3 handmade gifts to give to your friends and family this Christmas

Xmas gift
For most people, the thought of wandering round a busy shopping centre this close to Christmas will fill you with dread. The crowds, the crammed shop aisles, the huge queues at the check-out, it’s enough to make you give up and go home. It’s perhaps no surprise that revenue from online shopping has reached an all-time high- people are just avoiding the stress of shopping and doing it all online from the comfort of their warm, cosy couch.

If you’re someone who’d rather stay at home than venture into the city centre for a day’s shopping right now, why not consider hand-making gifts for your nearest and dearest this year? Nothing beats the feeling of making something that you know a friend or relative will love, and seeing their smiling face when they see the thought you’ve put into it.

We’ve compiled a list of some DIY gift ideas that are quick and simple and are bound to make the recipient feel appreciated and special. They’d make great stocking fillers for that special someone or, alternatively, lovely individual offerings to a neighbour or child’s teacher to let them know you’ve thought about them this Christmas.

Scented candles

Who doesn’t love a scented candle? Especially at Christmas time when they bring out the festive gingerbread, spiced mulled wine and Christmas cookie editions. You can quickly and easily make scented candles yourself, which saves you money as well as allowing you to experiment with fragrances and make the candle more personal to the recipient.

When gathering the things you’ll need to make your candles, think about the type of thing you want to achieve. Soy wax is the best wax to buy if you want to make natural, chemical-free candles and similarly, essential oils are better than fragrance oils to achieve a more subtle, long-lasting fragrance.

You’ll need:
Soy wax
Tabbed wicks
Essential oils – Choose your favourite scent, or see our recent post to find out more about the different benefits of essential oils.
Containers – You can use recycled jars, but anything else that can take the heat will do. Get creative, you could also use pretty tea cups or coloured wine glasses
A saucepan
A funnel
A glue gun or superglue

Take the container and fill to the desired level with wax flakes. Measure the quantity of wax used and double it, as you’ll need more to fill the container once the wax is melted. Measure out enough wax for the amount of candles you want to make- you can make about four using a medium to large sized saucepan.

Next, secure the wicks in the jars. Using tabbed votive wicks is probably the best option as they have a metal tab at the bottom and are coated with wax, making them much easier to stick to the bottom of the jar and keep upright.

Use superglue or a glue gun on the underside of the metal tab and stick it in the centre of the jar. Leave it to dry for at least ten minutes but longer where possible. If the glue isn’t fully dry it will melt and your wick may come loose.

Gently heat the wax in your saucepan over a medium flame, stirring occasionally to prevent any clumps.

Tip: Make sure you keep an eye on the wax as it can be flammable if overheated.

Leave the wax to cool slightly before adding your essential oils. Add the oil depending on the strength of fragrance you want, but aim to add around five drops of each oil to the melted wax. If you’re using a combination of fragrances make sure you test them out together first, as some oils are more overpowering than others and in some cases don’t complement each other well.

Stir the mixture thoroughly and use the funnel to pour the wax mixture into the container. Leave to set overnight.

And there you have it, homemade scented candles. When they’re done you can present them in any way you like to make them a pretty and pleasing gift. You could tie some festive ribbon around the jar or even use stick-on gems to spell out the person’s name. Have fun with it and really think about what the person you’re making it for would like.

Manicure kit

This is a great gift for the girly girls or stylish ladies in your life. By gathering all the bits for the manicure kit yourself, you can make sure it’s perfectly tailored to the tastes of the recipient, instead of buying a pre-made manicure kit that’s bound to have one or two shades of polish that they wouldn’t ever wear.

This is another gift idea that’s really quick and simple to make, but is also customisable and a great way to show the recipient how much you’ve thought of them. Think about the colours you’re choosing and the person they’re meant for, if they usually wear dark polish pick a classic red or deep brown- or a couple of variations of a darker shade. If they like to wear lighter colours go for purples or pinks and maybe a glitter polish too- great for bright, sparkly winter nails.

You’ll need:
Large jar or glass container
Tissue paper
Ribbon and gift tag
Nail polish
Base coat and top coat
Hand cream
Nail file
Nail clippers
Toe separator
Cuticle stick
Cotton wool
Cotton buds
Optional: Any glitter or nail art stickers you may want to add- a great idea if the gift is for younger girls.

Fill the bottom of the jar with your cotton wool and cotton buds then take all of the smaller items such as nail stickers, nail file and cuticle sticks and wrap them individually in tissue paper. Tie the individual parcels with ribbon or stick them down with tape or Christmas stickers, placing them in the jar.

Add the other items to the jar and arrange them all neatly inside, making sure that all parts are visible and nothing is too squashed.

Screw on the lid and tie with a ribbon. Add a message to your gift tag, tie it around the lid and your personalised manicure kit is ready to go.

Christmas cushion

Creating this gift will require only basic sewing machine skills and is relatively cheap to make. Plus it’s a great way to add personality to your gift and a reminder of your friendship to the recipient’s home.

Making a square cushion is the easiest option, and this way you can use cushion pads you may already have in your home. If not, new ones are readily available in the home sections of most popular stores.

The type of fabric you use will depend on what you want to create. Choose a fabric with a pattern that will match the colour scheme of the recipient’s home, or go for a festive design if you want to create a seasonal cushion.

Tip: John Lewis have a great selection of fabrics to choose from, just make sure that anything you get is machine washable or dry cleanable, and choose furnishing fabrics as opposed to more delicate, decorative options.

You’ll need:
Sewing machine- you’ll only need a basic machine that can create straight stitch and zigzag stitch
Square cushion pad
Fabric- cut to measure the size of the cushion pad you’re using (for this example we based our measurements on a standard 45cm cushion.)
Sewing thread- as close to the colour of the fabric as you can get
Dressmaking scissors

For a 45cm square cushion cut out one 47cm panel for the front of the cushion, and two 47×31 cm rectangles for the back.

Take the rectangular pieces and press one under at 1cm, then the other at 3cm across the long edge. Place the two back pieces over the top of the front piece with the right sides facing each other (so the cushion will be inside out).

You will need to overlap the back panels to fit the front panel, but this is to create the pocket that will hide the cushion pad yet still allow it to be removed if needed.

Tip: If you wanted to make a feature of these overlapped edges, you could add buttons or press-studs.

Pin the cushion and tack around the edges, making an allowance of 1cm for your seam. Using your sewing machine, neatly stich over the tacked edges and remove the pins. Turn the cushion inside out and press. Finally, stuff with the cushion pad and you’ll have the finished product!

Have we inspired you to get crafty and make your own gifts this year? If so let us know, we’d love to see pictures of your creations over on our Facebook and Twitter pages!

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Jamie Bell is the managing director of Illuminated Mirrors. You can find Jamie on Google+; he also occasionally updates the Illuminated Mirrors Facebook page.

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