9 White Elephant Gifts They'll All Fight Over
White elephant, Yankee swap, Dirty Santa — whatever the name, you know the drill. Everyone brings a gift and draws a number. Each guest selects a gift in order of their number. Subsequent gift pickers can opt to steal already opened gifts.
White elephant parties can be a great way to exchange gifts with a crowd, but they're only fun if you end up with the right mix of gifts that encourage some friendly competition. Lucky for you, I am quite the white elephant veteran. I've been mentored by some wise white elephant-ers. I've had some successes; made some mistakes. Lessons have been learned, and I'm here to share with you some ideas that will ensure that your contribution to the pool is a worthy one. We won't judge you if you choose to steal your own gift for yourself.
True story: during an office white elephant party many years ago, early in the game a coworker unwrapped a small reindeer dressed in a nightgown which rocked back and forth in the rocking chair it was sitting in while singing "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer." There were several (possibly booze-fueled) arguments as grandma reindeer was stolen back and forth.
While I'm still a little baffled by that one, I do love some kitchy-yet-functional tchotchkes. I particularly love this reindeer that poops jelly beans. Who doesn't love jelly beans? I showed this to a friend, and he said he would steal this gift, "Because I am 7 (years old)." He's not 7, so take that for what it's worth.
The adult coloring craze is here, and it's real. It's the non-crafty person's way to be creative and relieve stress. I know from personal experience that a Ryan Gosling coloring book will get stolen multiple times during a book club white elephant party. Hey girl, hey: don't get too attached if you're the first one to open it.
This suggestion isn't totally fair if you don't have a Trader Joe's nearby, though there are lesser imitations by other grocers. If you've tasted TJ's Cookie Butter, then you KNOW what I'm talking about. Cookie butter is basically crushed-up cookies in cream form. Nut-free. Vegan. Shelf-stable. Include a fancy spoon in the gift bag and know that the jar may not survive the steals that will be threatened.
In this age of smartphones and smart watches, a blank journal almost feels quaint. I think that's the beauty of a journal and the reason we all secretly covet one. There's something satisfying about writing things down, whether it's our hope and dreams or our grocery list. I love this plaid journal because it's on-trend, it's seasonal and it's a little masculine, too.
Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens premieres Dec. 18. Do you have your tickets yet? For your design-conscious friends who will be joining you at the theater, a lightsaber flatware set featuring a Luke fork, Yoda spoon and Vader knife will be quite the white elephant draw. You'll know the force is strong with whomever ends up with this gift.
I also happen to know from experience that booze is a popular gift during white elephant exchanges. Sometimes the bottle is drained before the exchange even ends, especially if the party is going poorly. Wine, beer, mini liquor bottles — doesn't matter. My current preference is boozy root beer, which is starting to pop up in every specialty beer store and grocery. Perfect for boozy root beer floats or just straight up.
You're an #HGTVandChill expert, but are your friends in the loop? No #HGTVandChill session is complete without a cozy throw to cuddle under, so make sure your friends are properly equipped by offering a fleece-lined, sherpa-style blanket. Pair with the aforementioned booze and they'll be well on their way to #HGTVandChill bliss.
Another true story: I showed up for my first appearance at a book club white elephant with a set of fuzzy handcuffs. I thought it was hilarious, but apparently it was not. It was a Christmas miracle that I was invited to return to the club in January.
The lesson here? Know your audience. If your party is going to be attended by some classy folks, consider these elegant tumbler glasses festooned with gold confetti polka dots. They will make anyone's beverage of choice much more fashionable. Plus, since they come as a pair the recipient will be obliged to pour you a beverage too.
Back to the Future Day has come and gone. Do you know some people who need to go back in time and do it up correctly? Now they can with their very own Flux Capacitor! This particular one plugs into the 12-volt power adaptor in your vehicle and includes a pair of USB charging ports so that your friend's phone will have plenty of juice to phone home from 1955.
No-Knit Monogrammed Mittens
Knit accessories are always a popular handmade holiday gift — but what if you can't knit or crochet? Then these personalized mittens are right up your alley — just stitch baker's twine initials onto readymade mittens, a scarf or hat for a personalized gift to keep them toasty warm all winter long.
Wow Wine Lovers
Upcylcle an old wooden pallet into this storage-rich wine rack that'll keep their favorite vintages within easy reach. Handy built-in storage for wineglasses turns this rack into a space-saving bar.
Craft a Custom Tray
Make This Classic Board Game
Encourage the kids on your gift list to step away from tech devices and reconnect with friends and family by instead sitting down at a board game. A classic, like this rustic-inspired tic-tac-toe board, is fun for all ages, and is easy for the gifter to create using cut wood slices and a live-edge board from the craft store.
Don't Forget Your Furry Friend
If your kitty goes gonzo for catnip (half of all cats do), treat them with a small, handmade toy to hold their stash. Scientists agree that smelling, rather than eating, catnip garners the biggest response but they still aren't sure what neurological reaction catnip triggers for sensitive cats. It's thought that it stimulates receptors in their brains that makes them feel initially energetic, playful and happy, then mellow and relaxed.
Easily Craft a Pretty Trinket Box
Turn inexpensive fence-post caps, from the hardware store, into a pretty jewelry or gift box. By itself, the box makes a thoughtful birthday, Mother's Day or holiday gift. Fill it with sweet treats or a small trinket for a handmade gift they won't soon forget.
Custom Smart Phone or Tablet Covers
A new tablet or smart phone top most people's most-wanted-gift list this year. If springy for a pricey tech gift isn't in your budget, get crafty to surprise them with a custom-made felt cover to protect their new gadget. Download our free patterns and learn how to sew one up with our step-by-step instructions.
