planning your handmade gifts

I think most people agree that the things they give and receive that are made by hand have extra special significance, but that doesn’t mean that these gifts are always a good fit. When I was a teenager I received a beautiful cable knit blanket made from natural-white wool from my grandmother that I still use and cherish now. I also received quite a few sweaters from her – made with exceptional skill and much love that languished in a drawer. I am sure I have given many hand knit things that have met a similar fate. Now that I am a knitter I really consider who I will make a gift for and when I will choose to make a gift by hand.

Before you begin – check yourself!

Make sure you are making the gift for the receiver and not for yourself. Knitters, crocheters and other crafters just want to continue making our craft. We want to make more and more and feel inspired and creative and productive. Sometimes we use the excuse of gift-giving as fuel for this process. This drive to create cannot be the primary reason for the gift, or the gift is most likely fated for the bottom of the drawer. Take a good look at your motivations before you embark on your gift making and ask yourself a few questions before you begin.

Gift worthy or not gift worthy?

Recipients must score high on my Gift-Worthy scale before they get the goods.

  • Does the receiver already have an appreciation for handmade things. Do they use them?
  • Have they expressed interest or otherwise oohed and ahhed over things that you have made?
  • Are they capable of caring for the gift? Knits in particular may need to be washed and stored in a particular way.
  • If you have given this person a handmade gift before – Is it being used?

What should you give?

Once it’s established that you have a worthy candidate for a gift. Please also consider carefully what you might give them.

  • If they have been coveting something that you made in the past then it is not a stretch to just recreate it for them. Make sure you know what is it about that item that caught their eye. Was is the soft material or that particular colour?
  • Make sure it is an item that is useful to them. Some people are crazy for hand-knitted socks, but not everybody.
  • Make sure your gift is going to fit. The best way to judge the size you should make for someone is to measure something they already have whether it be a hat, or a scarf, or especially a sweater. Compare this size to the finished measurements in the size section of your pattern and make that size. If you can’t ascertain the size of something they already have you will have to make a guess based on the information in your instructions. In this case I would probably not make a sweater – as people are particular about how these fit – unless it is for a baby. In this case just make a bigger size than indicated for their age so that they can grow into it.
  • Let the recipient in on the process. Ask them what they want. Let them pick out the pattern and/or the materials. Sometimes people get a thrill out of planning the project. Also, then you will be sure that they like the colours and textures and the style of the gift. If they are really excited about this process than you know you are on the right track. If you are hard pressed to get answers from them, they may not be that into the gift and perhaps a pause is needed.
  • Don’t bite off more than you can chew! Stick to tried and true patterns and makes if you have a tight deadline. If you have a more challenging project you would like to try then give yourself lots of time and have a back-up plan in case you are not finished in time. Once or twice I have wrapped up a project still on the knitting needles to give. Then you take back your unfinished gift and resume knitting and everybody has a good laugh!

When to begin

I’ve heard-tell that some people make gifts all year round, for birthdays, for Christmas, and other special occasions, but I think that most of us wait till the occasion is upon us and then we panic! The end of the year is a heavy duty time for gift-giving, between Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, New Years Day, and Winter Solstice. Some organized people plan ahead. They start their gift making in the height of the summer and then sit back and relax when the holidays arrive, but that’s not most of us. I personally feel that I have done a good job at planning ahead when I start making my gifts in October. Are you with me?

How to get it all done

Make a plan. You will need:

  • paper and pen to make a list, or a note-taking app on your digital device
  • a calendar (paper or digital)
  • coloured markers, pencils, or highlighters (this is optional – just to make it fun!)
  1. Make a list of who you would like to make a gift for. You can colour code them if you like.
  2. add what you plan to make for them
  3. divide the work into goals and tasks
  4. add a complete by date


My lovely
Hat pattern –
Toques for Tout le Monde
by The Knit Cafe
Colour: Red
Size: Medium
Purchase materials – Oct 1
Cast on and finish brim – Oct 2
Knit to decreases for crown – Oct 8
Knit the crown and weave in ends – Oct 15
Block – Oct 16
Wrap up the gift – Dec 23
  • Prioritize the gifts that you most care about completing and start them first. It is really hard to estimate how much time something with take when it comes to craft projects. So get the most important ones done first!
  • Add lots of details about the gift, so you will remember the particulars when you look at it again.
  • Divide the work into manageable tasks and assign each task a completion date
  • Once you have finished your list – add these dates into a calendar. If it is a digital calendar you can even add reminders and alerts to help you keep on track.

Give yourself a break

Once you see all your tasks laid out before you, you may feel overwhelmed. Maybe then, that is the time to scale back on your projects. Remember that your crafting time is meant to be enjoyable and relaxing. There will always be gifts to give next year. Pace yourself!

Are you ready to start planning your handmade gifts?
Craftily yours

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