Posted on 31 Comments

Truly embracing handmade?

Stockings and buttons

Hi, friends.  I was taking a breather after scrubbing the kitchen clean a little while ago, and I started thinking about the idea of a Handmade Christmas.  As you probably know, I am giving everyone on my list at least one handmade item this year (even if it’s just as small as an ornament).  What you may not know is that I’ve been doing the same thing for probably two decades now – long before the Handmade Pledge came along and made it “hip.”

But, see, for all of my talk about embracing handmade, I still have this nagging inner voice that tells me giving handmade gifts is seen by others as a cheap cop-out. Do you have this voice, too?

If I could be content gifting the gifts I’ve been sewing, knitting, and claying since November, I’d be nearly stress free right now.  Instead, I look down my list and say to myself:

Sure, these napkins are nice, and they involved a lot of thought, time, and material, but are my recipients going to think they’re as cool as I do?  Are they going to understand what went into them?  Are they going to like them?  Maybe I should stick a gift card in the package along with them, just to help ‘legitimize’ them as an acceptable gift.

Now, I know if you are reading this, that you are either a crafty person yourself, or can at least appreciate handmade things.  So you get it.  You would never think less of a handmade gift. And if you were on my gift list, I would happily exchange artful goodies with you and not think twice about it.  What concerns me are the non-artistic types in my life. I always imagine that they’re thinking, “why can’t Lisa just go shopping this year like everyone else?  I never know what to do with that stuff she makes.”   Although, I must say, they’ve never said as much to me.

Maybe I’m just “blessed” with self-esteem issues. 😉

What are your thoughts?  Do you have similar feelings about this?  Do you end up doing a combination of handmade & store-bought in order to “legitimize” your gift? Or are you perfectly comfortable that the thought, time, and materials you put into your handmade gifts are plainly apparent, and therefore your offerings can easily stand on their own?

Posted on 31 Comments

31 thoughts on “Truly embracing handmade?

  1. Personally? I’ve never worried about it – I’ve been giving handmade gifts to *everybody* ever since I got married twelve years ago! (And my poor, sad, first clay-covered ornaments still end up on my folks and my in-laws trees every single year. Wow, it’s amazing to see the progress I’ve made!)

    We don’t have a lot of extra money to throw around on store-bought gifts, but I will happily give people the gift of my talent and time.

    If they think less of me for it, then I don’t really need to be spending my time or energies on that person anyway!

    And I personally prefer receiving handmade gifts! 🙂

    See what Julie has been blogging about: A Traveling Clay Box

  2. My thinking on this has evolved quite a bit.
    I used to do a lot of handmade gifts, and often, I was crappy at it. I would work really hard and think that people should like them because they were from my heart, and maybe they did sometimes, but one year, in a fit of seasonal frustration, my dad made it clear to me that whatever handmade thing I had planned for my mother was not adequate. And he was right. I don’t even remember what it was, but it was not as good for her as, say, a book or a sweater.
    Because it’s not the effort that counts, but it is the thought.
    So it is at least as good, if not better, to give handmade gifts that people will enjoy: One big hit was the year I made our late grandmother’s heavenly jam recipe for all of the cousins. Another was a series of scrapbooks made for landmark birthdays. But handmade gifts don’t get off the “will they like this” hook just for being handmade. If you are thinking about the recipient, and the item is something that the recipient will enjoy, then handmade is excellent. If not, then not so much.
    Of course, Lisa, your least impressive handmade things are much awesomer than 97% of what I have ever made, and therefore the odds that the answer is “yes, the recipient will like this” skyrocket.

    See what bzzzzgrrrl has been blogging about: Rick rolling

    1. You’ve just most coherently expressed one of my frustrations. I’ve always made and given handmade items – since I was teeny tiny till now. And I’ve always tried to fit them to what the recipient would like.

      But there are some people in my life who nothing I normally make would be appropriate for.

      See what Elaine has been blogging about: Where do YOUR Earrings Live?

