In 2009 before Pinterest was a thing, my large family started going through a financial crunch. Christmas was coming up in 2 months and I was panicking about how I was going to be able to put anything under the Christmas tree for my children. Years earlier when they were just small children I felt like I could get away with giving them used toys from eBay wrapped in many small packages. Another year, I ordered a bunch of trinkets from Oriental Trading Company and wrapped them in many packages. However, in 2009 I had pre-teens as well as younger ones… so I started brainstorming alternate possibilities. By Christmas day, I had spent a total of $30 on each child and had lots of presents under the tree. I knew (and still know) that presents are not the real meaning of Christmas, but it was important to me to make it seem just like our previous Christmases.
At the time my main criteria was of course the cost. I needed to get the most, for the least. I took stock of what supplies I already had on hand and then made a list of what I lacked to complete a project. I was able to purchase many of the needed supplies from our local thrift stores and some from eBay. We were temporarily on food stamps at that time so I also had the ability to get supplies to make food gifts. Overall it was a chance to exercise my imagination within the limits of our budget and available supplies.
Every year since then our circumstances slowly began to improve. I continued to make homemade gifts an important part of my giving and began teaching my older children how plan for and make their own gifts as well. I didn’t want to spam my family and friends with hundreds of photos of all of my projects so I began a Facebook page in which I shared them only with those who were truly interested. After that initial season passed I continued collecting links to tutorials for me to use later at the next birthday and the next Christmas. I shared those links as well. I didn’t profit at all from the page it was just me sharing what I’d found. After 4 years, I counted over 600 past tutorials on my Facebook page and my number of followers was growing very rapidly. After the second year, I added a Pinterest version of my list of tutorials. And now, 7 years later my Facebook page has over 34,000 followers and I’m finally turning my ideas into a blog.
About My blog:
When people recommend a movie to me, I often stop and wonder to myself: what else has this person recommended to me in the past and did I agree with their opinion on it that time. If not, then I probably won’t like this one either. But you can’t figure that out until you’ve tried a few bad ones first. Curating homemade gifts ideas has a similar dilemma. Nowadays, I’m kinda picky about what I choose to spend my time and resources making. So, what criteria do I use for selecting a good homemade gift idea?
Cheap, Fast, or Easy
Cheap, Easy, or Fast are usually the first things I consider. I’m not opposed to buying some supplies or tools for my project but only if the trade off is worth it to me.
I’d much rather find a use for something I already have and re-make it in to something else: this is called re-purposing. If it’s something that most people would throw away, then it’s called upcycling. It can be very thrilling to look at a pile of “junk” from another perspective and suddenly see its hidden value. For example a stash of thousands of plastic shopping bags is only useful for a few things, most of which involve being used as a small trash bag. But did you know that plastic bags make an awesome filler for bean bag chairs and stuffed animals? Unlike foam “beans” which get compressed in a short time leaving your beanbag looking much flatter than it was, plastic bags stay fluffy for a long time. And no one will ever know! The bags can also be cut into loops and turned in to a plastic yarn for crocheting projects. See what I mean? A different perspective!
Is this easy to make? Well that depends. What are your current skills? Do you know how to sew? Do you know how to crochet? Work with wood? It might be easy for you, but not for someone else. I personally am something of a Jack-of-All-Trades, but Master-at-None sort of person. I can do a little bit of everything, but if it is complex I probably don’t have the skills to pull it off. I could probably get it done, but I’d be ashamed to give the results to anyone. Houseplants hate me. No matter what I do, they look sickly and yellow and always on the edge of survival. I either neglect them or over-water them. I’ve tried all the fool-proof plants like philodendrons and aloe vera. Dead, all of them. I don’t have the knack and I can’t seem to learn it either. I can sprout alfalfa seeds for my salad, but only because they get eaten as soon as they are ready. Likewise, I tend to choose homemade gifts that are low to medium skill level for most people. I can crochet a straight chain and double back again to make a pretty even rectangle, but that’s it. Easy or at least moderately difficult is the maximum for me.
If you are not a planner. If spontaneity thrills you then you probably will choose whatever is fast. Some very nice homemade gifts can be done in a single evening, while others will take weeks to complete. Many crocheting projects can be done quite cheaply and with very basic skills. A crocheted afghan blanket however is gonna take several weeks to complete
You Can Only Have Two
The sad fact of life is that most of the time you only get to choose 2 of the three options above. You can have cheap and fast, but you’ll need some serious skills to pull it off. You can choose Fast and Easy, but it’s gonna cost you. See what I mean? My husband likes to tell me that I can ask him to do a job for me but I have to choose 2 of the 3: cheap, fast, or good. I usually choose cheap and fast, which means we have a lot of jury-rigged temporary projects around our house. So, that gorgeous bookshelf that I’d like him to build for me can be done well, with good quality supplies… but it’s gonna take him a month of weekends to get finished. Another similar dilemma is diet foods: Salty, Fatty, or Sugary. That low fat, low sugar salad dressing is compensated by adding lots of salt. You can’t have everything. So keep that in mind when you see some of the projects that I’ve selected when you say “I can’t afford all those supplies!” or “That looks way too difficult.” or “Someone has way too much free time on their hands.” Remember, to each his own.
Not Intended for Children
I love getting little gifts from my elementary age kiddos. They swell my heart and make my eyes water. However, none of you reading this IS a small child. So as the gift-maker and not the receiver, I have chosen not to include those types of gifts that could have been made by a small child. It’s my preference, and it might not be yours. This means that I usually pass over projects made with: construction paper, tempera paint, toilet paper tubes, and popsicle sticks. There are thousands of blogs out there that will help you find crafts that a small child can participate in making, and I use them often with my kids. However, that’s not my focus here. My blog is for the big people. Yay for grown-ups! That doesn’t mean I don’t have gifts intended for a child to receive, just not those that a young child could have made.
If you made it this far, I thank you! I always hope of course that most people feel exactly the same way that I do about homemade gift giving, but I realize of course that is just never going to happen. With that thought in mind I created the intro above. Now you know a bit more about my thought process as I curate hundreds of tutorials.