Remember grade school craft projects for the holidays? Gluing together brownish-yellow macaroni noodles to make trees, painting hands and making handprint wreaths – those were the days. As adults, some of us try to emulate those nostalgic DIY gifts, either for heartfelt or low-cost motives, but how many of them are happily received?
To help avoid awkward moments this season, we have compiled a surefire do-it-yourself list that will make the receiver smile instead of cringe.
Personal Grooming Gifts
When buying anything for the holidays, think local. The money stays in the community and you get a great product. For the essential oils in this category, check out Funke Essential Oils at 1402 SE Kiger Island Drive in Corvallis. Learn about their farm, how they make their products, and find the best oils for your friends.
Beards are all the rage, especially with no-shave November giving guys everywhere a reason to grow out their facial hair. So, why not give them some masculine beard oil to tame that new mane? Instead of spending a veritable fortune on oil at the store, it only takes a few minutes and a handful of ingredients to make an oily gift for someone. The recipe requires essential oils, a funnel to pour the mixture, and a small bottle that you could easily find at a thrift store. Go to beardoilrecipes.com for some great ideas, including a DIY article about oils you can make at home.
What better gift than soap, something that most people use every day. There are four ways to make soap, but if this is your first time, depending on how adventurous you are feeling, stick with melt and pour, or the cold process. With the former, you buy premade soap in the form of glycerin or otherwise, melt it down, and add your own essential oils for scent. The cold method involves the chemical process of mixing fat oils and lye to make the soap from scratch.
If you want something fast and thoughtful, melt and pour may be best. However, if you would like complete control over your ingredients, use the cold process. For whichever process you choose, you’ll need a mold, base ingredients, scents, and any additives for the soap blocks. For more instructions, go to thespruce.com and search, “how to make soap.”
One of the easiest DIY gifts is a good hand scrub to smooth out rough and dry winter hands. All you need is coconut oil, sea salt – some people use sugar instead – the essential oil of your choice, and a glass jar. Go to thekitchn.com and search for “exfoliating hand scrub” for a great recipe that anyone can make.
Food and Drink Gifts
Anyone who bakes will use vanilla, and homemade vanilla is substantially tastier than store-bought, brand-name extracts that often have multiple artificial ingredients. All you need is a glass jar, one to seven vanilla beans, and the leftover vodka from the holiday party you just hosted. Bourbon, rum, and brandy all work too, as long as the alcohol source you use is 35 percent alcohol or 70 proof. Also, try to get fresh vanilla beans, they are available at the local Alternative Co-op in the refrigerated bulk section.
The one trick with vanilla is that it needs to sit at least eight weeks. Luckily, whoever you’re giving it to will likely be so fed up with baking after the holidays that it will take them until Valentine’s Day to break out the vanilla anyway. For the recipe and instructions, go to beanilla.com and search, “homemade vanilla extract.”
This gift is a catch-all and can be easily modified for any recipient. It is also very easy to make. Grab a basket or tin from a local thrift store, wrap some ribbon around it, and maybe use some festive cloth or paper within the basket.
Choose a theme, for instance a holiday theme could include homemade gingerbread cookies, loose-leaf spice chai tea from Oregon Coffee and Tea, and a small bottle of cinnamon-flavored liqueur. If the person loves coffee, grab a bag of locally roasted beans, include a small bottle of Irish cream liqueur, and a jar of crushed peppermints. Also consider what else that person enjoys. A book suggested by a local bookseller or some knitting yarn from a local merchant are great pairings for warm drinks.
An obvious gift that many Oregonians, and frankly most Americans, enjoy is beer. If you haven’t tried making it yet, this holiday season may give you a good excuse. You can get as fancy or as simplistic as you’d like with this hobby, experimenting to make your own batches or using sets for a particular style of beer.
To get started, one of the best options is to head to Corvallis Brewing Supply at 119 SW 4th downtown to get all your questions answered and determine what you need for the brew you want to create. Remember that with any fermented gift, it needs to sit before it is ready. Typically, that can take three to six weeks, so try to plan ahead.
Kombucha may sound and look fancy in its dark brown, prettily-labeled bottles, but it is quite easy to make at home. All you need is a few basic ingredients, materials, and some time. The process is simple: brew concentrated tea, add sugar, wait to cool, add kombucha or raw cider vinegar, add the SCOBY, and wait.
Kombucha can take as few as five days, so it is one of the more DIY-friendly fermented gifts for those who enjoy procrastinating. For more specific instructions about what a SCOBY is and how long to wait, go to zerowastechef.com and search for “kombucha.”
Sauerkraut, Krautchi, and Kimchi
A personal favorite, sauerkraut is known as the gateway drug to fermenting because of how easy it is to make. Anyone who goes to the farmers’ market likely sees the kimchi and sauerkraut flying off the shelves, and now is the time to make your own. Cabbages are getting larger and prices are dropping before winter fully hits.
The steps are simple: chop the vegetables, salt them, pack them in a glass container, and wait. For full instructions and some tidbits about why fermented food is tasty and good for you, go to zerowastechef.com and search for “sauerkraut” or whichever version you are interested in.
Gifts That Take Time But Cost Less
Crocheted or Knitted Items
From scarves to elaborate sweaters, there are numerous ways to crochet or knit your way to a spectacular gift. Warm wool booties for children, stockings for adults, mug coozies for everyone who uses mugs, the possibilities are endless. For those who are new to knitting or crochet and want to learn, Stash, a local yarn shop at 110 SW 3rd Street, has classes that provide you with the materials, tools, and know-how to create all sorts of items.
If you are wanting a more self-directed option, mooglyblog.com has lots of free patterns for blankets, coozies, and everything in between. Don’t forget to shop local for your materials.
Making furniture is satisfying and useful, especially when it is created by reusing materials like pallets. As Pinterest fame has shown, pallets have a surprising amount of versatility. From side tables to bars, stools, outdoor furniture, and book shelves, they can be converted into any number of useful and rustic items.
Some lesser known options include a pot rack, outdoor swing bed, a fold-down outdoor bar, or a wine rack. Find some pallets in the alleys downtown or go to local hardware and box stores to see if they have extra pallets. Sometimes they give them away or sell them for as little as five dollars per pallet. Beyond that, expect to buy tools, screws, stain, and sandpaper.
Go to wonderfuldiy.com and search, “pallet furniture” for a list of options and tutorials.
By Kristen Edge