DIY This: Good Homemade Gifts You Can Make at Home!

Happy Winterholiday creative poor friends! As someone who held a subscription to Martha Stewart Kids well into college, I look forward to December as a time when people won’t question my decision to save all my old toilet paper rolls and yogurt containers. It’s craft season!

Unfortunately, Emy and I are not the only people who feel this way.

Ugly Christmas crafts aside, we’ve got  eight projects for those of you who prefer making to buying. Whether you’re looking for something for your brother’s kids or your best friend, there just might be something here for you.

These Things Take Time

with Laura

The following crafts take some planning and use a variety of supplies, so that’s a lot of fun. You’ll be left feeling very accomplished and satisfied with your crafty talents. Don’t worry though — nothing here is super advanced or time-consuming.

Sock Dogs

If you have a tiny human in your life, chances are they would enjoy a stuff animal. This guy is adorable (if I do say so myself) and highly versatile, meaning you can make her look like whatever kind of dog/kitten/dinosaur you want. We’ve got pictographical instructions for this first project because sometimes you need to see a sock turning into a dog to believe it.

You Will Need:

+A pair of socks
+A needle

*nipple cupcakes

Clever T-Shirts

You’re never too old or too rich for a good t-shirt. Even the poweriest power dyke needs something to wear on her days off. Wrapping tip: most shirts fit nicely in oatmeal containers, which can be wrapped with pretty catalogues from Anthropologie.

You Will Need:

+A t-shirt
+A pencil
+Acrylic paint
+A paintbrush
+An iron
+A towel

First you need to put newspaper inside the shirt so the paint doesn’t bleed through the back. Once you’ve decided on a design, mark it out on the fabric with a pencil, chalk, or white eyeliner before jumping in with paint. Paint everything and let it dry, then steam the design with an iron and wet towel so that it softens from cardboard-esque stiffness to something you’d actually consider wearing.

Paper Dolls

Shopping for fashionable friends can be difficult due to their sartorial acumen. An easy solution to this problem is showing them that you appreciate swanky wardrobe by creating paper versions of their best outfits. If you were blessed with a type B personality, this could be a fun, lighthearted project that takes an hour or two to complete. I would recommend using a photo to make the doll and cutting clothes out of magazines. If you are a perfectionist, you might spent an entire weekend day trying to make your friend’s face look like her actual face and then a good part of the next morning drawing the clothes. Not that I did that. Just do whatever floats your boat.

You Will Need:

+Thick paper
+Drawing things
+A pipe cleaner

Make the doll (see above for suggested personality-based techniques), cut it out, and tape it to a stand. Tape a pipe cleaner along the back to give the doll a little extra support and glue black paper over it so the pipe cleaner doesn’t show through. Now make clothes, remembering to cut tabs around the edges so they can hang on the doll.


This is the perfect present for crafts people from crafts people! They’re also entirely edible and non-toxic so that you don’t end up receiving your starving artist friend’s severed ear in the mail a couple of years down the road.

You Will Need:

+4T White vinegar
+4T Baking soda
+4T Corn starch
+2T Corn syrup
+Food coloring
+Bottle Caps
+A box/palette thing
+Aluminum foil

Before you start this project, you need to hunt down some bottle caps. If you don’t drink enough beer on your own, you can either go to a bar and ask them to save you bottle caps from the night for you or go to a restaurant that’s fancy enough to recycle and they will give you a million on the spot. Now onto the science: Combine the vinegar and baking soda and let the mixture sit until it stops bubbling. Add the cornstarch and corn syrup and stir it REALLY well. Spoon a small amount of the base into a bowl and dye it slightly darker than you want since it’ll lighten up as it dries. Pour the paint into a bottle cap and lather, rinse, repeat until you have all the colors you want. Wait a day or two for the paints to dry and then glue (preferably hot glue because it’s the most fun glue) the bottle caps of paint into whatever thing you’ve scrounged up. I lined the 4th compartment of my box with foil so that it can be filled with water and used with the paints.

Simple Yet Effective

with Emily

Hi my name is Emily and this gift guide is for someone who has no time to do anything for anyone ever! The following “gifts” can be made with household items and will probably cost you $0 or less but are also kind of awesome! See, I’m a big fan of personalized gifts. When I get someone a gift, I want to get them something I know they’re going to like for a long time. Sometimes it’s hard to know what people will like, especially if they’re only acquaintances. Which is why I recommend the following gift guide for close friends and family, and possibly saving your money for people who won’t accept a story in the shape of a pine tree made out of crayons as a suitable present.

