The little birds...

If you watch little birds you will see they are busy and happy! Using whatever they can find they create the most gorgeous little nest.
I would be the little bird with some glittery thread in her nest!
We can be like this. Happily working away with the things that are available to us to create a beautiful and happy home.
All the while with a little song in our heart.

Banner by Free Pretty Things for You.

Sunday 5 July 2015

A gift and a new week. Part 1.

Recently Wendy asked me when am I doing more craft posts!? I had a patch where I was working on Chloe's blanket and that was all I did for a couple of months!  Well, now it is July! This means serious business as it's time to get started on Christmas presents. Don't have a fit as if you want to seriously make all or most of your Christmas presents now is the time to start!

I want to stress you do not have to be crafty to make your presents! Coming up I will share what I am making as I go. Also look in my crafts, crochet etc sections for ideas. But to help I am giving you all my e book for free. It will take a bit longer to read than a regular posts! But it will take you through a process of working out what you are good at, what your resources are and what gifts would be great for your family and friends.

Quite possibly you have both skills and items you can get your hands on for free or very inexpensively that will become wonderful gifts. Can you imagine how much this might save you this year? Would this help your budget? Apart from not spending too much you could think of it as a way to improve your emergency fund. Spend 1/4 what you normally would and save, build up your pantry or something to improve your home. It is absolutely possible. Now is the time to do this. 

I have seen ladies who said they did not think they were crafty or artistic blossom and have so much fun making things! Many times our creativity has dried up due to perfectionism. We think our work is not good enough. I won't say anymore it's here in my E Book. 

I would love to hear what you decide your talents and gifts are. Also what you might already have that you can use or what resources you might have around you. Once you have this worked out you will have time on your side. Starting now you may only need to make a couple of gifts per month. We will work that out. You are going to have plenty of time and be ready to wrap well before Christmas Day! So this is a big start but it is the start of the most economical Christmas ever but the best one ever!

I am very happy to help with gift ideas based on your talent or gift and your resources. These combined with the recipients ages and likes. It is just like maths.  Talent + Resource+ likes = perfect gift! You will stun your recipients and yourself! xxx

How to make your Christmas and Birthday gifts.
(And how to have a joyous Christmas with no financial strain)

Christmas and Birthday gifts can be a huge strain on the budget. For many these times create a budget blowout that has a hangover well into the next year and is a stress that is the downside of what should be a wonderful time.

We all THINK it would be wonderful if we could make our gifts but Christmas comes around and we are lucky if we have made a gift or two. And times are frantic, it just doesn't happen! Worse, we run around spending too much as the last minute approaches. Desperation sees us overspend. And this cycle goes around and around! Having an after Christmas debt is not the way to start a new year. We want to celebrate and be generous but there are ways to do both without getting into debt!

For many people times are getting financially tougher. So if we are ever going to save money on gifts now might be the time! And I am going to help you get started! 

Part One. What are your talents and resources?

The gifts I make for my friends and family will not be the same as the ones you are going to make. Firstly lets think about our skills and things we might have on hand to create our gifts.

Maybe you have been a sewer in the past and have a cupboard full of fabrics. So I know you can sew and that you have materials already. Combining these two things is a place to start. Maybe you have collected yarns over the years. The things you have in your stash can be a good place to start as you can turn them into gifts. 

 Consider your skills. If you are a good photographer use family or friend gatherings to take beautiful photos. Everyone loves photos of their children or pets! You could even offer to take a series of family photos so they have an informal portrait. Instant and very appreciated gift. In this case your skills are your resource and are valuable in creating many gifts in the future.

Or maybe you like to garden and have a heap of plastic pots. These two would get you off to a good start with potted gifts. Last year I potted a series of succulents and also took cuttings from a local Jade plant which grew brilliantly. These gave me a dozen gifts which I used in place of the gift of flowers on several occasions. Lovely pots if you can find them at good prices are helpful otherwise wrap your plastic pot in hessian and tie up with string. This makes them look really stylish and rustic for very little. Or paint terracotta pots in blackboard paint and use chalk to write on the name of the plant.

