Making a gift for someone is an awfully sweet way to say "I love you."
Just as importantly: The necessary skills are simple and easy to obtain well in advance of your next gift-giving opportunity.
Canning and pickling
"Canning for A New Generation," $25
Ball canning jars, $7.50
Ball Home Canning Discovery Kit, $10.50
Buy them: At hardware stores and volume-discount stores
It's not just your grandmother's hobby anymore. "Canning for a New Generation" is a great book for people who like a twist on traditional flavors. And you'll appreciate the flexible basket included in the canning kit. The book includes recipes and serving suggestions; retype them, print them off on pretty paper and include with your gift.
Martha Stewart stickers for paper crafts, $2.50
Flat Cards and Envelopes set, $5
Buy them: Michaels
One of the kindest gifts I've ever received was a bundle of painstakingly crafted notecards. They were patchworked with patterned paper, stamps, stickers, glued-on accents and fine handwritten greetings. Find inspiration in a scrapbooking store or the scrapbooking aisle at a craft store. These stickers and colorful cards are a bare-bones start to what would be a fun project and a treasured gift.
Martha Stewart food gift box kit, $10.50
Cello bags, $3 for 20
Decorative ribbon, $2 per spool
Buy them: Michael's
Tuck cookies and candies into these pretty window-top matchbook-style boxes. Or tumble some goodies into a clear cello bag and tie with ribbon. Mini quick-bread loaves bake beautifully in paper bakeware, available in craft or cooking stores. And cupcake liners are fancier than ever; bake muffins or cupcakes in them for a festive treat for a group.
Embroidered tea towels
Stitch-It Kit by Jenny Hart, $23
Sublime Stitching Craft Pad, $13
Embroidery hoop, price varies
Embroidery floss, price varies
Buy them: At craft stores
Kitschy, hipster patterns are the name of Jenny Hart's amusing game. Think robots, swallows, hula girls, puppies, kitties and skulls. She made a dedicated stitcher out of someone who can hardly sew a button. Iron-on transfers are easy to use. And Hart's stitching instruction is clear and concise. Encourage people to make good use of the tea towels you make; embroidery floss holds up just fine in a washing machine. Other things to embroider: baby onesies or bibs, button-down shirts with pockets, pillowcases.