As you can imagine, I watch a tremendous amount of television. I like to keep my hands busy, so while I’m on the couch, I’m often making jewelry, knitting, crocheting, or doing other craft projects. Many of these are gifts, but I sell some jewelry on Etsy.
I come from a very large, but close family. Years ago, I decided I couldn’t possibly buy presents for all my aunts and uncles and cousins. I could visit the dollar store and still go broke! But as my cousins started to have kids, and they would only get to see me for maybe a couple hours a year, I decided to do Christmas presents for them. It’s been a great excuse to get creative and learn new skills, but every year I say it’s gone too far and I have to stop.
2008 – Piggy Banks
There were 7 children in 2008, ranging in age from 5 to newborn. I got this idea while I was cleaning my apartment and came across a piggy bank my great-aunt made for me when I was 7, that I still have. I bought “paint your own bank” kits from Amazon and used my own paints and sealers to finish them. I had to bring some home at Thanksgiving, because they wouldn’t have all fit in my bag otherwise (things I make go in my carry-on whenever possible).
2009 – Blankets
This year I was obsessed with the idea that everyone must be cold, all the time. So the younger kids got fleece blankets, which I made by sewing two pieces of fleece together, about 6″ in from the edges. Then I cut and knotted fringe. (A few years later, when I was at VH1, I ended up on “making fleece blankets” duty for volunteer day and impressed the hell out of everyone with my cutting and knotting skills. I explained that I’d had a lot of practice.) The older two girls got quilts made with whatever fabric I had around, in one of those fun exercises in “I can do it because I say I can do it!” And my friend Mary got a butterfly quilt made with vintage handkerchiefs from Ebay. (If you are going to do this, look for lots of “slightly damaged” handkerchiefs. They’re much cheaper and you can almost always fold the butterflies so the damage is hidden.) One of my cousins texted me a couple months later to let me know that her daughter had been sick during the night, but good news – the quilt was washable! Which was the first time something very important occurred to me – presents had to be washable. In other important lessons, while I was making these I realized the gift bags alone might cost me an arm and a leg, which was when I stumbled on the 99 Cents Store for gift bags. It’s where I’ve gone every year since, and as a bonus, the kids all took the blankets out of the bags and then immediately climbed in themselves and ran around entertaining us and each other.
2010 – Hats, Scarves, Capelets
This was the year I decided to learn to knit and crochet. (I started in February.) I made hats and scarves, or capelets, and the two newborns got blankets. I knew better than to try for mittens or gloves, but for instance the twins got hats with little puppy ears on them, because their favorite thing was to “play puppy.” I didn’t get many pictures because this is also the year my friend had just had major brain surgery and it was horrible just getting back in time for Christmas, but it all got done. I used acrylic yarn so everything was machine wash-and-dryable.
2011 – Amigurumi
Amigurumi is the art of crocheting stuffed animals. When I found patterns on Ravelry, they tended to have notes like “I was able to finish this in just a couple hours!” As it turns out, I am not a particularly fast crocheter. Plus, crocheting this tightly is really hard on the hands. But I asked my cousins what their kids’ favorite animals were and got to work! The oldest two girls got handmade reversible purses. (This is my parents’ cat, who saw me pull out a camera and had to get in front of it, which is the Kitty Way.)
2012 – Capes
Unfortunately, I did not get pictures of the capes, but I did get pictures of the oldest two in their unicorn hats. The capes for the rest of the kids happened because I was watching Jon Stewart on the Daily Show rail about Halloween costumes for girls being decidedly un-empowering, and I thought any girl related to me needed to know she could be a superhero. Or a queen. And then I decided to make capes that were metallic fabric with sequin trim on one side and bright satin on the other with their first initial painted in a superhero font, so they were hero on one side and royalty on the other. And then I actually sat on my couch trying to figure out what to do for the boys for a few minutes before I realized they could get the same thing. (duh) The downside ended up being that the materials were kind of expensive (but still under my $10/ea budget), but as an upside they were REALLY easy to transport on the plane.
Felt Monster Dolls