When time allows, hand-making quality gifts for friends and family is such a wonderful way to celebrate how much you care for that person. It’s also a great way to give them exactly what (you think) they want, cultivate your own craft skill set, and – sometimes, but not always – it helps your dollar go farther.
In years past, I have made A LOT of things: photo albums, crochet hats, scarves, amigurumi, beaded necklaces and jewelry. Sometimes it’s a big success. Sometimes it’s not. And that’s okay. What I’ve learned is that some projects are worth pursuing and some – some just aren’t.
So how do you decide whether or not hand crafting your holiday gifts is right for you?
Honestly, it’s a big question that we could spend a lot of time talking about. Instead, I’ll boil it down to a few simple things. (Note to reader: I have done all of these things so you can learn from my mistakes!)
1. Ask yourself: why did you decide to take this on?
For me, it’s always two things: (1) because I have expensive taste with a short budget and (2) because I think I can do it better.
I consider crafts both a hobby and a necessity to create what I’m looking for. It’s why I (and a team of moms & aunts) made my wedding dress. It’s why I sew. It’s why I make my own necklaces. And it’s partially why I crochet. And I love it.
But I’ve also wasted more than my share of scarce funds and countless hours making “frogs” (that’s what the fiber arts world calls an ugly/wasted project). In almost every case, those frogs happened to be the projects that I didn’t love or that I didn’t think through or that I took on because it was cheap. All of those reasons are really, really bad reasons to make something. Don’t be cheap. Don’t “just make” something. Respect your wallet, respect your time, and you won’t make frogs.
2. Do your homework, price it out. For real.
Seriously. Price it out. And be honest. If you don’t have some of the supplies on hand, or the tools, or if the project you’re considering will have a lot of leftover material – reconsider whether or not it’s worth it.
Example: Mason Jar presents. They look great on Pinterest. But does anyone really want a Mason Jar cookie mix? Or the homemade sugar scrub? Certainly some do (homemade flavored vodka? I’m game!). But they’re not as cheap as you think they are. And most people would rather have a $5 coffee card and a nice note. It feels a lot more personal when people spend money – even just a few dollars – on you to say “thanks”. This is especially true for teachers.
3. Make sure you have the time.
The holidays are stressful enough without adding unnecessary pressure on yourself.
OK. Fine. I can’t fully back that statement without admitting that I’m intentionally filling my plate this holiday season. But I’m being VERY very mindful of needs and I have a backup plan, which brings me to #4.
4. Have a backup plan.
Did you frog those cute Mason Jars I told you not to make? Well, I told you so. Also, go buy that gift card and stop stressing out.
Don’t get sucked in by the adorableness of Pinterest. Just because it looks nice in one designer’s Pin doesn’t mean you’ll do it that way. Bloggers, crafters, and designers get paid to do what they do for a reason – because they can make it beautiful and appealing. And you know what? They make frogs too. They just don’t Pin them.
5. Don’t peddle your crap.
If you can’t guarantee quality, don’t you dare. Just don’t. No one wants your crappy gift. Unless you’re under 10, in which case – YES PLEASE!
6. Don’t regret it.
I think it’s a natural part of being a crafter to be haunted by projects-gone-bad. Years later, I still occasionally think about that ugly pillow cover I spent probably 60 hours trying to perfect, only to frog it. Even worse are the DIYs that I gave to people and wish I hadn’t. They haunt you. And, what’s worse..
7. Don’t set a tradition of crappy gift giving.
Sometimes the crappy handmade things you peddled onto others comes back to haunt you. This happens when a person receives a crappy handmade frog and thinks “this person clearly likes handmade things, even if they’re crappy, so I will also make them a crappy handmade thing.”
See what happened there?
Years from now that one crappy handmade thing is going to haunt you. And you will have to dispose of the waste. Which brings me to #8.
8. It can be wasteful.
Sure, that might be cute. And it might look just like that Pin on Pinterest. But what is its function? Is it something the person actually wants? NO? Save yourself the trouble and buy a giftcard. That being said…
9. Don’t let this list discourage you.
With the right amount of time, attention, and energy, I believe everyone can make beautiful things. Unfortunately, there are only 24 hours in a day. And unfortunately, sometimes things don’t turn out the way we want them to. If you’re going to make something handmade, make sure you have the time, the energy, the resources, and the planning to make it happen.
Sometimes the best gift is a nice note, a printed picture, and a small, but meaningful token of how much you care about a person. As long as you stay mindful of yourself AND the other person, you can’t go wrong.
And if you do, hopefully you made that backup plan…
Gift responsibly, my friends.
So there it is. I hope this list was helpful. And if you did decide to make that handcrafted project, please share it! I love seeing what other people are making and I love connecting with other bloggers with big handcrafting dreams. Share your frogs. Share your beautiful things. Share it all.
Happy Holidays, everyone!