Glycerin Soap, Lotions, and other Toiletries
Also known as "melt and pour soap." Do NOT buy melt and pour soap base from a craft store--the kind they sell is awful. It lathers about as much as the average rock.
Good melt and pour soap base has only one major drawback, which is that in humid weather, it can develop beads of moisture. This problem is almost completely eliminated by buying "low sweat" soap base. You can get it in either clear or white, and can color it with inexpensive soap colorants. Use either essential oil or fragrance oil for scent, but don't buy the tiny bottles of fragrance oil you find in markets and health food stores. Instead, buy from a soap supply vendor who's located close to you--saves postage.
For easy, instant gifts, shop soap supply vendors for bases for lotions and other toiletries that can be colored, scented, and packaged as you like.
You can combine your soaps with pretty soap dishes or wrap them in small cellophane bags and collect them in a pretty basket or transparent box with other toiletries. Or make shaving soap in mugs, if there are people on your list who'd like that.
SFIC LCP Melt And Pour Soap. Available from numerous vendors.
Kits for all kinds of toiletries from Bramble Berry. Other vendors sell kits as well.
Click here for a link to soap supply vendors
Melt & Pour Soapmaking, by Marie Browning. Many ideas and excellent instructions.
Rolled beeswax candles make very attractive gifts, and this is such an easy project, you can do it with kids. You can get the kits in many different colors.
Toadily Handmade rolled candle making kit
Mix in a Jar
You could make baking mixes using your favorite recipes. Adapt as needed--for example, use dry milk instead of fluid milk so that all the recipient has to do is add water. Of course, test your modified recipe yourself first!
Wide mouth jars are easier to work with than standard mason jars. You'll probably be using the large, quart or liter, jars. I prefer the plastic tops to the two piece metal ones.
The way most jar mix recipes are written, the only things that go into the mix are dry ingredients and additions like nuts, chocolate chips, and oatmeal. Liquids and butter are added when the mix is used.
So, first figure out the volume of the dry ingredients--cups of flour, plus cups of sugar, plus cups of additions. If you're using large mason jars, they hold four cups. So one recipe may make more than one jar full.
If a recipe contains brown sugar, you can use one or more layers of this ingredient as a kind of seal to keep your various other layers from mixing. Tamp brown sugar down tightly to seal the ingredients below it.
Sift the flour, baking powder and/or baking soda, and any spices together and set aside. If you're using dry milk, powdered vanilla, cocoa, or other dry ingredients, sift with the flour.
Measure sugar and set aside.
Measure any additions separately and set aside.
Using a mason jar funnel, put the flour mixture in first.
Add sugar and/or brown sugar, tamping ingredients down well.
Additions like nuts and chocolate chips go on top.
Don't forget to include a card with instructions. Instructions should give quantities of butter, eggs, and liquids, instructions for mixing, and instructions for baking.
There are books with special recipes for jar mixes, including suggestions for decorating.
Gifts in Jars
Recipes for cookie, cake, brownie, soup, breakfast items, beverage mixes, and toiletries. Recommended.
Bead necklace or Bracelet
Making jewelry with beads is quite easy. Here are some helpful ideas:
1. Bead stores have a huge variety, and so do some craft stores. One helpful, inexpensive tool is a bead board, which lets you lay out your design before you string it.
2. Use beading thread or wire rather than regular thread or dental floss.
3. One very helpful tool is a spring clamp that you put at one end of the string to keep the beads from sliding off.
4. Focal beads or pendants can made a string of beads even more special.
5. Typical necklace lengths for women:
"Findings" like clasps and jump rings are inexpensive and easy to use. All you really need is needlenose pliers with a gripping surface.
Bracelet and Necklace Blanks
To the right, the necklace at the top is made from cabochon blanks linked together, finished with buttons glued to the blanks. The cord and clasps were added.
At the bottom is a bracelet blank. This could be finished with buttons, stones, charms, crystals, or whatever you like. The clasp and safety chain are included with the blank.
Assembly is with jeweler's glue or crazy glue (be sure to use good ventilation with either).
Blanks of all kinds for bracelets, necklaces, and pendants are inexpensive and easy to find online. Etsy is one very good source.
Packaging for Gifts
Clear Bags--Not just bags, but all kinds of boxes and containers for gift packaging. Recommended.
For jewelry, most craft stores sell a variety of small boxes for your finished necklaces and bracelets, including cotton padding. Many online sources are available as well.
Soaps can be packaged with soap dishes, scrubbies, lotions, hand knit washcloths, or any other toiletries or accessories that strike your fancy. Package in baskets or boxes. I recommend using cellophane bags or shrink wrap if you use colored packing shred or tissue paper with soaps--the color can leach onto them.
For lotions and other toiletries, you can get empty bottles of all kinds. Sterilize the bottles before filling them. One easy way to fill lotion bottles is from the kind of squeeze bottles that are used for ketchup or hair coloring products. Works better than a funnel.
At many craft stores, you can buy clear cellophane "treat bags" to fit candles, soaps, and other small gifts. Also, shrink wrap that will give baskets of goodies a professional look.