Hand-made Christmas

Par for the course — if I’m going to post about Thanksgiving well into December, my Christmas post just so happens to show up in late January. I would have happily posted this prior to December 25th, however, if it wouldn’t have ruined the surprise(s) for several of my recipients! So, looking back…

This was how I felt I spent the months of November and December. Of course, it’s not entirely true; we had plenty of fun holiday activities to enjoy with friends and family, and obviously I work 40 hours a week, so the reality is that my crafting only took up a small percentage of my late-2011, but it did feel like I was tackling a new project every day.

I blame it partly on Pinterest, which gives me far more creative ideas than I know what to do with. Every time I see something that catches my eye, it feels like I can think of nothing else but how I am going to complete that project, redecorate with those colors, assemble that outfit, cook that meal, present that dessert, etc. etc. etc… So it was only natural that I would discover several fun ideas for Christmas presents and holiday treats.

For instance, I saw a cute idea to frame heart-shaped maps and matte them up to be displayed in a triptych formation. I immediately thought this would look great in my parents’ home, and at first thought it would be fun to map out where my brother’s family lives (California, currently), Anthony and I live, and then the farm homestead where they live. However, I realized that neither my brother nor I are ever very permanent in our locations, and I wanted to give them something that they could display for awhile. Instead, I included maps of the three metropolis areas that we lived in as a family — Cincinnati, Mineapolis and Indianapolis, where they are situated now. This turned out to be a fun and simple piece that is inherently personalized and unique.

I am not sure whether the next idea came from Pinterest or not, but I have seen these little crocheted “Christmas Lights” popping up here and there for the past year. As soon as I saw the first one, I knew I had to make them and that they’d be perfect for the annual ornament exchange that I do with two of my best girlfriends. The kind of project that includes one of my favorite sit-in-front-of-the-tv past-times, and something I can complete in a night? Yes please! These turned out so well that I’m considering making a whole “strand” of them for our own Christmas decorations next year. If there’s any way I can think that far ahead and get a head start long before Christmas (doubtful, if previous years are any indication), I’m doing it, because they are just too cute!

Speaking of yarn, my “go-to” gift of the year were pairs of knitted fingerless gloves in various colors. I saw a pattern last summer and made some for myself, and have since received tons of compliments on them. They are perfect for cold workplaces to keep your paws warm while still being able to type/write/etc. Also, I’m pretty sure they are somewhat “in fashion” currently, so they have that going for them too. I had dreams of making these for everyone I knew, but alas, my project ambitions are often much loftier than my time quota, and only a select number of ladies on my gift list received these. I even wanted to take a photo of all of the different colored pairs together, but I ended up often racing to finish each pair and wrap them up at the very last minute (quite literally). So, here is a photo of one pair, set against the several other colors that I used for the others.

In addition to the people on my own list, I was crazy enough to tackle projects for other people! Only because I love her so much, I agreed to a rather large project for my boss, Amy, to give to her 8-year-old daughter. Mirabelle chose her school bag based on form over function, and was quickly finding that she was not able to fit enough in her backpack (which begs the question — how many textbooks are they requiring third-graders to lug around these days??). A huge Sanrio fan (not necessarily Hello Kitty, I was informed, but the other characters instead), Mirabelle’s wish list included a bigger bag that “no one else at school would have.” Enter Erin.

Amy and I shopped at one of my favorite local fabric stores and came out with “My Melody” (not Hello Kitty) fabric and an Amy Butler pattern with an infinite amount of pockets. It was an ambitious undertaking for someone who usually limits herself to sewing buttons onto clothing and once-a-year Halloween costume design, but it actually turned out pretty well! The strap is too long, because I always think Mirabelle is a grown woman (the kid is way beyond her years) and sized it to myself, so small alterations are needed, but other than that it’s perfect. Not only does it hold all of her textbooks (and then some!), but there is not a single duplicate at her school. Mission accomplished.

In addition to sewing, cutting/pasting, knitting and crocheting, some of the recipients on our list were treated to a treat of the sugary variety. Last year, I made homemade marshmallows after seeing this dreamy post on one of my favorite design blogs, and paired them with individual packets of hot cocoa. They were such a big hit that I thought I’d make them an annual thing. I tried to switch it up this year with a recipe I found on, of course, Pinterest, but they were a huge fail. Let’s just say the raw eggs in that recipe creeped me out, they turned out super shiny and lumpy, the peppermint taste was more like toothpaste, and the red food coloring made it look like a crime scene. In other words, this year (and probably next!), the marshmallows I gifted were just the plain old vanilla kind! I should know not to mess with an old favorite…

Last but not least, I’m not sure how much the following project counts as “homemade”, but I have to say that it was easily one of my favorite gifts to give this year. My dad has dozens of home videos sitting in our house, and as the VCR has become a thing of the past, we’ve always known that they needed to be converted. I finally took the reins and coordinated with my brother and Katie, and worked on getting these put onto DVDs at long last. As a family, the video camera has always been a constant fixture at our gatherings, and we’ve been known to break out the old home movies for gut-busting and teary-eyed entertainment during get-togethers, so it’s essential to have them in a format that we’ll still be able to enjoy far into the future. I had the best time reviewing the DVDs after getting them back from the local company, and added the homemade element by creating individual cases for each volume. I took screenshots of some of the more iconic moments for the covers and also added a scene-by-scene listing on the back of each case (the credit for that goes to my dad, though, for being so thorough in typing up the play-by-play of each video).

The gift (which came from both my brother’s family, and ours, since we split the cost) was a hit — enough to even produce a few tears. His reaction made the hard work very well worth it, and convinced me that despite all of the behind-the-scenes coordinating and unintentional mentions (thanks, Mom, on both 😉 ), he was both surprised and genuinely thankful.

Whew. Just typing that all up made me tired all over again! Putting so much time and effort into gifts can certainly become overwhelming, but I don’t regret one second of it. By putting the extra thought and labor into a completely unique and personalized gift, it only adds to the excitement of being able to give it. The gifts shown here all became some of my favorites to watch being unwrapped. Not to say that I didn’t know the rest of our gifts wouldn’t be fully appreciated, because I’m sure they will, but these are the ones that I, and hopefully the recipients, will remember for many years to come.

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