Oct 28

Made With Love: My Homemade Christmases Past


The Christmas Story Deconstructed

We all remember the tragic pink bunny pajamas that aunt Clara made Ralphie in popular movie A Christmas Story, and I suspect most of us have received poorly handcrafted gift or two. But I promise there are plenty of nice handmade gifts that your friends and family would be happy to receive. And don’t worry, if none of these suit your giftee, you can always give him $20 in a generic Christmas card (lame!).

Cheap and Chic?

I first started knitting and sewing when I was in college. I’ve always had a natural interest in “creating” things and I love the customization aspect of making my own clothing. To this day, I’m still amazed that you can turn a ball of yarn into a sweater with two “sticks” (I mean seriously, how cool is that?!). Another part of my interest in crafting came from being a little bit broke. When I graduated for college I had a lot of student loan debt and not very much spare cash. Fortunately (or not so fortunately)  it took me a a while to find my first adult job, so I had a lot of free time on my hands. In that free time I made many of the following homemade Christmas gifts:

Quilt made for my mother

Quilts/blankets: Yes, I understand not everyone is a quilter, but if you are, or you want to learn, it’s not nearly as difficult to learn as you’d think. You can get a basic quilting book from the library, or search the internet for patterns (u-tube has some great beginner videos). If you don’t have the time or the energy to make a quilt, making a fleece throw is really easy. A few Christmases ago I made my grandfather the Red Sox throw and pillow shown in the photo at the bottom of this post.


Handmade Mittens

Mittens, Hats, Scarves: Even a beginner knitter and whip up a scarf in a weekend. The mittens above are one of my favorite patterns to make as gifts. In fact friends and co-workers who have seen me wearing them have actually offered to buy them. For twilight fans, they are inspired by Bella’s mittens in one of the twilight movies (I’ve never seen the movies, but bf is a big fan-strange, I know!).

Flannel PJ pants

Pajama Pants: Many folks learned how to make these in home economics class in high school (I actually didn’t take home ec, at the time I thought it was stupid-the irony that I now love to knit and sew). You don’t really need a pattern (if you have an old pair you can just use them as a measure), but if you want one you can buy one at Joann Fabrics during one of their pattern sales (they frequently go on sale for a dollar). I like to use flannel because it’s super cozy.Etched glassEtched Glasses: Oh yes I did! I know, 1970 called and they want their etched glasses back, right? Etched glasses are cool and retro these days, who knew? I picked up a bunch of glasses at the thrift shop and used stencils to etch on monograms (it’s hard to tell from the photo, but the glass below etched is “M G” for my dad. I also found some cool football shaped glasses that I etched for my brother-in-law. I filled the glasses with packaged snacks, golf tees and lottery tickets, he loved them.

Christmas gifts

L to R: Golf Club Covers, X-mas CDs, Fleece blanket & Pillow

Christmas CDs: This one is a great last minute gift that’s quick and easy to make (and takes no real “crafting” skills). There’s an abundance of free Christmas music available on the Internet. I downloaded a bunch of my favorites, then burned some CDs and typed up a playlist. I decorated the covers with stickers.


These are the cards I include with handmade gifts they say: “Made w/my hands, given with my heart” totally cheesy!

Cookies, cakes and candy, oh my!: I love receiving edible gifts for Christmas, and I know other people do too! I haven’t done a lot of baking in the past couple of years, but I have very fond memories of making chocolates with my grandmother as a teenager. We experimented with different flavored centers (peppermint, orange, lemon etc.) and had a lot of fun. We also gave away chocolate dipped pretzel rods rolled in crushed candy canes-which were a big hit!

Do you like homemade gifts? What’s the best handmade gift you’ve ever given/received?

Image: Kevin Dooley


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  1. Clarrise @ Make Money Your Way

    Last year I received a creative gift from my younger sister it was a photo frame. She personalized the design of the photo frame and she put our pictures. I didn’t expect it because usually she just bought a gift for me.

    1. KK

      A few years ago a friend of mine gave me a framed photo he took of a little island off the coast of Maine. It’s one of the most special gifts I’ve ever received. Reminded me of home and was so thoughtful.

