Reframing Gift-Giving

Ads, ads and more ads… do you get as tired of them as I do?

As a business owner providing both services and retail products, I recognize that advertising is a very important piece of finding and informing the people who may want your products or services. We all need to make a living, after all. And yet everywhere we turn these days, we are hit with a barrage of ads. And it seems to me that it ramps up even more once anticipation of the holiday season begins.

As we approach the holiday season, I find myself feeling quite irritated by all the junk being advertised as gifts. You know what I mean? The stuff that only sells because it’s weird and will get a laugh (before being tossed in the garbage along with its packaging), or the stuff that sells because people want to look cool or be on the cutting edge.

Okay, so here’s what I’ve been contemplating. When I’m asked what I would like for Christmas (or my birthday), I always feel at a bit of a loss to come up with anything because I have all the “stuff” I actually need.

What I really want is time and the opportunity to spend unrushed time with the people I love.

I want to laugh with them. I want to enjoy home-cooked meals with them or go for walks and enjoy the scenery in this amazing part of the world. I want to feel connected with them. I don’t need them to spend money on me. Don’t get me wrong, I love to receive gifts as much as anyone. And I love the way it feels to know that they have spent precious time and energy to make me something. It’s a very clear message that illuminates just how much they love me. How wonderful is that?

I was reminiscing about past holiday seasons and remembering how varied they have been for me. There were years when it was all I could do to pay the rent and still have enough money to feed myself. I remember feeling a tremendous degree of shame in those years when I simply couldn’t give material gifts. The commercialization of the holiday season persistently and insidiously plants and builds an unconscious (or subconscious) sense that we must purchase items to give as gifts… and not just to loved ones but to teachers and co-workers and bosses and the check-out lady at the grocery store.

No wonder I found myself feeling overwhelmed with shame in those years when I had no money to spare for gift giving.

It’s so easy to get carried away and overspend in a way that puts us behind the 8-ball when the new year settles in. I’ve definitely fallen into that trap and paid the price!

I still really wanted to give my loved ones gifts, so I made up coupon books and each coupon could be redeemed for some service that I could provide. For instance, “this coupon can be redeemed for a kitchen cleaning”. When that person called in the coupon, I would go to their house and clean their kitchen for them. I gifted “tea party” coupons and “walk in the country” coupons, “pedicure” coupons and “car wash” coupons. People didn’t always cash those coupons in, but when they did, I was delighted.

Years ago, after my mom passed away we were doing some organizing of her things. I needed a small pair of scissors and looked through the drawers of her sewing cabinet and found one of the coupon books I had given her.

She had saved it all those years.

It’s funny, at first I felt bad that she hadn’t redeemed any of them. Yet she had kept that coupon booklet, and she kept it with things that (before her dementia was too severe to allow it) she used every day. That left me feeling deeply touched. She didn’t need anything from me. She just wanted to be reminded that I loved her. I like to think that my little coupon book shouted, “I love you Mommy!” every time she opened that drawer to get her scissors out. (And yes, I called her “Mommy” right up until she passed away.)

In other lean years, I would go to the thrift shop on $1/bag sale days (that was a few years ago… LOL) and look for items made of really interesting fabric. I’d carefully choose things that I could transform into new and useful items. A dated leather coat could become a beautiful purse; a several decades old fur coat could become a teddy bear. I often found remnants of new fabric, bundles of lace and other trim. I always went primed to be creative and think outside the box. I always found interesting things that had the potential to be transformed.

One of the things I love about Revelstoke is that our community embraces earth-friendly practices. Re-pair, re-purpose, re-use, re-cycle… in Re-velstoke. My business couldn’t exist without people who want to avoid throwing things away just because they are slightly damaged. Repairing clothing and gear is a huge part of what my shop offers our community. I love to see people purchasing items at the thrift shop and cutting them up and transforming them into something completely different.

I love that. I love the creativity and ingenuity that goes into that process.

It’s fun when customers bring their projects in to show me. It’s inspiring.

