3 Essential Ingredients For The Perfect DIY Gift

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When you think about it, there are so many good reasons to make your own gifts whenever possible. It’s dramatically less expensive, it’s fun, it’s original (and tailored to the person receiving it), and it takes more effort than just “hey i bought you this thing I saw waiting in line at H&M.”

So when two of my beloved friends had birthdays coming up, I knew that it was time to try out my first-ever fun DIY gift. I decided that for them, I would do homemade teacup candles, because A) they are deceptively easy, and B) there is an unreasonable amount of vintage stores around my apartment, all overflowing with adorable vintage teacups in all prints and shapes. So why not?

And I realized in making these gifts that there are, truly, three essential components to an awesome DIY gifting experiences. And they are as follows:

  1. Make a gift that is something you probably can’t get in a store.
  2. Do something more fun than a card.
  3. Candy!

It’s as simple as that. And though, yes, you do have to dedicate approximately one whole evening’s worth of effort to making them, it is honestly a fun and awesome experience. You get to linger over your charming little project (maybe with a glass of wine), take your time, and do something that is neither “zoning out in front of your laptop” nor “stressing out about work.” It’s honestly what pampered Upper West Side housewives must feel like all the time, and it’s awesome.

So, to that end,

1. Make an original gift (that you probably can’t get in a store).

As I stated above, teacup candles are incredibly easy. While they take a bit of preparation and attention, there are few gifts that offer such an adorable reward for so little actual effort. The process is as follows.

Choose your teacups from any vintage store. (I tried to find more ornate, mismatched ones, just because why not, but you can get a matching set and coordinate the color of the wax, or whatever you want.) Then get yourself some wax, preferably a bit of scented and mostly unscented, so that it’s not overpowering but does have a nice little smell. You can either use the wicks from some of the candles you get (like I did), or you can buy wicks. Up to you.

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Then, start cutting up your wax, and put the wicks in the bottom of your teacups, like so.

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Melt down your wax, trying to keep a ratio of about 3/4 regular wax to scented wax. (And make sure to take a really blurry and crappy photo of it.)

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Now all you have to do is pour the wax into your teacups and let it set while some chopsticks (or a fork, or whatever you have on hand, it doesn’t really matter) hold up the wicks.

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Now let the wax dry, remove the structural support for the wicks, and voila! A beautiful little gift for a beautiful little friend (or two)!

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(Consider this activity, and the “end result” photos, as my application to be a Pinterest mom.)

2. Do something more fun than a card.

Cards are nice, yes, but nice compared to what? You receive a kind message, which is the best part (except maybe the money you shake out of it from distant relatives), but what do you do with the card afterwards? Yes, you can display it, but then you kind of look like an asshole who collects fan letters. And you can put it away in some little treasure chest, but then you’ll never really look at it again, except when you pause nostalgically during a move to re-read all of your old letters for three hours.

So what’s a girl to do? I’ll tell you: Write the contents of a card, but on something that the person can re-use. I picked, for this one, a monogramed notepad with a magnet back so that you can put it on the fridge and make your shopping lists! (Full disclosure: I got one for myself.) This way, the sentiment is all there, but they can actually do something with it afterwards, which adds to the gift (without actually costing more than a relatively fancy card).

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3. Candy!

Throw candy in for good measure. Always. It takes a gift to the level above from whatever level it was before, and makes opening the gift itself feel like being the kid who broke the piñata at the birthday party.

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Then all you need to do is finish adding the wrapping, and wait for the waves of joy to hit the gift-receiver. (Candy! A card I can do something with! A cute thing!)

Yes, it takes a little bit of time, but I promise you: It’s always worth it.

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