Possibly you have plants that multiply in your garden. My aunty has Agaves. Big ones are over $100 in the nursery. These are a resource as are any plants that you might have multiplying. Go and see how much they are each in the nursery!

So lets think about making a list of skills, even those that might need a bit of brushing up, and even those no one might know about! Maybe you can paint or draw nicely. Maybe you are a good cook. Whatever it is consider it a skill you have. List them.

Now consider any materials you might have that would get you off the ground supply wise. Write those down as this will come in handy later. 
I really recommend you start a little book where you write down your ideas. List your skills and things you might be able to use up. And we will add things to make and also list the names of people we want to give to and ideas for them as they come to light. Then supplies to look for and all your gift making notes.

The internet especially is a huge help now. If, for example, you have lots of small pieces of material and no idea what to make with it actually search "gifts to make with fat quarters" or "patchwork gift ideas". And be specific ie if you have a friend who loves her kitchen or to cook search "fabric gifts for cooks" or even "easy fabric gifts for cooks" and start pinning and taking notes on ideas that you really like.

This process helps you use the skills you have and use up things you have on hand. You will be amazed at the ideas this process produces and the choices you have. Using materials you have on hand is going to save you so much money.

Next consider resources you might have that you COULD use. We have an apricot tree, eggs, my Mum has a Bay Leaf tree... I count these as assets and every foodie parcel or cooks gift includes Bay Leaves and my apricots give me lots of jars of jam to also add to food hampers and I give apricot pies as gifts too. Once again google ideas or recipes to use up your resource.  Make the most of this money saving gift. 

Write down a list of possible supplies or resources you have. And start a corresponding list of possibilities. For instance if you have a lemon tree search "lemon preserves" or "what can I make from lemons?" as you will get everything from recipes to cleaning products! This is how you get ideas you just never thought of!

Realising you have a resource is a big thing. Many people won't consider the things they have as potential materials for gift giving. But open your eyes to the possibilities.  I just had access to some old wooden ladders.... ohhh the possibilities! I found some old wooden windows and made frames from them. You might be surprised what your resources are...

Sometimes things will just come your way or perhaps you will see a huge bargain. I got a whole big box of tomatoes for $5 knowing this bargain would be really handy. It made us lots of pasta sauce and I made jars of chutney. A stash of these added again to hamper gifts.

Just think about what materials you have access to. If my husband was a carpenter I would be asking for offcuts to make beautiful French shaped chopping boards with a rope through the handle! If a friend sewed wedding dresses I would be asking her to save me beaded and luxury fabric scraps! There may be materials right under your nose that you haven't even thought of! Identify your materials and search for ideas that will give you beautiful gifts. If my husband was a tiler I think I would be going into mosaics!

Identifying things that you might have access to for free can possibly save you so much money. And it is fun to be this creative. 

The next one is to look for suitable gifts for family and friends using the skills you have and buying some supplies for these projects. This requires some planning. We want our gifts to be beautiful but not break the bank because that is the whole point! So costing things out is important. Sometimes materials can be found much cheaper when we compare around, sometimes we can decide to use a substitute and other times we need to scrap an idea as it is just going to be too costly! We need to be sensible on this one. 

Another idea is to look on free cycle and in op shops and garage sales etc and be open minded about what could be a material you could work with. Having lots of ideas of things you would love to make and keeping an eye out until the opportunity comes along. Last year I had the idea to make everyone kitchen blackboards. Eventually I saw a pile of wonderful frames put out as rubbish on the side of the road! Bingo! My husband Andy cut boards to fill each one and I had six beautiful kitchen blackboards (chalk boards). 

Your skills, whatever they are, are a starting point and we need somewhere to start. But you may think your skills do not equate to suitable gifts. This is where your research comes in. See what other people are doing with those skills, what people are buying in stores and what stores are charging. Online stores like Pottery Barn, Anthroplogie etc are great to look at for modern ideas from older skills like knitting. They charge a fortune for knitted homewares! You can gather so many ideas. I have met people who think their skill is old fashioned and does not equate to give able gifts. If I can show them what people are paying high prices for it is an eye opener! So if you feel this way about your skills have a look around. Even macrame is fashionable again! 

