Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Handmade pretties

I'm in the middle of making a bunch of small handmade presents for my loved ones. This is contributing to a lack of posts recently so I thought I'd take a moment and share some of what I'm making and of course, some of what I'm thinking.

More and more I find myself turning away from the massive consumerism that marks this time of the year in the US. Whether it's a dinner that includes close to 3000 calories, or a pine tree buried in paper wrapped presents, the over consumption leaves me cold and decidedly not cheery. As is my habit, I have changed the way I celebrate, to more closely align with my personal beliefs and values. This change is influenced by the Pagan/Wiccan traditions that I'm fond of, the traditions that my husband brings from his mostly pagan upbringing and what I learn as I research and rethink old habits.

Celebrating the Solstice helps to keep the focus away from the typical Christmas-how-much-stuff-did-I-get. Doing things by hand creates other helpful limits. Our decorating also helps remind us of our focus. We lean towards natural decorations like pine wreathes and garlands, and then decorate them by hand. We do put up some lights, as the Winter Solstice celebrates the return of light after the longest night. But, we don't cover the house with them in a vain attempt to outshine that light. Stockings and paper snowflakes and a live poinsettia round out the decorations. I think it has a nice holiday vibe, without being offensive or out of place in our uber-Christian neighborhood.

I've learned a lot the past few years as I switched to handmade for the holidays. First off, making presents by hand requires a LOT more foresight than most store bought presents. What I give is not decided in the heat of battle during a Black-Friday or Cyber-Monday sale. I keep a list under 'P' (for presents) in my planner and throughout the year when I see something cute or something I know a person could use, I write it down on the list. As a bonus side effect it makes it easier to stand strong against the incessant marketing employed by savvy corporations. As the harvest winds down for the year I immediately switch my energy over to holiday prep and start making the presents and finalizing my gifting plans. This works well enough for now, as I mostly give small things at this stage in my life. If I ever get to the point where I want to give a quilt or a complicated piece of clothing I'll either need to start holiday preps in the middle of summer or train up Rowen to help. :-D

This year is a bit lighter for gift giving, simply because we are not traveling to any of the large gatherings. So I'm making little things for the Grandma's and little things for my immediate family and a bunch of cards and that's it.

I have heard people excuse their shopping splurges because they have too many gifts to give to make them all. Look at your gift list for a moment, how many of those people have you actually talked to since last December? Will a 10$ piece of plastic snatched from a bargain bin really add value to the relationship? Will you actually see that person this holiday season? If the answer to any of those is no, why bother to buy them something? Get more emotional bang for your time/money, and whittle your list down to immediate family and those who you feel close to. If you figure another 1 or 2 to include a couple of people who you feel could use an extra bit of love during the holidays you might find your list more manageable and that time to make something for all on the list is not unattainable.

I have a lot of fabric and thread, so that's what I lean towards for gifts. I get a lot of inspiration from quilt shows and sewing blogs on the internet. The internet abounds with free patterns, and I'm blessed with a talent for guessing space/dimensions and ending up with things that are pretty close even when I don't use a pattern. (or straight edge) My mother is envious. :-D

Some of the things I'm making this year include a couple of needle books, based off of some really cute ones I saw this summer, going to a couple of lucky grandmas. A couple of cute pin cushions for other crafty grandmas. Some home-made firestarters, made with wax and wood chips and (since I have more fabric than wood) fabric scraps. Rowen has a cute outfit about half done, and some mittens that I finished last night. Then a couple more specific things that I'll refrain from mentioning here, on the off chance that those people read this and it spoils the surprise. :-D

Little things to show my love, little things made by hand.

And of course, I can't stand to wrap such things in eco-not-friendly wrapping paper. I swore off of that stuff for good last year and started making fabric gift bags. I made a set out of holiday fabric from the firesale rack in January. I'm thinking I'll make a few more this year. I might make a couple to match the gift that's inside, just to be fancy. They'll last for years and years. No trashcan full of once-used paper will leave our house on the 26th.

You too can make a difference this holiday season. Think about your traditions, is there one that stands out as particularly wasteful or joyless? Choose that one to focus on this year and make baby steps towards something better. Whatever the reason for your celebration.

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