Like most people, I want my holiday season to be meaningful. If I’m going to give gifts it’s going to be done within my financial means and it will be because I want to express my love for those people dearest to me. And hey, I’m happy for any excuse to bake and knit! I’m all for less stress during the holiday season. I’ll be in a lovely state of Zen, knitting under a blanket in my comfy chair as the snow falls outside.

Happy Knitting!

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Wow! Too Easy! More Gift Ideas

Anyone who crafts or sews will likely own a rotary cutter. These handy tools come in a few different sizes ranging from 28mm to 60mm. The size I find most popular is 45mm. The round blades are razor sharp and allow for nice clean cutting of fabrics and other craft materials. The newest style of blade opens up a whole vista of crafting possibilities.

The regular rotary cutter blade is simply a razor sharp disc that makes a solid clean and straight cut. You can also purchase wave blades that give a gently zig-zagged edge, like you would expect from pinking shears.

What I am excited to tell you about is the new skip cut blade. The skip cut blade has gaps around the cutting edge of the disc. It has many short cutting edges with equal spaces between them. When you use this blade, it gives you small cuts at regular intervals. For the creative individual, the possibilities for this blade are exciting. I just want to talk about two applications.

Quick and Easy Fleece Blanket with a Crochet Border

You start with a piece of Nordic/Polar Fleece fabric. With the edges cleanly cut, corners rounded off and the selvedges removed, use a ruler and rotary cutter fitted with the skip blade and cut an inch in from the outside edge all around the piece of fabric. It’s important to do this in one pass. Press firmly so that you are sure you are cutting all the way through. You now have a series of holes evenly spaced an inch in from the edge of the fabric. This gives you a place to easily crochet into so you can create a crocheted border all around your blanket. The edge folds in half, so you have a double layer of fabric contained within the first round of your crochet edge. I found two different links that show how to do this. Both are relatively long, however they give the necessary information well. The second one is more thorough a demonstration than the first.

 

Fleece Lined Blanket

The next project I want to share with you is a fleece lined blanket.

You can start with either a crocheted or a knitted blanket that you have already completed. You can either measure your blanket and use those measurements as a guide, or you can lay the blanket on the fleece to mark its size instead. Either way, you want to end up with a full inch all the way around the blanket. In other words, if your blanket is 45″ x 60″, you will want to cut a piece of fleece that is 47″ x 62″. As with the example above, you will use the skip cut rotary blade to make your nice tidy row of holes around the edge. You will have to take some liberties with how you align what you are crocheting with the existing stitches in the crocheted or knitted blanket. I would personally pin the edge profusely before beginning the process of crocheting the fleece to the edge of the blanket. Below is a link to a video in which this technique is demonstrated. This video is very thorough and assumes that you are a beginner.

I was introduced to skip cut blades by a customer who was traveling through Revelstoke. She stopped in my yarn shop and asked whether I carried them. I had never heard of them. While we chatted, I looked it up online through my supplier and found them. I brought them in for her and mailed them to her when they arrived. At the time, I brought in the packs of 5 as they are more cost effective than the individual blades. I have a couple packs still in stock. My next notions order will include some singles, so that if people want to try one out without committing to 5 of them, they have that option. I have a variety of solid colours of fleece in stock and many options for yarn that could be combined with it to make it special. What a great, easy gift to make someone’s life just a little more cozy.

As always, if you like the videos I have linked to and you want to see more from the folks who took the time, effort and care to create them, show them some love. Give them your likes, share the link or subscribe to their channel. Let’s support those amazing creative people in our world. 🙂

Happy Crocheting!

6 Gift-Making Tips

Many knitters and crocheters, sewing enthusiasts and other crafters use their creative skills to fashion gifts for their friends and family.

Whatever the project, crafters put their hearts into every step that goes into making those gifts. From choosing just the right yarn or other materials and the pattern, to all the hours carefully constructing the project stitch by stitch. If you are lucky enough to be considered knit, crochet or craft worthy, know that you are loved. I have some tips to offer Makers when they are planning out the gifts they want to create.

