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From the Heart: An East Bay Guide to DIY Gifting

Updated: Dec 14, 2018 09:24
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When you’re broke and living on a strict budget, gifting during the holidays when you have more than a few family members has to be handmade. I don’t know who in the world saves up to have tons of money for gifting throughout the year but I refuse to go broke trying to show people that I love them.

I budget $200 for gifts every year no matter how many people end up on my list. So, I’ve hyper-planned a fully handmade holiday so I can keep gifts within my budget. I have a little advantage as I am a self-proclaimed DIY Maven. I’ve taught art and craft classes for nearly 15 years in the Bay Area and I was born to a textile artist and potter. But, because I love you, I’ve decided my gift to you this season is to be your the go-to DIY Queen for how to make the Handmade Gifts of your dreams within your Broke-Ass Budget.

Are you ready? Here’s a couple awesome go-to gifts you can make using materials sourced right here in the East Bay:

A Plant Lover Prezzie

Gift: Super Cute Potted Succulent
Budget: $8-$12

Gifting your favorite plant-obsessed pal another plant for their collection is seriously the easiest gift and will certainly bring them the biggest smile. I’ve already given you a whole slew of places to nab that adorable plant, but here’s how I’d tackle this project.

DIY succulent gift. Photo courtesy of Unsplash_Remi Muller

Where to Shop for Supplies:
Pottery & Beyond: 4055 Hubbard St, Emeryville, CA 94608
The Dry Garden: 6556 Shattuck Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

Supplies Needed:

  1. Small Pot: You can get $7 to $8 pots from the super rad sale section at Pottery And Beyond in Emeryville: It’s my go-to for small pots. Pick out one with a drainage hole.
  2. Succulent: Snag one from The Dry Garden
  3. Some Dirt!: The Dry Garden has great dirt you can buy by weight so you don’t end up with a ton of extra dirt you’re not going to use.
  4. Window Screening OR Coffee Filter: I typically go for the coffee filter because I have them laying around the house.

How To:

You have no excuses here – this is perfect for beginners because you really can’t fail. Add a small amount of window screening OR coffee filter over the drainage hole. Add in your dirt and then plop that succulent right in! If you have some ribbon, add a bow around the rim so that your gift feels “gifty.” If you want to give it a little something extra, you can add a layer of small stones over the top of your soil.

PRO TIP: If you’re like me, you have a neighbor with a succulent in their front yard. A proper Broke-Ass Trick is to ask them for a cutting from their plant. This makes your plant ZERO DOLLARS! I suggest Aeonium ‘Jolly Green’ or Jade as they are both great for container gardening.

A Candle Lover Keepsake

Gift: Handmade Candle
Budget: $4-$8 per candle – this craft is best when you’re making several candles as the initial cost of supplies will make more than one at a time.

Real talk – this is a straight up dupe for a candle I saw on Anthropologie, and while I’ve been known to purchase candles from Anthro before – it’s a complete JOKE that a candle can cost upwards of $20-$170. Here’s how to make your own candle for just a fraction of the price.

Where to Shop for Supplies:
Juniper Tree: 2520 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley, CA 94702

Supplies Needed:

  1. Wax!: Soy is my favorite as it burns longer and is environmentally friendly.
  2. Wide Mouth Mason Jar
  3. A wick!: If you want to get all shmancy, you can use a wooden wick but for smaller candles, always go for the standard cotton twine wick. Also, this keeps it more affordable to use these.
  4. Any fragrance oil: Juniper Tree has the BEST selection in the East Bay.

How To:

Melt the wax double boiler-style. (Tip: I use a Pyrex pouring vessel and do NOT use it for anything but candles after that). Most wax should be heated to 185 degrees before you add your fragrance. As your wax melts, go ahead and prep your container by attaching your wick to the bottom of your container with glue, or a little melted wax will also work also. Wooden wicks will stand up on their own, but for cotton wicks, you will have to tie the top of the wick to a pencil and balance the pencil across the top of the container. Then, pour the melted wax into your container & let dry completely before cutting the wick to size and gifting.

Photo courtesy of Etsy

PRO TIP: To keep this project even more budget friendly, you can use an old container you already have or find one on the cheap (and support a kick-ass shop that keeps our educators stocked up) at the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse! The cheapest way to go with the wax itself is to snag a few of those plain white candles from Dollar Tree and then break them up for your use (removing the wick).

