Handmade gift exchange: Giving and getting pieces of art

What’s better than getting a present from a talented, crafty friend? Getting them from a bunch of those friends. Ever since Em B. told us about her Annual Maker Easter Swap, we’ve been dreaming of a handmade gift exchange of our own. It finally happened! And it was amazing! (“It’s seriously as good as christmas. Plus snacks,” Em says.) And we came out of it with some great ideas and pro-tips from our makers. 

Handmade gift exchange: A table full of crafts

How to host a handmade gift exchange

This isn’t as simple as going on Amazon and ordering a dozen of something. The artists we know are perfectionists and procrastinators…so a handmade gift exchange takes some doing.

  1. Put it on the calendar. Leslie S. says, “Having an exchange on my calendar forces me to set aside the time to plan and make a set number of items.”
  2. Send out the invites. Ashley recommends: “Get a diverse group of people that are great at lots of different things.” And Kelsey D. agrees: “The fact that we had 12 Hallmark artists and everybody’s contribution was completely unique and different than anyone else’s was what made it so much fun.” Tobe R. adds: “Invite people that don’t know each other! If you’re an independent maker, it’s a great way to expose others to your business and foster collaboration.”
  3. Plan your contribution. Hannah C. has questions to get you started: “Is what you want to make simple or complex? How much time do you have? What’s your budget? Are you going to make multiples of the same thing or individual pieces? If you’re shaky on your crafting abilities, food, recipes, and spa products (check for allergies first!) are always winners.”

Handmade gift exchange: Em B.'s bead necklaces

Em’s necklaces

Handmade gift exchange: Embroidered necklaces and wrapped keychains

Lisa’s embroidered necklaces and Leslie’s wrapped keychains.


Pro tips: Choosing your craft

  • Em B.: “I like to give things that I would really love if I got as a gift.”
  • Hannah C.: “I wanted to make something that was bright and springy that would be a sweet, unique, displayable gift. It’s been freezing in KC this April so having something cheerful to work on was a happy contrast.”
  • Kelsey D.: “I tend to try and make things that serve a purpose (other than just being aesthetically pleasing), and I’m a sucker for a well-designed calendar.”
  • Lisa H.: “I thought making necklaces would be a good way to make it a gift, as well as try out some new embroidery stitches! It’s a great opportunity to try making something you have always wanted to because creating something in multiples is such a great way to practice. “
  • Ashley H.: “I had taken the Shibori workshop for #My5Days and had a lot of beautiful fabric just sitting around. I decided I wanted to use it in some way, so I landed on zipper pouches.”
  • Madison L.: “Choose something to make that you wouldn’t mind making over and over. I definitely wanted to make something functional that a wide range of people could use. I had tried making some of these trinket dishes in the past and wanted to make a series where I explored my two favorite things: color and florals! “
  • Tobe R.: “I was so excited about the Easter basket keychains we posted on Think.Make.Share that I had to make a version for the swap! They’re so fun and versatile.”

Handmade gift exchange: "Snailed it" prints

Megan’s block prints

Handmade gift exchange: Laser-cut wooden perpetual calendars

Kelsey’s calendars

More pro-tips for choosing your craft

  • Marcos R.: “I went to an art supply store to look for surfaces and materials to inspire me. I found the perfect bundle of wooden panels and that kind of informed my collection. I ended up making collage portraits using some of my Gelli plate mono prints and a stack of public domain Victorian Images from the library. They were really fun to make and now I want to make more!”
  • Megan R.: “I had been holding on to a piece of linoleum for almost a year, so I knew this was the perfect chance for me to finally sit down and carve something. I wanted to do something fun and widely relatable so everyone in the exchange could benefit. Kelsey did some research for me, rattled off some ideas, I picked one, and went to town.” (Find out how to make your own block prints here.)
  • Leslie S.: “My list of things I want to make is long at any given time. To narrow the options down, I let my heart as well as what materials I already had on hand guide my decision. I’ve been wanting to make some wrapped rope keychains with some fun color palettes. And since my embroidery thread stash is always abundant, and I had rope on hand for macramé projects, all I had to pick up was the hardware.”

Handmade gift exchange: Laying out DIY gifts

Handmade gift exchange: Crafts to choose from

Haley’s weavings, Em’s necklaces, and Felicia’s feathers

Handmade gift exchange: Group of makers gathered around a table

Handmade gift exchange: Crafts displayed on the table

What to do at your handmade gift exchange

Once everyone has arrived, it’s time to start sharing.

  • If you can, gather everyone around a big table—or circle up in a room and give everyone a surface to display their crafts.
  • Start by going around the room and talking about what you’ve made.
  • Time to get up! Everyone moves one place to the right to pick out your gift. Then keep moving, clockwise, until everyone has one of everything!

Handmade gift exchange: Participants choose their crafts

Haley’s weavings (find out how to make your own here)Handmade gift exchange: Everyone takes one of each


Handmade gift exchange: Hand-painted clay dishes

Madison’s trinket dishes

Handmade gift exchange: Marcos R.'s collage paintings

Marcos’ collage paintings

Handmade gift exchange: Lisa H.'s embroidered necklaces

Lisa’s embroidered pendants

Handmade gift exchange

Handmade gift exchange: Hannah C.'s felt mushrooms

Hannah’s felt mushrooms

Handmade gift exchange: Tray full of art

Pro tip

Bring a box or tray to collect your goodies.

Handmade gift exchange: Collage painting by Marcos R.

Marcos’ collage painting

Handmade gift exchange: Necklace by Em B.

Em’s necklace

Handmade gift exchange

Handmade gift exchange: Felt mushrooms by Hannah C.

Hannah’s mushrooms

Handmade gift exchange: Embroidered necklace by Lisa H.

Lisa’s necklace

Handmade gift exchange:

This was my first maker exchange and it felt like we had our own mini pop-up craft fair,” Marcos told us. “Definitely the best part was getting 11 unique pieces at the end—so much talent and so many amazing goods.”

Check your calendar. Call your crafty friends. Set up your own handmade gift exchange. Then tell us every little thing about it on Instagram and Facebook

Photography by Ty H.


Leave a Comment

  1. 8.28.23 | Reply
    Teresa wrote:

    I love this so much. Don’t have time to host one in 2023, but I think I’ll pick a date for 2024 and start planning!