Instead of guiltily shopping at the giant corporate stores and regretting it, rethink your spending habits and invest in small businesses, artisans and craftspeople, or just make gifts yourself.
Here’s our suggestions for some unique holiday gifts.
GIFTS FOR THE GEEK
4GB Star Wars flash drive, $24.99
I don’t know who uses flash drives anymore, but I would definitely start using one again if it looked like an Ewok. Not a fan of Star Wars, they also carry Batman, Robin, and Joker flash drives.
Uncommon Personalized iPhone covers, $34.95-$39.95
If you know someone with an iPhone, create a one-of-a-kind cover for his/her beloved device. Choose from any photo on your computer or from a wide selection of artists and collections directly on their website. The best part? The vibrant colors will never peel or fade because the image is literally tattooed into the cover. Free domestic shipping through December 16.
Whisker While You Work Mug, $12.99
You can’t deny it: everyone loves a good ‘stache. This mug of perfection will delight anyone on your gift list. Ceramic and microwave-safe, this much-desired mug is littered with 13 signature facial hair creations, included Dali, Groucho, and Selleck.
Subject BPA-Free Nalgene Bottles, $12
Whether your friend majored in Mathematics, English, or Philosophy [I guess engineers or musicians don’t use Nalgenes…?], Powell’s has the perfect water bottle for you. Each subject contains Nutrition Facts and a unique measurement system. Take Literature, for example: 52% Plot, 28% Narrative, etc. with Tolstoy holding strong at 32oz. and Bronte coming in close at 28oz.
GIFTS FOR THE ARTSY
Postcard Book from Black Rock Collective, $15
Get unique art on the cheap! This postcard book features 30 one-of-a-kind prints from artists across the globe.
Find art prints for everyone on your list. 20×200 categorizes their prints for all the wanderers, fashionistas, lovers, sports fans and gallery hoppers on your list.
The name of this art site is pretty self explanatory. So, go do it.
GIFTS FOR THE NOMAD
Skyline Sketches and Neighborhood Maps, $12
If your friend is like me, he/she has lived in multiple cities and has loved all of them. To show this geographical love, this husband and wife duo creates unique prints of various US city skylines and neighborhood maps, including Boston, Portland, Denver, San Francisco, NYC, and Chicago. Order by December 14 for Christmas delivery.
City Neighborhood Posters, $22-$27
Much like the previous entry, this site creates neighborhood maps. But Orks’s typographic sphere is larger and a little bit more detailed. Plus, you get to choose from a variety of colored screen prints or a simple poster. Perfect way for the nomad to show that they have roots…somewhere…even if it’s in multiple cities. Order by December 18 for ground delivery.
Love classic Americana? Check out these unique prints and cards of Roadside America by DaisyAdamsArtwork.
GIFTS FOR THE DRINKER, PILL POPPER, OR BAG LADY [NOT SYNONYMOUS WITH ALCOHOLICS, DRUG USERS, OR THE HOMELESS]
Decorative Flasks, $17.95
Whether your/your friend’s poison is vodka, water, or straight up apple juice, WhimsyandInk will have the hip flask you are looking for. These handmade flasks boast strong ties to the art of the mustache, sailing/maritime, and wanderlust (also perfect for the nomad). Order by December 10 to guarantee holiday delivery.
Nothing aggravates a person more than having to carry individual bottles for vitamins, Zyrtec, and Advil in their bag. Using kitsch [zombie Jesus], pop culture [garden gnomes, twins from The Shining], pinups, and artistic influences [Poe, Van Gogh], SweetHeartSinner Creations manufactures functional and adorable pillboxes and ID/cigarette holders for under $10.
Handmade Fabric Bags, $35-$48
My default bag is a clunky messenger bag that was Army made to accommodate mass amounts of books. But my bag of choice would be a FromNancy creation. Each bag is hand-sewn and made to order using designer fabrics. Choose from simple abstract, 1930’s vintage, floral, etc. patterns and prints.
Made entirely by two New Hampshire artisans, Sally Bags are versatile for those on-the-go. From their clutches, weekenders, to diaper bags, Sally Bags makes each stylish designer bag with personal love and care.
