DIY gifts: the pleasure of giving something with intent

Another Christmas, another rush looking for the best gifts. “I wonder what I should give them. Do they already have this? What if there’s little space at their home?” These are some questions that go through the mind of those on the hunt for the perfect gift. Often, when time is tight, the solution is to just get “something” that ends up untouched, gathering dust on some shelf.

Honestly, who hasn’t had at least one or two things offered by someone in a past Christmas, which have never been used or even appreciated that much? Whether it’s a boring book, a piece of clothing that you never got the time to return, or a gadget you’ve barely used, it’s easy to look around and find a couple of examples. And, if it happens to us, it’s likely it happens to others as well.

If you are one of those people who is always trying to find the perfect gift for your family and friends, and you don’t want its fate to be that dusty shelf, we have the answer. This Christmas, make the gifts yourself! More importantly than the monetary value, the essence of DIY (Do It Yourself) presents is the level of care that goes into them. And being so personalised, odds are they’ll be a success. Moreover, DIY gifts are often a more sustainable option.

Did you know that?

DIY is an acronym for the expression "Do It Yourself". It means to do something with your own hands, such as building, modifying or repairing objects without the help of professionals.

DIY gifts fight waste and overconsumption

There is something special about creating something from scratch, dedicating your passion to a project, and coming up with a little something that is perfectly personalised. While some people turn to DIY to save money, others see this technique as a philosophy to live by.

So, how do DIY gifts fit into this philosophy? Like a glove, we’d say. Creating a gift for someone is much more special than buying something, no mater the cost. It is an opportunity to show the person how special they are, how their personality matters, and that time and effort have been invested in preparing their perfect gift. For this exact reason, there’s no time like Christmas, a season of gratitude, love and friendship, to express to family and friends how much you appreciate them – through DIY gifts.

9 DIY gift ideas for this Christmas

As with all the advice, tips and ideas we give you, sustainability plays a central role this Christmas, too. We present you nine ideas for DIY gifts, personalised and sustainable, to surprise your loved ones, with no harm to the planet or your wallet. There are options for all tastes, and you can adjust them depending on how much time you have available.

Homemade tomato chutney in a jar with a spoon, and toast with cottage cheese and chutney on a marble counter.
  1. Homemade jam, compote, and chutney

Who doesn’t like the occasional sweet treat, especially during wintertime? If you know someone who can’t resist a fruit jam or a delicious chutney, maybe you’ve found the perfect gift for them. Think of an exquisite tomato jam, a red berry compote, a pumpkin jam with tropical fruits, or an exotic lemon and ginger marmalade. When it comes to chutney, the classic mango chutney can never go wrong, but you can also improvise with an apricot chutney, or even an apple and tomato mix. Use one of those many glass jars you have stored in the pantry, adorn it with a bow and Christmas label, and don’t forget a card with a personal note.

Olive oil aromatised with rosemary in a glass jar.
  1. Flavoured olive oils

A real foodie will always appreciate excellent olive oil – the liquid gold of the Mediterranean. While a bottle of good quality olive oil would already be a great gift, a flavoured olive oil elevates it to the next level. You can flavour olive oil with spices, herbs, or chillies – not for the faint of heart. A glass bottle and a beautiful label complete this DIY gift to perfection.

Homemade truffles in a plate over a burlap cloth.
  1. Homemade bonbons and truffles

What if, instead of the typical box of chocolates that is always a Christmas hit, this year you ventured into the kitchen and gifted a box of homemade chocolates? If this sounds like a good idea, we suggest some delicious combinations of chocolate and nuts, or even some pralines. If you tend to gravitate more towards truffles, don’t hesitate and make some chocolate and nuts truffles, cocoa and avocado, or whatever bold recipe you can think of. Then, put the lovely homemade bonbons or truffles in a beautiful box, adorn it with a satin bow, and your gift is ready.

Tall glass cup with Scandinavian Glögg aromatised with a cinnamon stick, an orange slice and star anise.
  1. Scandinavian Glögg

Winter in Scandinavia is cold and dark, so a sweet, warm drink, with all the season’s flavours is a must during Christmas. Glögg, a sort of mulled wine, is consumed during the winter months in the Nordic countries: Sweden, Denmark, and Norway (Gløgg), and Finland (Glögi).

