With any luck Christmas will be back on the menu this year. After having to endure nearly-there pared down festivities in 2020, we all deserve some seasonal cheer, in whatever guise or scale you choose. Christmas is often a time for families, friends, neighbours and loved ones. It is also a time for exchanging gifts.
Coming up with novel ideas for Christmas presents can be tough, verging on stressful and not to mention expensive. Shopping habits have changed immeasurably over recent years with the onset of internet shopping; Amazon, Tesco Clubcard rewards etc. However, last year saw a sea change in how people shop or more specifically where people shop. Shop small, support local, encourage independent business.
With sustainability dominating the news, now is the right time to explore alternative gift ideas. Something from the heart and kinder to the planet.
There is no need to craft the gifts yourself unless you want to. In which case, there are plenty of books, YouTube tutorials and crafting blogs out there for ideas. Upcycled, recycled and rejuvenated gifts are not necessarily passing on unwanted presents. They are laced with thought and care which will not be lost on the lucky recipient.
Here I will explore a variety of gift ideas with a full range of budgets and effort required. Whichever stands out for you, you know that you will be supporting small businesses, local and global communities and focusing on the eco-friendly.
Sustainable gifting is a choice to leave a smaller carbon footprint.
I love a charity shop. Choose your shop wisely and you can pick up some exquisite items for a song. Scarves definitely fall into this category. Not the really wooly kind; more sumptuous velvets and ultra-fine silks which are a dime a dozen from a charity shop. Presented wrapped in tissue paper in a beautiful lidded box (also from a charity shop?) looks a million bucks but will cost around £5 or £10 if new with labels.
Propagate! My spider plants breed like rabbits. The local recycling center charity shop always has a stash of indoor plant holders which can be spray painted to give a more individual finish. Take cuttings from other houseplants too; some live, some die but it’s worth a try.
Candles are extremely popular and there are many handmade scented varieties out there, usually handpoured at a kitchen table into upcycled crockery and jars by a single shop owner. Soy is eco and vegan friendly and beeswax has always been a favourite.
Refill shops are fast becoming commonplace around the country. They are a one-stop-shop for plastic free, cruelty free, ethical and affordable gifts. My local shop offers gift collections for the family, the bathroom or the kitchen. Perhaps you could build your own goodie box with shampoo and conditioner bars, creams and reusable make-up remover pads.
How about a care package, put together on a shoestring budget with a whole heap of thought? A pair of charity shop champagne flutes or wine glasses, a charity find mini-frame, a locally sourced handpoured scented candle, handmade lavender heat pad plus an origami heart. Oh and a wee bottle of pop (not upcycled, obviously).
Think about what your recipient might like in their care package:
- artisan coffee or tea bags with a charity shop mug and teapot with an unusual spoon.
- bird lover bundle with a vintage bird book, perhaps covered in pretty fabric or paper, with mini-binoculars from ebay.
- A stationary enthusiast would welcome a pack of notelets, pretty paper and a selection of pens in a pen pot.
- A bag of nice wool, crochet hooks and knitting needles with second-hand ‘how to’ books. Inspire your gift receiver to create!
- Bake! Cookies or a mini-Christmas cake wrapped in greaseproof paper then in a clean (perhaps new) tea towel from a charity shop or in a hand-sewn bag made from discarded clothes or fabric remnants.
All can be picked up from a charity shop, ebay, Facebook Marketplace, local crafting vendors with pop-up shops – support those small businesses. And it needn’t cost the earth or indeed the planet.
Upcycled homeware can be tricky to gift as it will ideally need to fit into your recipient’s home – fit, not necessarily match. Decorative statement cushions, chosen with thought and given with love, can be a wonderful gift to receive.
At Upcycle Arcade, I take unwanted embroideries and tapestries from our local recycling center and turn them into intricate, one-off cushions. I combine age-old needlework skills with my own love of sewing so once-loved, long-forgotten pieces become fit to grace many a home. See Home Furnishings for available cushions.
Bowls! But these are not just any bowls; they’re PinkySwift hand-turned teak bowls. Striking and vibrant for a more boho appeal. Or bling-tastic animals from the African plains, each with a crisp modern design and utterly unique.
If you have any budding furniture upcyclers on your gift list, then perhaps a selection of small pots of paint with a professional paint brush (not all brushes are alike) along with notes on what YouTube tutorials or books will be a meaningful present which may lead to a longstanding hobby (or side-hustle or career)! This little bundle has been put together by Lillie and Dot.
If your budget allows, then a striking statement piece of upcycled furniture could be just the ticket. I’m not suggesting a full 5′ sideboard as that really is personal preference but there are a plethora of smaller choice items available.
This table could easily be a crafting, knitting or crocheting box – this is not confined to just sewing. It is a vintage Morco sewing table upcycled and refinished in a blousy blend of pink, lilac and white and comes complete with contents. Currently on sale for £145.
The ultimate in furniture upcycling gifts would be to gift a voucher for a furniture upcycling workshop near your recipient – you could go together! Push the boat out and book a 1-2-1 video consultation with Salvaged Alchemy. Your recipient can transform a cherished piece of their own furniture in the comfort of their own home under the guided tutelage of an expert.
Wrapping and Presenting
Christmas paper on the whole is not recyclable due to the glitter and foil content (and sellotape and ribbons). Brown paper with beautiful fabric ribbons can look striking and stylish and can easily be reused and recycled.
Furoshiki is a Japanese art form like origami but is created using a scarf (from a charity shop, of course). It is an excellent way to wrap a bottle or two of wine, spa sets or artisan cooking oils. Google it!
Back in the charity shop….bags. Small clutch, medium totes, large holdalls: all make for excellent gift wrapping and are of course a gift in themselves. Add tissue paper to retain the joy of unwrapping rather than just pulling something from a nice bag.
Wishing you all a very merry upcycled Christmas for 2021 with many more to come. May upcycled and sustainable gifting become the norm as more of us embrace this treasure trove of wonderful and thoughtful gift ideas and offerings for our loved ones.
** I have gleaned inspiration and cobbled a few ideas from @MichelleMacKintosh who is the Queen of Sustainable Gifting.