    2. I could just hug you. So much of what you said makes perfect sense, and I don’t know why it has escaped me this year, but it has. And I have now given myself permission NOT to make patchwork scarves for four people on my list, who were only getting them because I needed something to give them. They’d probably prefer a book. Or a gift card to a local restaurant. And I’d prefer to have back those 2-3 hours that I would have spent sewing.

      thankyouthankyouthankyou 🙂

      1. I live to serve, Lise. 🙂

        See what bzzzzgrrrl has been blogging about: Drawing warmth out of the cold

  3. I was going to say what bzzzzgrrl said. Exactly. Word for word. Okay, that’s a stretch, but she said it better than I could.
    So I’ll just say, Ohmygosh! those little stockings are THE cutest!! Why didn’t I think of that? *pout*
    Hope you all have a happy (handmade) Christmas!

    See what Alisa R. has been blogging about: Sing we all of Christmas….

  4. Yes I have exactly that same problem. I make as many Christmas presents as I can, but I always, always worry that the person won’t like them. Of course they say that they do, but are they just being polite? and laugh behind my back?? who knows!! Anyway your presents are awesome and anybody would be thrilled to get them 🙂

    See what Deb has been blogging about: Merry Christmas

  5. he he… I have the same problem as you for sure. And I have even had people COMMENT on the suitability of my handmade ornament vs the 3.00 walmart one. But some of my relatives are sweethearts like that.

    These days, the relatives I like get gifts that are handmade and/or require wrapping and thought… the rest, they get gift cards or donation to charity cards. It solves my self esteem issues and absolves me of gift guilt.

    See what Elaine has been blogging about: Where do YOUR Earrings Live?

  6. I’m so glad to hear I’m not the only one who’s got self-esteem issues when it comes to handmade gifts!

    I remember a handmade angel ornament my mom got in a gift exchange at church years ago. She thought it was the ugliest thing ever, and couldn’t believe someone would think it was a $15 value (or whatever the stated amount was for the exchange). I kidnapped the poor angel ornament just to give it a good home!

    I think that poor angel is always in the back of my mind when I contemplate giving someone a handmade gift. People’s tastes are so different. I just don’t feel confident that whatever I make will be loved by the recipient, and the fact that they probably wouldn’t tell me otherwise just makes it worse in my mind. So if I do handmade gifts, it’s in addition to whatever I’d get them anyway — which means I’m spending extra time AND money, and making the holidays extra stressful!

    Not sure what the solution is, but I’m glad to know I’m not the only one with the problem!

    See what Angela M has been blogging about: How to Make a Polymer Clay Button Wreath

  7. I also go with “it’s the thought that counts.” I try to only give gifts that I know the recipient would like. That’s the point of gift-giving to me. As a crafter, I will only give my handmade items to people who appreciate them. Others will get store-bought items they will appreciate. After all, it’s not about me as a giver, but them as a recipient. I have to set aside my hurt feelings (why doesn’t EVERYONE love the things I make?!?) and realize that we all have different tastes.

    Now, that said, with no income this holiday season, every single person is getting handmade gifts. Some people’s are nicer (i.e., requiring more thought and effort) than others. For instance, my brother-in-law is getting a crocheted hat. That’s it, because there’s nothing else I make that he will appreciate. His loss! LOL 😉

  8. I know just what you mean. I gave many hand-sewn gifts this year and in some cases, they were more expensive than a store-bought gift would have been. I like to use good material and it can be costly.

    In my mom’s case, I bought something from the store to include with her handmade pajamas.

  9. I get it and would be thrilled wit ha handmade gift you’ve made. Especially because you are talented and make lovely things to have and use. My husband and I have opted out of holiday gift giving for almost a decade now ourselves. Instead, I make 100 hand-made xmas cards every year (finishing off the last batch tonight actually.) Our list is mixed too, some will appreciate the concepts each year and some it will go over their heads, family or other consumer/materialists usually don’t appreciate our no-gift policy.

    Personally, I don’t care how the cards are received. I sometimes get thank you cards or calls for the cards which is gratifying. But mostly it’s my values and my act of making with love that is the point for me. The hours it takes is absolutely not worth it on paper. But after it’s done, I always get the idea for the next year!