A Letter

For my birthday in 8th grade, my best friend at the time wrote me a letter. It was so funny that I still remember some of the jokes to this day. Lesson: laughter is free. Other lessons: letters are also a great way to let someone know how much you care about them, and also a good way of record-keeping. So take a minute to think about your friend/lover/straight girl crush, and tell them this holiday season how much you would love to frolic in the snow with them. Use Laura’s watercolors!

A Paper Crane

After you write your letter, you can fold it into a paper crane and hand deliver it. After I read Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, I decided to learn how to make them. There are tons of websites and videos out there where you can learn how to make a paper crane, but I think this is the one I used when learning.

Also I made you a video in 5 minutes as a visual add-on. Both my roommates think this is a stupid idea, but we all know who isn’t getting a paper crane for the Christmakkah! Also though, my roommate Cate says that should would appreciate it more if I used nice paper and not an old work schedule, so keep that in mind kids. Use Laura’s watercolors!

Write a Children’s Story With Crayons

This is something I really want to do, but don’t really have time for. I want to cut pieces of paper in the shape of a Christmas tree, color the cover green, and then have a children’s story inside. Maybe it can be about gay pine trees or something, you know? I feel like writing a children’s story eases some of the pressure to make your writing eloquent and “deep”, if you know what I mean. Plus you can draw pictures of stick people and it’s okay. Use Laura’s watercolors!

Baked Goods

Who doesn’t like delicious cookies/cakes/brownies/food? No one, is the answer. Autostaddle has a billion Get Baked recipes you can use, but possibly one of my favorite cookies ever are Laura’s homemade oreos. Oh my God, you guys. It’s like heaven melting in your mouth.


These are just a few ideas that are easy and fun to make. Make them come from the heart! Christmas is apparently all about giving, but sometimes that requires a lot of money. So when you don’t have money, be creative. There are tons of artsy craftsy things you can do, or things that cost minimal amounts of money. Cook dinner for your friends! Say the best gift you can give is quality time together. Make this:

I know that these may seem like small gifts, but they can go a long way. Especially if your gift-receiver is like me, and loves long sentimental letters. Now everybody go marvel over how pretty the watercolors are and share your own homemade gift ideas in the comments!

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Laura is a tiny girl who wishes she were a superhero. She likes talking to her grandma on the phone and making things with her hands. Strengths include an impressive knowledge of Harry Potter, the ability to apply sociology to everything under the sun, and a knack for haggling for groceries in Spanish. Weaknesses: Chick-fil-a, her triceps, girls in glasses, and the subjunctive mood. Follow the vagabond adventures of Laura and her bike on twitter [@laurrrrita].

Laura has written 308 articles for us.


  1. Good timing, I was just this morning scheming and dreaming of craft projects I could make on my cross-country train trip home for the holidays… had no idea i could make my own watercolors. i’ll have to try it. xoxo

  2. Kelka reference for the win! I am now going to make sock animals while watching some L word season 4 so i can listen to the Planet later :)

  3. Kelka inside jokes will never get old.

    (in fact, I think they get better the more nostalgic they become).

    • I saw a bowl of limes and died with laughter. A friend asked why and I managed to say “lost keys” between giggles. She didn’t understand.

    • I know, that’s been my gift to extended family for as long as I can remember. And it’s so much fun.

  4. Oh snap! I think Autostraddle just gave me permission to drink more seasonal, independently brewed beer so that I can give all my artsy friends specialized paint palettes.

  5. If you’re a little crafty and like making things, I also recommend Needle Felting. I’ve pretty much entirely taught myself, and I’m making little animals and stuff for my family for Christmas. There are crazy-realistic needle-felted animals out there (search Etsy – you’ll see what I mean), but small egg-shaped and -sized beasties (penguin, Totoro, mouse, owl, etc.) are warm and comforting to hold in your hand.

  6. Thank-you! I was looking for craft ideas appropriate for little cousins. Most people on my list are getting homemade things this year, except for my Aunt who is very likely getting a book about Zombies.

  7. I am making homemade watercolors for All of the artsy queers!
    And I think my brother will appreciate homemade oreos and maybe some sort of literature about consent and relationships because he now has a girlfriend.
    And the little kids will appreciate sock dogs.
    And everyone else is getting knit hats.

