There are so many great homemade Christmas gifts you can make for very little money, using nature and foraged finds. You can make lots of festive decorations using nature too.
I had planned to create a fancy printed and downloadable guide with all of these ideas, but I ran out of time, so I’ve written them here as a blog post instead as I really wanted to share them with you. I hope you find some of these ideas useful, and I’d love to know if you try any of them yourself! Send me an email or share your makes with me on Instagram if you do. I can send you more details on materials and methods for any of these projects too if there is a particular one you want to try.
Pressed Flower & Leaf Tealight Holders
Pressed flowers can be used to make lots of beautiful and unique gifts. My favourite thing to make is these tealight holders. They are simple and so pretty, especially when the candle is lit! All you need is some old small or medium sized jam jars (washed clean with hot soapy water and the label removed), Modge Podge craft glue, a small soft paintbrush, pressed flowers and leaves and colourful twine or raffia to decorate the tops.
Cover the jar in a thin layer of Modge Podge, arrange the flowers and leaves over the glue and then cover with another thin layer of glue to seal them. It will look messy and white, but it dries clear. Tie some co-ordinating colour raffia around the top for a lovely finishing touch.
Wood Tealight Holders
To make these wood tealight holder, you’ll need secateurs and a hot glue gun. Cut twigs to the same length, a little bit higher than the jam jar, and put a line of hot glue along each one and glue them to the jar. Do this one twig at a time as hot glue dries fast so needs to be stuck down immediately. You can then wrap twine/raffia around the twigs and stick on some pinecones, leaves, feathers, dried orange slices, or a sprig of berries. using hot glue again.
Homemade Fruit Liqueurs
Fruit liqueurs make great homemade gifts. I always use the same simple recipe to make mine from a blog called Two Thirsty Gardeners. I have tried all the different spirits and the warmest, smoothest and easiest to drink is brandy. To make blackberry or fruit brandy, simply double the amount of fruit to sugar – so for a 70cl bottle of cheap brandy, you use 320g blackberries and 160g sugar. Put it all in a sterilised Kilner Jar, shake for the first few weeks every other day and store in a dark cool place. After 3 months, it will be ready to enjoy but it can be left longer. This year I’ve also tried spiced pear brandy with cinnamon and cloves and sloe gin or damson gin are always popular too.
It’s all about the presentation with homemade gifts so look for small and fun shaped bottles and decorate them with twine or ribbon and a gift tag.
Homemade Chutneys and Jams
My all time favourite chutney to make and give is Winter Ale Chutney using the recipe on my blog. I love these little hexagonal jars to give as gifts too – these ones are from Hobbycraft. I look for offcuts of fabric to use on top and use twine and card gift tags. Chalkboard labels can look really nice on larger jars instead of tags.
This year I’ve also made blackberry and apple jam and apple butter to give as gifts.
This is a simple gift to make and perfect for anyone who has an open fire or a woodburner! I like to add a few drops of festive essential oils like cinnamon, clove or orange to give these a lovely smell when they’re next to the fire and when you first burn them.
The simplest way to make your own is to buy some large soy wax tealights and melt them in the oven in paper cupcake cases. When the oil is melted, just push the wick to one side, put a few drops of scented oil into the wax and position a medium sized pinecone on top of the wax so that it hardens underneath it. Then remove the cake case, and put the firelighters in a nice linen or hessian bag with a gift tag, or even a brown paper bag decorated with some festive stamps and twine.
Seeds or Spring Bulbs
I’ve recently started to learn a bit about seed saving and I think the gift of seeds or winter planting bulbs is another great Christmas gift. You can make a simple and beautiful seed pouch using small card envelopes decorated with pressed flowers or some rubber stamps, or a little hessian bag with a gift tag. You can save your own seed or source ethical seeds from places like Real Seeds.
Another lovely ideas is to plant some spring bulbs in an old terracotta pot to give. You could paint or decoupage the pot too to create something unique. Some pretty paper napkins with a layer of decoupage glue or Modge Podge under and over, can transform a plain pot.
As you can probably already tell from this blog, I love pinecones! I have bags full of them at home and in my studio. They make really great decorations at Christmas. You can paint the tips white and hang them from your tree as I’ve done here. You either hot glue some twine to the top to hang, or screw small eyelet screws in to the top and thread ribbon through them.
