making personalised gift hampers for all occasions

Christmas HamperI was never been a fan of hampers as gifts, they seemed so impersonal.

However, I’ve changed my mind. A well thought out, personalised hamper that you create yourself can be a great gift that will be well received and used.

When I worked in Grace Bros, I started in the Confectionary department. Christmas and Easter were our busiest times and one of the services that we provided was making up personalised gift baskets. Over the years, I’ve probably made over 300.

Actually, making personalised gift baskets can be a lot of fun. The key to a successful hamper is tailoring it to the recipient, so that you ensure that they will really like every item that you include. You want it to be a useful gift rather than ‘just another hamper’. Of course, this is a lot more work than just buying a pre-wrapped hamper off the shelf, but the effort is worth it.

How to make up a gift hamper

1. Decide on a theme

Often the theme will reflect the occasion for the hamper. A baby shower hamper will be quite different to a wedding hamper.

If the occasion doesn’t present a specific theme (as in the case of a birthday) then consider:

  • Who is the basket for?
  • What are their interests and hobbies, likes and dislikes?

Some theme ideas include:

  • Food theme – not just any food, but it might be a wine hamper or a chocolate hamper or a homemade hamper or a BBQ themed hamper. What does the recipient like to eat?
  • Gardening theme
  • Crafting theme – I would love nothing more than a hamper full of quilting odds and ends (hint DH ;) )
  • Spa / bath products
  • Movie theme
  • A relaxing or time-out theme – a new mum might love a hamper with her favourite magazine, some nice coffee, relaxing music, chocolates etc.
  • Tea or coffee theme
  • Sports theme

2. Decide on a budget

Your budget will dictate what you put in the basket. If you’re budget is minimal, including tickets to the opera in amongst the gourmet wine and chocolates might be out of the question. But if your budget is a little more flexible, don’t just stick to the bickies and jam. A hamper is a great way  way of presenting a group of individual presents.

For a more frugal gift hamper, you can make the contents yourself. The hamper in the photo above includes homemade choc-chip cookies and homemade truffles. Homemade tastes so much better than store bought!

If you make great jam or have a secret spice mix, don’t buy, make it yourself. People really appreciate the time and effort you spend making things (and they enjoy your wares also).

I’ve also made up “gift pack” hampers for a couple of young girls for making their own cards. As I had plenty of scrapbooking supplies, card stock, embellishments etc., I just created the gift packs from what I had on hand, supplementing them with a couple of glitter pens and some stickers, embellishments etc. from the $2 shop. It ended up being quite a well received gift and only cost a few dollars. These were packed in recycled plastic sleaves that you get packs of specialty paper in etc. And I made up a label in Word with card making instructions/hints to go in the pack. While not technically a hamper (nary a basket in sight) it’s the same concept.

3. The contents

Hampers aren’t all about marmalade and shortbread. You can put anything in your hamper. The only important thing is to make sure the contents are personal and appropriate for the recipient. It’s nice to stick to a theme, but you don’t have to.

If you choose to stick to a theme, the contents of your hamper will reflect that theme. If you’re making a wine hamper for example, you may want to consider wine glasses to complement the wine. However, if you know that the recipient has a cupboard full of glasses, this may not be the best idea.

4. Containers

The most popular hamper container is a basket, but personally I don’t like to use baskets as they tend to end up in the charity store unwanted. If you are keen on using a basket then that’s the best place to find one at low cost.

I prefer to either use something practical like a nice serving plate or bowl, or something recycled and disposable, like a recycled cardboard box wrapped in a nice bit of paper.

Consider packaging of consumer goods potential hamper containers. I bought a set of muslin wraps that came in a clear plastic “box”. The base of this box made the perfect container for a Christmas hamper.

Often the theme of the hamper or the personality of the recipient will suggest an appropriate container. Some suggestions include:

  • Crockery, bake ware, bowls, mugs, glasses
  • terracotta pots, planters
  • metal buckets
  • wooden crates or boxes
  • serving trays (like you would use for breakfast in bed)
  • cardboard boxes
  • bags (not just gift bags but if you were giving some groceries for example, they could be presented in a homemade shopping bag. Or you could use a vintage handbag, a picnic bag)
  • Or you could make the container, like a quilted basket, or a handmade cardboard box.

5. Filler

Filler lifts the contents of the hampers up making them more presentable. If you have a shredder handy, then you have an endless source of filler material. Otherwise some scrunched up paper works just as well. When I assembled personalised gift baskets at Grace Bros, I would use scrunched up paper and hide it with a nice tea towel (which then became part of the gift). Just scrunch up some newspaper and cover it with either a piece of fabric or some nice tissue paper or wrapping paper.

Another great source of filler is the hampers that other people give you. Keep baskets, filler and wrapping to re-gift.