  10. Judging by all the comments, it’s clear that you (and I) are not alone in this feeling! Yes, I do usually feel uncomfortable giving someone “just” a gift that I made myself, so I often end up adding the handmade gift to whatever I would normally get them– or that minus the cost of materials, sometimes. Certainly I don’t value my time and effort the way I do if I’m offering something for sale to strangers.

    My family would never say anything negative about my handmade gifts, I’m sure, but there is always that nagging doubt. Are they pretending to like it more than they really do? Of course, I have the same issues with store-bought gifts! It’s so hard to think of the perfect gift for everyone on my list– and my list isn’t even that long!!

    See what Michael has been blogging about: Tutorial: Gingerbread Cookies

  11. Wow, this is a hotter topic than I initially thought it would be! I had no idea that these feelings were so common. And there have been some interesting points I hadn’t considered, too. Good discussion!

  12. I wonder if this feeling of insecurity in gifting other people with our creations is tied to that difficulty we have sometimes in valuing our work if we sell.

    And, oh my gosh, it would hurt my feelings so very much if my dad ever felt the need to inform me that my handmade gifts weren’t “good enough” for my mom! ouch.

    1. I wish I could remember what it was, or that you knew what a gentle and kind man my dad is, or that you had ever seen one of my crappier craft projects.
      I suspect any one of those things would be enough to convince you that his apparent insult was probably not as bad as it sounds, and more like an observation. 🙂

      See what bzzzzgrrrl has been blogging about: Drawing warmth out of the cold

      1. bzzzzgrrrl – It’s that darn “no tone of voice over the internet thing” again, I’m sure. 🙂

        (and I’m amused at myself for taking the time to count and therefore ensure that I got the proper number of z’s and r’s in your name!:D)

        See what Julie has been blogging about: A Traveling Clay Box

  13. You hit the nail on the head! I do see a change, however in my family and my husband’s. It’s become the thing in my husband’s family to exchange handmade gifts with one another, usually whatever craft we’re into that particular year. This year my husband is giving his homemade apple jelly to even our great nieces, because last year they ate all their grandmother’s supply. Grandma (my husband’s sister) will get some, too. My great niece, Mara, wanted a crocheted poncho that was being sold last summer at the family reunion. It wouldn’t fit her and I promised her I would make her one. I knitted ponchos for Mara, her sister, and one for my granddaughter Grace because she loves to do everything the “big” girls do.

    My husband smokes turkeys and gives them to neighbors, friends and people who have done things for him, like let him hunt on their land, etc. Very well received.

    Anyway, I sure see what you mean. I guess we could tell ourselves that the gift item would cost as much as store bought at a craft show and people buy handcrafted items for gifts all the time. It depends on people’s values, I think. It’s too bad some don’t understand about skills, training, and experience.

  14. i think the important part is to put the thought into what the person would like to receive– not just what you would like to make. in some cases it might be something you could buy- but made instead. i always try to give something practical and useful but with a touch of fun. i’m a very practical crafter and gift giver, and i feel like if it’s something they’ll use a lot then they’ll grow fond of it over time. 🙂

    i do have the nagging doubts though. my family just does a white elephant style exchange to eliminate the stress and $, and so i thought that this year i could put together a handmade gift that “is valued” at what we were supposed to spend. however, i’m still waffling on it b/c i’d feel way worse if someone was disappointed in my handmade gift than if there were disappointed in some crap i bought at the store. so i packed a gift card just in case. hah.

    See what lindamade has been blogging about: It’s Oh So Quiet

  15. One option is to the handmade-by-someone-else gift–it’s still in the anti-commercial spirit of a Handmade Christmas, but it’s also ‘bought’ for the relatives that mind about that kind of thing (and it can still be returned, exchanged, etc.)

    Speaking of which, I think my sister will like her new Polkadot Creations watch, but if not, you’ll be hearing from her…. 😉

    What I come down to is this: most of the people I give to at Christmas don’t NEED anything. If they truly needed something tangible, that would be the gift I gave, obviously. But since that’s not the case, I feel free to give them a token of love, handmade or storebought or some combination–it might make them smile, they might love it, or they might roll their eyes and tuck it away, but it’s a genuine and sincere token. And since I ship everything, my tokens are smallish–no serious storage issues. Perishable gifts, food or art supplies, require even less storage. Wrap it with care, ship it in time, and hope for the best, I say.

