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Jessica Joy

Knitwear designer and writer

I’ve battled over the last few years with present ideas for my friends and family, there’s always that nagging worry that I’m over-spending on something they may not like or need. Last year I think I managed around 30% handmade; a start, but it still left me poorer than I would have liked! So my goal this year was 100% handmade.

I set aside an afternoon of research and this is what caught my imagination. Some I didn’t get round to making for a lack of time and tools, but there’s always next year! I think they’d make nice gifts whatever the occasion so here’s a roundup of how I got on. See the list below for original tutorials or recipes. There’s a full roundup over on my Pinterest account.

  1. Chilli Jelly – This was probably my biggest success in the hamper of goodies. Nigella Lawson’s recipe is so good – I wouldn’t recommend altering or substituting ANYTHING in the recipe. I didn’t quite have the right ingredients for my first batch and the results were not good!
  2. Caramelised Red Onion Chutney – This recipe is from the Guardian online, takes a lot of onions and crying but is very tasty.
  3. Ginger Ale Syrup – This is such a fantastic idea and so quick and easy, courtesy of Vanessa at Nifty Thrifty Things. The syrup has a lovely warm kick and offers something a bit different in a hamper full of preserves. Tastes awesome with straight fizzy water or tonic water.
  4. Easy Strawberry Jam – Another great recipe from the BBC website. I used a mixture of raspberries and strawberries when I made this; never realised how straightforward jam making is – I’ll definitely be making more.
  5. Coconut Ice – I have lingering memories of coconut ice from my childhood living in Canada. This recipe from Two Little Dicky Birds is scrummy. I chose to use traditional pink and they came out so so pretty.
  6. Flavoured Coffee Syrup – From the very talented Elsie at A Beautiful Mess, this is another brilliant idea. Sugar syrup is so versatile if you have the imagination to turn it into something. I made the vanilla version and it literally didn’t take more than 15 minutes.
  7. Homemade Tea-bags – Another one from Elsie at A Beautiful Mess. I got together all the components to make these but found hand-stitching the coffee filters quite tricky; think a sewing machine will be on my list of purchases this year.
  8. Crocheted Bangles – This is a really pretty tutorial from Second Sister. I do really want to try this at some point, but I ran out of time for my Christmas hampers.

I managed to find some clear sweetie bags in a local cookery shop, along with lots of empty jars and sealed bottles for the syrups. There’s all manner of ways to present a hamper of gifts; in the end I went with red and white bakers twine, scalloped luggage tags and circles of pretty scrap material to top the jars. Did you manage any handmade pressies this year?

  1. Angela 6 January 2012, 6:08 pm

    We received some of these goodies and they were all delicious, needless to say there are no chocolates, coconut ice or jam left and only a small amount of chilli jelly and red onion chutney. Do it again next year please. PS it is my birthday in March. xxxxx

  2. Clare 6 January 2012, 11:47 pm

    Also received these fantastic goodies! So nice to get handmade presents. By the way my birthday is in March too!! X

  3. Jess 7 January 2012, 11:05 am

    Thank you guys :) birthday’s noted! I can’t believe I forgot the chilli chocolate fudge. Here’s the recipe: – I substituted the chocolate for Lindt’s chilli chocolate! Yumm.

  4. DD 7 January 2012, 3:07 pm

    I got this hamper as well. So nice to wander around Waitrose knowing that the onion relish I got from Jessie is at least 100 times better than there’s. My Chilli Jelly is all gone – I found Alice paw prints on the empty jar!!

  5. Sophie 10 January 2012, 10:26 pm

    These are just gorgeous ideas! Lucky, lucky friends and family ;)

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