Make the Container Part of the Gift
This vintage copper bundt pan is proof that practical can be pretty. Too pretty, in fact, to hide away in a box. Filled with spices, tea towels, wooden spoons and other kitchen essentials, this collection will put a smile on any foodie's face.
Upcycle Old Sweaters Into a Stocking
Don't toss that old sweater. Instead, repurpose it as a custom stocking for someone special on your gift list, then stuff their stocking with a few small wrapped surprises. This project requires no sewing machine or knitting needles and can easily be completed in an afternoon.
Cozy Up Their Cocoa or Coffee
Nothing feels better in ice cold hands than a piping hot cup of cocoa, tea or coffee — but, sometimes, a hot cup can be a bit too hot. The solution: our easy-to-craft felt cozies that are made by simply cutting felt into simple shapes then attaching them to felt bands that are a little longer than a standard paper coffee cup (7 to 9 inches long). Add self-adhesive Velcro strips to the felt's edges so the cozy will stay securely wrapped around the cup.
Make a Pet Feeding Station
Make mealtime a little easier on large or older dogs by turning an old stool, box or crate into a raised feeding station where food and water are within easy reach. This is also a great gift for anyone who treasures their pet.
Note: Some vets caution that giant breeds or dogs prone to bloat shouldn't eat from a raised feeder. If in doubt, please first check with your vet.
Kids' Craft: Birdseed Ornaments
Bird watchers and naturalists on your list will love this thoughtful handmade gift that allows them to get a closer peek at winter's colorful birds. Bonus: This easy project is a great one to make with even the littlest crafters.
Rolling Storage Crate
Fill this cute crate with books or toys as a fun gift for kids or with newborn necessities as a thoughtful gift for a mom-to-be. To create, shop antique stores or online sites for an old produce, wine or shipping crate. Thoroughly clean the crate, removing any loose staples and lightly sanding the wood to remove splinters. Purchase casters at your local hardware store and thoroughly coat them in a kicky spray-paint color. Once the paint has dried, attach them to the crate's bottom slats with wood screws.
Spread Holiday Cheer With a Wine Elf
Seriously, how cute are these little guys? I wouldn't mind seeing a whole band of them spreading cheer at one of my holiday get-togethers. To dress up a bottle of wine as a holiday hostess gift, cut felt into an 8x10 rectangle and faux fur into a triangle roughly 2 inches wide by 4 inches long. Wrap felt rectangle into a cone shape, securing the edges with fabric glue as you wrap. Glue the faux fur "beard" to the inside of the felt "hat" and finish with a small pom-pom "nose."
Tell your little hero that you think they're super by stitching up the perfect gift. Personalized with their initial or name, this action-ready cape guarantees hours of imaginative playtime. Our step-by-step instructions will help you whip one up for every super kid on your gift list.
Kids' Craft: Ruffled Rose Headband
With just a little help from a crafty adult, kids can turn a plain elastic headband into a sweet hair accessory, perfect for girls big or small. Inexpensive materials and easy steps ensure girls can make enough of these to hand out to all their friends.
Make It Easy for Them to Stash Their Stuff
Anyone with kids will tell you that they could always use more toy storage — especially if its stylish enough to blend in with the "adult" furniture. Well, they'd be thrilled to receive this spacious chest with an upholstered top so it can also be used as a bench or coffee table. Put your wood-working skills and our step-by-step instructions to work to make one as a surprise for the parents on your gift list.
Craft a Fashion-Forward Keychain
These trendy leather tassels are popular with fashionistas both as keychains and purse fobs. The real leather versions are pricey -- making them instead out of faux leather is much more affordable and you'll be surprised how easy these little fashion accessories are to DIY. Follow these instructions from our friends at HGTV Magazine to craft them up in all the colors of the rainbow.
Make This Upcycled Jewelry Box
Old cutlery boxes are easy to find at estate sales or in antique or thrift shops — usually at bottom-dollar prices. With just a little elbow grease, you can turn one of these bargain boxes into a massive jewelry box that any fashionista on your list will be thrilled to receive.
Felted Sweater Vases and Candleholders
Wool sweaters are great — until you toss them in the washer and accidentally shrink them down to doll size. But, don't throw them out. Exposing wool to hot water, soap and a little agitation (all things that happen in the wash) not only causes the wool fibers to shrink, it also felts them, creating a super soft, nubby texture and preventing the knitted threads from fraying when cut. Put your doll-sized mishaps to good use crafting one of-a-kind handmade gifts, like Alicia of Thrifty and Chic who used hers to turn plain glass vases into trendy handmade gifts.
Monogrammed Men's Leather Valet
Does the man on your gift list need somewhere to stash his stuff? Easily turn an old frame and upcycled leather into a personalized tray to stylishly hold his keys, watch, cash — everything he needs to grab before heading out the door.
Leather Christmas Stockings
Give any mantel a high-fashion makeover with stockings creatively recycled from old leather or vinyl coats. The finished stockings can be embellished with rivets, colorful stitching or stamped with the recipient's name or initials.
The green thumbs on your list will appreciate this handy caddy filled with potting soil, pots, an assortment of seeds and other necessities for getting a head start on spring planting. Make a gift to nurture their green thumbs with our step-by-step instructions.
Put a playful spin on classic game taxidermy with silhouette pop art. Paint the surface of the cardboard backing in a picture frame, then trace the silhouette of a buck head to the backing with a pencil. Cover the traced silhouette with colorful buttons, fastening them in place with hot glue.