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Holiday Gift Guide: Starter Kits


Photo by Jeff Sheldon

Photo by Jeff Sheldon

The winter months are great for learning and tinkering while we wait out the weather. For the maker or doer in your life, Grid has compiled some starter kits and DIY gift baskets that will serve as inspiration as you craft the perfect gift.

Maybe there’s a foodie who wants to stock the bar with home-grown bitters and beer. Or do you know a gardener who just can’t wait for those first green shoots of spring? Try some winter flowering bulbs to light up his or her life.  

The best part about “starter kits” is that you can put them together yourself—so get creative. Did someone mention that they want to learn to knit? Ferment? Get into vermiculture? Work with a local shop owner to gather the tools of the trade, and you’ve got a gift that will keep on giving. A few months down the road, you may even receive something in return. 


Gardening and Crafts

Standard or Moss Terrariums
A terrarium is a little oasis of vibrancy, just right for someone working all day in a cubicle, or living in an apartment without much light. These simple kits provide the materials to construct one’s own tiny green space: glass containers, soil, decorative stones, activated charcoal and live moss. $12–$28 at City Planter • Northern Liberties

Growing Indoor Bulbs
Bulbs bring the promise of spring, even in the darkest days of winter. Put together a variety of holiday bulbs such as paper-whites, crocuses and different types of amaryllis to make the garden guru in your life smile. $.75–$16 at Greensgrow Farms • Fishtown

Knitting for Beginners
With just a few simple stitches, even novice knitters can make scarves, hats and mittens. Package together a skein of worsted weight yarn, locally milled and dyed by Studio Plus near York, Pa, and a pair of size 8 starter needles. $24 for the yarn, $8.49 for the needles at Loop • Graduate Hospital

Beginner’s Needlepoint
Introduce the curious crafter to the art of needlepoint with an easy beginner’s kit. Rittenhouse Needlepoint offers a variety of themed canvases, and every Saturday morning at 10 a.m., they hold a free one-hour beginner’s class to get the ball rolling. $11–$44 at Rittenhouse Needlepoint • Rittenhouse

For the beginner to intermediate DIY jewelry maker, the Zig-Zag and Gemini bracelet kits from the Bead Garden in Havertown provide a fun challenge with beautiful natural materials such as faceted colorized agate and freshwater pearl beads. $25 at the Bead Garden • Havertown

Sewing for Beginners
Dust off the old Singer and introduce a crafty kid to sewing with an easy and satisfying make-your-own pillowcase project. These kits include two pre-cut pieces of 100% cotton fabric and clear instructions. $10.99 at Handcraft Workshop • Mount Airy


Food and Drink

The Bar Roll Tool Kit (four essential stainless steel tools in a handsome waxed canvas and leather roll) and a bottle of local spirits—Bluecoat gin, perhaps?—are the only ingredients needed to set up a budding mixologist for a fun winter of “recipe testing.” Bar Roll Tool Kit, $75 at Art in the Age. $27.99 Bluecoat gin • Old City

Craft Your Own Bitters
Bitters are tinctures and extracts made from spices, herbs and fruit peel that add depth of flavor to cocktails. This kit includes everything needed to make DIY bitters, whether you’re following a recipe or getting experimental. $65, Hella Bitters (NYC), sold at Occasionette • Passyunk East

Homebrewing beer is so 2012 (just kidding!). But why not encourage the accomplished homebrewer to keep exploring the possibilities of at-home beverage fermentation? This deluxe kit includes everything necessary to get started, including two fermenters, a siphon hose, bottle filler, corker and more. $99.95 at Home Sweet Homebrew • Rittenhouse

Age Your Own Rum or Rye Barrel
Barrel aging changes a spirit’s flavor and rewards those who wait. Let a bourbon or rum aficionado compare and contrast aging profiles with this kit, which includes a new, two-liter charred American white oak barrel and three bottles of locally distilled Petty’s Island rum or Silver Fox rye. $165 for the rye kit, $120 for the rum kit at Cooper River Distillers • Camden

It’s easy and affordable to put together a DIY pickling kit. Place some high quality salt in a Ball jar, and seal the top with a pretty piece of fabric and some baker’s twine. For guaranteed success, add a copy of local fermenting blogger Amanda Feifer’s new cookbook, Ferment Your Vegetables. Various prices, $18.49 for the book at Fante’s Kitchen Shop • Bella Vista

Each Hometown Herbcraft kit, specially designed by the wellness manager at Weavers Way Across the Way, includes instructions and enough supplies to create six pieces. Pick from make-your-own herbal tea, herbal vinegar, herbal hydrosol, herbal tincture (alcohol not included), herbal glycerite or herbal salve. $44 each at Weavers Way Across the Way • West Mt. Airy

Cooking Spices
Sure, there are plenty of herb and spice gift boxes out there, but why not customize one for the culinary whiz in your life? Penzeys carries empty jars in multiple sizes and literally every kind of bulk spice you can think of. Mix it up with more obscure choices like epazote, sanaam chili peppers and annatto seeds, or pick some of Penzeys specialty blends. Jars $1.69–$3.79 each; Spices, various prices at Penzeys • Center City and Mt. Airy locations

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