Making gifts is a time-honored tradition, but who has the time? The good news is that it doesn’t have to take much more time than just shopping for something. Major handmade gifts like a cardigan or really nice rocking chair generally take weeks or months to make, but there are still plenty of things to make that can be polished off in an hour or two over the course of an evening or a weekend afternoon. There are gifts to make for every skill level, from preschoolers who’ve just learned to wield scissors to master artisans. You can work with things you find lying around, convenient kits, or high-end materials.
The possibilities are endless, so before you get out your glue gun, consider your gift recipients. Children tend to like toys. Teenagers and adults might be able to use a wallet, a bag, or a notebook. You can make someone jewelry, a scarf, or other accessories without knowing the wearer’s exact size. Holiday-themed decorations and candles are good small gifts, as are homemade food items. Things with a longer shelf life like spice mixes, cured meats, and jams can be kept and consumed beyond the holiday season, which is a bonus.
Armed with your gift list and some preliminary ideas, you can start with your existing stash of craft materials, if you have one. If no brilliant ideas spring to mind, then a trip to the craft section of your local library should spark more than enough ideas. The Island libraries’ shelves carry books on everything from duct tape crafts to advanced knitting techniques, upcycling, and Christmas-specific crafts. It can be overwhelming, which is why it’s best to start with your list and available materials, rather than by looking to books or the Internet for ideas.
If you don’t have a closet or basement full of craft supplies, or you’d rather have a more social crafting experience, there are several events and workshops in the coming week to help you make gifts. Tonight, Dec. 7, Stefanie Wolf is hosting an earring party, an evening of jewelry making, shopping, and wine. If you miss that event, or have a group that’s interested, you can contact her studio to find out if another party has been scheduled, or to schedule a party for a group of friends. For younger gift makers and their parents, Pam Benjamin of Sense of Wonder Creations has holiday gift-making workshops on Dec. 12, 13, and 14. “We will have lots of materials for the holidays,” Pam says. Another option is to find a suitable kit – the Toy Box has a plethora of crafting kits, including the ever-popular potholder loom.
The Island’s libraries have more than just books to help you make things. This month, there are many events to help you get started with — and finish — your gift projects. The Edgartown library has a workshop on I-spy ornament making on Dec. 9, plus afterschool craft workshops every Friday for kids, including jewelry making, gifts from repurposed books, and photo cubes. On the second and third Friday and Saturday of the month, the Oak Bluffs library sets up sewing machines for its Open Sewing Lab. There’s no instruction, but if you know how to use a machine and just want to sew something quick, you can do it without getting your own machine. Finally, the Vineyard Haven library has a gift-wrapping workshop for ages 12 and up on the afternoon of Dec. 16. This list is just the beginning — check with your libraries for more events.
Although I often intend to make gifts, it doesn’t happen every year. Last year, I did manage a few. My son wanted a teddy bear, and my niece was a baby, so I made them both teddy bears from a simple pattern I found online, using leftover fabric plus a few supplies I picked up at Granite Ace Hardware. The whole project took most of a school day, but that included digging out my sewing machine and a supply run. I also wanted to make candles with the kids. I’d read that Romans used to give candles at Saturnalia, which may have inspired the date for Christmas. Candles are simple, and I like them, but after a quick perusal of candlemaking kits online, I started to have second thoughts. My children, then 6 and 9, are not especially cautious and coordinated, so melting a pot of hot wax seemed like a bad idea. Then I found the answer: rolled beeswax candles. They were easy and fun to make, and the only open flames came after they were all rolled up after about an hour and a half of work at the kitchen table.
Making your own gifts can be a way to make sure your gift is different from everyone else’s, a way to express your love and creativity, or a way of saving resources. It’s not mandatory, but it is doable, and can be a fun or even relaxing way to spend a few hours during this hectic season.