Indiana, PA - Indiana County

The Art of Giving: Crafting homemade gifts

by on November 22, 2013 10:50 AM

Started your Christmas shopping yet? Almost finished?

There are still a few weeks before Christmas. It’s time to wrap your purchases and also to make some homemade gifts for family and special friends.

While some will flock to find the best sales on Black Friday in search of the perfect gift, some will create it at home.

Homemade gifts have grown in popularity since the rise of popular social network and virtual pin board Pinterest launched in 2010. They’re a budget-friendly alternative to retail shopping and sometimes even take less time.

They’ve also become a popular go-to gift idea for families with children – the children often creating a masterpiece of their own to give at the holidays.

From tree decorations made from construction paper, to book cases turned dollhouse and more, homemade gifts could be just the alternative you’re looking for this holiday season.


For families like Emily Johns and her children, Martin and Summer Tyme, homemade gifts aren’t just a tradition — they’re an important part of life.

Martin, 6, and Summer, 2, are autistic. Johns feels that by teaching her kids how to make homemade gifts, she’s teaching them how to give back to others as well as the community.

“I love the aspect of teaching my children how to give,” Johns said. “Hopefully, as adults, they’ll be giving to other people as well.”

Johns and the children have plenty of traditions when it comes to homemade gift making.

“We have some that are traditions every year, like the holiday punch we make,” she said.

Other crafts that they do include pine cones dipped in glitter, an activity that she says her family enjoys because it’s simple. They make crosses to put on their Christmas tree out of construction paper; paper snowflakes to decorate the house with; and popcorn strings to hang on the tree.

Another quick and easy homemade gift that Johns makes is tins filled with cookies, usually peanut butter no-bakes. Once in the tin, a bell can be stuck to the top — to keep the gift wrapping free.

Last year, Johns said, she sold some of the gifts that her and her children had made on Facebook to donate the proceeds to the Salvation Army.

“We tell people ahead of time that the money will be donated,” she said. “We took the money up (to the Salvation Army) in a little envelope and they (the kids) handed it to them.”

“It’s good to show them, even as little as they are, how to help other people.”

Still early in the season, Johns, Martin and Summer will be working as hard as elves on their gifts as the countdown to Christmas begins.

“People like homemade gifts,” Johns said. “Because they come from the heart.”


For the Fairbanks family, of Clarksburg, crafts are a major part of daily life.

Patty Fairbanks home schools her children, Jacob and Rachel, and, as a part of their art requirements, they make lots of homemade items.

As the holidays draw near, she and the kids are busy putting together gifts that will be memorable for family and friends.

New on their gift-making list this season is what Patty calls “grungy jars,” an item she found on Pinterest. These jars take just a few simple items to become a unique, personalized gift, though they take about four days to make.

They also make rag wreaths to hang on the Christmas tree, paracord keychains and bracelets, heat packs, bath salts and more.

The possibilities for gift making and giving are endless.

“A lot of ideas I get from Pinterest,” Fairbanks said. “It’s definitely helped and given me more ideas. And then I get to be creative whenever I start getting into stuff.”

The process of making the gifts is fun for the kids, too.

Jacob enjoys making the paracord key chains, while Rachel loves making clothes hangers for 18 inch dolls from popsicle sticks.

Fairbainks says that she rarely goes out of her way to buy the items that she uses for the gifts. Many of the necessary pieces are household items that she can recycle, like peanut butter jars and used coffee grinds.

She labels many of her gifts, like the grungy jars, bath salts and lotions, with labels that she prints from the Web or creates herself.

“My thought is that anyone can go to the store and buy something, but if you make it yourself that means more — that ‘s something you made and you put the thought into,” she said.


Ready to craft? See how they did it here. 



Ellen Matis is the digital media coordinator and a staff writer at The Indiana Gazette. She is the person behind the Gazette's social media. A 2012 graduate of Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Ellen has a degree in journalism and public relations. Follow her on Twitter, @EllenMatis, or email her at
Next Article
Reverent memorials set across nation
November 22, 2013 10:45 AM
Disclaimer: Copyright © 2017 Indiana Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.