A Do-It-Yourself Guide to Gifts For Your Long-Distance Love

Ahh, long-distance love. The kind we always swear is too much, too hard, too complicated, right up until we discover that profile is attached to a real, live, beautiful body, and a fascinating brain besides. Or maybe you met the person first, and fell in love just in time to go to college or start a new job far away. Regardless, distance changes the way you navigate a relationship. Every single bit of communication takes an extra step, a measure of intent to make you feel like you aren’t so very far away. And when it comes to gift-giving, distance can serve as extra pressure to make your presents count.

Enter DIY bloggers. In the context of a long-distance relationship, homemade crafty gifts are just about perfect: personalized, made with care, sent to your partner’s home so they have a real, concrete thing they can enjoy that is also a symbol of your love and affection. They’re a way to take care of your person when you’re not there to manage the details. And as a bonus, they’re often very budget friendly! (I suggest using the difference to cover express shipping and/or festive bubble wrap.)

I’ve broken these ideas into categories, but feel free to mix and match. Before my girl and I shacked up, I used to spend the pre-holiday season scouring DIY blogs for crafts I could personalize to our relationship — inside jokes, personal milestones, her love of pugs, my love of babies. You get the idea. Now go forth and craft.

Things That Smell Nice

Things that smell good

Clockwise from top left: Coconut rose lip balm, teacup candlelavender scented heating padscented body oil sprayessential oil potpourrilavender salve,

This is super gross and cheesy, but when we lived apart I used to send my girlfriend scented things that I also owned so that whenever I was lonely, I could take mine out and feel a little closer to her. I actually made some less-pretty versions of the scented heating pads and put them inside mini pillows I sewed for us to help ease the transition back to sleeping alone after visits. Now that we’re in the same place all the time, the matching pillows live on our bed! It’s about as adorable as you’re imagining. Here are some other pleasantly perfumed things you can make at home to send to your love.

Things They Can Eat

Things they can eat

Clockwise from top left:  Simple iced sugar cookiestea bags and tagshot chocolate mix in a jarmulled wine kitheart-shaped sugar cubessoft caramel candies

Maybe you can’t cook your person dinner or take them out for drinks, but you can make sure they have the tools to produce a tasty snack whenever they want. Pretty much any baked good can be put into mix form and mailed in a jar, but so can things like hot chocolate and mulled wine. If your person is a tea drinker or has a sweet tooth, you’re especially in luck, as candies and dry tea mail exceptionally well. But don’t limit yourself — if it doesn’t involve raw meat or fresh produce, you can probably find a way to package it up!

Things for Their Space

Things for their space

Clockwise from top left: secret book safecutout map picturesdecorated mugmountain pillowphoto coastersno-sew sweater pillow

Sometimes it’s just nice to look around a room and see reminders of your loved ones. Give your sweetie that comfort by making things they can use during the day or just to decorate their space. Things like sweater pillows can be personalized with your own clothes, so they have something to hug when you’re not there. A secret book safe is a good place for them to store the love letters and the kinds of photos you probably don’t want to turn into coasters.

Things for the Bath

For the bath

Clockwise from top left: Bath bombbody butter barhoney vanilla bubble bathcoffee body scrublime mint foot soaksolid perfume lotion bar

There’s little as comforting as a warm bath, but you don’t need to fill up the tub to help your partner get that calming, soothing feeling. Send them a scrub or a homemade bath bomb, or create a solid perfume or massage bar so they can cover themselves in their favorite scents. Mmmmmm.

Things to Use Together

To use together

Clockwise from top left: date jar“open when” letters, puzzle piece necklaces, recipe book, pom-pom and tassel bookmarks“I love you” pillow cases

At the end of the day, what you really want is to spend time with your person, right? Gifts like date jars (filled with things like “Skype date” and “order the same pizza”) and personalized journals you can mail back and forth help you interact and take your mind off the distance. So fill a custom cookbook with your favorite recipes, which you make while you talk over Skype. Craft an adorable bookmark that you send with a copy of that novel you’ve been meaning to read together. Write them a series of letters, individually sealed, that they can open on any occasion. These are the really cutesy things, the ones you probably won’t tell your friends about for fear of being teased. But for you and your partner, they may just be the most rewarding.

