Handmade Christmas Gifts, Part II

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I prefer to make just a handful of gifts each year so that I focus my energy on the projects that inspire me, so that I can finish my gift-making with plenty of time to spare, and so that I can avoid adding to the list of inevitable end-of-year stresses. This year I made the superhero capes that I blogged about earlier in the week, as well as two other gifts, one for Aidan’s mom and one for my brother’s girlfriend.

The gift I made for my brother’s girlfriend was an attempt to give a bit of a personal touch to an otherwise generic gift. Since we live pretty far from our family, this year was the first chance that I’d had to actually meet my brother’s girlfriend. My dad’s gift suggestion was that she would appreciate any kind of “girl stuff” like candles or lotions or the like. As it turns out, there is no shortage of generic “girl” gifts to be given, but that doesn’t mean the options are inspiring. I’m no Leslie Knope when it comes to gift-giving, but I still hate giving a gift that says, “I did the least I could possibly do to give you something.” So I compromised and paired some generic gift items—a scented candle and a tea/mug gift set—with an easy pair of knitted hand warmers.

Handwarmers via sweetalchemy.wordpress.com

I made these using the Women’s Wrist Warmer pattern from Last Minute Knitted Gifts. I adjusted the pattern numbers slightly to account for using a lighter yarn and smaller needles than called for in the pattern—you can get all the specific knitting details here on Ravelry. I made these using yarn leftover from a previous project and was able to complete them in a single evening, so making this gift wasn’t a major investment of time or materials. Even if she doesn’t end up wearing them, I like to think that taking a bit of time to make something for her says, “I’m really glad to finally meet you. Thanks for treating my brother well.”

Handwarmer Gift via sweetalchemy.wordpress.com

When it comes to making handmade gifts, I think that careful finishing can be the difference between a gift a person wants to receive and a gift they give some major side-eye. When these hand-warmers came off the needles, they looked like little mussed tubes of nothing. When I blocked these, I made sure to let them soak for a good long time to really relax the stitch pattern and then stretched them over some cardboard templates that I cut out myself. (Saying I made a template is a fancy way of saying that I cut a 3” rectangle out of some cardboard to stretch the handwarmers to 6” circumference.) Careful blocking doesn’t change the fact that these are essentially simple knitted tubes with a thumb-hole, but it at least helps them look a little more impressive laying flat.

Tuscan Greeting via sweetalchemy.wordpress.com

The gift I made for Aidan’s mom definitely took more than an evening to complete, although I finished it much earlier in the year. I thought of Aidan’s mom as soon as I saw this Tuscan Greetings Dimensions kit—not only because it matches the decor of her kitchen and living area, but also because Aidan’s parents celebrated their 30th anniversary this year. This is the third Dimensions kit I’ve made in the last couple of years. Like a lot of mainstream designs, they don’t really match up with my personal aesthetic, but they’ve worked well as gifts that I’ve given people, and I honestly think that they are some of the best kits I’ve used. Their charts are easy to read, the instructions contain good explanations of the different stitches used, they separate out and label the different thread colors, and they rarely make use of 1/4 or 3/4 stitches that can be fiddly or difficult for beginners.

Thus ends my recap of handmade Christmas gifts for 2013. All in all, it was a very low-stress year of gift-making. The worst part was when we shipped our presents and had to sit for a week in a cold sweat hoping they would actually make it to Wisconsin. We ended up getting to Wisconsin before our presents, but they arrived just in the nick of time. Here’s to a new year of making!

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