Crafte's Inferno: Crafting for Christmas, a Lie in the Making

comments (10) December 11th, 2008     

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MichaelaMurphy Michaela Murphy, contributor
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The clock is ticking down to Christmas 2008 and already I am thinking about how next year I am going to start early.

The clock is ticking down to Christmas 2008 and already I am thinking about how next year I am going to start early.

Photo: Gregg Snodgrass

The truth is, I lie. Basically, I think that I am an honest person, but when it comes to certain things, well, let's just say that I might not be exactly forthcoming. The certain thing in this particular instance is: my crafting ways. For years now, I have endeavored to make most if not all of my holiday gifts. I can be a willful little soul and once I really make up my mind to do something, I'm like a dog with a bone: Just try to get me away from it before it's finished. So my problem is not a commitment issue; it is more of the realistic assessment variety. I'm really great at choosing the perfect gift to make for even the most difficult person on my list. I'm terrific at remembering the "notes to self" that I make throughout the year when a friend or loved one comments on something that they really like, or points out a certain color, or happens to mention an affinity for a specific team, place, book, food, flower, car, base-metal, or whatever. Where I need improvement is in accurately determining whether I have the requisite skills to pull off one of my great ideas and in assessing whether there is enough time in the world to accomplish it...perfectly. Yes, that is another area where I could use some counsel: perfectionism.

So how do I cope with this trifecta of insufficiency? I lie about it. Well, I have lied about it. This year hasn't happened just yet and I am still holding out hope that maybe this year I will achieve what I vow to accomplish every year—that I will do it differently. That this year I will create a reasonable gifts-to-make list, that only involves a craft that I am currently proficient in, and that allows for ample time within my actual schedule. It is now December 11th and already I am descending into craft hell. Why do I think that even though I have only just learned to crochet that a fabulous crocheted evening dress for New Year's is even a possibility? When exactly (given the gifts to others that I am making) do I imagine that this is going to be made? So it is not just that I lie, it is that I lie to myself. But I have lied to others, too.

Years ago, I was invited to spend Christmas with some dear friends out in the Hamptons. As the locale might indicate, these particular friends are very wealthy and I somehow believed that I had to make the most amazing creations to earn the invite (I should mention that this was entirely my own thinking—my friends are very loving toward me and not because I make things, but there you have it). So I knit eight of these fantastically and intricately patterned scarves that were seven feet long and boasted literally hundreds of different colors. They really were a marvel (if I say so myself), and each one took about a hundred hours to complete. I thought when I started them around Halloween that I had left enough time to complete them all before Christmas. But I did not take my full-time job or the necessities of being human into consideration so I found myself pulling many all-nighters in the hope that I could still pull it off. I ended up missing holiday parties, caroling, and other celebrations of the season so that I could sit home alone and knit furiously while I bah-humbugged about the meaninglessness that I thought was Christmas.

By the time I got to the Hamptons a few days before Christmas, I was red-eyed and exhausted and still not finished. So I lied. I feigned not feeling well so that I could hole up in the guest room and frantically knit while they trimmed the tree. I realized the insanity of what I was doing—but at this point I felt like I didn't have any other options. I couldn't go out shopping, not now. I just knit row, after row, after row with dozens of colors and patterns promising myself never, ever, EVER again. Here's the really big lie: When my friends opened up these gifts and saw what I had made, they were blown away, they absolutely loved them. Then when they asked me how on earth I ever made such beautiful gifts. How long did such a thing take? I shrugged sleepily and said, "Oh, it was no big deal, a few days maybe?" They just shook their heads, amazed.

I didn't want them to feel badly that I had enslaved myself on their behalf: I know, co-depend no more, right? So, yes, that was years ago and I never did do anything like that again. While I recognize the authorship of my own misery, I still downplay the effort and time that goes into a handmade gift.

But it is not too late for this year. Maybe the sixth circle of craft hell has a backdoor? That fabulous crocheted evening gown that I am designing in my head can stay right where it is. And as for handmade gifts? Sure, but I don't have to do all of the making. Just today I received an email from one of our bloggers about an Etsy shop she has opened. It is a fundraising shop for a relative of hers who is ill. I checked out the shop and there are a bunch of great gifts, some of the type that I was planning to make myself. But by purchasing one of these gifts at Etsy, I can also help out someone who is in need. And this weekend is Crafty Wonderland's Colossal Holiday sale in Portland, OR, where I can find incredibly beautiful handmade things for gifts and also help to support other crafters. If there is anything I have learned from my own lies, it is that honestly, we could all use some support.


