Another gift-giving occasion has arrived, and the frantic googling has begun. Are you having trouble thinking of that perfect gift that’s sentimental without being cheesy or useful without being boring? DIY gifts can be a quicker, cheaper, and more personal alternative to scouring store shelves for doo-dads or thingamabobs your giftee may or may not enjoy.

But then, of course, there’s the problem of actually ‘doing it yourself’. There are hundreds of lists of DIY gifts available online - but oftentimes, the craft in question becomes far more advanced than advertised.

No sewing machine? No wood-burning tool? No problem. Below are eight DIY crafts for the beginner, I-don’t-usually-make-these-kinds-of-things gift-giver. They can be made (mostly) with things already lying around your house. Most importantly, the giftee will love them - no matter if it’s your parent, partner, friend, or co-worker.

Happy making!

Teacup or Mason Jar Candles

Tea cup with candle inside
Melanie Davis

Revamping old containers is always a great place to start with DIY projects. Mason jars, teacups, depression glassware - any glass receptacles with a wide mouth will work for this one.

Things You'll Need:

  • Glass receptacle of your choosing
  • Scented wax cubes
  • Double boiler (make your own with common kitchen items)
  • Candlewick (you can buy premade or make your own)
  • Pencil or pen
  • Scissors

Instructions:

  • Prepare your wick by wrapping one end 1-2 times around the middle of a pencil or pen.
  • Place the pencil across the mouth of the glass with the wick centered in the middle. The wick should reach the base of your glass. Cut off the wick from the spool (or trim your homemade wick) to the appropriate length. If the wick is too short, unwrap from the pencil and cut a new, longer piece.
  • Melt wax cubes using a double boiler method. I recommend using an old saucepan or coffee can - you won’t be able to cook in whatever you use to melt the wax.

Remember! Never leave your double boiler unattended. The temperature of wax spikes sharply once it’s completely liquified, so keep an eye on it and remove from heat as soon as it’s entirely melted.

  • Carefully remove the smaller pot/bowl from the water and pour into the glass receptacle. Try to pour the wax directly into the center and not around the sides.
  • Let the candle sit overnight. Once the wax is completely set, unroll the end of the wick from the pencil. Trim the wick approx. ¾ - 1" from the base.

Pro tip: add glitter, your favorite essential oils, or dried flowers to the wax for an extra touch of color or scent.

Homemade Limoncello

homemade limoncello

A bottle of homemade limoncello is a unique alternative to the classic wine or bourbon gift. Not only can this gift be enjoyed long after it’s first received, but you can make a complete one-of-a-kind spirit by customizing the flavor, color, and label.

Things You'll Need:

  • 750 mL of 100 proof vodka or pure grain alcohol
  • 5-6 lemons
  • Zester or grater
  • 3 C simple syrup (premade works, but it’s a quick fix if you have granulated sugar laying around)
  • Large glass jar or resealable bottle
  • Large bowl or saucepan
  • Mesh strainer
  • Optional: paper and tape for custom label

Instructions:

  • Gather lemon zest using zester or fine grater. Be careful not to go too far past the yellow rind - the white pith just underneath the aromatic, yellow peel is bitter.
  • Place zest in a large glass jar or resealable bottle and add 750 mL of vodka or pure grain alcohol (or as much as your container will hold). Let the zest steep in liquor for two weeks.
  • Pour the liquor into a large bowl or saucepan over a fine mesh strainer to catch the lemon peels. Add simple syrup and mix.
  • Optional: print out your own custom label (or design it with pens and pencils) and secure to the bottle with tape.

Personalized Bookmarks

Book with homemade bookmark holding page
Image by kemokee from Pixabay

A painfully easy and perfectly customizable gift for your favorite bookworm. The design possibilities are virtually endless. Think of their favorite movie, book, color, sports team, quote, animal, or food, and go from there. They’re so easy, you can even make a complete set of 5 or 6 for their home book, their travel book, cookbook, planner book… you get the idea.

Things you’ll need:

  • Paper (I prefer cardstock as it’s a bit sturdier, but regular printer paper will do the trick)
  • Internet access
  • Printer (or access to a print center)
  • Packing tape or clear duct tape

Instructions:

  • Go to canva.com and join (for free!) using your Facebook, Google account, or create a new Canva account.
  • Click on "create a design," then "+ custom dimensions." Using the drop-down menu to the right, change "px" to "in." Change the width to "2" and length to "7." Click "create new design."
  • Using this template, explore the graphic and background options provided by Canva or import your own using the "uploads" tab. Design as many bookmarks as you want within the same project by clicking "+ add a new page."
  • Download your bookmarks as a PDF and print. Cut out bookmarks.
  • Using packing tape or clear duct tape, gently smooth strips of tape over both sides of the bookmark. Trim excess tape around edges.