  8. Oooh watercolors! I am definitely going to be making those this year, I have some buddies who’d probably laugh at getting weird colors of homemade water colors.
    Last year I made people little tiny notebooks out of playing cards and waterproof fabric, they came out kind of jenkie but I think most of my friends liked them.

  9. These are perfect!
    AP 2D design secret santa gift exchange, I will own you.
    (I think any of these will be a good challenger for the clay dinosaur gift rumor I heard).

  10. OMG YES I love the water colors. Totes making that for my sister who is an art student in Oregon and she will love it.

  11. Hmm craft and me are not friends, craft seems determined to elude my attempts at friendly reconciliation. Even where there is no glue involved, I always manage to stick my fingers together, or stick something to the table, or stick glitter in my hair or spill something that will then stick.

    I am beginning to resent crafty people! Damn you all.

  12. Autostraddle, you’ve done it again. I am officially going to seem like the most clever, artsy Secret Santa in the entire world, and its all thanks to you.

    My original plan: Step 1- Organize a secret santa gift exchange for the cast of the community theatre production of The Sound of Music I’m doing JUST so that I could “draw” our [really, really attractive] Maria’s name for myself. Step 2-Get her a cute pair of gloves and maybe make some food. My new plan: The same step 1 as before, but now I’m going to make her the sock dog (just because its cute), the watercolors (she was a studio art major!), AND write her a sweet note and fold it into a paper crane (she spent a year living/working in Japan!). And I’m making the homemade brownies for the whole cast for our christmas eve matinee. WOOOOOT.

          • Its tedious, but SO cool, right?? I started mine today but my tool wasn’t working well, so I got another one and will finish tomorrow. My little brother is starting to question my sanity though… One day he too will go to painstakingly great lengths to impress a girl he knew he never had a chance with in the first place, haha.

          • you’ve probably already finished your by now but if not, buy a box cutter! they’re super durable and cheaper than buying a million exacto refills.

          • i got a western about mormons and “savages” that uses the word “ejaculates” to talk about a style of speak. it was 69 cents. i felt very good about defiling that book.

        • It’s no where near christmas but *just because* I’m currently making these watercolors in an altoid container and I added peppermint oil to the mix to make them smell delicious.

  13. I need that Christmas flamingo sweater badly.
    Thanks for the tips! I think I’ll make my mum a sock dog (maybe try and force it into the shape of a budgie? That’ll be an entertaining disaster) and some holiday-themed oreos.

  14. Oh my socking dog. I didn’t even finish reading the directions before I was rummaging through my sock drawer. Knee-high rainbow socks with holes in them? RAINBOW SOCK DOG.

  15. Sayings or funny phrases, embroided and put in a picture frame! That’s what I’m getting my friends this year. The dirtier/quirky/nerdier the better. (One of them is getting an embroided Dalek.)

  16. hey you guys something else you can make is a money tree. get a nice little branch and make some cute dollar bill origami and hang it all over the tree. that little cupcake tree reminded me of it. my friend gave me one for my birthday.

  17. So last night I was at my friend’s house helping her fold laundry and she had a sock without a match. So, just to gauge her reaction, I was like “Hey, you know what would be cute? If someone made that sock into a wiener dog.” And basically her response was, “You’re an idiot.” But she’s still going to get a wiener dog sock for Christmas. And she’s going to love it.

  18. I made Laura’s homemade oreos for a party last night, and they were a HUGE hit. Thanks for the suggestion!

  19. not to be a party pooper, but- are the watercolors actually, you know, good to paint with? or are they just novel as shit?

    • oh they totally work! they definitely dry a little less brilliant than the colors in the picture i posted, and if you make them deeper than bottle caps they tend to stratify, but they work.

  20. Why do my puppies NOT look like those in the picture :( this is depressing. are the spotted and checkered puppies in the illustration for sale? pretty please?

    • haha maybe i’ll sell some in the future but these two are going to my cousin’s daughters. and don’t worry, my first few were hideous!

  21. My last minute watercolors are drying. I am so excited. I also added a small handmade sketchbook (filled with cheap watercolor paper) that I’m strapping onto one side of the box (hot glue on some ribbon to hold it in place), opposite watercolors.

  22. Thanks , I have just been searching for info about this topic for ages
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  23. Wow! wonderful ideas. Homemade gifts are the best for holidays because i has attached lot’s of emotion of that person who made this. I would appreciate to your amazing gift ideas and your efforts. Keep shining and keep posting! Thanks a lot..

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