1.06.2008

Deconstructing Handmade Holidays

It was the best of Christmases,
it was the worst of Christmases.

The handmade holiday pledge made quite an impact on my December. And initially it wasn't pretty. For the entirety of the month, I was stressed out about the gifts that Barry and I were making. I spent every moment that I wasn't working obsessing about what we'd make and how we'd make it. And honestly, I threw in the towel about a week before Christmas. I decided to cheat - to buy gifts for my nephews and niece. And then my sister posted a comment on my blog about an assignment that her son completed in school, which involved listing his top ten favorite gifts. A scarf that I had knit for him a year or two ago made the cut, and my sister said that she and her kids were excited to see what handmade gifts we'd be giving this year. Handmade Christmas had been a lesson in the labor of love for the kids, she wrote. Man, how could I cheat knowing that? So I scrapped the store-bought gifts and went back to the old drawing board. Literally.

The end result was indeed wonderful. It was so touching this year to open gifts that were crafted especially for us by our loved ones. And the scale of the gift-giving seemed more appropriate than ever. My family intends on going handmade again next Christmas, which is why I'm so glad that I learned what not to do through my trials this year. The handmade pledge I'll take next year will have a few additional stipulations:

I promise that I will not wait until December to start making gifts for my entire family.
I promise that I will not start to make gifts using a craft or technique that I am generally unskilled in, hoping that the gifts will miraculously turn out to be amazing. Such foolishness results in thrown away projects. That's no fun, and doesn't help the time constraint issue.
I promise that I will not hem and haw over the perfect gift that will be both useful and gorgeously designed. I will simply make something that is from my heart to the recipient.

Now, a glimpse of what was given...

for my sister, earrings and a matching necklace:


for my brother-in-law, a print of one of Barry's photos:


for my niece, a jewelry box and necklace
(with enough pink to choke a fairy princess):


for my nephews, personalized bulletin boards:


for my brother and my sister-in-law, neckwarmers
(and matching wrist warmers, not pictured here)
with vintage button closures:


and what was received...

napkins and napkin rings to match the
place mats made by my sister-in-law:


notecards of a favorite Portland image by my brother:


a necklace by my metal-smithing sister:

I hope that you and your families had wonderful holidays.
Happy belated New Year to you, too.

31 comments:

traci said...

i did an all handmade-christmas a few years ago and it stressed me to the moon, but in the end it was the most fulfilling gift-giving ever. sadly i haven't braved it again but your rules are super smart. procrastination is what always kills me in the end. but i'm not so good at sticking to my word about starting early... all these gifts are so amazing, good work susan and i see you got some sweetness in return. score.

Shona~ LALA dex press said...

I'm glad to see that someone when the whole way with their pledge + it was embraced all around- such talent in your family! The necklace your sister made is stunning!

luv Abby said...

wow susan what beautiful gifts given and received... you have all done really well. what a talented family you have.
luv Abby

picperfic said...

so glad you managed to get the handmade stuff done it time..I totally understand the stress it gives you though. I put myself through that every December for years and then I came to my senses, fine tuned my gift giving and only made for those that I knew would know the love and thought and time that has gone into each gift I made. I love the necklace and earings you made for your sister, I would love a necklave made to match some of the earings I have bought from you ;^)

Chickenbells said...

How wonderful! My favorite gifts this year were 2 pairs of stripey wool socks knitted by my mother! I love them so much...I am wanting to explore more handmade holiday ideas for next year for sure...it's more satisfying indeed.

Maryanne said...

Suz-the stress was well worth it... gifts from the heart are the best of all. Mari's jewelry box now contains her most prized treausures and she takes it everywhere she goes. Best of all was dusting off my metalsmithing equipment and returning to something I love. Thanks for helping to rekindle this old passion. Please keep your eyes open for any disk-type wooden beads... I am overflowing with ideas!

amandajean said...

wow...your handmade gifts, both given and received, were fantastic!!! glad to see you back. :)

mariss said...

Wow! I am so impressed with the beautiful gifts you and your family made. How sweet your niece and nephews sound!

Glad you had a great holiday!

shy_smiley said...

your pledges are good ones, and I'm thinking about applying them to next year's holidays, too. How 'bout starting now!? Your gifts are fabulous, both given and received. The necklace your sister made speaks to me in so many ways. She made it for you, it is unmatched anywhere in the world. That's just so amazing.