Personalized Recipe Book

Recipe book
Image by Rudy and Peter Skitterians from Pixabay

Tailor-make a recipe book to your giftee’s exact tastes. Whiskey lover? Gather 8 to 10 killer bourbon cocktail recipes. Snack lover? Find a bundle of recipes that can be made in 15 minutes or less. Veg-head? Compile a list of vegetarian-friendly dinners. Include as many or as little recipes as you’d like. I recently made a recipe book for my sister-in-law, whose diet excludes chemically processed ingredients. These can be handwritten or typed out - it’s up to you!

Things you’ll need:

  • Paper
  • Colored pens or pencils
  • Recipes of your choice
  • Stapler

Instructions:

  • Figure out the order of your recipes. You can arrange them by ingredients, meal types (breakfast, dessert, etc.), or seasons and holidays. Have fun with it - make it personal to the person getting the cookbook!
  • Design your recipe pages using colored pens or pencils. Don’t be afraid to look up lettering or coloring styles online for reference. And don’t worry - it’s still DIY even if you trace, use stickers, or cut and paste.
  • Create a binding on your pages by stapling the left-side length shut with parallel staples.

If you live near a copy and print center (Office Depot, Staples, and public libraries are a good place to check), you can upload your recipe book as a PDF, and the C + P center will print and bind your book for you!

Mirrored Picture Frame

Mirrored picture frame with photo
Melanie Davis

In my opinion, photographs are one of the best things you can give someone. The people and memories immortalized in pictures are invaluable. Turn a simple photograph into a gorgeous piece of memorabilia with an inexpensive frame and an old CD.

Things you’ll need:

  • An old (or blank) CD
  • Scissors
  • Plastic bag
  • Hot glue or superglue
  • Photograph (Walgreens offers same-day printing!)
  • Picture frame sized for your photo

Instructions:

  • Place your CD in a plastic bag and snap into small pieces. You can also use scissors to cut up the pieces even more. Be careful of any sharp edges!
  • Using hot glue or superglue, affix the CD pieces reflective side-up on the picture frame. There’s no wrong way to do this. Decorate the corners only, create lines or zig-zags, or completely cover the frame mosaic-style.
  • Place your priceless photograph in your frame. Voila! You’re all done.

Themed Goodie Boxes

Wrapped gifts with "just for you" gift tag

Your DIY gift doesn’t need to be one large item - if you’re really stumped, go for lots of small treats and goodies you’d know they love. Incorporate their favorite color, sports team, candy, or beauty brands into the overall theme. And yes, it’s still DIY! You’re picking out items, designing the box and arrangement, and most important - completely tailoring the gift to your giftee’s taste.

Things you’ll need:

  • Shoebox
  • Paint, washi tape or duct tape
  • Items of your choice. Here are some ideas to get you started:

    • 50 mL airplane shots

    • Sample size beauty products

    • Hair ties or headbands (who isn't constantly losing these?)

    • Keychains

    • Small bags of snacks

    • Matching stationery items (pens, notepads, etc.)

    • Small notebooks

  • Tissue paper

Instructions:

  • Decorate your shoebox any way you’d like - paint, washi tape, duct tape, or markers will all do the trick. Find a color, shape, or theme to focus on and go from there.
  • Line the bottom of the box with tissue paper, saving some to place over the arrangement.
  • Arrange your items. You can use tissue paper to add height or stabilize loose items. For a pleasing design, try to arrange the goodies so that everything can be seen without rustling through the box.
    Embroidery Hoop Photo Hanger

Embroidery Hoop Photo Hanger

Polaroid pictures hanging from embroidery hoop
Melanie Davis

Too many amazing photos to choose from for a single frame? Display multiple photographs with an embroidery hoop photo hanger. Use multiple hoops for a chandelier effect!

Things you’ll need:

  • Embroidery hoop (plastic or wood)
  • String, ribbon, twine, or embroidery floss
  • Photographs
  • Washi tape
  • Optional: hole punch

Instructions:

  • Cut two pieces of string to the same length - long enough to stretch across the embroidery hoop with a little slack. Tie either end of the strings to opposite sides of the hoop. This is how you will hang the piece once it’s finished.
  • Determine how many photos will be on your embroidery hoop(s). Cut your string, ribbon, or twine to your desired length and tie one side onto the hoop. Let the other side hang down - that’s where the photo will be attached.
  • If you are adding multiple hoops, laying different sizes works best. Cut 4-5 pieces of string to the same length. Connect the hoop layers with the string, making sure the connections are evenly spaced and directly above/below each other.
  • Use decorative washi tape to tape photographs to the loose ends of string.

Alternatively, you can also punch a hole in the top of the photograph and use the string to tie up the picture instead!

Homemade Baked Goods

Laura Bennett

Perhaps the shortest-lived but most-appreciated present, special homemade treats are meant to be made with love and eaten up as soon as possible. Lucky for you, you can find amazingly delicious recipes right here on Oola.

Baking can seem tricky at first, but don’t sweat it. Follow the instructions as written, google any terms you might not recognize (no shame!), and don’t be afraid to try again if the first batch is less than ideal.

Here are some of my favorite recipes from our team here at Oola, sure to make any lucky giftee happy and full.

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