Saturday, December 1, 2012

Have Yourself a Home-made Holiday:  Start a Project!

There’s something about the end of summer, school days beginning, and the dry, hot days in southern California.  It’s too hot to be outside, but the kids are back in school, so the lazy summer days have ended for another season.  All the yearnings for cooler weather, fall colors, pumpkin patches...they are all overwhelmed and overshadowed by the size of my Christmas gift list.  As if it’s a surprise, I am suddenly (it happens every year!) thrown into a frenzy of Christmas gift production.  My family rarely sees the surface of the dining room table from September through October...sometimes right up till we need it for Thanksgiving.  And they’re pretty good sports about doing homework on the sofa and eating in the den.  I think it’s as much a part of the Holidays coming for them as it is for me.  This year, we moved, and I’m all thrown off, so midnight oil is on my supply list...we better get started!!

I start looking for that one idea for a project that takes a moderate amount of time, and can be adjusted or personalized for many different people and their interests or color schemes.  Sometimes it has to be a couple of main projects, since my circle is pretty varied.  My list always includes family members with lots of new babies or young children, single men, girlfriends (they’re the easiest...I just pick what I’d like myself) and co-workers, all of whom need to be remembered in a personal way.

My embroidery machine has made gift giving just brilliant, but it gets more challenging each year to pick something I haven’t done before.  I don’t want everyone I know to have six aprons and four sets of personalized napkins from me, but my desire to use quilting and machine embroidery limits my projects to cloth and paper and things that I can hoop or quilt!

First, I try to be realistic about how much time I’ll have with work and family and the other demands my small farm make on my time.  Next, I think about my budget and materials, and look for a reasonable supply list that I can save money on if I make several or save time on if I do the projects like an assembly line in phases.  Then I start to sort through ideas.

The Internet is a great place to start for ideas.  Crafting blogs, embroidery design websites, and sewing product sites have great tutorials and free project instructions and keep their ideas popular and fresh.  I have a few favorite sites, but you can just Google handmade holiday gift projects.  But my favorite resource is a local bookseller or newsstand for fall and holiday issues of craft, quilting, embroidery, and hand-made gift magazines.  I love to go through them over and over to collect ideas for that perfect inspiration.  Sometimes just an image or a decoration in the background of an ad will take my imagination to the most amazing project.  And then, I take a look at the many beautiful and helpful instruction and project books in the book store craft section.  I can tell just by the photos if the book contains project ideas that are my “this year” style and taste.  Remember crafting has a trend set just like fashion and pop culture.

This selection process is the most exciting part of gift making for me.  Picking the gift ideas is as much fun as watching my friends and family open the gifts I have lovingly hand made for them.  But if I’m honest, making something fabulous each year for each person on my list is pretty high pressure.

I read an interesting article a few years ago on gift giving.  It has really stuck with me.  The author reminded us that although we strive for it, not every gift for every occasion is  going to be the perfect gift.  We need to keep that in mind, especially crafters, who invest time and effort and love, as well as money.  Some years, our gift will be the most remembered, the most clever, the most needed, the most beautiful.  And that should be enough.  We won’t be able to hit it every year, but a thoughtful remembrance for those we love, given and often made from the heart, is always appreciated.  We shouldn’t set ourselves up to outdo each year.  Just do our best, and be our thoughtful selves, and each gift giving opportunity will be special.

Now, let’s get out the sewing machine and glue gun and make a crafty mess!!!!

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