Some thoughts on gift making

I love making gifts for the people I care about. Nearly every time I get an invitation for a wedding or a housewarming or hear a baby is expected I get excited and think “oooh, I’ll make a gift!”. Sadly though, my creative time is limited and if I made a gift for every single occasion I don’t think there would be any time left to make anything else. As a result, I have to make choices and often the choice is made for me because I simply run out of time (planning these gifts and starting way ahead of time is not my strongest point). That gets me in a whole different spot of trouble because now I suddenly have to think about what to buy. Of course I didn’t give that any thought since I was going to make something and thus spend all my time thinking about what I was going to make and how I was going to do that.

Last week was no exception. I had a housewarming this weekend and decided weeks ago that I was going to make something (like I always do). But what to make? Hmm, since it is a housewarming I suppose it would be nice if the gift is somehow house-related. An apron, maybe? It is a bit of an obvious gift and I think most people already own at least one. For example, we have 3 and I didn’t make or buy any of those myself so chances are she already has one. A pillow? Could be nice, but I’m not sure whether she changed her décor during the move and what if I pick completely wrong colours?

Then I suddenly realise the housewarming is this weekend so I am running out of time (again!). On top of that I have a busy week at work, work several long days and am tired. Crafting doesn’t really happen when I am tired. Still, I stubbornly think I’ll manage to squeeze out a gift at some point, not sure when though. And what, that too.

Some of the options that crossed my mind the last couple of days:

  • Fabric bunting, it can be really festive to decorate your home with bunting for a birthday. Not sure though if someone living on her own is going to use it. Probably better to save this idea for families with young children.
  • A cherrystone pillow! That is really warm and cosy when it is cold outside. Problem, how on earth am I going to get my hands on cherrystones to fill a pillow and still have enough time left to actually make one? Might be a good idea for a future gift however!
  • Ooh, I know! A set of fabric napkins! That is really nice to have when you have some people over for dinner. And I can use the rolled hem feature on my overlock machine! That should make it a fast make too! And then I discovered that it is advised that you use fray-check or something to secure the thread ends. The only store I know in Leiden that might have stocked something like that closed its doors last weekend. Perhaps I should make sure to get some fray-check for future napkin endeavours.
  • I could of course make fabric napkins with mitered corners. But, do I really want to make 24 perfect mitered corners when I am tired? Not really, but perhaps I could make a set of 4 instead of 6? But that is still 16 corners, don’t think so, I’ll probably give up after napkin #1.

This time I was smart enough to admit a day before the party that it just wasn’t going to happen (I don’t really want to know how often I’ve had to rush on the day itself to get a gift). I went ahead and bought a set of nice, thick, soft, organic cotton kitchen towels in a lovely green colour that I think my friend likes as well.

Am I learning from all this? I sure hope so, it’s about time I get realistic about what I can actually achieve in the time and energy I have available. So, for now I have decided to only attempt to make gifts for newborn babies because that is something I really enjoy doing (probably until their numbers rise to ridiculous figures at which point I’ll have to get realistic again). For other occasions I am first going to see what I can buy. If I’ve already bought something I won’t be tempted to think I can still make something and waste a lot of time thinking about projects I never end up making in the process. I’ve already given at least one handmade gift to most of the important people in my life anyway. I will continue to make gifts but I’ll just be more selective in choosing the occasion.

After buying the gift for the housewarming on Friday I blissfully watched the men’s 5k speedskating on Saturday, which couldn’t have gone better for the Dutch team. Today I watched the women’s 3k speedskating which also went very well and finished a quilt top (also a gift by the way…).

Does anyone recognise these gift making dilemma’s? How do you prioritise ?

February 9, 2014

Emmely Treffers

About Emmely

I am a sewing enthusiast from the Netherlands. I live in the Leiden area with my husband and two daughters and I am currently working as a senior researcher in molecular virology. With my quilting patterns and sewing blog I want to infect as many people as possible with my love for sewing.

