Posted by: mick | January 3, 2010

Handmade gifts

In the past I, like so many other crafters I know, have fallen into the trap of handmade gifts.  I get so excited about my hobby that I want to share it with others, and I don’t stop to consider two very important facts.  Fact the first: I am only human and can only accomplish so much.  Graduate school is stressful and time-consuming, and so committing to make every person on the list a handmade item may not be the best plan.  Thing the second:  Not everyone loves handmade gifts.  This is not a reflection on me, and I should not take it personally; some would prefer a gift certificate or book or what have you, and their preferences should come first when it comes to gift giving.  To force handknits on someone who may not want them is just silly and selfish.

This year, J and I cut our gift-buying budget way down, both with ourselves and our families.  We’re both still in school and saving for possible unemployment in the future, and so our families understand.  I looked at our list and decided that, while I couldn’t make something for everyone, I would for each of our mothers.  This is handy because they both proclaim to love handmade gifts (and are, as always, very encouraging of my crafty endeavors).

First, I tackled the gift for my mother-in-law, since it was a bit more time-consuming.  She enjoys knitting, which is awesome for me as I have yet another person to discuss the wonders of fiber with, and I thought she might like a skein of handspun yarn.  I’ve never spun for anyone before and, though I know I’m nowhere near perfect, moms tend to overlook those flaws that we worry about so she seemed like a perfect recipient.  J and I looked and looked on Etsy for fiber she’d like, and settled on 4 oz. of SW Merino from Spincerely (whose customer service was just impeccable and whose fiber is gorgeous) in the colorway Aegle, full of vibrant oranges and purples that would suit J’s mom perfectly.  I then spent some spare moments over a few weeks spinning it into 208 yards of two-ply, light fingering to heavy fingering, yarn suitable for socks.  My mother-in-law seems to like it, and J and I are both quite pleased.

Second, I spent my first two days of winter break making the gift for my mom.  When I was home this past summer, I noticed her table was a little bare.  She loves to entertain people at her gorgeous dining table, but her placemats were old and mismatched.  This doesn’t suit my mom’s fantastic sense of style, and so I hatched the plan back in August to make her a set of six placemats for her table.  I chose two coordinating fabrics that reflect the decor in her dining room as well as her living room, and then spent two days at the machine making the placemat pattern from Amy Butler’s In Stitches.  I’ve used this pattern before, but this time I think they came out worlds better; I took my time and worked very hard at sewing straight lines, which sounds easy but isn’t for this neophyte seamstress.  I was quite pleased with the result, and my mom seemed to be, too.

So there you have it, the two gifts I was able to make by hand this year.  I think cutting down the handmade gifts, and perhaps rotating them to different family members each year, will work out well.  This way I can really take my time and put a lot of thought and effort into the gifts, and I feel the love and care comes across in the final product.  This is the point, after all, of making and giving something from scratch.  I hope to keep that in mind in the future.



  1. Both of those look fantastic! I love the placemats, and the yarn looks gorgeous.

  2. I saw your post today. Good idea.


  3. both of these gifts are so gorgeous–that yarn is vibrant–I love the combination of purple and orange! And the placemats? So elegant!!! I know the recipients had to be jazzed!

  4. I LOVE my placemats, Mick. Thank you so much. They are perfect and made perfectly as well. I am so impressed with your abilities.

    Love mom

  5. Mick,
    I was awestruck to think that you spun the yarn for me. I told all the people at school what you had done..(all my knitting friends) and they were a bit jealous. I love the colors and thanks for putting the care instructions with it too. You can ALWAYS make me home made gifts as I love the creativity and appreciate the time involved.

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