Part four. Start producing.
While we are gathering ideas and planning I want you to get started on something. It can be something easy and small but something. As action creates more action and your confidence will grow. It may be filling some pots with soil and planting herbs in them. Or striking some cuttings or casting on a baby rug. Anything. As we are creating a habit here of continually adding to our gifts in the making. And some things need time to grow, be worked on and develop. We need to get started! It is natural for me that when I sit down I pick up work to go on with. But it doesn't feel like work, it is lovely. I would feel silly just watching TV and doing nothing! If I am very tired or have a headache that might happen but usually I just pick up where I left off and it is amazing how your work adds up.
If you feel your skill levels are still a little low then consider really easy things. If you can sew a little bit then embellishing things with simple trims is very easy. Inexpensive tea towels or sheets can be trimmed with pretty lace or braid. It only involves a straight line of sewing but elevates something from basic to gift worthy. I like to add braid or pom pom trim to tea towels and napkins and it makes such a difference. Choose a few easy things to get yourself going. Really your confidence will increase and you will feel proud of the results.
I made all these kitchen cloths from vintage material backed with cotton and added braid.
Make it easy for yourself. I keep my yarn and needles right where I sit in the lounge so it is all right there next to me. This means I don't have to go searching, I can just get on with it.
Part Five. Increase your skills.
As we work on our gifts ideas will pop into our head. People also may comment that they love what you are doing and give you ideas. Write them down before you forget! But there will always be next year as well so as we go we want to increase our skills and learn new ones.
With pinterest, You Tube, online tutorials we are surrounded by easy and free ways to learn just about anything. I recently started watching You Tube tutorials to learn to crochet new things. Oh my goodness it is fabulous! Seriously whatever you have ever wished to learn it is there! If you would like to learn cake decorating or calligraphy or quilting or whatever it is there! The bonus is it is really fun. I had a lovely time this year with new patterns and stitches I learned.
The next one not to be overlooked is to learn from those around us. If you are lucky enough to have a Nan, a neighbour or Mum who has skills in sewing, cooking or any handicraft ask them to teach you. Spend that time with them. It will be a wonderful time and so much more will come of it than skills. But the skills will help you with your future gifts.
Part Six. Storing and organising.
I have a cupboard I keep just for storing presents in. And it is amazing that later in the year when I go through this cupboard I find I have forgotten many of the things I made earlier in the year. The last two years I have taken everything out and worked out who is getting what. I have been so shocked at how much I've produced! It's like a shop! And I have ended up with MORE than I need. The wonderful thing is that this has meant I have been able to give extra gifts to charity and to someone I might find that might be really blessed by a gift. You will find you have saved so much and you can also be more generous than you ever thought possible.
Part Seven. Confidence and appreciation of value.
This is a big one. We can think anything we can produce is not gift worthy. If you feel the slightest bit this way then I have some projects for you. I want you to go to some lovely upmarket home wares stores and really have a look around. Take notes even. You will find so much inspiration. You will find hand knitted and crocheted rugs and cushions that are divine and HUNDREDS of dollars. You will see many hand made and vintage things that you could make and probably die when you see the prices! Do the same in some gift stores. Study the catalogues that include hampers and foodie gifts. Go to a beautiful department store and look at the foods presented to give. Packaged cakes, biscuits, hampers of jams, chocolates and all kinds of sweets. Look at the way they are presented. Look at the prices. A Christmas cake, maybe medium in size will likely be fifty dollars or more. A packet of biscuits maybe sixteen dollars... Really explore and study. I want you to realise your box full of cupcakes made for your nieces Birthday would be worth $60 to $80. And she will think it so sensational. We need to value what we have made and feel proud if it!
If you are using your gardening skills go to a nursery and note the prices of plants. Note how they present plants for gift giving, interesting ways to label and identify plants, things that are particularly popular...
As your confidence grows try to expand your skills. Leap on any opportunity to learn new things. Many older people are so knowledgable on how to do things from make soap to drying herbs, knitting and sewing and so on. As we learn our confidence grows. Soon you have people wanting to buy what you are making. That is a lovely thing, then you KNOW your goods are valuable and make great gifts!
Part Eight. Packaging and presentation.
