Every year I have the best intentions to hand make the majority of my Christmas presents. Even with Christmas being plastered everywhere starting November 1st (while everyone is still sick on Halloween candy), I never seem to be able to get anywhere close to hand making much of anything. I always blame it on something. Work, house work, baby, cleaning, that baby again, other stuff... you know, the usual accomplices.
This year was surprisingly different. Sort of, anyway.
I naturally had goals and aspirations higher than the pile of laundry in my bedroom. I didn’t get all of it done. I think I got half. (Baby steps, right?) At any rate, I am still uber proud of my accomplishments and felt the need to share them with more people than were gifted these items (okay, brag. But only a little. And more in a if I can do it, so can you sort of way!)
The first item up for gifting was some hand made soaps. I just love using artisan soap that I buy at Farmer's markets, craft fairs, etc. Making soap is not nearly as daunting as it initially looks, however that is a post for another day. The brief version is: I made three soaps: one for the ladies, one for the gents, and one for the kitchen connoisseurs. The first was "Sweet Tea" that I made with the green tea as the base and added sugar for exfoliating. The second was "Honey Beer" soap using beer as the base and adding honey. The last was "Rosemary Dill" which was made with rosemary essential oil and dill weed. The recipe can be found here. I kept it simple and wrapped them in kraft paper or tissue paper.
Another gift was little button ornaments. The idea came from my friend Martha Stewart (okay, you caught me. We may not actually be friends...) from here. I would give you a photo of these, but I forgot to take any in decent daylight. I made a little snowman, reindeer (Rudolph specifically. He had a red button nose.), and a Santa. I love this because it can be made with things you have lying around the house and is still really cute!
This next project was a little gift from Penny to her Grandmas. My idea with this one is to create a little picture, painting or something every year to fit in the frame so they can have a little history of Penny's artistic endeavors through the years. This year I had her finger paint with varying shades of green. I cut a Christmas tree out of that (and also made little brown stumps). I mounted the tree atop some burlap and then matted and framed it. It turned out pretty cute. I also thought that if they hated it, they only had to put it up for a month every year!
Note: Don't bother cutting your shape prior to painting. I ended up having to resize the tree anyway.
I don't know about you, but I feel like dads are the hardest people to buy gifts for. I remember as a child, my mom would have us get a can of nuts and socks, underwear, or undershirts for my dad from us kids. My sister and I played on that idea this year (minus the undergarments thankfully) and made my dad a little nutty scavenger hunt. We used pistachios, cashews, and roasted pecans. I etched some jars that I found at target for about 4 bucks each with the labels: "Dad's nuts", "Grandpa's nuts", and "Nuts." A little play on words there. A little possessive, a little conjunctive, and well lets just leave nuts as meaning the food (Hey! I thought we were keeping undergarments out of this!) :) For the etching, I outlined the area in painting tape, and then used stickers to write out the phrase. Applied the etching cream and let it sit for about 10 minutes, then just washed it off. I am just itching (or etching?) to get my hands on more jars to organize my trinkets.
Penny's gift was probably the most fun. We made her a little kitchen sink and oven this year. My husband built it according to the plans from Ana White. We actually have her book, but you can find the plans here for free. The plans were super simple and easy to follow. We then primed and painted the set (the color is Kiwi by Pittsburgh Paints.) I sewed a little curtain for under the sink (the book had a tutorial for that as well.) We spray painted old yogurt/cottage cheese container lids for the burners, and used kitchen knobs for the stove knobs. The faucet is a cheap-o ten dollar bathroom faucet from Menards, and the kitchen sink is a stainless steel bowl. The kitchen dishware we bought is from Green Toys. Penny has a set of stacking cups also by Green Toys that we have been really happy with, and it is made from recycled milk jugs (bonus!), so we thought we'd give the dishware a try. Penny was also blessed with a little play food, a shopping cart, a chef's hat, and an apron from other family to go along with her kitchen.
I learned a few things along the way during this crafty Christmas. While they do seem somewhat obvious, here are a few key things to remember:
- Start early. This is probably where everyone goes wrong. You can't possibly get it all done in a week or two. You have to buckle down and just do it.
- Plan ahead. I can't even tell you how many trips I took to Michael's or Joann Fabrics because I forgot something or decided to make something else. They are both at least 20 minutes from my house, so I generally waste an hour just in travel time. Next year, I plan on actually planning! Let's make one list and get it all at once, and get it all early. All those precious hours of traveling I could have been using crafting (or baking and eating Christmas cookies that I never ended up getting to.)
- Remember that crafting and making homemade doesn't always mean thrifty. I spent more than I meant to on some gifts. Once you factor the cost of all the items, and the time and effort you put into the project, you may be better off buying something instead.
And since I am in a bragging mood, let's brag for other people! We received a polyester blanket that Josh's Grandma made from goodwill finds. Josh's parents have a bunch of these blankets that we take everywhere. Use them on the beach, outside, in the car, etc. They cannot be destroyed and you don't have to worry about ruining (if that is even possible) because it's cheap-o material. She also made me and the sisters-in-law the warmest pair of mittens. They are the perfect fit and so adorable. She even stitched leather to the palm so we can drive with them. My sister's boyfriend's mother (SO SWEET! She's not even my family!) made me a stack of washcloths. I love love love these washcloth. We got a couple handmade ornaments. My mom embroidered some dish drying towels and sewed me two new wet bags for Penny's stinkies-on-the-go. And lastly, my brother gave me a jar of his homemade vanilla extract (no picture, but it's just a jar) that he started in July (talk about starting early!! I definitely want to try this in the future.)
So there you have it. A Christmas full of Christ, a little bit of craft and a whole lot of blessings. Did you do any Christmas crafting? Receive any super thoughtful gifts? Already starting the to do list for next year? Do share.