes, I added an embellishment to fill the open space on the page. For the longer recipes, I didn’t add anything except the paper. If your recipe book is larger, photos are a nice addition, whether you choose a photo of the recipe, the person who made the recipe famous, or someone eating the prepared dish.

Once the inside pages are done, design the front cover, unless your book is already designed. My cover was unfinished, so I chose cardstock with a large design, then added fancy letters to make a book title. If your cardstock is plain, you can add other embellishments or even a photo to create an enticing cover.
— by Traci Smith


Organizer rack

For the preteens or even adults on your list, a decorated plaque for hanging jewelry or caps is a fun and useful gift.

Just about any size of board will work, as long as it’s not too heavy to hang on the wall. Sand the board until it’s fairly rough, then drill a few holes for hanging jewelry, baseball caps, scarves, etc.

Choose your paper and embellishments, and place everything on the board. Play with the layout until you see something you like, then glue it all down.

Using a small screwdriver, carefully push through the paper and open up your drilled holes. Attach door knobs, pulls or hooks, then add hardware or wire to the back for hanging. 
— by Traci Smith