Tips for Tardy Gift Makers

Every year I have good intentions that I’ll start making gifts early in the year; you know, so that there isn’t a grand panic when fall shifts into winter. (Now what was it my dad always said about good intentions?) There have been one or two years when I managed it. Sadly this year isn’t one of them. Let me share with you some ways I have found to be more efficient at this gift making time of year.

As we sail along the rails of the Pinterest and Instagram inspiration rides, it’s important to be more than just a little ruthless in your search. Personally, I have found that sticking to Ravelry.com is more efficient. There will almost always be a pattern available for the search results. At this time of year, you really have to have a clear mission in mind.

First off, you have to know what your end-game is. How many gifts do you want/need to make. Being clear will save you resources on every level. As I search in Ravelry (using the advanced search function), I like to open each project that catches my eye in a new tab. I’ll systematically do this first, working through my search results. Then I’ll go through all those tabs and eliminate the ones that don’t live up to my current needs. I bookmark the ones I’m seriously considering by adding them to my favourites or immediately downloading the pattern.

Make notes and keep them in one place.

What is it, who is it for, what materials do you need, when does it have to be done, what’s the budget?

I see people getting lost in their phones trying to find the information they need so they can buy their supplies. Often, they are unable to find the pattern at all. I like to use a free app called Knit Companion to organize my patterns. Minimally, this allows you to have those patterns all in one place for easy access on your devices. Printing out the patterns can also be helpful.

Stash-bust before you go shopping.

Once you have that list, go through your stash to see what will work for those projects. Bundle the pattern and supplies together and label them so you don’t have to try and remember what you did. Check those off your list and make a note of what you decided to use. Spending a little time to organize this information will save you a lot of time, money, energy and frustration later.

Keep it simple.

As much as the intricate patterns with amazing detail are attractive and dazzling, be honest. You don’t have time for that! It’s the end of November. But, that doesn’t mean that your gifts have to be boring. For instance, let’s say you are making a scarf or a cowl. You can make a plain knitted or crocheted long rectangle, put a knot in it and then attach the ends together. Presto, you have a funky cowl and all you did was knit or crochet a rectangle. Use chunky yarn and it will work up quickly. Funky buttons, simple embroidered motifs, tassles, pom-poms, using a mini stuffed toy instead of a pom-pom, “hand-made” labels, adding a crocheted rosette or square in a complimentary yarn are all ways to take a simple design up a notch.

Sticking with the super simple theme, there are all kinds of self-patterning yarns available that come with instructions. The yarn does the work for you. For instance, Magic Diamonds from Katia will give you an argyle (diagonal plaid) design and with one ball (and a bit of a contrasting yarn for the border), you can make a cowl. Katia Big Paint is a self striping yarn that comes with a pattern to knit or crochet a hat or to make a scarf. One ball makes a hat with a pom, whether you knit or crochet it. The knit scarf takes 3 balls, but the yarn is thick and works up fast. How cool is that? Cascade Curiosity is typically used for shawls, but, you can get three toques (beanies for non-Canadians) out of one ball. The colours shift subtly and each hat is different. Throw a faux fur pom on there and you have a gorgeous gift that is easy to make while you’re watching television.

But, you don’t necessarily have to do it all yourself. If your recipient is crafty, why not consider giving them a kit? Got a friend that loves to knit? Pick out a knitting pattern and the yarn to go with it and bundle it up with a “some assembly required” note card. Has your sister been talking about how much she’d love to learn how to needle felt? Buy a kit that has everything that you need to make it. Got a crafty niece or nephew? How about a knitting loom and enough yarn to make a hat or a scarf? I brought in crochet kits that include the hook, yarn, instructions and finishing notions for making bags. We have rug kits from Spain that include all the self patterning yarn, the pattern and the crochet hook. There are lots of options. Ask for help from the staff in your local yarn and craft shop.

And then, you can also check out the craft sales. Take advantage of the many talented makers who have already created hand crafted items. The nice thing about this option is that the items are ready made; you know exactly what you have. Makers pour their heart and passion into each piece they sell; and you get to give a hand made item without having to make it.

Every year I think I’ll start earlier, but I don’t. And that’s okay. The main thing is to remember that the whole point of making gifts from scratch is to have fun and give gifts that come from the heart. So keep it simple and keep it fun. Put up your feet and enjoy every stitch and you can’t go wrong.

Happy Crafting!

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