Target your searches. If you want to make gifts for someone who is a keen cook and loves her kitchen then look in Kitchenware stores and Gourmet stores. You will see beautiful bottles of herbed oils, fabulous chopping boards, stunning jars, linens and there will be things that will surprise you. There will be things that amount to ideas that you could make. I will even take a photo so I remember and I will notice the price too. My ideas go into my book. If I need to I will google instructions, go through recipe books or even watch a You Tube tutorial to start making up some of the ideas that I think might work. I am just always on the look out for things that are beautiful and that I think I could make without too much expense. Keeping the ideas coming in is both really fun and exciting but ensures after this Christmas and round of birthdays you have new ideas to get started on.

Make a study of it. Recently I browsed in a stunning home wares store that had a french country theme. It was gorgeous. I could have stayed there all day! But I was studying. Much of their stuff you would find in your Grand Fathers shed, old ladders, vintage jars, then hand knitted wash cloths and hand towels, potted herbs in rustic pots and tins... I came out of there with so many new ideas of things I can make. Also some presentation ideas. They used hessian to wrap and trim things and it looked beautiful. Jot your ideas down, ask for a catalogue or look online... and you have a list of your ideas. 

After a session of inspiration like this it's easy to forget all these great new ideas. So I tend to write them down, draw little pictures, collect photos or instructions etc to refer back to.

A resource you may not have thought about is your heritage. If you have your Grandmothers recipes, photos, cards or notes you have a resource. Compile these into cook books for the family. Include Grandmas own handwriting if possible. Make heirloom treasures that will go into future generations and record this wonderful history. What could be a better gift!? If you have old family photos they are a resource. Washable markers are great. You can write a family recipe onto a tea towel and even use that as a way to wrap up a kitchen gift. Photocopy Grandma's hand written recipe and frame it or make it up and tie the recipe to the container the food is in. What a lovely present.

Skills do not have to be crafty. If you are good with the computer and can upload photos or edit photos you could consider making personal calendars, diaries,cards and all kinds of things or use an online shop to create them for you from images you supply. These can be very inexpensive. A book of photos for Grandma could be the nicest thing you could give her! A calendar or diary full of family photos and verses or quotes of your choosing... imagine the possibilities of a personal and priceless gift. Most of the online stores that do these kind of printed products have amazing specials and if you join they will inform you. The products are so professional and amazing. What a stunning but inexpensive gift. If you feel you have no crafty skills remember back to things you were once taught. As it is amazing how quickly we pick back up skills we once learned. It might be years since you did something but a refresher can produce startling results! 

Part two following....


  1. This is excellent advice! You gave me new ideas. This year, I am battling breast cancer. I have chemo all summer. So I hadn't thought of gift giving yet. Chemo is distracting with the side effects. You have inspired me to think about what I can work on when I don't feel well. Be blessed, and do come visit me at Harvest Lane Cottage! I found you through Sarah's blog, The Classical Homemaker.

    Harvest Lane Cottage
    ...doing what I can with what I've got where I am
    on a short shoestring budget!

    1. Dear Laura, I know exactly who you are and am so pleased to hear from you. I am sorry for the battle you are going through. Truly if you are up to it then some crochet or other crafts could be very nice for you. I also love the Classical Homemaker. I am so grateful for beautiful blogs about homemaking! With love

    2. Dear Annabel,
      I was just reading this post again. That was such a difficult time in my life. I've finished chemo, radiation, four surgeries and innumberable tests now. Praise God, I am cancer free. I spent a lot of time knitting hats for other cancer patients. A couple of my chemo nurses saw me and invited me to their weekly knitting group. It was a big step for me, but I went. It's been wonderful to meet and stitch together on Tuesday evenings. It has given me something to keep my mind and my hands busy. I am currently knitting a pair of socks for my husband for Christmas 2019. I hope I make it! Just a week left!

      Be blessed,

  2. How will I find your tutorial for the powder puffs?

    1. Dear Joy, Here it is plus how to make the powder as well...
      good luck! With love


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