Grab a Craft Kit from these Local Gems

When you don’t have time to drive around the East Bay gathering materials, the next best thing is to grab a handmade craft kit from a local shop and finish the assembly at home. Kits are great because they come with all of the directions…AND if you run out of time to finish it yourself, you can gift the kit as-is.

Secret Garden Craft Kit
Gift: Naturally Dyed Scarf
Budget: $24

Where to Shop for The Kit:
A Verb For Keeping Warm: 6328 San Pablo Ave, Oakland, CA 94608

For this kit, A Verb teaches you how to make a silk scarf by extracting dye from natural flowers. It’s stunning and can double as a table runner if the person you gift it to isn’t really a scarf person.

I’m a serious fan girl of A Verb for Keeping Warm. The owner Kristin is a dream of a person and one of the leading experts in all that is natural dye. She’s rooted in her passion for textiles and has built a career teaching people how to naturally dye their own creations. When you walk into A Verb, you’ll find yourself surrounded by carefully curated textiles, yarns, and other goodies tailored to the natural dyer and yarn enthusiast. I get sucked in for hours each time I visit. I love to sort through all of the yarns like I’m sifting through a treasure chest, learning about all the different natural elements that make the bold colors.

Photo courtesy of Unsplashed_Karly Santiago

Make Mischief with a Beginner Embroidery Kit
Gift: California Embroidery Wall Hanging by Melisa Joy
Budget: $25

Where to Shop for The Kit:
Mischief: 3908 MacArthur Blvd., Oakland, CA 94619

For this kit, Melisa Joy leads you easily through the steps to create a simple California-Inspired Wall hanging. Each kit includes the fabric, frame, thread and needle. That way, you’re all set to start stitching.

Mischief is a great Oakland community hub of all things locally handmade. Many items are made by Laurel Neighborhood artists who live within blocks of Mischief and the owners (Laura and Julien) host many events, classes and fun socials, which center around the neighborhood coming together and getting to know each other. When you walk in, it’s like coming home – you’ll find handmade gifts and home goods ranging from baby clothes to beautiful, delicate jewelry. They dedicate one section of their space to craft supplies, which is perfect for anyone looking to make something adorably handmade this holiday. BONUS: This place is dog friendly. I can’t even tell you how pumped my step-dog Scooter gets when we go in – treats Laura hands out to the pups probably has something to do with that.

Make an Ornament From Tinsel!
Gift: Silver Glass Glitter Ornament
Budget: Under $10

Where to Shop for it:
Tinsel: 1659 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley, CA 94702

I first came across Tinsel as a small booth during the annual Port Costa Town Wide Yard Sale (every Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend) – they had all kinds of goods that I spent hours coveting. Their vintage Victorian trinkets, patches and ribbons are straight out of a dream, blinding you with their twinkling wonder as you walk into their brick-and-mortar shop. As you meander through, it’s reminiscent of exploring the notions in your grandmother’s sewing supplies. Many of the items are vintage and imported from France – it feels like everything they sell is precious and has a story behind it. Here, you’ll find Silver Glass Glitter Ornaments and beautiful ribbon to make a truly unique gift for anyone on your list.  


The holidays should be about something other than just spending money and supporting big box stores like Amazon. The magic of a gift is the thoughtfulness that you give to it, and taking the time to make something gives you the opportunity to really think about the people on your gift list. Remember this as you make something for your family and friends. As some of you may be beginners, I want you to remember that a flaw in your creation is where the beauty will shine through. Lastly, remember that I’m your DIY Queen and will be here if you have any questions as you get to creating.

So, get to creating!

Photo courtesy of Unsplash_Ben White.
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Katy Atchison

Katy Atchison

Katy is a professional smiling machine raised in The Bay Area since the age of 3. While other kids were attending summer camp & soccer practice, she was raised selling wares at craft shows with her working artist parents and spent vacations in a small 1920s Montana log cabin. This has all given her a unique perspective on the ever-changing texture of San Francisco and the Greater Bay Area. Currently a blend of all that is The Bay Area - she's a web designer at a tech-company, artist and DIY teacher.