TAYLOR MADE designs said...

I would totally pledge handmade with that kind of talent~ I'm impressed with all the gifts you gave and received. Very inspiring.

Happy New Year~

feli said...

Wow... your whole family is creative!! :*)

I love the personalise board. its sooo cool.

abbyjane said...

Good amendments to the pledge. And cool family that would all commit to this kind of gift giving! I like all the lettering you did on the gifts you made.

LeeAnn said...

They are all so gorgeous. Your family is very talented!

house on hill road said...

i am going on the record and saying that i will totally steal that bulletin board idea. really. i have 6 nephews.

and the handmade has its pluses and minuses, but the pluses always win out. you gave gorgeous and thoughtful gifts, susan. and the ones you received were just as wonderful. i am glad you feel good about it.

gkgirl said...

wowzers!
you guys really went all the way
with the handmade christmas pledge
and with fantastic results!

very inspirational!

beki said...

Such lovely gifts, both given and received. I'm hoping that once my kids get a little older that we'll be able to do a handmade Christmas.

Tracy said...

Yeah, the same thing sort of happened to me, too, with the things I made for gifts. I did, at least, take some help from some other handmade artisans, though, which was a good decision.

That necklace your sister made is perfectly groovy.

ambika said...

I *love* the bulletin boards and I expect your nephews did too. And the colors in the napkins & napkin holders is stunning.

holly said...

WOW - all such beautiful gifts! You all are so talented. I wish they weren't one of a kind items - i want one! :)

Robyn said...

Susan, you made some wonderful things! I'm glad the handmade gift exchange worked out. That's my goal for next year. This year, I waited too late to start making gifts for the Eid and we ended up going to the store. Next year, I, too, will plan better.
Oh, and I loved all the Christmas decorations you made. I'm sure your apartment looked lovely.

Sonya said...

That's one talented family you have there. I have to say that for all my touting handmade, I bought books and bought handmade. Point one and two, the starting in December and the pick-up craft - I know only too well. Extra-credit kudos to you Susan!

laundrygirl said...

Such great gifts! Wow- I'm impressed! I am so glad you shared...

lealou said...

Wow your gifts are wonderful! Happy New Year!

Mom said...

Dear Suzy,

It was a wonderful Christmas and I will treasure your letter to me for the rest of my life. I have read it many times and cannot tell you how much it means to me.

All of us being together was so special and seeing what you had all made for each other was such a gift in itself. Everything was perfect.

(However, Dad and I will continue to buy gifts - you know of some of the "crafts" I have made in the past at Craft Club - so I am sure that will make the family grateful!) Love, Mom

Justin aka Julie's bro said...

Happy New Year, Susan and Barry! Hope Portland is as much fun as I've heard. Super-duper gifts, guys. Really lovely. My best to you and yours; hope to be in touch.

a said...

Oh, Susan!! Those are all so beautiful! I'm quite impressed that you made hand made gifts for your whole family. I usually give used books to my family, but I aspire to a hand made holiday next year.

Funky Finds said...

Hi Susan! I've missed chatting with you online...just wanted to say hello & wish you all the best in '08!

Bitterbetty said...

Okay.. I did different gifts but seriously I felt like I was sprinting through all of November and December.

It was an odd sense of panic.

Your gifts, given and received are outstanding!

But I am all for a monthly check in support group to avoid the stress in 2008. Hear my cry:Just Cookies and Decorations in 12/08.

Beulah Sorensen said...

I only made a few handmade Christmas gifts this year, but my experience was similar to yours. Stressful, but ultimately so sweet and rewarding!

Erin said...

First off Happy New Year Susan. It sounds like you had a lovely Christmas. You certain made some very lovely gifts. I love the bulletin boards. How did you make them? I know Brayden's bulletin board could do with some sprucing up! I might have to borrow your idea. BTW...I didn't realize you could knit. Lovely neck warmers, and very practical too! Did you use a pattern?

I love the concept of handmade gifts. We tried it with the kids this year and got some sweet hand drawn pictures and some coupons for hugs and kisses!

amisha said...

happy belated new year, lady! (is it really the end of january... eek!)
i love seeing the results of your handmade holidays... really beautiful and inspiring. so much love in each piece.
xox