Meaningful and memorable upcycled gifts offer a great alternative to the standard choices, and there are ideas for everyone on your list from pets to parents. Friends and family will love the thought you've put into your presents, and they'll be better for your wallet and the planet too.
Upcycled Denim Pillow
It's easy to make a fun pillow as a gift using cast-off denim fabric and extra buttons. Start by cutting two same-sized squares of denim fabric. Sew the buttons onto one of the squares in any pattern you like. Place the two squares with their right sides together and sew around three sides. Stuff and sew up the last side to complete your special gift.
Vintage Tree-Trimming Kit
Pick up some vintage holiday ornaments at your local thrift store and turn them into a funky tree-trimming kit. You can also use extra ornaments you've inherited. This makes a great present for someone with a new home or their first tree. Simply package everything in a pretty basket and add a bow.
DIY Scented Pinecones
You can upcycle ordinary pinecones into scented holiday decorations with a thrift store basket and some essential oils. Pick up pinecones and clean them thoroughly with water. Let them dry and then put them in a large zip-top plastic bag. Add about 20-30 drops of your favorite essential oils and shake well. Allow them to sit with the oils in the bag for a couple of days. When you're ready to give the gift, place the pinecones into the basket and add some ribbon and greenery.
Fruit Crate Bookshelf
Turn an old fruit crate or milk crate into a useful bookshelf with a few simple additions. After making sure the crate is clean, spray paint it any color you know the recipient will love. When the paint is dry, attach hairpin legs, which you can find at any hardware store. This is a great gift for teens or anyone else who needs a little extra book storage.
Homemade Dressings in Upcycled Bottles
Save pretty bottles and upcycle them into a gift with flavored oils and special salad dressings. You can make your own favorites or use recipes that show you're thinking of the recipient, such as healthy dressings or those with vegan ingredients. The key here is using bottles that are a little bit special - maybe those with a pretty design or fun color. Tie on labels to tell about what's inside and how it should be stored.
Recycled Fabric Ornaments
You don't have to be a master crafter to create some pretty fabric ornaments out of cast-off clothing or textiles. Simply draw a shape on a piece of paper and use that as a pattern to cut two pieces of fabric. Sew them together most of the way together, stuff them with fiberfill stuffing or cotton, and sew the rest of the ornament closed. Add embellishments like buttons, ribbons, and other fun decorations. You can wrap these in recycled paper and give them to friends or family for a meaningful zero-waste holiday gift.
DIY Advent Calendar
Advent calendars can make super fun gifts for kids or for anyone who likes getting little presents for the month of December. Make your own by collecting toilet paper tubes. Turn a cardboard box into a house or cabin with the addition of a few pieces of cardstock and some paint. Fill each toilet paper tube with little gifts or candy and seal the ends with paper. You can use markers to add numbers to each tube end.
Custom Child's Chair
Give a special kid the best seat in the house by repainting an old chair. Pick one that's kid-sized and sand and prime it as you would any other furniture. Then paint it in the child's favorite colors or add fun designs like rainbows, dinosaurs, a starry sky, or anything else that sparks imagination.
New Year's Eve Celebration Kit
Start the new year off without buying anything new. Stop by the thrift store or raid your china cabinet for some champagne glasses you can upcycle into a gift. With these and a miniature bottle of champagne or non-alcoholic sparkling juice, you have the perfect start for a New Year's Eve celebration kit. Add in some confetti (you can cut it yourself out of gift wrap), some snacks or cookies, and a card with your good wishes.
Upcycled Shirt Quilt
You can take worn-out old flannel shirts and turn them into a beautiful quilt. This can be especially meaningful if you use the shirts associated with the special moments. Simply cut the shirts into six-inch by six-inch squares, sew the squares together, and back with a piece of fleece or flannel. It's a simple quilt design, but it makes a wonderful gift.
Repurposed Fabric Wreath
If you have some leftover fabric from a project (or an old tablecloth or sheet), you can repurpose it to create a holiday wreath that makes a wonderful present. Simply cut or tear the fabric into strips about three inches wide. Pick up a foam wreath form from the craft store and wrap it in the fabric to cover it. Then add decorations like dried orange slices, greenery, ribbons, lace, and anything else you think is pretty. This makes a great gift for a teacher or coworker.
