CraftStylish Roundtable: Gift-Giving Obstacles

comments (2) November 12th, 2008     

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MichaelaMurphy Michaela Murphy, contributor
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Photo: Courtesy of MJphotos2007/Flickr

Now that I'm thinking about it, it was around the holidays that I remember first hearing myself use the term, "How hard can it be?" I applied this seductive little clause to the very idea of making everything for the holidays as well as to the specific projects that I had determined to make up the everything. Oh, how those words would come to mystify me, for the answer was both "Harder than you could ever imagine" and "Easier than it looks." How would I ever be able to make holiday gift-making a reasonable and practical experience (or at least one that didn't involve the twelve-all-nighters-before-Christmas)? I soon found out that I was not alone. Just as holiday ready-made gift shopping presents its own little nightmare of never-agains, the DIY alternative is not always a dream experience. I wondered what those in the know had to say. So, here's my next Roundtable question:

What is the biggest challenge for you in making gifts?

Jennifer Stern:

For me, handmade Christmas gifts are a must. Coming up with the ideas is the easy part because I’m like a sponge: If I see or hear of something that would make a great gift, I file it away until the holiday season is upon me—which creates the challenge. By the time my mind shifts to holiday = gift giving = making gifts, time is of the essence. In addition to my busy schedule, I have to add run-around time to find the supplies I need to make each gift. Once I’ve collected the stuff I need, planning and executing each project so that I can get them all finished before the 24th is super tricky because making gifts also equals holiday baking.

This year (unless I get the house I put an offer on this morning) my kitchen is my sewing room (imagine having to keep all the flour, colored sugar sprinkles, and chocolate off the fabric!!!!). Generally, I try not to bake on a day that I’m sewing, but it’s impossible when I’m working on gifts for Christmas. And, I haven’t even mentioned the Tree yet. Going to get the tree, setting it into the stand, and cleaning up the needles and water that always seem to get all over the place can take up an entire day without hanging one ornament! Having said all that, I would never consider Christmas without the handmade gifts. The timer is set the day after Thanksgiving . . . and I love the hustle before the bell!

Shannon Dennis:

My biggest challenge in making a gift is capturing that person's style and not my own. One way I have tried to remedy this is by paying attention to the colors, styles, and textures that the person surrounds herself or himself with both in fashion and decorating.

Erika Kern:

Making something that the person truly loves, not just something they say they love. I go to the thrifts all the time and they are filled with handmade items! That's my biggest craft fear—going to a thrift store and seeing something I made for someone there on the shelf for a dollar. I once had a friend who regifted something I had made her and it broke my heart. I never made her anything ever again.

So the challenge, for me, is making something I know the recipient needs or wants. In order to do that, I have to be really sneaky, asking questions and such or being really observant, watching what my friends do and what they like . . . and that's a LOT of work! But it's work that's worth it when I know that I've given them something that will be with them for the rest of their life.

Linda Permann:

The biggest challenge for me is just thinking of what to give. I want to make beautiful but practical handmade gifts that can be put to use—something that the recipient loves to have and even if it's not something novel, something they'll used often and that will remind them that I love them. Men can be especially hard, so usually I try to combine the handmade thing with something else they'll like, i.e., a gadget (camera, iPod, etc.) with a handmade case.

Jennifer Worick:

For me, carving out time to create things for myself and for friends is the real challenge when faced with conceiving and writing up projects for books and CraftStylish. Sometimes I cheat and use a prototype or finished sample as a gift. That’s not really regifting, is it? I also find it challenging to live up to the hype as a crafty writer. I don’t think any of my friends or family would look too closely at the seams of a pair of pajama bottoms, but my own standards often get in the way of making something fun, if not perfect. We’re a lot of tortured crafty souls, aren’t we?

Jeffery Rudell:

For me, the biggest challenge in making gifts is simply finding the time to devote to such a pleasurable task. Crafting is my career, which is to say it's how I earn a living and so most of my time is allotted to clients who are paying for my creativity. Carving out time to work on my own projects (like making gifts for friends) is a real challenge.

Mary Ray:

The biggest challenge for me is deciding what to make. You always want the gift to be appropriate—as well as appreciated—and I think this is especially true if you go through the trouble of making it. I always have to remember that the truly thoughtful gift is something the recipient would really like—not just something that I would like to have or would like to make.