To make Glögg you will need the following ingredients:

  • 1 bottle of red wine (750 ml)
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tsp whole cardamom seeds
  • 5-6 clove seeds
  • 3 stars anise
  • Half an orange (peel and juice)
  • 5 tbsp white sugar

Warm the red wine in a saucepan and add the spices. Cut thin slivers of the orange peel and add them to the wine and the juice. Finally, add the sugar and stir well. Heat over low heat, without boiling, for about 15-20 minutes. Pour the still hot wine mixture into a glass bottle and allow it to cool. Infuse for at least two hours (ideally one day). Serve hot, but not boiling. Keep away from light and heat.

Oven tray with homemade biscuits.
  1. Homemade biscuits

If it is in your household’s tradition to bake biscuits for Christmas, this year you can turn these into lovely DIY gifts and surprise those who deserve it the most with a box filled with delicious biscuits and cookies, simple or decorated, sandwich biscuits or cookies. The theme? Think candy canes, Father Christmas hats, Christmas trees, stars, boots, and all things Christmas.

Small glass containers in which candles are being made.
  1. Aromatic candles

Aromatic candles are a very fun to make DIY gift, and a really nice one to both give and receive – who doesn’t like a candle with their favourite scent?

You’re going to need:

  • Unscented candle, wax, or refined paraffin (easily found in some pharmacies or online shops)
  • Food colouring in the colour of your preference
  • Essential oil with the essence of your choice
  • Candle wick with metallic support (available in candle making shops and online shops)
  • Cooking oil (for greasing)
  • Mould (optional) or glass jar

Start by melting the unscented candle (in pieces), wax or paraffin in a pan. Stir with a spatula until the wax is liquid and add a few drops of the food colouring until you get the desired colour. Remove from the water bath and when it starts to cool down, add some drops of the essential oil (if the wax is too hot, the oil will evaporate). Grease the mould and candle wick with the oil, place the wick on the bottom of the container, and pour the wax into the container to your desired height. You may need to use tweezers to position the wick in the centre of the candle. Allow it to cool completely – at least five hours – and on the next day unmould the candle carefully. If using a glass jar instead of a mould (or a beautiful bowl, or a cup) you do not need to grease it with oil.

Several homemade soaps aligned in an old wood table, with a branch of lavender.
  1. Homemade soaps

Making soaps is an art. It involves a lot of technique and components that must be handled very carefully, such as caustic soda (highly corrosive). But there are ways to make custom soaps at home without using potentially dangerous chemicals. The simplest is using a glycerine base (easily found online and in some organic stores), melt it, and then add aroma, dye and other ingredients.

You’re going to need:

  • 300 g glycerine base for soap (opaque or transparent)
  • Dye for glycerine soap
  • Essential oil of choice
  • Other natural ingredients of choice (honey, lavender seeds, dried lavender flowers, lemon zest, orange zest, dehydrated herbs, etc.)
  • Moulds

Grate the glycerine with a cheese grater and melt it, stirring with a spatula until it is completely liquid. Add the dye, stirring constantly. Add drops of essential oil to taste.

Now it’s time to add the other ingredients. If you want to add honey to your homemade soap, do so when the glycerine is liquid and before removing it.

Pour the liquid soap into a mould covered with cling film and allow it to cool for a day. Remove the soap from the moulds and film. If you do not have moulds, you can use a square, rectangular or circular container, and cut the soap with a knife that has been dipped in hot water – or with a soap cutter.

Wrap your homemade soaps in baking paper and secure with a bow or string. Don’t forget to put a label with the ingredients that make up this DIY gift to avoid allergic reactions.

Glass bowl with homemade coffee scrub.
  1. Natural body scrubs

Can you believe it is possible to reduce waste, save money, and make natural gifts, all at the same time? Here’s proof: natural homemade body scrubs. If you have low, wide jars or empty cream and lotion plastic containers, you’re already halfway there. Then, stick a label on the side of the jar where you can describe the ingredients used in the scrub. Finally, decorate the lid of your jar with a ribbon or some string. The only thing missing is these five recipes for natural scrubs you can make at home.

Rustic basket with a bottle of wine, a jam jar, bread sticks, a package of cookies and a box of chocolates.
  1. Basket of delicacies, sweets, snacks and other delights

And what about people who don’t have time to cook biscuits and jams, or to make candles and soaps? In this case, the best option is to put together a Christmas basket full of delicacies. Include one or two delicious jams or compotes, a good quality floral honey, some artisanal sheep or goat cheese, a gourmet charcuterie selection, a bottle of good wine. It can also include chocolates or biscuits, or even glazed nuts.