Tuesday, December 1st, 2020...1:55 pm

DIY gifts you can ACTUALLY do yourself

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By: Georgia Maxwell, Gradlife Ambassador

scissors, bows and wrapping paper are scattered across a wooden table

Seeing as the holidays are approaching with a frightening speed, and grad students are famously low on funds (at least I am…) I thought I’d devote this week’s post to some fabulous DIY gift ideas you can make for your loved ones! I know that there are already a million blog posts on this exact topic, but I was looking at some of them, and the things they expect people to be able to do is insane—repurpose a mirror? Cover a mug in glitter? Ridiculous… and possibly lethal.

So lo and behold, I’ve brainstormed 6 DIY gifts ideas you’ll actually be able to do yourself. Will any of these be so amazing your loved ones will be tricked into thinking you bought them? Probably not. But hey, they’ll be touched that you took the time to make them something, and you’ll save enough money to buy yourself some nice pens for second semester.

1. Make a painted photograph

small painted canvas of a waterfall and rocks with a black and white photo of a woman glued to it,

While I know that suggesting you paint a portrait might be a little far-fetched, but a picture / photo hybrid looks amazing and requires little artistic skill. All you need is a small canvas or piece of wood, and a photograph you want to use (this works best if it’s one of people—like you and your loved one!) All you have to do is first paint the background of your photograph onto the canvas, and this can be as detailed or abstract as you want—it even works if you just use one colour! Next, cut out the people from your photograph. Once your canvas has dried, glue your photo on with rubber cement.

Pro Tip: write a heartfelt message on the back of the canvas. Especially if you’re not great at painting

2. Craft an extravagant card

two hands are unrolling a large, colourful card that has the months written out and pictures drawn around them

I am a firm believer that a good enough card can replace a gift altogether—it’s sort of like filling up at the restaurant on bread before the meal comes… but then never getting the meal. I suggest making sure that your card is oversized, and that you use multiple mediums. A great combo are pencil crayons and photographs (especially if you don’t have a colour printer, and like c’mon who does…).

Pro Tip: fill your card with personal stuff so that it feels extra special. Some ideas to include might be: “Our top ten inside jokes”, “my favourite memories of us”, “every embarrassing thing you’ve ever done.” You know, sweet stuff like that.

3. Repot a plant

plant in a small silver plot with a bow on it

I’m assuming that you have at least one plant because well… you’re in Grad school during a pandemic. If I’m wrong then sorry! You’re gonna have to move onto number 4. While this one isn’t totally DIY because you have to get a pot (the dollar store has some really cute ones though) this is a really easy gift idea that someone can keep for a very long time… or kill immediately and not tell you for three years.

Pro Tip: Do I know how to repot a plant? Nope! If you don’t either, check out this video I found

4. Breathe new life into a “lightly used” notebook

a yellow notebook standing up on its side

I don’t know about you, but I have a million notebooks lying around that I wrote in for 2 pages and then abandoned. Rather than let it sit on a shelf or end up in a landfill, why don’t you re-gift? If you have a few pages that have been used, all you have to do is cut them out. This works best with an x-acto knife, but be very careful! If you do use an x-acto knife, make sure you put something thick underneath the pages you’re cutting out, and guide your line with a straight-edge. Scissors also work, but the cut won’t be as close to the spine.

Pro Tip: Write a really long, heartfelt, and colourful note into the (new) first page of the notebook. Not only will this be a nice addition, but it will distract from the pages you cut out mwahaha

Pro Tip #2: Because I’m now worried someone’s going to cut themselves on account of me being cheap, here’s a video on how to safely use an x-acto knife.

5. Make a photo accordion

a photo accordion laid out across a table

This gift is great for someone you have a lot of photos with. All you have to do is print out 6-10 photos, and measure out a thick piece of paper or cardstock that you want to glue them to. Glue your images in a straight line down on the paper, with some space in between each one (where the folds will be). This will probably take multiple pieces of paper, so leave enough space at the ends to glue them together. Once the images have dried, cut a above and below the images (but not in between!) and then fold the paper in between each image to make your accordion.

Pro Tip: If you have a bunch of photos from over the years, it looks great if you order them chronologically

6. Paint your own jewelry bowl

a small bowl that is white on the outside and has a pattern on the inside with rings in it

Everyone likes a pretty jewelry bowl—it can be used to store your rings, bracelets, earrings you name it! To make your own, all you have to do is take a ceramic bowl and paint it using acrylic paints. I should stress that this is a good idea only for bowls that will not be eaten out of… because acrylic paint is definitely toxic. But even if your loved one already has a jewelry bowl, this can be used for coins, hair elastics, keys, whatever fits!

Pro tip: While obviously there’s no wrong way to do this, I find these bowls look best if you leave the outside as is, and then paint the inside some kind of fun pattern.

I hope my post has inspired you to get crafty this season! If you have any go-to DIY gifts of your own, feel free to share them in the comments below!

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