Handmade Holiday

There is something in all of us that wants to get crafty this time of year, but do-it-yourself doesn’t have to drive you insane.

By Taylor Cunningham and Kate Matthews
Photography by Kate Matthews and Courtesy of Alene Hortin

It seems as if the holidays inspire the do-it-yourself spirit in us all. Maybe it’s the cold weather that leaves us writhing with the compulsion to create. Or the memories of our parents and grandparents’ seemingly effortless abilities to produce a homemade holiday season complete with home-baked gingerbread men, hand-sewn gifts, and hand-written thank-you notes that inspires you. Perhaps you’re looking to create a tradition with your children to teach them the joy of giving from the heart (and spending some precious time together). Or, maybe it’s just Pinterest.
Whatever the inspiration, it seems as if there is something in all of us that wants to get crafty this time of year. But DIY doesn’t always mean doing “it” with ease. Here are a few tips for keeping it real when it comes to adventures in DIY.


Let’s be realistic, doing it your self takes time. Especially if you’re a beginner. That being said; don’t underestimate how much time something will take, and be kind to yourself if your projects take longer than you expect. If you have never knitted or made caramel from scratch, it’s going to take longer than then an afternoon to produce something gift-worthy, unless you are struck by the lighting of beginners luck.

Twenty years ago, Alene Hortin, owner of Wilder of Idaho, Inc. began making candles in her home. At the time she thought, “How hard could it be?” As it turns out, it was harder than she thought. “I soon found out that it wasn’t just melted wax, wick, and some bottled oils.”


Part of keeping a hold of your time is keeping your gifts simple. From simple patterns to simple recipes, the easier the project, the greater chance you’ll have for succeeding in your endeavors.

If you’re looking at making candles or soaps, look for the recipes that don’t include mile-long lists of multi-syllabic words. Keep scent combinations to a minimum, and try using natural ingredients or organic oils whenever possible.

Hortin says, “I choose the safest, most basic of ingredients because I think simple is best, healthy and clean.” Local sugar from Nampa, sea salt, aloe vera gel, beeswax, and various natural oils make up the majority of Hortin’s products, with stunning results.

The same can be said for sewing and crafting projects, too. If you have your sites set on making stockings for your family, don’t worry about the pockets, trim, and rick-rack; at least not this year. Be kind to yourself and be content to simply make a stocking. The embellishments and personalization can evolve over time. Make a stocking this year, hand-stitch the name next year, and add a pocket the year after that. Let your craft be the gift that keeps on giving.


For many of us, the appeal of the DIY Christmas is doing something together as a family. But all too often parents bull ahead with complicated plans, leaving the littlest members of the family with little to do but wander off and watch television.

To avoid this pitfall, plan ahead. Find tasks that your kids can accomplish with ease and set them to work while you wield the flames, needles, glue guns, and knives. Set kids to work measuring, making simple cuts, sorting sequins, or mixing ingredients. Simple tasks that can be completed with no fuss and no muss will empower children with a sense of accomplishment and allow them to feel the joy of creating something for someone they love. Which is the whole point, right?


Finally, find fun and innovative ways to wrap your handmade gifts. Use colorful scraps and ribbons to add a final personal touch to your presentation. Or try Mason jars or upcycled containers for your gift instead of the traditional gift box. Not only will these touches of crafty flare set your gift apart from the rest, but it’s kinder on the environment and your pocket book.

Alene Hortin of Wilder of Idaho, Inc. offers you, dear Reader, this simple DIY recipe to soothe your weary hands. (Which, we know, you’ve worked to the bone…)


• Your favorite lotion
• Balm base (such as a lotion bar containing cocoa butter, coconut oil, or shea butter)
• Essential oil of your choosing (lavender, eucalyptus, and peppermint are popular choices)
• An air-tight tub or jar (with lid)


Depending on the amount you’re making, you’ll want an 85:15 lotion to balm ratio. So, if you’re making a six-ounce supply, you’ll want 5 ounces of lotion and one ounce of balm. You can eye it; don’t worry too much about being exact.

Melt the balm in a thick saucepan over low heat, just until it liquefies. Warm the lotion separately, either in a separate saucepan or in the microwave. Add the liquid balm to the warmed lotion and mix until blended. Add 2-3 drops (or more, if you like, but use caution) of essential oils and mix thoroughly.

Spoon the salve into an airtight container and allow it to cool before using.








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