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fancy table settingScore points this Valentine's day with something truly romantic, original and best of all, homemade. Handmade gifts aren't always received with the excitement that we imagine. Sometimes they are a total flop. So, what differentiates the gift that she calls all her friends to brag about from the one that gets tucked away in the junk drawer?

I think that all romantic DIY gifts should pass a three-point check:
  1. Is the gift personal?
    Even if beautiful, something that could have easily made it into a Secret Santa exchange probably isn't going to blow her away. It should be obvious that this gift was made just for your special someone. Personalizing it with a name or picture is the obvious choice. More subtle: try incorporating an inside joke, or choosing a theme using project elements that have significance for the two of you.

  2. Did the gift take time to make?
    She said she'd like something homemade. You raided the kids craft cupboard and made a card. She's not impressed. Are you surprised? The more time and planning that goes into the gift the more you'll get out of it. People love knowing that they were thought of, and taking the time and energy to plan ahead for a handmade gift shows that you truly wanted it to be something special.
  3. Is it really any good?
    We only make a big deal out of poorly painted, ceramic ashtrays when they come from our children. While some failed projects can still be appreciated for the romantic intention, there really isn't room for the ugly, the tasteless, and the poorly crafted ones. Don't knit him a toque out of leftover yarn in colors you know he'd find hideous and then expect him to wear it proudly because it was made with love. Think seriously about what your significant other would like. If you want it to go on display, consider how it would work with their current decorating scheme.
With these three guidelines, I've put together a list of romantic DIY Valentine's day gifts. Some are old favorites-- tried, tested, and true for generations of lovers. Others are new and inventive, but they are all incredibly romantic and sure to make him or her putty in your hands. Follow me through the break and I'll share them with you.

  1. Mix tape
    Ahh, the mix tape. The classic high-school sweetheart gift straight out of the 80's. It's got romance written all over it. You don't have to sit in front of your stereo waiting for the right song to come on the radio anymore. Things have gotten easier, but along with that comes an expectation that you actually make something of quality. Make her a mix CD. Choose a collection of songs that you know she'll love. Don't forget to include your special song and any others that have significance or have particular memories for the two of you. Don't forget to top it off with a custom cover and personalized liner notes.
  2. Bath products
    Nothing says I love you like spoiling her with relaxing bath products. M.E. Williams' post about custom bath and body gifts has everything you'll need to make spa style bath gifts. The rose petal bath bomb and honey bee soap are two that I know I'd love to receive!

    Anna's herbal bath bags
    are another great bath gift. Mix rose petals and other florals with spices to find a mixture that perfectly captures her unique aromatic preferences.

    These oatmeal milk bath sachets are another popular choice. The recipe is simple and they even offer free printable sachets.

    Customize the scents, put care into personalized packaging, and buy quality ingredients. If you do this right, she might even invite you to soak in the tub!
  3. Scrapbook
    Scrapbooks are a great way to gather together a collection of memories and photographs. There are so many embellishments to choose from, handmade or store-bought, you can easily find something that suits your taste and fits your time (and patience) constraints. This can be as small as a pocket-size album with a few pages of special moments over the past year, or it could be a full size scrapbook documenting your personal history as a couple. If you've never scrapbooked before, Anna can get you started. If you don't plan on making this into a regular hobby, you probably won't want to invest in expensive supplies. Most craft stores offer scrapbooking workshops where you can use their expertise and equipment.
  4. Romantic dinner for two
    If you dine alone together every night this might not seem like a significant ritual. If your typical meal arrangement includes grubby little guests who need you to feed them, clean up after them, and otherwise give them all your attention before one of you rushes out to soccer while the other starts the dishes, then you'll know why a romantic dinner for two can be the perfect gift.

    The key here is choosing the right meal. It should be something that you know they'll enjoy. This is the wrong time to try something totally new. It should be show a reasonable effort, but not be so time consuming that you don't get the chance to visit. Here are a few mouth-watering recipes to get you started.