  2. Kasey @ Debt Perception

    My mom sends me homemade cookies every year. It’s the best time of year! I also make most of my Christmas gifts. My nieces still love the blankets I made them years ago when they were toddlers, even if they’re no longer into Dora or Bratz dolls. They tend to appreciate handmade gifts more than the toys and gadgets they end up losing by April.

    1. KK

      I love homemade treats (esp. ones that are family recipes that you only have a couple times a year). I made my nephews quilts for their first birthdays, they are now 5 and still sleeping with them (that makes me so happy).

  3. E.M.

    These are all really cute ideas. I wish I had that talent! I did knit a scarf once, but the material was a bit itchy for me. My mom has knitted me 2 blankets, herself one, and is working on another, but it takes her about a year! My aunt is really crafty and knits actual clothes. She recently got into beadwork and made everyone pretty place mats. I should make the time to learn – my grandma would love anything Yankees related.

    1. KK

      My best friend made me a crocheted blanket a few years ago. I still love to snuggle up on the couch with it. My grandfather is a huge red sox fan, so basically anything red sox or red sox themed is a huge hit with him.

  4. Debt and the Girl

    Homemade gifts get such a bad rap sometimes.I love baked cookies and pastries so if someone gave me that, I would be much happier than with some mindless gift from the store.

    1. KK

      Agreed, a couple of ugly or poorly made gifts can really ruin the idea of homemade gifts. I love baked goods (particularly pies, scones and banana bread, yum!).

  5. Connie @ Savvy With Saving

    You are so crafty! I actually really do love homemade gifts since it feels more special and thought out. A friend of mine designed his own holiday cards and I absolutely loved it since it was unique and he put effort into it.

    1. KK

      When you make the right gift for the right person there’s so much love and thought behind it. It’s when you just make something because that’s what you know how to make (whether the recipient likes it or not) that you get yourself into trouble.

  6. Mrs PoP @Planting Our Pennies

    The mittens are adorable! I can only do scarves (long and straight!), but that’s probably just as well as we live where it’s warm.

    Every year I bake the “family cookies” and distribute them to everyone. It takes a lot of time, but they are old family recipes that everyone loves, so once a year feels about right to do them.

    1. KK

      My dad lives in Florida and is always asking me to make him things (which isn’t super practical because a-elbow length mittens would look foolish on my dad and b-it’s far too hot to wear wool in Florida most of the year).

      One of my good girlfriends makes the most delicious rum cake you’ll ever eat. She makes me one each Christmas/Birthday (my bday is Jan 1) and it’s my favorite gift. If she made me anything or bought me anything other than that cake I’d cry.

  7. Kali @ CommonSenseMillennial

    I love the mittens! You need to set yourself up on Etsy – those would sell like crazy!

    1. KK

      Thanks Kali, if I had a little more time I might give that a try. They aren’t hard to make, but if you figure in the time it takes to make them, I’m not sure I’d be making much money at the end of the day.

  8. Morgaine

    I’ve given a variety of home-made gifts over the years and my family is one that would rather you give a gift of your heart and time than something you bought in a store. I’ve made jewelry, ornaments, and soaps in the past and cookies for the last few years. I’m constantly trolling Pinterest for more ideas 🙂

    1. KK

      I don’t use Pinterest much because it’s so addicting. I go through little phases were I’m obsessed with certain things, home decorating, knitting, quilting, you name it I’ve obsessed over it 😉 Homemade soaps and ornaments sound lovely, I’d be thrilled to receive either.

  9. Mackenzie

    You are so talented! 🙂

    I want to learn to knit; I just have to make the time. These are really great gifts!!

    1. KK

      Thanks Mackenzie. You absolutely should learn, it’s so much fun. Even if you learn a little bit at a time you could easily make something before the holidays if you wanted too 🙂

  10. Budget and the Beach

    I’m seriously uncraftsy and so not homemade gift talented, so I’m seriously impressed! OK I could do the CD thing but I hate Christmas music and wouldn’t want to put myself or someone else through that. ha ha! I DO, however, love the idea of more baking…that is if I don’t eat everything before I give it away. 🙂

    1. KK

      Hate Christmas music? Oh no! I don’t buy Halloween candy before Halloween for exactly that reason! If I had baked goods on hand I would eat all of them. I recently ate a whole package of cookie dough that I was supposed to bake for the bf, sorry honey.