Depending on what your focus is, your priorities for each project can change.

Focus on Budget – Time:

When we think about a budget, we usually think about money. The reality is that we have a budget of time every bit as much as we have a financial budget. As someone who knits gifts, I’m always looking for projects that won’t become centennial jobs. There are all sorts of things I’d love to make for the people I care about. But there’s only so much time to do it. If I had unlimited hours to knit, I would be making lace shawls and 4-ply cardigans and other elaborate things for the people I love. But I don’t have unlimited time. Gosh, that’s such an understatement! I am a pretty quick knitter, but there’s a limit to what I can make in the precious time I have available.

Focus on Budget – Money:

It can be easy to let the cost of projects get away from us when we want to make something particularly wonderful for someone dear to us. Most of us have to work within a budget. Most of us also make gifts for multiple people. Even if you are not a “planner”, it’s good to be methodical about all the bits and pieces that you’ll have to buy, with money, for the projects you plan to make. And you know as well as I do, that those materials can really add up. Most crafters of all shape and size have a stash of supplies for their favourite making discipline. If money is tight, dig into that stash and see what you can use.

Focus on the Materials:

You can focus on the yarn or other materials and choose something absolutely scrumptious. There are so many gorgeous yarns (fabrics etc.) out there. Make the project a showcase for the materials by keeping your pattern selection simple. Put a little more resources into the purchase of the yarn or fabric and less into the work of the project. You might use silk embroidery thread instead of cotton. Of course there is a caveat with this. If it requires special care, you want to be sure that the recipient will apply that special care and not throw it in the washer and dryer with their jeans or towels… SHUDDER! If you think they will treat it right, but just need to know how to look after it, you could always include a travel size bottle of a “Delicates No-rinse Wash” like Eucalan with their gift. Pop in a card with the url to a demo of the product and brief, hand written care instructions.

Focus on an Artful Pattern:

There are many knitting and crochet designs that feature beautiful patterned stitches. There are sewing patterns that are true and complex works of art. When you choose one of these patterns, it’s best to back off with the materials and keep them simple. You don’t want to set up a competition between the yarn or fabric and the intricate pattern you create with it. This sort of design takes more focus to make. The more focus you need, the more time you need to allow. You may not be able to do a lot in a sitting. And you really don’t want to leave a project like this to the last minute. In my experience, that’s when you make silly mistakes that sit there like neon signs, screaming to be picked out and rebuilt.

Focus on the Practical:

There are many practical items that you can make as gifts. The nice thing about practical hand-made gifts is that you can be pretty certain that they are going to get some use. My family members love to receive hand-knit socks, for instance.

Focus on the Special:

You know that person who really likes things to be fancy? This is when you pull out those projects that you couldn’t resist pinning. Beaded projects, projects with felted accents or embroidered touches, personalized projects… add that little something extra that says “Oh yeah!”

Keep a record:

It’s easy to forget what you did for whom and when. I encourage you to keep a notebook. I love those small binders that hold paper that is basically a letter sized sheet cut in half. You can either buy the pages punched and ready to go or you can take normal paper and cut it in half and hole punch it. You can create sections; you can move the pages around. This is great for organizing what you have made for people. I tried keeping track on my phone; it was too frustrating. Between phones that die, upgrades and apps that don’t allow you to effectively back up your data when you do get a new phone… ugh! Well, “old school” works. It doesn’t have to be fancy. You can staple the label from the yarn or a snip of the fabric onto the page, write down the name of the pattern and whether you modified it at all. If you ran into any trouble with the pattern, you could make a note of what it was and how you resolved it as well. You don’t have to worry about running out of pages, because it’s a binder! The main thing is that you want to jot down just enough so that you don’t accidentally make them the same thing twice… or for that matter so that if someone else sees it and wants one, that you can remember what you did.

And there you go. However you choose to focus on the gift projects you have on your making list, I hope you have fun with them.

Happy Making!