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Kaitlyn lives in New York, which is the simplest answer you're going to get if you ask her where she's from. She went to journalism school and is arguably making the most of her degree as a writer and copy editor. She utilizes her monthly cable bill by watching more competitive cooking shows than should be allowed.

Kaitlyn has written 69 articles for us.


    • See, I’m here for you, Cassie. I didn’t have a link for the scented pillows I made because I Frankensteined them together myself, but they are one of the best DIY gifts I’ve ever made. I highly suggest it if you can locate some pillow forms, soft fabric (to sew into a case, I guess this is optional based on your sewing skills) and lavender sprigs/oil to fill your sachet with scent.

  1. I don’t need this right now, but I may need it (and lots of ‘straddler sympathy) come August, so I’m bookmarking.

    The Open When letters are incredibly sweet. <3

    • Hey, just wanted to say that if you do find yourself in an LDR-type situation, you can definitely count on Straddler solidarity – there seem to be a lot of us on this site!

      • Thanks Sam — means a lot to know there are others in a similar situation. (Which is, I suppose, the purpose of Autostraddle!)

  2. This is lovely! I could have really used these during our 5 years apart…I particularly like the idea of feeling close through scents that you share, since our sense of smell seems so linked with memory.

    Plus bonus!! If you are or will be trying to immigrate based on relationship status, having postmarked items between you provide great official dated proof!

    Warm thoughts to all of you who are apart from your loved ones <3

  3. Awwww you guys. Makes me the wife even more. Did you guys know we have never spent the holidays together? So we try to do something extra special when Decmeber rolls around.

    Ive been looking at those ‘open when’ letters too. But a CA cutout with a heart seems really appropriate for her. That just might beat last years heart shaped pizza i sent for her bday.

    Ok tearing up bye.

  4. Yay! I don’t know if I would call my relationship long distance. My girlfriend lives two and a half hours away. I’m sure lots of you have it way worse but I am terribly broke, like all of the time. So, aside from the kids, I made everyone’s gifts this year. My girlfriend is getting the book safe which was super fun to make. Also, as it seems to be a common trend in lady-loving culture and my relationship, I made her a journal. I was going to handmake the paper too, but it seems I suck at making paper. It can be done really simply with minimal sewing skill and just a few materials. I’ll post a link. Also, the last time I went down there I secretly brought a ton of tiny notes I had written and hid them all over her room for her to find. She loved that.

  5. wait y’all, is it socially acceptable to just make these for myself, under the auspices ofself care!

  6. wowowow such a great guide!

    might make some of these for long-distance platonic loves.
    one of my close pals moved to a farm across the country (hella cool) and I’ve been rather bad with keeping up so I’m going to maybe make them some of the stuff that smells good.


  7. Back from tearing up. I think I want her to make a pillow for me with her clothes so I can always smell her next to me.

  8. AS again proving that they can read minds! SO RELEVANT! I actually just sent her those Open When letters for Christmas (because I can’t afford fancy gifts right now) (inspired by Kaelyn and Lucy too because they’re effin adorbs!) and the envelopes I used are hand made as well (frustrated craft-y person here). The package is expected to arrive this Friday. Been scared to send food or heavy kind of packages because they might be expensive to send and not allowed if from the Philippines to Canada kind of distance… Anyway highway – thanksmucho guys! ^_^

  9. I just want to tell you guys that everything and everybody in this post is wonderful and warms my queer little heart <3

  10. These are all super adorable… I must save these for when I get a girlfriend. :D The “open when” letters seem to be a big hit, which is understandable cuz that’s exactly the sort of things I like to do for my loved-ones.

  11. I made the tea cup candle last year and it was a hit! I also made fire starters out of cardboard egg cartons, wax, pinecones, pot pourri mix & wicking and they were an even bigger hit.

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