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  1. Ali

    Oh yes! I’m right with you in the dilemma stakes! I decided at Christmas that I’d only make pressies for those who would appreciate the time and effort that goes into them!
    I find it takes longer to decide what to make that actually make it.
    I’m hoping to make a few things and have a gift box with pressies ready. This is a brink em tho as so far I’ve loved everything I make and want to keep it!!

    • Emmely

      Oh the time that goes into thinking. I suppose that’s how my creative process works but it feels so unproductive sometimes. I’ve tried making things in advance but it didn’t really work because I usually choose fabrics and design for a project based on the person I make it for. Only for baby gifts I’ve had some success with making stuff in advance because tiny t-shirts are cute anyway.

  2. Ali

    Oops, end bit should say ‘this is a problem tho…’ ✂️

  3. katechiconi

    Housewarming gifts for the tired and busy: make a quilt sandwich with a nice piece of fabric, some batting and backing. It needs to be the size of 4 place mats. Quilt it, doing something easy like cross hatching or parallel wiggly lines. Cut it in 4. Bind the 4 sections. There you are, hand made placemats. Or make two pot holders/heat pads the same way. Buy a couple of matching tea towels. Personalise them with some nice satin-stitch applique. You can buy a bunch of tea towels in advance and keep them for the purpose. Quick. Easy.

    • Emmely

      I never thought of making 4 placemats in one go, that’s brilliant and I’m going to keep it in mind!

    • seesawyer

      That is brilliant! I made some quilted placemats recently, and discovered that you can get 8 15″x17″ placemats, which are a very good size, out of a (US-)standard crib-sized piece of batting. So next time I will just cut that batting in half, do my quilting, and then cut and bind like you say 🙂

  4. onedabbles

    I love your enthusiasm and impulse to make gifts – especially when your time is limited and clothes always beckon! I’m too new and slow to make many things as gifts but I hope to in the future.
    I’ve knitted three scarves for people (easy patterns). I tend to decide to make something as a gift but never tie myself down to a date or occasion – when it’s finished, it’s finished! I also don’t tell them in advance, just in case it doesn’t turn out well ; )
    I’ve actually decided to try and make a gift for someone using your pillow/cushion case tutorial – so I’ll post as to how it goes.

    • Emmely

      I also never tell them in advance. Unless I have already started working on it, really want to finish it and completely missed the deadline I’ll tell them the gift is in progress. Then it’s usually meant for a family member anyway and they are much more understanding.
      Can’t wait to see how your pillow turns out!

  5. Deborah

    I have so little time for crafting. When I make something, I usually have someone in mind, and that’s that. I had dreams when I was younger of mapping out gift making through the year, so I could do handmade gifts for everyone for Christmas. I probably don’t need to tell you how that turned out. So, my family has a few things here and there, and I’ve made things for a few friends, but if a gift is needed for other occasions, I usually buy something.

    • Emmely

      Your approach is a much more sensible one. I’ve realised I’m not good with sewing related deadlines because these projects don’t get priority in the grander scheme of things. For example I don’t think my boss would be very amused if I regularly decide to take the day off because “I really need to finish that quilt by this weekend…”. And when I’m tired resting seems (and is!) more important.

  6. Franzi

    Oh, I hear you. I always have these great ideas for gifts but do I actually make them? Nope. It’s a time issue, and a skill issue too. All these ideas on pinterest stay just that, pins 😉 lol

    I’m telling myself that once grad school is over I WILL HAVE TIME! We’ll see!
    ~ Franzi

    • Emmely

      I always tell myself that I’ll have time at some later point. I mean I’m busy now, but I won’t be as busy next month, right??? Somehow it never really works out as I thought it would…

  7. ukcitycrafter

    For my friend’s birthdays I often decide at the beginning of the year on a present and make several so they are all sitting there ready for when the birthdays arrive. Last year most people got lovely bookmarks.
    For a house warming I’d buy some plain tea towels and appliqué a design on them. Of course not everyone likes or appreciates homemade gifts so those folk get something bought.

    • Emmely

      That is so organised. I fear I am too much of a procastinator to plan that far ahead. Or, I could plan it and then I think I’ll still have ages to complete everything and then suddenly I need it tomorrow. The people that I suspect don’t appreciate hand-made always get storebought.


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