Everyone’s talking about supply chains and gearing up early for the holiday season this year, and no doubt with good reason. I ordered tiny lobster claw clasps sometime mid-September and they’ve yet to arrive. For Halloween, the pjs I was planning to use as the base of my kids’ costumes (and sleepwear for the rest of the fall and winter) are stuck somewhere in Neverland. With that in mind, and as we have for the past several years, Rose and I are teaming up with a collection of posts inspiring folks to put a handmade spin on holiday gift giving. This year, more than ever, an ability to rely on our own skills to put together simple gifts seems like something to try.
The gifts we’ll propose use projects we’ve presented throughout the year as a jumping off place. They aren’t handmade gifts that will take a year of planning and more free Sundays than anyone has to complete. They’re quick projects, made with few supplies, little time, and no special expertise.
We’re hoping to get all of the guides up by the end of the month to leave extra time to account for making and ordering and wrapping things up. In the spirit of preparation, we’re starting with this trusty list of our go-to supplies. We’ve separated the supplies into three categories and provided links to online sources where possible, but we’ve raided our own craft supplies for these posts and suspect folks might be able to largely cull from what they already have or can find locally.
These are the basic supplies used to make the majority of our projects in this season and seasons past. The beauty of so many of these crafts is that they can be made with supplies you can get during a wander into your local hardware store, but not all hardware stores—or canvas drop cloths—are created equal. Here are a few specific suggestions for sources in case they’re helpful, but if you start gathering early, the hunt can be part of the fun.
Canvas and fabric scraps
Our projects were fabric heavy this year. Canvas drop cloth is an affordable and readily available material we love to work with. Quality and type can vary fairly widely but almost anything you can find locally will work for these projects. If you’re looking for an online source, I first encountered Canvas Etc. when making my painted floorcloth last year and I’ve found them to be a very reliable source for good quality, affordable canvas that’s 100 percent cotton. I’d recommend the 7- or 10-ounce canvas duck cloth for most of the projects we’re doing this year as it’s a lighter weight canvas that’s easy to sew up. I’ve also loved dipping into my stash of Fog Linen Remnants and always admire the beautiful fabrics from Handa Textiles. For other specialty fabrics we love Purl Soho and Brooklyn General Store, both local to us but shipping all over.
Kraft paper, cardboard, and a recycled stash of paper
Whether you’re folding paper boxes or making your kids little recyclable toys to get through holiday travel (just wait!), start building your recyclables stash now. There’s the good kind of cardboard (think: thick, smooth, and branding-of-global-mega-corporation free) and there’s the stuff that’s falling apart before the box makes it to your stoop. For making kumihimo looms, the best stuff is the thin, smooth chipboard that you might find on the back of notepads. Put a tote on a closet doorknob today and start slipping recycled scraps there now so it’s filled by the time you’re ready to start crafting. Rose likes to keep smaller paper scraps tidy by pinning them to an oversized safety pin. I’ve been known to iron out wrinkles from crinkly packing paper. The paper in these Borden & Riley Kraft Pads make perfect little boxes.
String and rope
Cotton butcher’s twine or mason’s string from the hardware store is terrific for all sorts of these projects, easy to find, and very inexpensive. We also like using finer hemp string and I’m partial to unbleached cotton twine for just about everything. Lately we’ve been very impressed by the selection and color choices of recycled at Etsy shop, Ganxxet. For larger cording projects that use rope, I’ve had good luck ordering my cotton clothesline rope direct from Knot and Rope Supply Co. Their 3/16″ Solid Braid Cotton is really nice quality and is 100 percent cotton without the nylon core that’s hidden in lots of hardware store finds.
I always get my embroidery floss at local shop, Brooklyn Genera Store. I love being able to pick out my colors in person and see how they pair together. They have all the basics plus truly exquisite hand-dyed specimens to covet (and horde).
I love having a stash of plain cotton twill tape at the ready and as luck would have it, twilltape.com has been a failsafe source. I like the heavyweight 3/8″ natural twill tape best of all.
This is one of a few pretty specific materials that’s worth sourcing sooner than later if you want to include basket making in your holiday gift giving plans. You’ll find lots of examples of this to fill your cart at all the internet megastores, but it’s also often stocked by smaller Etsy sellers and floral supply shops. We recommend going with 26-gauge paper-coated floral wire.
The round wooden clothespins work the best for the projects we propose and they’re easy to find in hardware stores and your mom’s stash of ye olde laundry implements. Start poking around now and get a few extras as they sometimes crack in the process of making the frame.
The cheaper the better here. You only need the interior of a 6-inch hoop to act as your basket-weaving frame, so ask around with friends or buy nothing groups to see if anyone has an old one to spare.
1/2-inch wooden dowels are available at most hardware stores and many will trim them down to the proper length right in the shop.
DAS air dry clay is the absolute best for making these little clay vessels. We don’t have a lot that’s clay specific in this year’s guide, but in case you want to revisit this tutorial and these gift ideas; this is the stuff you’ll need.
These are the things you need to get this stuff done. You likely already have them, but just in case, here’s the master list.
Not all of the projects this year require a sewing machine, but we’ve made a few simple sewing tutorials in the past few months that do go by considerably faster with a machine. For my part, I’m a total novice and have been working on a very basic Singer sewing machine like this one that I got for free off my Neighborhood Buy Nothing list. I got it tuned up for $45 at the local shop and it’s served me totally well for the last six months or so. If you have a machine you’d like to recommend in the comments, feel free to, but we’re not snobs around here and these projects aren’t complicated, so anything with a needle that goes up and down should work just fine.
