6 Frugal Homemade Stocking Stuffers for Toddlers

This post was originally published on December 1, 2011.  It was updated on April 2, 2020.

Christmas this year will be celebrated with family in the traditional way of celebrating on Dec.25th.  Michael and I hope to begin a new tradition of celebrating presents and stockings on St. Nicholas Day next year, when we can celebrate in our own home.  However this year, I am on the hunt for frugal, handmade Christmas stockings for Naomi.  Last year for Christmas, I knitted her a lovely stocking.  I’m excited to fill it with some delicious treats and trinkets for little hands.

6 Frugal Homemade Stocking Stuffers for Toddlers

A Homemade Apron in A Cute Print

I likely won’t be getting to my sewing machine before Christmas, but I would like for Naomi to have a pretty little girl’s apron to use in our kitchen.  So if I find the right t-shirt, I might try out this tutorial for making one out of an old t-shirt.  I save all my old stained t-shirts for just such occasions!

Homemade Cookies

Cookies are a sweet, homemade treat that can be specialized to meet a child’s dietary needs.  I can avoid any trigger foods by simply baking her some delicious treats for her stockings.  A simple shortbread or chocolate chip cookie recipe would do the trick nicely.  I just have to be sure they don’t become breakfast!

Felted Wool Balls

Another interesting little toy would be several pretty felted wool balls in different colors and sizes.  Next time I am at my favorite secondhand store I will pick up some wool and make some.  These are great for little hands, for tossing around (without damaging anything), could be strung on a string for necklaces, etc.  Oh!  And I found this great idea from Meg at Mega•Crafty on how to make them without getting your hands dirty!

Knitted Slippers

Little feet get cold quickly.  So a comfy pair of knitted slippers are great, especially ones that are easy to put on and off.  These pocketbook slippers are a favorite I’ve knitted several times.  Just be careful to put some puff paint on the very bottoms to prevent slipping and sliding!  Tumbles are no fun at Christmas.

Homemade Soap Crayons

To make bathtime more fun, homemade soap crayons are a great idea too. I like the idea that I can use a natural soap on Naomi, as well as use natural food colorings, rather than anything with ingredients I cannot pronounce. I like this technique because it’s pretty simple.

Homemade Finger Paints

If my apron is a success, I might venture into the realm of homemade finger paints.  Poor Michael might have a stroke, but I know Naomi would absolutely love to try finger painting (though this might be restricted to the walls of the tub before bath time).  This recipe from Tiffany at Easie Peasie seems to be really popular!

Do you have any suggestions for frugal, homemade stocking stuffers?  If so, please share!  I’d love to hear about them!

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10 Ways to Begin to Knit For Free (Or Almost Free!)

This post was originally published on November 15, 2011.  It was updated on April 2, 2020.

I have a bad habit of picking up something, and then never finishing it.  So when I decided I wanted to start knitting, I wanted to be sure that I didn’t invest too much money into it.  In doing so, I have amassed quite a bundle of yarn that I have practiced and created some great items.  I have discovered quite a few neat ways to find yarn, needles, resources, guidance, and especially patterns.

10 Ways To Begin To Knit For Free (Or Almost Free!)

Search The Library For Books and Patterns.

Obviously if you’re just beginning to learn to knit, heading to the library for books that teach you how to knit are great, especially if you’re a literal (not so much a visual) learner, who finds it easier to read the instructions than look at the pictures.  In fact, I learned how to knit in the beginning mostly from Stitch ‘n Bitch: The Knitter’s Handbook. Also, your library often has great (mostly free!) beginner classes.  I have seen free Knitting for Beginners classes at my local library.

Ask At Your Church or Community Center.

Knitting, for years, was seen as the “little old lady” hobby, and there is some merit to that.  But for many seniors, it’s a great way to keep their hands active and their fingers strong.  If you look at your church or community bulletin, you might find an opportunity for women to get together to knit prayer shawls or hats, mittens, scarves, socks or any other project, for donating to various organizations.  This is a great chance for your to not only learn to knit, but also an opportunity to give back to your community by knitting something warm and wonderful for a sick person, a new baby, or a poor cold homeless person.  Sometimes, these get togethers also have people who have a spare pair of needles or a few extra balls of yarn that they’d be happy to give to you for you to practice with.  And who knows?  You might even make some new friends!

Ask for Supplies on Freecycle, Kijiji, WeShare, or Other Social Media Site.

I have received dozens of sets of knitting needles from my local Freecycle and Kijiji.  I’ve also been able to give away extra yarn to those who are looking to learn as well.  Post a message and see what comes up!

Purchase Them From Yard Sales.

I received a huge box of yarn from someone who just couldn’t get the hang of it for $2!  You cannot argue with that!  Even amongst that box, I found a gorgeous set of wooden knitting needles.  They are just so pretty!

Find Great Treasures at Secondhand Stores.

Yesterday when I stopped by my favorite secondhand store, I discovered they had changed their arrangement with yarn.  Rather than having a bunch of bags of mixed yarn, they now have a huge bin of random balls of yarn and a sign that says “Bag Your Own Yarn for $3, or $0.99 A Ball”.  Happy dance!!!

And of Course, The Internet.

Nevermind the patterns!  How about the resources available to you?  If you don’t know how to do a specific stitch or method of knitting, just hop onto the various beautiful craft and knitting blogs and you will find plenty of wonderful people who are happy to show you how!  Or have a creative way of finding (cheaper) alternatives.  And there are various forums of people who can help you troubleshoot your latest snarl.  Trust me, there is no mistake made in knitting that someone else online has not experienced.