You can also string pinecones together to make garlands using eyelet screws and some twine or ribbon, or decorate them and use them in a bowl as a table display.
Snow Covered Pinecones
A bit of sparkle always makes things looks festive, but glitter is bad for the environment as it’s basically just really tiny pieces of plastic, so I like to use Epsom Salts instead which make a great eco-friendly alternative to glitter. Simply cover your pinecones in glue, dip them in a tub of Epsom salts all over and then shake them so that any loose bits of salts fall off.
You can also create a lovely snowy effect by splatting pinecones and fir branches with white paint using a paintbrush. First, dip the tooth brush in some white paint, and tap on the pinecones/branches quickly to create spots of snow. Then, use your fingers to push down and release the bristles to flick random splatters that look like specks of snow. Make sure you have plenty of old newspaper covering your floor or table when you’re doing this one!
This is a really fun Christmas craft to do with kids and big kids. All you need is a hot glue gun, twigs, brown felt, googly eyes and pom-poms.
To create the reindeer head, attach the googly eyes and a red pom-pom nose with a hot glue gun. Cut 2 triangles of brown felt, fold the edges together and put them inside a gap in the top of the pinecone above the eyes (you may need glue to secure these too). Then insert a small thin twig each side as antlers. To make the body, attach another pinecone facing the opposite way using hot glue, stick on a white pom-pom tail and then cut 4 even sized chunky twigs to make the legs. Ash branches are great to use as they have small brown/black buds that looks like hooves. The legs will need some hot glue to stay fixed in place too.
Nature-inspired Table Centrepieces & Place Settings
You can use a lot of the same sorts of things you use on wild wreaths to make lovely table centrepieces too. I use a thin round slice of wood as the base (or you could use a metal or wooden tray). Attach a large pillar candle to the middle with a hot glue gun, and the cover the tray/log with fir, berries, painted or natural pinecones, rosemary or any foliage you like and use a hot glue gun to stick it down to the tray/wood if you want it to be fixed. Eucalyptus burns very easily so if you want to use it in your festive table centrepiece, it would be better to have candles contained in glass votives instead.
Plain linen or Hessian cut to napkin size and folded or rolled, wrapped in some garden twine with a small sprig of eucalyptus, fir, berries or a cinnamon stick, all make lovely place settings.
You can use pinecones as placecard holders too – either plain or painted. Just position a handwritten name cards inside the gaps or use a tag with a hole and tie it round the base with twine, and then pop a pinecone on centre of each plate.
DIY Gift Wrap
Most wrapping paper can’t be recycled because it has been dyed or laminated or contains glitter or other non-paper additives but you can make your own lovely Christmas gift wrap with a big roll of plain brown Kraft paper (very cheap from the post office or online), some garden twine or coloured string and sprigs of foliage like fir, eucalyptus, holly etc. Pinecones also work well (as they do for everything!) or cinnamon sticks, star anise and dried orange slices look lovely too. Add a plain Kraft gift tag and you’ve got a beautiful nature-wrapped gift!
To seal your parcel, either use brown paper parcel tape that can be recycled or remove any sellotape before recycling.
Wild natural wreaths are great to make as they use what is all around in nature. The key to a wild wreath is to use a living moss base so you can refresh your wreath throughout the year. You can gather moss from the woods for this. When foraging, make sure you don’t take too much from any one site – leave plenty for animals and other people to enjoy.
My basic design tip is to group things in 3’s and create mini bouquets to wire on to the moss in a clockwise direction. I like to alternate a few different combinations and use pinecones as a top and bottom focus piece. But there are really no rules with wreaths – it’s a chance to let your creativity run wild. If you want to have a go at making these with a group, I still have a few places on my Wild Wreath making workshop on Monday 2nd December.
Inspiration for a Natural Christmas
If you like these nature-inspired festive craft ideas, there are lots more to try on my “A Natural Christmas” Pinterest board. Christmas crafting is a lovely thing to do on a chilly or rainy weekend with friends and with kids too. It helps get you all in a festive mood and it feels so good to give someone something you made or decorated with your own two hands!