Friday, January 09, 2015

Planning for handmade gifts, Part 2

Little Sam was happy with his Thomas pillowcase!
Today I'm following up on yesterday's post concerning handmade gifts.  Yesterday's post was about brainstorming and planning; today's will be more practical and hands-on.  I think it was back in 2007 when I first posted about my Christmas notebook, so some may have missed those posts.  (You can access them all by clicking on "Christmas notebook" in the label cloud.)  The one I'm sharing today is adapted from a 2007 post.

The Handmade Gifts part of my Christmas notebook is an idea I got from someone on the craft forum at Our Home for the Holidays some years ago. I tweaked it a bit, I think, to make it work better for me; I'm not sure I completely understood the concept. But the way I've done this works well for me.

Basically, I took a look at the different things I wanted to craft for Christmas gifts and decorations. I then divided these up into categories based on what type of craft technique they involved. Of course these categories will vary depending on what sort of crafts you like to do.

The categories I came up with were : Sewing; Crochet; Embroidery/Cross-Stitch; Paper/Printables; and Miscellaneous.

For each category, I used one of those manila divider pages that has a pocket in it. I placed an index tab on each one with the name of the craft technique in it. Then, in the pocket of each divider, I placed the printed instructions for each craft item in that category. For example, I wanted to make my husband a new checkbook cover for a stocking stuffer, so I placed the instructions for this project in the divider for the Sewing category. (Obviously, this won't work if your instructions are part of a book or magazine, but read on.)

Also in each category, in addition to the divider, I have timelines: a number of sheets of lined paper where I've outlined just what projects I want to do in that category; how many of each; materials required, and what date I'd like to be finished by. On this lined paper I would also add the information as to where to find the instructions if they are part of a book or magazine and not conducive to placing in the divider page.

For example, in the sewing category, I might have:

10 -12 foldable fabric baskets
Materials - Christmas fabric, plastic canvas, thread, ribbon

Finish by: June 25

5 fleece pillow quilts
Materials needed for each - 2 1/2 yds. fleece, pearl cotton to match

Finish by: October 25

In both cases the instructions were such that they'd fit into the divider pocket. But if they weren't, I'd add a line that says something like this:

Gooseberry Patch Christmas Book 1, page 25


Crafting Traditions magazine, Dec. 1995, page 20

or whatever your book or magazine is.

As far as what date to choose to finish by, a lot of the ladies on the craft forum like to plan to be finished with all handcrafted gifts by the end of November, some even earlier.  This makes December more relaxing, plus gives you time to make an ornament or a decoration that catches your eye.

When deciding a target date for finishing a particular gift, I let it depend on how time-consuming a gift is and allow a longer time for making a more complicated item, or many of the same item.  

I also take into consideration portability of projects; for example, crocheted pot holders or dishcloths can be done anywhere; riding in the car or on public transportation; sitting at the beach or at a picnic table while camping.  I might choose to finish those in the summer.  Something like the pillow quilts that needs a lot of space to lay out and cut and requires the use of the sewing machine is best done during a season when I am home and more likely to be indoors.

I also think about how heavy a project might be to work on; for instance, I wouldn't work on a crocheted afghan or throw in summer because it would be too warm and heavy to hold in my lap.  A scarf or potholder, though, is doable.  

So just use common sense in setting a target date to finish each item.

It also helps a lot to list the materials you need for each project.  In some cases, you might have everything you need right in your stash!  Other times, it might require an online order or a trip to a craft or fabric store.  Listing the materials keeps you from that last-minute panic of not having what you need to complete a gift.

Yesterday I mentioned that handcrafted gifts can also be non-traditional; that is, you might write up a memory book or a personalized cookbook as I have done many times.  Just keep in mind that if you choose to do something like this involving printables, that one material you'd better be sure to list is printer paper and ink cartridges.  (I have good reason to know this.)

So there you have it -- planning for handmade gifts, in a nutshell!
For me, this has been a great way to organize my Christmas crafting. Hope it's helpful to someone else!

Josiah with a pillow fight shield.  I made about seven of these, I think.


  1. Love this! Thank you for taking the time to write it all out!

  2. You're welcome, Susan!! I hope it helps you in planning your handmade gifts and in carrying out your plans!

  3. That's a good idea. I have a craft book where I store patterns (trying to declutter this and use Pinterest instead). Then I make a list of things I want to craft for Christmas & halloween (my 2 main subjects), put the necessary accessories in ziploc bags and just search in the pile when I feel like doing something.

  4. That is a great idea, Luludou! It sounds like what some of my crafting friends do -- they make "kits" for certain projects and assemble in ziplock bags; then, when they want to do that project they just grab a bag and are ready to go. It's a terrific idea, but I am usually not that organized -- although I try to take a few ready-to-go projects along when we travel.


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