Even if you present your hamper in a bag, it can look quite nice if you use filler in the bottom of the bag and have the contents protruding over the top so that the recipient can see what’s inside.

6. Arranging your hamper

Have a play around with the arrangement of your hamper to get the best results. To help place items, choose a front for your hamper. Start with the largest or tallest items first and arrange the smaller items around these. For example, with a wine and delicacies hamper, start by placing the wine bottles, then any large packets of food, and arrange the smaller items around these.

To help with arranging items, consider overlapping items, using clear sticky tape to help keep items still and in position (stick items to each other or to the container) and if you have smaller packaged items, like a box of wrapped chocolates, consider taking the chocolates out of the box and scattering them around the hamper. If you are using a basket with a handle, you could tie or tape items to the handle in order to keep them in place.

If the hamper just doesn’t seem right, adding or subtracting filling can make a big difference. Don’t be afraid to add extra filling here and there where needed to prop up an individual item.

Fill empty spaces with either small items like chocolates or items relevant to the theme (cookie cutters for a baking theme, for example) or with a decorative element such as paper or silk flowers.

7. Wrapping

When it comes to wrapping a hamper, the most popular wrapping is cellophane because it is see-through. Again keep clear plastic and cellophane from gifts and packaging to reuse, cutting cost and waste. A flat hamper can be covered taught rather than the traditional wrap and tie method, making it easier to see the contents.

Alternatively, you could wrap your hamper in something appropriate (for example, a tea towel for a food themed hamper, or you could make a crocheted doily to wrap your hamper in).

Ribbon finishes off the hamper nicely, and again collect what you can in order to reduce costs and waste. I have quite a stash of ribbon all from gifts and purchases. I bought a pair of cheap pjs the other day that came wrapped in over a metre of white ribbon rather than being packed in plastic. That ribbon will come in handy later on.

Don’t forget to include a gift card and you’re done.

Forget the daggy ‘I-don’t-know-what-else-to-get-you’ store bought hampers – a hamper can make a lovely gift if you make it up yourself and personalise it.


  1. Charmaine says

    There’s some great ideas here, thanks! I think I’ll start squirreling away now for making hampers at Christmas time.

  2. says

    From Julie:

    Gifts hampers/baskets etc.

    I am all for your idea about making gift hampers. It is fun, can be relatively inexpensive and suits to person who is receiving the gift too.

    Might I suggest the following thoughts? I live in TN, USA. However just about any area around the world has ‘bring and buys’, ‘flea markets’, thrift shops, esp. those run by local or national charities etc. Best place to find interesting inexpensive baskets is there! I am always picking up a basket or two when I find them. While most of in great clean shape, others need TLC. Each one is washed out with soapy water and rinsed well, set in the sun to dry. Since I seem to have spray paint around the house, from one project or another, baskets that need more of a refreshing get spray painted. Let them dry at least overnight. Also you might want to take advantage of sales for ribbons or a few artitical flowers to decorate the baskets with, suiting them to your theme.

    One close friend loved to try different teas. When on sale I bought several teas for her basket. Pretty paper napkins and a set of vintage tea cups/or mugs (thrift shop finds), a tin (thrift shop again) of my home made cookies rounded out her good basket.

    Sewing/or needlework friends get a basket with goodies they can use. One again, SALE SALE SALE. Cooks love silly aprons, and useful kitchen gadgets, just slip in copies of recipes you have enjoyed – print them out on your home printer, find a nice file to put them in and WALLA! Another easy, inexpensive gift.

    You can stir your own creativitiy by browsing magazines at your local shop, or library. Remember to teach your children to do the same when giving gifts to their friends! I basket can be easily replaced with a small plastic (oh no!) crate for the recipient to reuse later. Bath goodies work great there!

    I am plans to make up a few for the holidays.

  3. Cara says

    Above it was mentioned to put a printed out copy of a recipe into the hamper. I think that is a great idea! My extended family is always giving me cook books for gifts because…well…I like cooking, but to be honest I always appreciate the hand written recipe or photo copied ones more than I do the books. I mean the books are usually lovely, but with a handwritten recipe I know I will love it. Those are the ones where someone has gone out of there way to give you their personal recipe or the recipe of something they know you love. And I think it makes them feel good too, because usually they know you love that particular recipe because you tasted their wares once and likely mentioned it!

    • says

      Hi Cara, I agree, handwritten recipes are much nicer. Did you see this month’s F&T newsletter? There was a link to a project that transfered handwritten recipes onto a teatowel as a keepsake.

  4. says

    Love all the trouble you have gone to here – there is so much to making a gift basket look more than “just a gift basket” – and people really can tell the difference when a little planning and preparation and experience goes into thier gift.


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