Coming soon:  Crafte's Inferno: The Seventh Circle of Craft Hell, Crafting for Stage & Screen

Read the first five circles of Crafte's Inferno here:


The First Circle of Craft Hell: Working for a Craft Website

The Second Circle of Craft Hell: Heavenly Ambitions Meet Hellish Skills

The Third Circle of Craft Hell: Crafting for the Family

The Fourth Circle of Craft Hell: Crafting on the Fly and Under Pressure

The Fifth Circle of Craft Hell: Scary Crafty Excesses, or How to Terrify the Opposite Sex

posted in: christmas, craftes inferno

Comments (10)

Carriecan writes: Hahaha, This describes me to a 'T'! Thanks for the laugh. BTW, I love this site and I love what you write about making stuff. It is funny and so true!
Posted: 3:22 pm on December 15th
Asia_Tatiana writes: Wow, I feel much better now--I'm not the only one. Today I went to the outlet mall and I just thought what a bunch of $%#@*!!! I'd still rather give and receive something handmade even if it's a much longer process than just buying something--but I love your solution and will maybe check that out. Thanks for the laugh.
Posted: 12:08 am on December 14th
LindaPermann writes: SarahSaturday- Yes, you can still donate items to the shop-just convo me through etsy ( or send me a note at lindapermann[AT]hotmail. It will only be open till Monday (but if you have something already made I can list it now), or I can add it in the new year.
Posted: 5:50 pm on December 13th
cottageindustrialist writes: Oh my. I feel like I just flipped to a page from my own diary.

If I could just get back the countless late night hours I've spent toiling over gifts for people who never expected anything, much less a baroquely detailed handmade whathaveyou, I would be very well-rested, indeed.

The scarves in your story hit particularly close to home. One year my mother asked me to knit scarves for her two favorite students. Quick-knit chunky yarn? Oh no. Worsted weight intarsia. Which I had never done before and for which I designed a four-color pattern. Totally mental. Did I mention she asked me for them two days before school got out? And I was in law school? Really, totally mental.

Here's hoping we and all the other poor saps like us out there can keep it reasonable this year!
Posted: 3:47 pm on December 13th
SarahSaturday writes: maybe you can crochet that cocktail dress for next new year's? it would be fabulous... and only you would find a way to get us all thinking about how we can craft for good. you may be unbalanced but you have the most generous heart. can people donate items to the Etsy store?
Posted: 3:05 pm on December 13th
Rachel_P writes: "Bah Humbugged" hahaha that totally got me cracking up. I am not suprised that they were blown away by your gifts, as most people are when they open your handmade presents. Awesome story as usual, I cant wait for the next craft inferno post. These always put me in a good mood, and inspire me to try my hand at crafting something festive myself!
Posted: 10:14 am on December 13th
MaeveQ writes: Oh, goodie another Crafty Inferno post! Michaela, these stories are just priceless. I can just see you (and I don't even know you LOL) scrambling to get it all done. I would love to see these. Any pictures? Thanks again for making me laugh. I LOVE these!!! Merry Christmas to you!
Posted: 3:49 pm on December 12th
gretas_garden writes: ha. this reminded me of the spinning straw into gold story... only the gold was in your heart. i wish you had a picture of the scarves.
Posted: 9:29 am on December 12th
LindaPermann writes: oh my gosh, Michaela, don't ever lock yourself in a room to knit again! I have a friend who just giftwraps the half-completed project and a ball of yarn with a note that says "this will be X". hah!
Posted: 3:02 pm on December 11th
Jen_W writes: Michaela, I'm glad to know another wackadoo crafter, although my craft lie is a bit more of the garden variety: I let all my non-crafty friends think I'm a white witch, miracle worker, or some other magical creature who can actually create a RIBBED HAT or BEADED EARRINGS. Seriously. Apparently, I surround myself with craft-challenged loved ones!

You are one of a kind, in the best of ways.
Posted: 1:55 pm on December 11th
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