  16. Since I started celebrating Christmas with my husband’s family (as well as my own) because there are so many of them, we decided it would be nice to make treats rather than buying gifts and going crazy.

    A few times I made jewellery for all the gals and I think we did something else for the guys. We’ve made chili oil, truffles, biscotti and this year (again) multiple batches of cookies and spiced nuts for everyone. I’m often torn thinking that the homemade gifts aren’t enough, but they all seem to appreciate them and agree with our wanting not to just ‘give stuff’.

    I figure if you give a gift, regardless if it’s handmade versus bought that if the recipient doesn’t appreciate it, it’s their loss…more love and care and thought goes into homemade gifts, I think, and I’m happy to give them. (even though I still angst sometimes…)

    See what Laura has been blogging about: Dragon Tears bracelet – karmabeads

  17. funny- we just had this “problem” last week at a party. not with my stuff..but anyways. i seem to make a few things for one person and then just pick. just because i keep thinking- that isn’t enough, that isn’t nice enough…same stuff. I brought a stuffed bear i made for someone and i think -well, i sell it for 10 bucks-does that count?even though it was free for me? i do worry–i am sure too much. come to think about it though…i have the same problem with store bought gifts. ok, there is no help for me….off i go to make another present. thanks for listening.

    See what becky has been blogging about: All hearts come home

  18. Yeah–I am right here with all the others, except even when i know a store bought gift is more appropriate, I still do the hand-made thing. I never really know if people like what I do or not, but here’s the real issue that I hate about handmade stuff:
    I get a reaction of almost DISTAIN for my skills. “Oh, so I guess you MADE this right?” and “OMG, What can’t you do??”
    How about “Wow, this is fantastic and you did a really good job!” that’s the reaction I want. Not comparisons to Martha.

    See what ella has been blogging about: More Crabbing about Crap

  19. Those little stocking ornaments are just a delight. I think it is a privilage to receive a homemade gift. I am thinking, just the oppositie, it is easier to buy a gift rather than make something homemade. As a matter of fact I am making a friend of mine a very special pair of polymer clay earrings!

  20. These are truly amazing!
    Love them all
    ¡Feliz Navidad!

    See what celia has been blogging about: School’s finished!

  21. Lisa, through the years I have been into many many many crafts 🙂 as I’m sure others have. But the only time I felt confident enough with what I was doing to give it as a gift was when I was traveling the craft show circuit selling rice necklaces. That is one of the few things that didn’t make my mom’s eyebrows raise and that certain tone say, “Oh. This isn’t quite what I was expecting.” I quit giving homemade because of my mom’s reactions to my many efforts. Thanks for understanding and letting me vent here!

  22. I’ve really enjoyed reading your responses on this thread – I have to remember to come back here next year and re-read this before I put too many homemade goodies on my gift list. I think it will save me a lot of angst!

  23. So, it’s been a year, and I’m back because Lisa just reminded me it was here (which is funny, because I was thinking about it earlier today).
    One more thought to add: This year, I’m doing a mostly-handmade Christmas, but I am also letting my own hands off the hook. So, where I can give something handmade that *I* made, I do. And where I can’t, I give a little business to Lisa and other craftspeople who could do something better. Everyone on my list is getting something handmade this year, but not everyone is getting something bzzzgrrrl-made.
    .-= See bzzzzgrrrl’s latest blog post: Brrrrr =-.

    1. I like that idea – I tend to think that way myself most years (that was especially true before I learned to sew & knit, and everyone on my list had been thoroughly inundated with my claythings). This year, though, I’ve dropped the ball on shopping in general, let alone handmade shopping.

  24. I alway give Home made gifts. A few years back someone that was on my “Gift List” had the nerve to tell me that
    “Homemade gift;s ” were very tacky !!
    Guess what she gets for Christmas from me now ?

  25. […] I am thinking about Christmas knitting, in particular, despite knowing better. […]

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