  11. anna

    I love those mittens!! I’m a big fan of making treats for gifts, though non-edible gifts I’m not as talented in. I have a scarf my friend made me and I love it!

    1. KK

      I’m probably a better knitter than I am a baker. We all have our own talents, that’s why it’s so fun to do swaps and trades and to receive homemade gifts. A few years ago I traded a few purses I made for some handmade socks for my mom, she loved the socks and the person I swapped with loved the purses, it was a win-win.

  12. Rebecca

    Great job on all your handmade goodies! I’m also good with the needle and I tend to make a couple presents every year as well-many come by request! My moms side of the family is the same way and every year I get beautifully made things be it scarves, quilts or pillows. They’re my favorite gifts to get!

    1. KK

      Oh I love that. My grandmother was quite the crafter back in the day. Now she’s not able to craft very much, but when she was younger she used to make a bunch of dolls and stuffed animals and quilts and sell them. It definitely skipped a generation because my mom has no interest in quilting or knitting.

  13. Dear Debt

    Very inspiring, KK! You are very talented.

    1. KK

      Thank you! 🙂

  14. DC @ Young Adult Money

    While I am terrible at the whole homemade gift thing (Seriously, huge fail every time so I don’t even attempt. As far as my favorite that I’ve received, this is an easy one – the best homemade gift I ever received was a blanket made by my wife! She makes amazing fleece blankets and has made me two of them. They have become a family favorite at Christmastime as well. She’s made my brother, Mom, and Dad blankets and they all really love them.

    1. KK

      My mom made me a fleece blanket a few years ago and I still use it regularly. Everybody can use a nice fleece blanket. I’m currently wrapped in one because we haven’t turned on our furnace yet this year. We’re trying to hold out until Nov, so far so good.

  15. Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life

    I think you need to know the personality of the person you’re giving too. I don’t know that my mom would really use hand knitted mittens- though she would appreciate the thought. My dad, on the other hand, will devour a tin home made cookies.

    1. KK

      Totally! My mom loves her quilt by won’t use it because she doesn’t want it to get dirty (I told her to use it or I’d be offended so now she’ll use it a little bit). I made her a pair of mittens once, but she’d never wear or enjoy the elbow length shown in the photo.

  16. Angela

    I love that you introduced this post with A Christmas Story, my dad’s favorite movie! If you ever find yourself in Cleveland, OH, make sure to visit the house and hear how the locals contributed to the movie!

    1. KK

      I would love to see the house. It’s such a classic Christmas movie. I have to watch the Christmas Story, National Lampoon’s Christmas vacation, and Miracle on 34th street every Christmas season.

  17. Hayley @ A Disease Called Debt

    You’re so talented! I love any crafts – I’m not great at anything but I’ve made scarves, hats, jewellery, decorative hearts, felt beads and such like! This post has really inspired me to get going on a project again – thanks!

    P.S. You MUST watch Twilight!!! The whole Bella, Edward, Jacob thing… sigh…

    1. KK

      Thanks Hayley. Bf has tried to get me into the whole twilight thing, but I guess I’m just not that interested. You’ll have to do a post with your next project so we can see what you’re working on!

  18. Micro

    I’m planning on gifting bottles of homemade mead that I’m making this year. It’s a nice way for me to get a lot of people a thoughtful gift and not break my bank account. If it doesn’t turn out so well, I may just default to some baked goods.

    1. KK

      One of my good friends from home (Maine) recently started a distilling liquor. He promised me a bottle of Vodka or Gin for Christmas and I’m super excited. I love homemade food and drinks as gifts.

  19. Lisa E. @ Lisa Vs. The Loans

    Last Christmas, I crocheted headbands for all my girl cousins/friends! They loved it! Which reminds me, I need to start making something soon – it’s so time consuming, but thoughtful.

    1. KK

      I’ve always wanted to be a better crocheter, I learned a few basic stitches from a friend and can do very basic items (think granny square!). Crocheted headbands sound like a lovely gift.

  1. Being Grateful – Fifth Edition | Journey to Saving

    […] at Student Debt Survivor showcased all the awesome homemade presents she’s given to people over the […]

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