One of the most common ways to save a little cash and give a really thoughtful, heartfelt gift to your friends and family for Christmas is to give them something you've made yourself. All you have to do is pretend you don't see the terror in their eyes when they open it and see you knitted them a sweater with one arm longer than the other. It's the thought that counts, right? Before good intentions lead you down the path of a crappy gift, let's talk about when a DIY present is — and isn't — a good option.
Photo by erika g.
The Short Answer: Yes, It's Completely Appropriate...With Conditions
Before we go too much further, let's settle the original question. Yes, it's perfectly appropriate to give handmade gifts to friends and family, and even to colleagues and people you may be in a gift exchange with. The trick is to do it tactfully, and to do it with items you actually know how to make. In a time where gift guides and wishlists rule the web, sometimes it's refreshing to get a gift that's handmade and heartfelt, even if it's from a colleague you don't always see or a friend who lives far away.
Now before you pick up your knitting needles or try to figure out whether you have your sewing pattern inside out or upside down, the key to tactful DIY gift giving is to make sure you know what it is you're making, and to know the audience you're giving the gift to. Both these are critical if your gift is going to be a success, and not just wind up in someone's desk cabinet at work or stashed in a box in the back of a closet.
Photo by Marta O.
Stick To What You Know
Before you decide to knit your best friend's dog a sweater for the holidays, ask yourself: do you actually know how to knit? And why does this dog need a sweater, anyway? They're simple questions, but seriously, don't commit yourself to crafting a gift if you don't know what you're doing. There's a time for experimentation and trying new things, but that time usually isn't at Christmas when the people you're giving your creations to will feel obligated to use them or wear them. If cooking is your thing, consider some vanilla sugar or smoked salt, or some baked goods that you know will be delicious because you've made them before — or at least know how to make them. If you're handy around the house, why not stop by IKEA and pick up the goods for some simple IKEA hacks that will do your giftee well around the house.
In the end, if you're considering making a gift, stick to the skills you've actually developed, and avoid crafts that you're not familiar. There might be exceptions to this rule: if you know for fact your best friend really needs a scarf and you think you can manage it, you could try it. Still, if your best friend needs a scarf and you're more comfortable in the kitchen, that's a better place to use your creative skills.
Photo by msmornington.
Know Your Audience And Craft Appropriately
You may be a knitting whiz, or a cooking genius, or a DIY expert, but if your giftee has all of the cold weather clothes they need, is a picky eater, or is handier around the house than you are, don't waste your time trying to make something for them they can probably make better themselves. Unless they've been the one teaching you and you want to give back, it's inevitable you'll give them something that won't wind up being used. Instead, consider their needs, their own skills and hobbies, and then your skills.
If you're the knitting or sewing type and your DIY friend just moved into a new apartment, make them some pillows from a couple of T-shirts you know they'd like, or knit them a throw for their new couch. Leave the household work to them unless you're 100 per cent sure you're on the right track with your gift. Make sure the person you're canning homemade apple butter or preserves for isn't actually allergic to apples. If you're making a huge batch for everyone in the office, try to find out if there's anyone who absolutely hates apples and give them something that says "Hey, I thought of you too."
In the end, it is the thought that counts, but that thought shouldn't just be "What can I make that'll take care of all of these people on my list at the same time?" Put some consideration into what the people on your list need or would like, or what makes a personal statement from you. Giving a handmade, DIY gift of food, clothing, art, or a useful household item is a great idea, as long as you know you can do it well, and you're sure they'll love it.
Do you give DIY or handmade Christmas gifts, or are you planning to stick to cash instead? What do you specialise in? Share your gift ideas in the comments below.
Photo by Whitney.