Deana Tierney

The biggest challenge for me in making gifts is getting started well enough in advance. I always have these grand ideas of what I want to make and for whom, but I wait too long, then don’t leave myself enough time to really execute the projects they way I envisioned—or at all. If only there were two of me…but then one of me would miss all the great crafting! I think a solution is to start seriously planning it out and keeping a schedule in an organizer or craft journal, like I would for a work project, working backwards from my deadline and estimating how much time each project will take. Then I could stay on task. Although this sounds likes it’s taking the fun out of it, the end result is really important. Because, in my experience, my friends and family have loved the gifts I have made so much more than the ones I’ve purchased.

Cal Patch

For me, the biggest challenge is to accommodate the taste and ideals of the recipient, while still satisfying my own (increasingly picky) restrictions. For example: I refuse to buy products made by mass-market chain stores, in overseas countries where labor is cheap and exploited. Last year, I was telling a friend how I didn't know what to buy my nieces (ages 3 and 6 at the time) because they are only into Barbie, American Girl, and Build-a-Bear. My friend told me that there are lots of people making handmade clothes for all of these dolls on Etsy! so I got them outfits, sleeping bags and hand-knit sweaters for their dolls and everyone was happy. Unfortunately I still haven't found anything on Etsy for my golf-playing accountant step-father...
The other challenge is that, as a self-employed maker, the fall/holiday season is my busiest time of year. So my ideal scenario would be to make all of my holiday gifts, but it just isn't possible. If only christmas were in february or march I think I could manage!

Tina Hilton

As child, I received handmade Barbie doll clothes, crocheted slippers, felt and sequined ornaments and tins of Christmas cookies. Nana was crafty and thrifty and lovingly gave these gifts wrapped in tissue paper and curly bows. She was happy to dedicate her time to create a gift made with love even though she could afford the store-bought versions. I have inherited her crafty gene and also love to create gifts for family and friends.  
Over the years I have gifted crewel and needlepoint pillows, cross stitch samplers, hand knit sweaters, and quilts. Mind you, not everyone receives a hand crafted item in a given year but each year someone receives an original that I invested a considerable amount of time and money into. I would love to have more time to make something for everyone and the extra cash to purchase the supplies but both are in short supply these days.
There are ways to give more handmade gifts. The easy way would be to support your local craft fair or church bazaar to snag some of the goodies they have generated. It’s usually well priced and you often contribute to a cause by buying from them. Buy from the innovative DIY experts on Etsy. Support worldwide organizations like Ten Thousand Villages who sell fair trade handicrafts from around the world.  
Organize a group crafting event to create gifts assembly line style. Many hands make quick work. Decide on a project and break down the steps in a project and each be responsible for the step that is best suited to that individual. Let’s say you want to make ornaments out of repurposed felted sweaters. One person can design the shapes they are to be cut out in and others can cut. Some can machine sew components others can hand embroider. In a day, the participants will have a variety of hand crafted treasures that they had a part in creating. It’s inexpensive, you can make many in a short time and it’s a fun way to spend an afternoon or evening or two.
If you have the time and money to create a gift that requires a lot of both, make sure you understand the needs and desires of the recipient. What colors do they prefer? How do they wish to care for it – dry clean, hand wash/dry flat or machine wash/dry? This will make a big difference whether your gift will be used or hid in a drawer.  
When you give a gift – let it go. Don’t worry if they like it, care for it or give it away. You have made the present with love and joy and have enjoyed the process of creating. Actually making a gift is really a precious gift to ourselves.

Join our online discussion and tell us what's on your crafty mind. To read and participate in previous Roundtable questions and responses, click here.

posted in: craftstylish roundtable, Week Two Part One

Comments (2)

jdvd83 writes: I have the same problem with some relatives. They think that the gifts are not as good because they are not store bought. I however, would rather have a old time Christmas, with all handmade, heart made gifts. It takes a lot of time and effort to make gifts for some one. I think people forget that it trully is the thought and the effort, not the price tag that matters.
Posted: 9:16 pm on November 15th
crochet_art_n_motion writes: My biggest challenge or obstacle is ME. Over the years I have had my handmade gifts rejected from my family. Some feel I'm just cheap. Although I feel it is important to spend your money wisely, I will spend it when I find a wonderful gift.

When I start a creation, I put my heart and soul into it and when I see someone open the box and not be as excited as I was making it, well it's a big let down for me.
Posted: 4:49 pm on November 12th
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