Why Not Ask Skilled Family and Friends?

My mom loaned me her favorite knitting beginners book, which is how I was able to teach myself to knit.  A coworker taught me how to quickly cast on.  My aunt taught me how to bind off.  It’s so easy to find someone who can teach you something.  Hey, even that lady who knits on the bus might be willing to help you!  Knitting has a way of spreading warm, gentle feelings between people.

Peruse Local Craft Stores.

Our city has plenty of gorgeous knitting stores.  And I have seen plenty of courses and classes of people who want to show you how to knit for free or for a very reasonable fee.  If you look into it, I will bet you will find something similar in your neighborhood.

Use Gift Certificates and Coupons.  

It’s getting close to the holidays, so start making your desires known!  If you do secret Santa at the office, start mentioning to your coworkers your desire to learn to knit.  If your mother asks for a list of stocking stuffers, note your favorite craft store.  If you get a gift certificate for a big box store, go grab a pair of needles and a big ball of fluff.  Might as well give it a try!  Also, keep an eye on your flyers and newspapers.  I have two coupons on my fridge for 50% off at my local craft store so I can go get my hands on some delicious wool.

Don’t Forget To Give Back as Well via Volunteering.

Giving back to your community can open so many doors.  Why not head over to your nearest seniors home and have tea with a lovely elderly lady?  Ask her to teach you.  No wool sweater in the world could compare to the warmth in the smile of a senior who wants to share time and conversation with someone who is interested in what she has to say.  Or stop by a local women’s shelter.  Knitting is a destressor and is a great way to strike up a conversation while you’re serving others.  Or look at some of the wonderful knitting organizations out there who take your funny practice pieces and make them into something wonderful.

Do you have other tricks to find free or frugal knitting supplies and lessons?  I’d love to hear from you!  Leave a comment and tell us about it!

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5 Ways We Gardened For Free!

This post was originally published on August 10, 2011.  It was updated on April 2, 2020.

Michael and I talked about planting a garden just before Naomi was born.  He picked up a large rectangular planter at a yard sale that spring and a few herb seeds and soil from the local dollar store.  We planted them, fussed over them, and prayed over them.  Slowly, but surely, the little shoots started to break through the soil and emerge.

Then we went into labour.  Then we had a baby.  Then we moved.  And then winter came.  And in the process, our lovely little herbs were pretty much forgotten and died.  But our dream of a garden didn’t disappear.  Here is how we have continued to grow food for ourselves for free.

5 Ways We Gardened For Free!

Keep Your Eyes On Freecycle, Kijiji, WeShare and Craigslist.

In early winter last year, I saw a note on Freecycle for a bunch of plant pots.  Eagerly, I contacted the person offering them and bundled up my pretty little girl, and we ventured across town to find them.  The lovely lady who gave them to us was an avid gardener who had accumulated more than her fair share of plant pots and wanted to give them to someone who wanted to start a garden.  We fit the bill ideally.  We have also received gifts in the past from folks on Kijiji, our local WeShare groups, and on local buy/sell/trade groups, especially local gardening groups.

Dig Through Your Recycling Bins

Water jugs, milk boxes, butter tubs and tin cans can all be used to make perfectly servicable pots for plants to grow in.  Egg cartons (and shells), newspaper cups, plastic yogurt or pudding cups, and even old shoe boxes can make great seed starters.  It doesn’t have to be Instagram worthy in order to be used!

Find Ways to Use What You Already Have

Did you know there are a whole bunch of fruits and vegetables you can grow from the seeds of grocery store items?  Green peppers, tomatoes and squash can be grown from seeds found in the fruits you purchased.  Leeks, green onions and lettuces will squeeze out a few more leaves from their bulbs.  Celery will grow some new stocks from their base.  Ginger, potatoes, pineapples, onions, garlic, and various herbs, can all be cut and planted to grow new growth.

Never Pass Up an Opportunity

Recently, I went to the grocery store and as I was leaving, I noticed a large assortment of half-dead seedlings.  I looked at them longingly, but knew we weren’t going to be able to afford them.  Until I noticed the “Free” sign on the cart.  I began sorting through the seedlings and discovered mostly cauliflower, but also a tomato, a lettuce, a broccoli, and several spinach.  I took the majority of the different ones and left a few of the cauliflower.  Then I headed home.

Start Your Own Vermicompost

Both Mike and I have allergies to animal dander, but we do have about a million pets — worms!  If you can get past the ick factor, having a thriving vermicompost bin can help you create wonderful compost and fertilizer for your garden.  Simply save the scraps of vegetables and fruits (no meat!) and add it into the worm bin.  Your worms will happily chew it up and “process” it into some of the best compost and fertilizer you can imagine!

It Never Hurts to Ask!

After having received the pots and the plants for free, I figured I had nothing to lose, and I posted on Freecycle a request for some soil.  It took me a few days, but finally, someone offered me half a bag of all-purpose potting soil!  I picked it up one evening on my way home from work.

Once the weather was nice enough, Naomi and I planted the seedlings we thought were most likely to survive.  Unfortunately we lost most of the spinach and lettuce, but the tomatoes, cauliflower and broccoli looked promising.  So with a little love, patience and faith, maybe our lovely little garden will bring about some blessings!


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