So much of how the things we have made look depend on how we present them. Packaging is a huge factor. I'm hoping from exploring and looking in shops you have noted some packaging ideas. This will confuse your recipient. They won't be sure if you bought your foodie gift in David Jones or you made it yourself! When they find out you made it they will be so impressed. That's what packaging does. It elevates things to a professional level. This is where the finished product looks so good you are thrilled with it!
Once again we don't want our packaging to blow the budget out of the water. Looking at professional methods helps as they are trying to make a profit AND have things looking appealing so we can learn a lot from them.
Each year I package up my Coconut Ice and make it look pink and lovely. Last year I placed it on trays with fresh pink roses and people picked a piece.
The year before I used dried pink roses and organza ribbon. It looked lovely. Another year I cut it into heart shapes. It always draws oohs and ahhs!
I find cellophane and cellophane bags very helpful. Also nice jars and boxes. But I am continually looking out for ideas. Craft stores and food stores stock noodle boxes and all kinds of containers and cellophane bags that can be prefect for packaging. When you need a really large cellophane bag use an oven bag it looks the same! If I see something packaged beautifully I happily take a photo of it to remind me when I have my own packaging to do.This all will help you feel confident and proud of your own produce.
Last Christmas I made lolly kebabs for some young girls. They looked so pretty like wands. They were a great hit and cost about one dollar each to make.
I also made gifts for cooks and included Bouquet Garni made from herbs in my garden. I used muslin and string to wrap the herbs and large cellophane bags to hold groups of six.
The next thing is to use "props". I will look for simple containers and items to make a gift seem complete. If I am making a pie as a gift I will use a pretty pie plate to hold my gift and that becomes part of it. Usually I pay about $2 for these at a cheap shop. But it makes it easy and look good. The same with a gift of meals, I might use a couple of little casserole dishes that are part of the gift. They can be a dollar or two each.
A good teenage gift is a Chocolate Pizza. A pizza pan is about one dollar in a cheap store. Melt chocolate and cover your pan and then decorate while warm with sprinkles or sweets. You can form a number to signify a Birthday or write a message... The pizza pan is the base of the gift. Wrap in cellophane and a ribbon. These are so easy and the kids can decorate them! A pizza pan can also be covered in toffee with nuts or sesame seeds stirred in. You tie it up and include a mini hammer to smash it up. It is stunning and costs about a dollar to make. You can do the same as a giant biscuit and decorate it.
Baskets are quite expensive so I watch for them in op shops and then paint them up in a session near Christmas. You can spray paint them or even use a greyish paint to give them a soft french glaze that makes them look fabulous. Then you have a way to add several items and you have a hamper. I might add a jar of jam, Chocolate fudge, a mimi Christmas cake, some Coconut Ice and what ever else I have made. These make lovely gifts. When you are doing your research look at hampers and how they are presented and the prices! They are hugely expensive! My favourite container for hampers is a small wooden box. Sometimes I am lucky enough to find them and recycle them for this.
Part Nine. Multiply.
There will be many things that are suitable for more than one person. And it never hurts to have spares. So think about making extra while you are working on one thing. You can end up with so many more gifts this way. A little bit of a production line... A while ago I did pretty wrapped soaps after seeing beautiful wrapped soaps for twenty dollars each in a gift store! Yes they were really $20 each! Rather than do one or a couple I did several dozen in a couple of days. These have been so handy! I have given them as singles and in groups of three or paired them with a wash cloth I have made as a set. While I was wrapping and decorating I might as well keep going. It gave me a lot of extra little gifts.
When I make wash cloths I make heaps! These and the soaps have paired together naturally and been pretty gifts.
Next I made piles of dish cloths from cotton I had. They are soft, absorbent and thick. I will give them in sets of three in kitchen themed gifts. And they were fun to do.
Another way to multiply your gifts is to make big batches of what ever you cook. If I do coconut ice I make enough for about twenty parcels. I make a fruit cake in a baking tray and when it's cold I cut it into nine smaller cakes and ice them individually. Then I have nine decorated small cakes perfect for hampers. Or you could cook your cakes in Texas Muffin tins so you have a series of individual sized cakes. Wrapped prettily these are gorgeous gifts. I just always make extra if I have the materials. For a family a large cake is suitable but for individuals smaller cakes are just right. Whatever extras I have end up being gifts I can give someone unexpected. Batches of old fashioned fudge or toffees are so inexpensive to make, so wonderful and it makes good sense to make a big batch.
And the final part 4...