Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Giving Handmade Gifts for Holidays or Any Day



As you may have guessed, I gave a lot of homemade gifts for Christmas this year. I could go on and on about the merits of giving handmade, but I'm guessing if you are reading my blog that focuses mainly on crafting you probably don't need convincing. Today I'd like to talk about the etiquette for giving handmade things.

Even though the Christmas season is over, I still feel that it is a good time to chat about giving handmade. The tree may already be on the curb, but it's never too early to start planning for next year! Or...thinking about all the other potential handmade-gifting opportunities that'll spring up before Christmas time comes around again. Birthdays...Flag Day....I don't know. Just go with it.

The Art of Giving Handmade Gifts
I feel that the etiquette of giving handmade can be broken into three areas of attention:

1. The proper recipient
2. The proper project
3. The proper care

Rule One: The proper recipient
My mama's mohair scarf also makes a nice earwarmer, apparently.
The hardest person to craft gifts for: Sailor.

But I had victory this year. Republic of Georgia Hat FOR THE WIN.
When deciding to give someone a handmade gift, you must consider the person first. How well do you know them? If it is a distant relative or somewhat casual acquaintance, tread with caution. Putting a lot of time and effort into a gift for someone you do not know very well is risky business. Even if you plan to make a simple scarf or some hair clips for this person, keep in mind that your efforts may not be used at all. Perhaps you may consider saving the supplies and time to make something for someone you know better. I am speaking from experience here.

In the past, I have labored over handmade gifts for everyone I knew with the thought that it will be the ultimate sign of love and care to those who get the goodies. I spent quite some time working on everyone's gifts. While nobody was rude about what I made them, most people's reactions were mild. "Oh that's nice" and the gift was set aside. I wasn't looking for fireworks and tears of joy, but it dawned on me that I need to really think about who will appreciate the effort I made, and thus get more joy out of the gift.

But, then again, maybe you have unlimited free time an pile of free supplies to use up and you just want to wrap every passerby in handmade love. That was not meant to sound sarcastic. I'm serious! I don't know your life. But most people (like me) probably do not have this kind of time on their side. For the best homemade gifting experience, I say give to the people you know well so you can make something you know they will love. Which brings us to the next point...

Rule Two: The proper project
Daddy loved his do-rags. He even wore this Dr. Seuss one to a party later Christmas day, and wore an entire outfit that matched it. Blue shirt, red tie. Looove it.
 Not all gifts are created equal. I believe that whether handmade or store bought, the best gift is one that the recipient will use and enjoy. Giving your uncle a hand-crocheted wedding gown probably isn't logical, though he may appreciate the effort you put into it, it's kind of doubtful he will use/enjoy it. (Though, your uncle might. See above. I don't know your life.) But that is all pretty obvious. With handmade gifting, you need to put extra consideration into what the giftee will use and enjoy.

Sometimes, this task is super easy because your aunt straight up emails you a pattern of a scarf she wants. Sometimes, it's tricky because you started a hat in the color your cousin liked a month ago, and then she texts you saying she now hates yellow. If you are really stressing picking the proper project for someone, do some sneaking! I had my mom help me on reconnaissance this year for my sister's gift. If you don't think reconnaissance is possible, just ask the giftee. Better safe than sorry.

Another tip for this rule is to try not to let your own desires get in the way of selecting a project. Some of you might be like, "What are you talking about, Carolyn?" I'm talking about the mental image you have of your husband in a tight Aran knit sweater you made him pulling the nets back onto his fishing boat off the coast of Maine, when you live in a land-locked state and your husband hates wool sweaters. Maybe I'm just talking to myself here, but just make sure that the project you choose is something they want to use, not something you want them to want to use. I have a serious problem in this department.

Aunt Harriet lives in California, and while she may go "Ohhhh myyyyyy" at the thick wool bedspread you made her, it is probably not going to get much use. Uncle Glenn does work in a butcher shop, but knife cozies are not a thing, no matter what pinterest tells you. Though your mom laughs at possums, she will not wear a possum-shaped hat. Be real, yo, and your gifting will go much better.

Excuse me while a tuck this sweater pattern back into my folders before we move on to the final rule.
Grandma and her neck warmer.

 Rule Three: The proper care
This might have been a risky choice, giving my cousin a wool hat. But I think he can be trusted, since his mama is super crafty as well and probably does most of his laundry.
 Now that you know who you are going to give a handmade gift to, and what you are going to make, it's time to talk about care. The care of what you made, that is.

Handmade things have the potential to require a bit more attention to care than store bought products. When giving handmade be sure to include care instructions for the materials you use. And again, consider the person you are making the project for. Does your cousin have a habit of being really bad at following directions? Well, maybe you should give him a pre-felted wool hat instead of one that will turn to a barbie hat when he inevitably throws it in the washer despite your warnings. It is also probably a good idea to make sure nobody on your gifting list has allergies to anything you might make.

Grandpa can be trusted with wool, because Grandma does his laundry. And she knows what's up.
My cousin got a scarf made of cotton, because it's easy to take care of. And it's so soft, so he can wear the scarf year-round. Maybe.

So, there you have it! The best rules for giving handmade gifts! Hope you found this helpful or at least somewhat readable!

Yours craftily,
Carolyn