15 easy DIY Christmas gifts

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14 Dec 2012

The festive season is a frantic time of year and shopping centres are packed with people scrambling to find special gifts for friends and loved ones.

Homemade gifts are a great way to save money over the festive season and they have great sentimental value.

The perfect gift doesn't have to cost an atrocious amount of money. Most times it is small and sentimental and may even be handmade. This year, why not try some of these fantastic DIY Christmas gifts made from things lying around at home and give something extra special that is truly made from the heart....

Lovely gifts for the ladies

1. There is finally a use for that incomplete Scrabble game with this practical Christmas gift. Using the letter tiles and a ring of wire, you can make a personalised set of wine glass charms. Add a bit of colour to them using glass or wooden beads. Another use for scrabble tiles is to stick them on a simple wooden photo frame, to add a personal touch. Spell out a sweet message or a friend's name and slip in a family photo for a great, heartwarming gift.

2. Bath soaps, salts, body scrubs and butters are easy to make using basic household ingredients. Using a few cups of sugar and coffee, you can make a refreshing, skin toning body scrub, or you could use coarse salt and a few drops of essential oils and a handful of dried herbs and flowers to make a herbal scrub. The possibilities and combinations are endless. However, you will have to buy a jar to put it in, unless you have one lying around.

Bath salts, soaps and fizzies are easy to make using common household ingredients. Add some crushed flowers or herbs for a perfumed scent.

3. Homemade fudge, cookies, jams and chocolates make great, thoughtful presents and they are inexpensive to make. You can decorate them and package them in a variety of ways to suit any occasion. It helps if you know the person's favourite treat, then you can bake up a bunch and keep them happy throughout the holiday season.

4. It doesn’t take much time or expense to make homemade jewellery. Buying thin chains and a few charms or pendants or even recycling jewellery you no longer wear can make a handful of gifts. You can also use thin leather thongs to make hippy looking bracelets for rebellious teenagers, and if jewellery goes wrong, you can never fail with knitted scarves or handmade bags.

5. It's easy to create gifts out of photographs. A collage, photo cubes, scrap books and photo printed onto canvas are a sweet way of reminding a loved one of the special moments you've shared together and they never lose their value. These are perfect gifts for family or friends you don't see often.

Essential gifts for men

6. Coasters are essential for any home, but you can make these homemade coasters fun and personal to suit the guy you're giving them to. You can choose to print a variety of fun pictures, stick them on the coaster cut-outs and seal them yourself, or you can make them from scratch using scrabble tiles.

Make a male family member a fabric or leather wallet and sew a personal message on the front. Remember, it's bad luck to give a wallet or purse to someone when it's empty, so slip a note in there.

7. What man doesn’t love to braai? Make him a braai apron, complete with pockets, nooks and crannies so all his cooking tools are handy and he has no excuse. Make sure the straps are adjustable and the material is durable, and definitely not flammable. If you feel like indulging a bit, buy a pair of tongs or a grill brush and slip them in there, so he knows what it's for.

8. Nothing is more frustrating than having your boyfriend or husband scream at you from the TV room, asking where the remote is. Make sure he always knows exactly where it is by making a nifty remote caddy. These slip over the arm of the couch and can store books, TV guides and all the remotes for that room.

9. Instead of buying a wallet that is likely to fall apart in a few months, why not try making one out of denim or leather. Get a few pieces of your preferred material and make a wallet that is made to fit in his back pocket. Add a personal touch by sewing his initials, an important date or a sentimental phrase onto the front.

An old suitcase with a Lego sheet stuck on the top is a great way for kids to keep all the pieces together when they travel, and it also provides a spot they can play on wherever they are.

10. If your man is a cigar smoker, a handmade wooden ashtray is the perfect gift. They are relatively easy to make, as you only need a thick disc of wood, some tools and a varnish or sealant. Carve the appropriate grooves out of the disk and then sand it down to smooth finish. A personal touch can be to carve his name or date of birth into it.

Tip: Make sure to let the varnish soak into your carving, making it darker and easier to see.

Funky gifts for kids

11. Lego is an expensive, albeit fun hobby, and if your child has a collection, you want to make sure it is kept safe. Using an old cardboard, plastic or wooden suitcase, glue a Lego sheet to the top and paint your child's name along the side. He or she now has a handy place to store any Lego they want to travel with. Another great idea is to turn an old coffee table into a Lego table by securing four Lego sheets in the middle, ensuring hours of fun.

12. If you know any particularly arty children, then an art organiser is just the thing you need. Use a sheet of a sturdy fabric like denim and sew pockets that fit a sketch pad, pencils, paint or crayons onto it. Reinforce the spine with a ruler like length of wood; add a strap to the spine and a zip to close it all up and the kids are ready to go.

13. You can recycle old coffee tins into stilts simply by adding rope. Children love them and they're really easy to make. Take two metal coffee tins and spray paint them twice in your preferred colour. Then drill two medium sized holes on either side of the bottom of the tin and thread rope, similar to skipping rope, through the holes to make an arch and tie a knot at each end, inside the tin.

14. If you know how to make soap, soap crayons are great for making bath time an adventure for children. Simply melt different coloured soaps into silicone moulds and let them set, leaving a set of coloured, clean crayons for the kids to write on the bathroom walls with.

15. Of course, you can never go wrong with knitting or sewing your favourite child a jersey, scarf or beanie. Children are forever growing out of clothes, and buying them can become expensive. So if you are a seamstress, sew up a few funky outfits for the children you know. Even if the kids don’t appreciate it, their parents certainly will. – Victoria Taylor

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