Transformed - recent changes
Worried - family bereavement
Too old? - lost dreams
'my sweat and blood went into this' 'thoughtful' like a handmade Christmas present, and making cheap and fun stocking-fillers doesn't necessarily have to leave you with your fingers glue-gunned to the kitchen counter. For those of you who fancy wielding your knitting needles, or arming yourselves with essential oils this year, here are our picks for the easiest best handmade Christmas pressies going.
This spectacularly easy handmade gift looks fab packed into a mason jar or cork-stoppered bottle and tied with a ribbon. Definitely the pick of the bunch in terms of money-saving too.
You will need:
1. Mix six parts sea salt to three parts Epsom or Dead Sea salts (it's up to you which one you go for - Epsom salts are cheaper and more readily available, while Dead Sea salts have a higher mineral content).
2. Add a few drops of your chosen essential oil (relaxing lavender maybe? Festive peppermint?) and give it a good stir.
3. To create your perfect pastel tint, grab some food colouring and add a very small amount to give the salts a subtle hue. Mix until the colour has blended in, then add a little more if needed.
Another five-minute wonder, Scottish tablet is a GNHQ favourite and you can't go wrong with this recipe.
Pop the squares into festive cellophane bags (available online or in cookware shops) and you have yourself some low-budget, delicious gifts. The key is handing them over before they get eaten...
You will need:
1. Line a square 20cm tin with foil.
2. Mix the sugar, evaporated milk and butter in a large microwave-safe bowl.
3. Cook on high heat in a 750-watt microwave for 12 minutes, stopping and stirring every two to three minutes.
4. Remove from the microwave and beat for two minutes using an electric whisk (or wooden spoon if you don't have one).
5. Pour into prepared tin.
6. Mark into 1-inch squares while soft and leave to set before cutting into squares.
For the knitters among you (beginners included - this can be as easy or advanced as you choose), a fashionable woolly headband for the winter months should go down a treat with granddaughters and nab you some serious style points.
Play it safe with muted colours, or experiment with brighter hues to liven up the dull winter months. There are plenty of free patterns online, from simpler knits to more complicated cable-knit creations. Arm yourself with needles and yarn and settle down to create your <ahem> masterpiece.
Spruce up charity shop finds or papier mâché creations with a dab of gold leaf here. Just pick up a box, a decorative bowl, some dishes - whatever you fancy - and get stuck in with the embellishments. Perhaps one for more dedicated crafters, but rewarding nonetheless.
You will need:
1. Wash your plate/dish/bowl and dry thoroughly.
2. Decide on your pattern - the simpler the better, as gold leaf has no objection to falling apart and may well end up being carried around the house on the head of your dog or grandchild. Stripes, dots, triangles and the like are perfect for adding a touch of rustic glamour, but you could always mark out your patterns with tape first and use it as a guide.
3. Brush on the glue from your kit in the areas you want to add the gold leaf and leave until it becomes tacky - this can take quite a while, but persevere.
4. Cut your desired gold leaf shape and press it down on the glue. Pat it down gently with the sponge and allow any excess flakes to come off.
5. Brush on the sealer (these often come with the kits) if you have some, or stand and admire if you don't!
Layer up your favourite biscuit recipe in a jar (the dry elements, of course!) and present to little hands to make and bake with an adult. Tie to the lid wth festive ribbon a little card with the baking instructions below (not the ingredients - no need) for making the cookies. You could even attach a seasonal cookie cutter too...
You will need:
Level off each layer as you add it, making sure to keep everything as compact as possible to leave more room for chocolate chips at the top. Finish off with a personalised label et voilà!
1. Preheat oven to 180°C/Gas mark 5.
2. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
3. In a mixing bowl, add 2 tbsp vegetable oil and one large egg to the biscuit mixture and stir, then knead together.
4. When ready, spoon small balls of the dough onto the baking tray (about 3-4cm across) and bake for about 8 minutes or until nice and golden.
Candles are basically obligtory at Christmas with their flickering warmth, so we think these will go down a treat among family and friends. The spicy, sweet aroma that comes from them, especially once lit, directly deposits you into a heady haze of festive fuzziness. Overly alliterative? You wait till you smell them...
You will need:
To the untrained eye, cross stitch pieces look impressive...but they are actually ludicrously simple to make. They're quite time-consuming, so it's best to plan and start them in advance, but there are plenty of free patterns to be found online, and even better ones sold on Etsy at very affordable prices. Since they almost always come in the form of downloads, you can get started right away, too.
The rest of the supplies can be ordered at low cost online, and the finished products can be framed; mounted as Christmas cards; made into pendants like the one above, or even gift labels! There are plenty of options, and this particular craft is having a moment among the young (and 'cooler than us') at the moment, so any teenage grandchildren should be suitably impressed with a modern, snappy slogan (take a look at Etsy for ideas).
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