I've been pretty busy at the tree farm and shop this season, so this series isn't going as smoothly as it has in past years. Be sure to check at the bottom of this post for some links to friends' blogs with more ideas! Here are a few fun crafts to try :-).
Frankincense and myrrh are a traditional gift of the season. When we first opened shop at the rennaisance fair, we tested lots of products, and these resins were at the top of the list. We purchased "simmers" and tried them out. A teaspoon or less of frankincense was in a heat sealed teabag, to be added to a potpourri simmer pot. Do not use these in anything you'll be cooking in - but the small electric or candle warmed containers are great. Both frankincense and myrrh (or any fragrant resin - copal, pinon, dragon's blood, etc.) can be used without a teabag, and just simmered alone or as a combination. This is a good way to use them for the fragrance without the smoke caused by burning them on charcoal that can be such a deterrent in the closed up house of winter. A small vial of each of these resins makes a sweet gift. Add some gold ribbon to complete gifts of the Magi theme.
This season we've been having a hard time keeping up with demand for lavender sachets, so it would seem that they would be a welcome gift. We package a 1/2 cup of lavender buds into muslin bags that we decorate with permanent ink. You can also make your own bags from appropriately patterned fabrics if you like. The sachets can be used in the clothes dryer to freshen linens, placed in drawers, or because we leave the strings on the bags, they can be hung in the closet to keep clothes smelling clean and fresh while discouraging moths. My nephew got a kick out of seeing the same thing at Trader Joe's a few weeks ago, thinking that once again, the mainstream has finally caught up with his mom and aunt who have been making these for decades :-). Yes, it's true. It takes us decades to seem normal to our kids. Sigh....
I've written about bathing herbs before, but people are using these items more and more. 20 years ago we needed to explain them extensively for every customer, and now they fly off the shelves as fast as we can make them. We use giant heat sealed bags for ours, but you can also put them in a jar and include a muslin bag, a pot-sized tea ball, or they can be tied into the round coffee filters with a pretty ribbon for a more Victorian presentation.
I like to use herbs that were grown in the garden over the summer for personal gifts. Blends almost always include some rose petals and lavender, and from there the choices are endless. Calendula, comfrey, chamomile, sage, St John's wort, mints, tarragon, lemon balm, lemon verbena, lime basil.... these are just off the top of my head, picturing the garden this year. To these you can choose to add other things - like oatmeal, sea salts, or powdered milk. You may also choose to add a few drops of essential oil. Sometimes the blends turn out to be so beautiful that it seems a shame to hide them in a pre-made bag.
If you live in an area where bayberries grow, try dipping some bayberry candles with the kids. When I was in elementary school, one of my teachers heated beeswax in #10 cans inside a pan of water. Since bayberry wax is so hard and brittle, you'd need to mix it with another wax for strength (and because it takes a ton of bayberries to make enough). Beeswax is a nice, natural choice. Wicking can be purchased at craft stores. If you've never made hand-dipped candles, you're in for a treat. Cool slightly between each dip, and the wax builds up to form a rustic, beautiful candle. Note: candle making is an art in which wick size, melting points, and various other attributes come into play, but for a craft that will inspire your kids, this is a good one. Here is a link for more information on dipping candles.
For some other ideas, visit these links...
From The Rosemary House
From The Backyard Porch
From Aquarian Bath
From Sage Script