When you think of homemade Christmas gifts, you might think of knit scarves or brownie mixes in Ball jars, but do-it-yourself gifts don't have to be dull. This year, mix it up with clever crafty projects that are sure to wow -- such as an indulgent goat milk bath tea or a one-of-a-kind decoupage mirror that costs less than $5.
These projects don't require a Ph.D. in crafting, a pile of fancy tools or a lot of money. They can be completed in an afternoon, and most rely on cleverly repurposed items you can find for a steal at thrift shops, tag sales and discount retailers like your local dollar store. You might even have the supplies laying around your house or hidden in storage.
*Found Object Charms
Create personalized charms for necklaces and bracelets from found objects and favorite mementos. With a little wire and a few jewelry findings, you can transform virtually any small, meaningful item into a one-of-a-kind charm or pendant.
How about a miniature pencil pendant for teacher? According to Lynn Colwell and Corey Colwell-Lipson, authors of "Celebrate Green! Creating Eco-Savvy Holidays, Celebrations and Traditions for the Whole Family," it's a simple project that makes a big statement.
Cut off the end of a standard pencil so you have a piece measuring 2 to 3 inches from the eraser to the end. Re-sharpen the rough end, and secure an inexpensive clasp or bale to the eraser end with a bit of wire, and you have a thoughtful gift with a lot of style. It's so easy the kids can help. Have them hunt for interesting objects and take their turn at twisting the wire to secure the jewelry hardware to those one-of-a-kind charms.
A brief tutorial with more ideas -- including rock pendants and bottle-cap charms -- can be found at http://www.youtube.com/celebrategreen.
*Mod Podge Mirror
Transform a thrift shop mirror and magazine cutouts into a personalized "reflection" of the recipient.
"I create 'It's All About Me' homemade decoupage mirrors," says Ruthie Azarch, owner of Collagaparty, offering themed collage and decoupage craft parties. "It's a gift that costs less than $5 to make -- and it promises to bring constant joy. They can't feel more loved and doted on."
You will need a framed mirror -- small wall mirrors with wide frames work best -- an assortment of paper cutouts from magazines or collage sheets, a paint brush and a jar of Mod Podge, available at craft supply stores.
Clean the mirror thoroughly, arrange the cutouts, and start gluing. Working in small sections, apply a layer of Mod Podge to the frame with the paintbrush, and apply the cutouts. Top with another layer of the adhesive. Let the collage dry overnight. Sign the back, and embellish with a bow for a truly unique gift that speaks volumes about the recipient.
*Goat Milk Bath Tea
Nothing beats a relaxing bath at the end of a long day, according to Anne-Marie Faiola, CEO and founder of Bramble Berry, a soap-making supply shop, and the face behind the blog "Soap Queen," which features how-to craft tutorials.
Her simple, four-ingredient, four-step recipe transforms powdered goat milk, sea salt, cocoa butter and lavender into a decadent treat to nourish and moisturize skin. Packed in oversize tea bags, the fragrant bath tea makes the perfect stocking-stuffer.
Shave the cocoa butter using a vegetable peeler, and measure out the ingredients. Mix together, and pack the potent potion in large, heat-sealable tea bags, available at craft supply stores.
Visit http://www.soapqueen.com for complete instructions and other easy DIY bath-related projects, such as melt-and-pour soap and bath fizzies.
"Create your own candy-filled flower arrangement that will really impress your friends and family," says Carly Cylinder, professional florist and owner of Flour, a full-service floral boutique. "This is great to give to a hostess and looks like it took much longer that it really did."
You will need two cylinder vases -- one large and one small enough to fit inside the other; two or three packages of holiday candy like red and green jelly beans or M&M's mixed with starlight mints; and a festive floral bouquet.
To make, simply insert the smaller vase into the larger one, and fill the space between the vases with candy. Arrange the candy in layers by hue, or mix it up for a colorful confetti look. Trim the bouquet so that the flowers rest on the edge of the vase with no stems showing. Fill the smaller inner vase with water, and place the bouquet inside.
Voil?! In just a few minutes, you'll have a clever Christmas centerpiece for your favorite hostess -- and once the blooms fade, she can dig into the edible treats.