GIFTS FOR THE CHARITY/ DO-GOODER/ NON-PROFIT GURU
1/yr Subscription to Bitch Magazine or Fitted Bitch Logo Tee, $24.95
For the feminist on your list consider introducing them to the whimsical pages of Bitch, a magazine that embarks on a feminist discussion of pop culture. I’m not plugging for the magazine because I intern there, but you might actually learn something getting lost in articles such as “Why tall is a feminist issue, too,” “Hair Trigger: The evolving politics of women and mustaches,” and Q&As with sex workers, strippers, feminists, filmmakers, writers, etc. As for the shirt, come on. It says Bitch on it. What better way for your friend to wave their feminist flag proudly.
Pair of TOMS Shoes, $54 and up
If you’ve lived through a Nor’easter, you know that not having shoes is a serious issue. With every pair of TOMS shoes sold, TOMS gives a new pair of shoes to a shoe-less child. If you have a friend or family member who is not only passionate about helping marginalized children, but is also a connoisseur of comfy shoes, order them a pair of TOMS. They have a variety of patterns and fabrics to accommodate anyone on your list.
Beanie from Krochet Kids International, $25.95 and up
Why buy a beanie from Urban Outfitters when you can get a comparable and handmade hat that helps poverty-stricken individuals in Uganda? What began as a hobby soon turned into an organization that helps empower people to rise against poverty using the simple art of crocheting.
DIY CRAFTY GOODIES
Wine Cork Letters
Cork bulletin boards are overdone and you’re probably not at the stage yet when you need coasters either because 1. you don’t care if your Ikea coffee table has water rings or 2. you snag your coasters from bars. Surprise your wino with a handmade cork letter. Find a full tutorial here.
Camera Strap Slipcover—Padded and Lined
Having lived in two of the most hipster-y liberal cities in the US means I have accumulated quite the collection of artist and photographer friends. Regardless of their preference for Canon or Nikon, they all have the same complaint: my damn camera strap itches and hurts like crazy. Find a tutorial here.
Stenciled/Collage Wall Art
You don’t have to be an artist to create fabulous works of wall art. You can mimic pricier prints you would normally find at Pottery Barn in the comfort of your own home.
Check out this tutorial. (While the tutorial used bird stencils, you can always use a different design. A city skyline, trees, or people would look equally original).
Another alternative is to invert the silhouette. Instead of a collaged background and silhouetted imaged, create a solid background and collaged image. The only additional supply you will need is acrylic craft paint. Check out this how-to from Tatertots & Jello.
Ikea Film Negative Lamp
Now you can finally use those old negatives from when instant cameras were a fad. Hit up Ikea, buy the Grönö lamp [at only $6.99, it’s a staple for DIY-ers], and get your craft on. Tutorial found here.
Ever browse through Urban Outfitters or H&M’s jewelry selection and think, wait, I can make that! Well, so do the folks at Bromeliad. Check out their extensive selection of jewelry DIY’s and make a variety of necklaces, bracelets, and hair accessories for all the ladies on your list.
Got a baker on your list? Make them an elegant, but easy, cake plate to display their finest baked treats. Find a plate and a candle holder at thrift shop, put them together with some super glue, and viola, you’ve got a cake plate for a fraction of the cost found in stores. See a full tutorial at Elm Street Life.
Have a glove missing its pair? Transform it into a woodland creature! This Etsy tutorial shows you how to turn an old glove into a cute plush chipmunk.
Want more handmade gift ideas? Check out Everything Etsy’s Master List of 101 Simple Handmade Gift Tutorials. Also, see Design*Sponge’s suggestion to Skip the Stores: Use your Hands.
HOLIDAY DECORATION DIYS
Did you know that felt is the construction paper of fabric? Poopscape (what a name!) shows how versatile felt can be. Check out their tutorial to make a little village out of felt and some Christmas lights. Or, simply cut any holiday shape (trees, bells, angels, stars) out of felt and string them up on the tree or make into garland.
Ornaments for the Bibliophile
Create a unique ornament for the word nerd on your list by wrapping an old Xmas bulb in newsprint. For a full how-to and other DIY ideas, check out Life in the Fun Lane.
Make your own advent calendar to count down the days to Christmas or the New Year.
Contributors: Ashley Jean Hight and Lana Cook