Promise of Spring Bulb Garden
Select a medium-sized container from your favorite thrift store or your own cabinet and upcycle it into a pretty bulb garden. When it's winter outside, the lucky recipient can watch spring bloom on the kitchen counter or anywhere else they choose. Simply plant a few bulbs in any container, tie on a holiday bow, and give the present of the promise of spring.
Simple Upcycled Hair Scrunchie
Scrunchies make great gifts, especially when you make them out of recycled fabric. Cut up a worn-out skirt, sheet, shirt, or anything else that's pretty and turn it into a stylish hair accessory. All you need to do is sew the fabric into a simple tube, thread a piece of elastic through it, and sew up the end. You can add decorations by hot gluing buttons, flowers, lace, and other adornments onto the finished scrunchie.
White t-shirts tend to be less than white after a few wears and washes, but you can give them new life and create a lovely gift by making them into tie-dyed masterpieces. This is a great upcycled gift to make with kids, since everyone loves creating colorful designs. Pick up a tie dye kit from your craft store, cover all the surfaces in the area where you'll be working, and create some unique presents for family and friends.
Recycled Bead Jewelry
Costume jewelry goes in and out of style, and when it's out, it can be really out. Pick up some old pieces cheaply and take them apart to get the individual beads. You can reassemble them to create something totally new and updated. All you have to do is pick up some beading string and a clasp from your local craft store. Then you can string them in new patterns to make necklaces and bracelets. You can also use this repurposed gift idea to make a kit for the recipient with lots of great vintage beads, beading supplies, and maybe a book on beading technique.
Fixed-Up Rocking Horse
A rocking horse is a classic, and it makes a wonderful holiday gift for a kid. They're expensive to buy new, but you can find one in your local classifieds or at a thrift store for just a few dollars. A little cleaning, a coat of paint, and maybe some cute additions will make it really special. Consider adding a unicorn horn, painting it with fresh colors, attaching streamers or flowers, giving it a saddle, or anything else that seems fun. This is the type of present a child will remember forever.
Custom-Painted End Table
Turn a stained or scuffed end table into a work of art for a family member or friend. You can find these worn pieces at any thrift store. Select one that is in good structural condition, and then clean it well. Use a paint with primer to paint on your chosen designs. You can't go wrong with an abstract theme that matches their decorating colors.
Ultimate Tire Swing
When it comes to upcycled gifts, a tire swing is a classic for a reason. You can make a holiday tire swing in your backyard as a memorable gift for kids. You'll just need an old tire, sturdy rope, a drill, and someone to help you hang it. For a fun twist, paint the tire with pretty colors, add holiday greenery and a bow, or attach some streamers. When kids look in the backyard at their new swing, they'll be amazed.
Cookie Cutter Collection
A single cookie cutter is great, but you can upcycle several into a fun gift. Stop by thrift stores to find great holiday cookie cutters and collect them in a basket for easy giving. You can add some favorite recipes, ingredients for a batch of cookies, or a lovely tea towel to complete the present.
Upcycled Fabric Dog Toy
Make a toy for your furry friend using some upcycled fabric. Denim, canvas, and anything sturdy and non-toxic is a good choice for this, so it's a great use for your old jeans. Cut two bone-shaped pieces, sew most of the way around them, and fill with stuffing. You can add a squeaker if you want to make it even better. Sew up the end and make sure everything is nice and sturdy.
Pet Bed From a Thrifted Basket
You can turn a thrift store basket into a custom pet bed for your cat or small dog. Choose a shallow basket that is made of natural materials. Line it with some soft fleece or flannel or make a small pillow to fit inside it. It will be a cozy place for your pet to rest their head.
Upcycled Gifts Add Meaning and Creativity
No matter who is on your list, you can make a repurposed holiday gift that is meaningful and creative. Look for thrift store finds that make great gifts and then add your own personal touch and a pretty bow or bag. By upcycling a gift, you'll be staying within your budget and safeguarding the environment, but you'll also be showing the recipient how special they are to you.