    Don't forget the vino. This wine guide should help you choose a complimentary pairing for your meal. Get a babysitter, dress as if you were going out, and enjoy. Leave the dishes until morning!
  5. Love coupons
    I know this is one of those totally cliche gifts, but it's still around because it is one that people love to give and receive. Take the time to print them up on the computer, and package them nicely in a box with a ribbon or a decorated envelope. Make the coupons personal, and include a mix of romance and humor. Consider using something saucy, but here are a few G-rated examples:

    • This coupon is good for one 45 min. massage
    • This coupon is good for one dinner of your choice
    • This coupon is good for any one chore of your choice
    • This coupon is good for a weekend of sleeping in

    If you have a big gift planned, this is a clever way to deliver the news. Imagine his or her surprise when they are flipping through the coupons and find one that reads "This coupon is good for a seven night all-inclusive trip to Mexico!"
  6. Treasure candles
    Candles are romantic. They add a sultry aroma to the room and give off perfect mood lighting. She might have a whole collection of candles kicking around, but a treasure candle is truly unique. Making a treasure candle isn't easy, but it is sure to surprise her. The idea is that you'll hide a small gift inside the candle and it will be discovered as the candle burns down. make sure you read the full instructions for some important warnings about choosing the right treasure and making sure that you make a safe candle.
  7. Memorabilia frame
    This is a very simple project and a fun way to use some of the little memorabilia that you've been collecting over the years. Buy a simple wooden frame or mirror and embellish it with little tokens of your life together. Your items can be anything from dried wedding flowers to ticket stubs and arcade tokens. Choose whatever holds significance for the two of you and hot glue them to the frame. Add in your favorite picture and you've got a perfectly romantic gift.

    If you have collected seashells or rocks from a past vacation, Tanya has great instructions on how to add them to your frame or mirror. If you don't have them on hand, keep this project in mind for next year and start collecting now.
Valentine's Day seems to have gotten a bit out of hand. Nobody really needs a giant stuffed teddy bear or a box of chocolates. These aren't just impersonal and lacking originality, but they are everything that makes us want to boycott these sort of holidays. Instead of protesting the day, make it your own and play by your own rules. Stay out of the shopping mall and try your hand at some homemade romance.

  • Mark

    I love this site about DIY gifts. I am ALL about this. Gifts you make are truly gifts from the heart. I love the idea of the scrapbooking and I have made love coupons for many years and you can’t beat the romantic ideas you can come up with using coupons. Like get out of fights free coupons. Or coupon entitles bearer to one free hug during a fight. The thought and time it takes to put into home made gifts cannot compare to chocolate and flowers in my opinion. All these handy suggestions are great and easily doable. Another great way to show how much love you have for your mate is to go to and register for the Dove’s “Expressions of Love” contest for a change to win a beautiful 5.58 carats “Baby’s Breath Diamond Necklace” worth over 21K dollars. Simply describe how you feel about your loved one in an emotional and creative way in order to take home this lovely piece. Imagine the look on her face when she sees what you wrote about her. She will love that you took the time to do this and the emotion you put into it. And if you win, it will no doubt be a Valentine’s Day she will never forget. Don’t you want to let her know how much she means to you?

  • M.E. Williams

    Haha -- I think we got hit by another marketer, in the previous comment! It doesn't seem like a bad idea, though.

    I'm really commenting to say that my fiance is an artist, and he always draws cards for me & everyone else, and they're nice. But he has a problem with being seriously last-minute in his card-making, both for me and for relatives in general... I pointed out that it looks bad when you're holed up in the guest room at your parents' at 11AM on Christmas morning drawing Christmas cards for everyone. Why didn't you take the time to do it a week ago? Etc.

    So what I mean is... I totally agree that these gifts are best when they don't seem like an afterthought or like a last-minute rush. Also, sometimes the other person would just really like something that you aren't capable of making; sometimes it would be more thoughtful to buy them something that really suits them, if you're a habitual hand-maker and if you and the recipient don't necessarily have the same "style." That's a decision that people have to make for themselves.

  • alton

    How about making the one you love a card ?

  • 3 Comments / 1 Pages

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