Green Eyes On: Handmade Gifts for the Holidays


Photo: Cláudia*~Assad via Flickr

Flip on the TV and you’ll see commercials suggesting every little thing under the sun is the perfect holiday gift. Turn on the radio, and you're sure to hear ‘round-the-clock Christmas carols. (I’ll admit, I’m one of those people who doesn't mind this, but maybe it’s because I’m not actually listening to a radio for more than an hour a week). Checkout any suburban neighborhood and you’ll see the lights and inflatable lawn decorations are out in full swing.

Yes, the season is upon us. And here's an idea: How about making holiday gifts this year? Believe it or not, simple handmade gifts can take no more time than running about town buying them.


Ribbon belts and cider spice sachets make great homemade gifts.
Photos: Martha Stewart

Perhaps you have been faced with one or all of the following dilemmas:

  • I’ve made some changes in my life in the past year, I’m a total greenie/treehugger/… (insert label of your choice) now, and I want my holiday gift giving to reflect that.
  • I just can’t bring myself to buy all of that stuff!
  • I can’t afford to give holiday gifts like I did in years past.

Gourd lamp made by Sara's parents.

With a handmade gift, you no longer have to go to the malls and stock up on gifts that people may or may not like or need (and that may or may not become a sooner-than-later contribution to Goodwill or a white elephant gift exchange party). If you’re suddenly thinking I don’t have the time for that and/or I don’t have any "homemade" skills, I bet you’d be surprised if you tried. And you probably have dormant skills that would kill for a chance to stretch their legs. Homemade Gifts Are Treasured A few years ago my family decided that we all had plenty of stuff and decided to make gifts instead of buying anything for Christmas. One year I made pajamas and blankets for everyone in the family (I can sew so I pieced them together on the sewing machine, but there are plenty of patterns, like the this no sew fleece blanket [PDF], that involve no sewing at all) and my husband and I etched glass pieces another year. My whole family got into it, using whatever limited skills or resources they had. Today some of my most treasured things are from those homemade Christmases. We have a lamp made from a hollowed and dried gourd with a handmade lamp shade (both parts were made by my parents), framed photography, a small clutch that I use as a make-up bag, a mini wallet, a cross-stitched verse in a glazed pottery picture frame, a framed vintage magazine cover, a carved wood candle shade, just to name a few. These things decorate our house, items of pride with rich stories behind them. They mean more to me than most of the other gifts I’ve received over the years combined.

There are plenty of craft sites out there showing how to make everything from classy edible gifts to candles, monogrammed slippers, holiday CDs, sachets, even lamp shades. Martha Stewart suggests recipe booklits, ribbon belts, and Hanukkah Matchboxes to name a few. So, get engaged this holiday season. Skip the traffic, skip the endless piles of packaging and trash. And try your hand at some homemade gifts.

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Sara Snow is a green living expert and regular contributor to TreeHugger via her Green Eyes On column. She can also be seen on on Thursdays from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. Her new DVD Growing Green Babies is now available through

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