Needle (and thread)
Just a few basics will do here. I’ve been using Mettler Silk Finish Cotton thread in Candlewick while Rose prefers Gutermann Polyester Thread in Eggshell. For needles, we use thick, blunt darning needles for a few different projects in addition to assorted fine sewing needles.
Here’s where I should probably admit that I mistreat my scissors and have them do everything from cutting through cardboard and paper to fine fabrics. I’ve had these classic Fiskars forged scissors for more than a decade and they’re still great.
I love my little Merchant & Mills tailors chalk for marking fabric to cut and sew.
As long as it’s accurate, anything goes. Mine is a 6-inch brass ruler from Appointed from a few years ago.
Hole punch or awl
There’s something about a hole punch that really lowers the barrier to entry on getting handmade gifts to look polished. A perfect little hole cut into paper or cloth tags takes the whole enterprise up a notch and if you stick to a classic, it’ll last forever. I have this basic hole punch that makes a hole big enough for a three-ring binder, but I love Rose’s heavy duty hole punch, above, which makes a far daintier punch (and can also punch through metal)! A few of our cardboard projects have tougher to reach places for hole punching and in those cases, a simple awl works best (you can also use a small nail in a pinch!).
Helpful for all kinds of analog crafts and a few we have on the docket for this year, a solid stapler won’t make or break your gift making abilities, but it is helpful. I have this Standard Issue Stapler and Rose has the Ellepi Klizia Stapler, but finds that sometimes a heavier-duty stapler is in order.
Any stamp pad in a color you like will work. If yours is on the dry side, don’t throw it out! Ink pads can be refilled just like ink wells! Just find a color you like that matches the color of the existing pad and fill ‘er up.
These are the littler notions and accessories and helpful bits that you might want to start gathering now to use for simple gifts during the holidays. We’ll be suggesting some of these things for upcoming projects and wanted to get them on your radar in case you want to start pressing leaves, discretely pulling wooden blocks away from you kids’ collection, scouting the best local juniper branch spot, or heading to the local craft store for speciality items like lobster claw clasps, hair clips, thin elastic cord and the good kind of pompom yarn.
Thin elastic cord is helpful to have on hand for lots of wrapping and small gift projects. We’ve got two on the docket for this season.
I save every pretty ribbon I get on cardboard spools I tuck into my craft wardrobe. A few favorite sources are Mabo’s remnant ribbons; Fog Linen’s linen tape, and all things Studio Carta, available directly or through Purl Soho.
Gummed paper tape in 1-inch and 2-inch sizes is a real favorite of ours lately and a handy supply to have at the ready for gift wrapping and craft making no matter the season.
With a stash of alligator hair clips plus fabric scraps and you’ve got everything you need for the sweetest hair accessories/present toppers.
Small metal brads might be something you haven’t used since elementary art projects, for shame. We’re putting them to use in two recycled cardboard gift ideas this year.
Local craft stores and Etsy shops have small brass notions in just about every size and shape. We’ll be using lobster claw clasps in small and large sizes and flat brass key rings this year.
Sneak a few Jenga blocks or other small wooden blocks out of the kids’ block basket to have at the ready for a simple gift idea. Promise, they won’t notice.
It took me some convincing to put this on the list, but Rose has a simple and incredibly beautiful gift up her sleeve that uses tiny squares of 6mm Creatology Foam. You’ll only need a 4×4 square or so, so see if there’s a craft closet you can raid or split a sheet with a friend.
Rose introduced me to the joy of pom-pom making with yarn scraps a few years ago. She recommends a thick yarn like this Super Bulky Peruvian Wool for the fluffiest poms.
Leaves, berries, twigs, and other bits from nature
Nothing makes a package prettier than a little bit of wintry flair. ‘Tis the season to see Rose swiping leaves off of car roofs to press and save for later. Join her and collect the prettiest ones to press between the pages of books and scope out the best neighborhood spots to clip juniper berries or swipe mini pinecones.
This post includes affiliate links to online shops. Reading My Tea Leaves might earn a small commission on the goods purchased through those links, but most of these supplies can be found locally right in your own community. If you’d like to support this site directly, you can contribute directly here. Thanks so much for supporting this work.
What an impressive, extensive and detailed list – I’m very much looking forward to the guides!
Had to chuckle a little at the wooden blocks (taking a few) and your statement of “Promise, they won’t notice”. You are right! I love the idea of adding that as an embellishment to a gift 🙂
oh, just wait for it! it becomes part of the gift itself! details soon!
Basically a gift guide for the craftier people in my life! Cheers to friends who enjoy getting some food salvaged cardboard 🙂
Good* not food
I love these little supply vignettes. So beautiful 🙂
yay!!!! So excited for this!
Grammies and a good number of Grampas all over the nation are a great resource for these supplies.
I mean, really, just write to me. No doubt I have squirreled away all that anyone might need.
I keep coming back to this post because I am SO excited. It’s like Christmas is here early for all of us crafters <3
I save tissue paper throughout the year from any source – clothes, fruit, fragile things, then iron it and use it for Christmas wrapping – perfect for stocking fillers and I prefer the softer look of used and ironed tissue paper
This post makes me so incredibly happy.
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