Sister Linda Rivers

When Dominican Sister of Hope Linda Rivers, OP entered the convent, her allowance was $0. Eventually, she was given a budget, but it was measly, to say the least. The allowance meant for personal items wasn’t nearly enough to purchase Christmas gifts. So, Sister Linda got crafty. Although she concedes that she’s far from professional, she learned to hand-make gifts for her family and friends each year. She started crafting each January and she worked on gifts throughout the year. Her hard work paid off: fifty-five years after she first entered the convent, her loved ones still cherish the gifts and proudly display them in their homes!

Below, Sister Linda offers some suggestions for getting your craft on. The first step, of course: stop worrying about your skill level and concentrate on the enjoyment your loved ones will get knowing that you put time and effort into their one-of-a-kind present. 

photo c/o Pioneersettler                   


1. Go traditional

For Christmas, homemade ornaments are an excellent keepsake gift. Luckily, they can be made from anything from paper to cloth to miscellaneous household items. Sister Linda’s favorite was a carriage made from an upside-down walnut shell with acorn tops for wheels and a pom-pom bear inside. Rather than gifting a single ornament, Sister Linda made sets of six. Her family loved unwrapping a new set each year; to this day, her step-sister’s tree is covered in the handmade, original ornaments. Suggestions for homemade ornaments can be found at

2. Start Stitching

Sister Linda picked up cross-stitching, which allowed her to stitch placemats, toilet paper containers, and the like. Knitting, sewing, crocheting, and cross-stitching are all great skills to utilize for present-making beyond the traditional knitted scarf.

photo c/o Pioneersettler

3. Think of Decorations

If a homemade walnut-shell-carriage-ornament isn’t of interest, there’s still hope: basic household items can be used for many other practical gifts, too. Wreaths, lit-up stars, and candle holders all have the potential to make a big impression, and to become a beloved Christmas decoration to use year after year.

4. Try Origami

It’s more than just little birds. Luckily, paper banners are on-trend right now, and they can be made with no prior experience. While origami makes for great holiday party decor, it’s also an adornment that can be hung and enjoyed in every season. Some of our favorite examples of holiday origami can be found here, here, here, and here.

photo c/o Pioneersettler

5. Consider Your Talents

In the end, Sister Linda says that the most important part of homemade gifts is to start with your own skills and interests. Do you hate crafts but love to cook? Take advantage of that by whipping up some favorites or creating a cookbook of favorite recipes. After all, homemade gifts usually require a small budget but a large time commitment, so you’ll benefit, too, if you start with what you enjoy.