Seeing as I’ve already broken the first rule of Christmas, that being, not playing Christmas music until after Thanksgiving, I suppose I am entitled to begin making our kids’ Christmas presents in October. I’ve been gathering ideas for a little while now, and still am, but when Renee came out with her Handmade Holiday Gift Idea Exchange, I decided I might as well jump in the deep end. And now I am knee deep in yarn, cloth, wood, stickers, dye, and other odds and ends that make good craft materials.
A couple years ago Glen and I began dabbling in our new tradition of making at least most of our Christmas gifts, and last year we succeeded in making all but one or two of our childrens’ gifts. We’ve also extended that tradition to include some of our parents, siblings, etc. While this is not the path for some, I feel more joy in the season when I make things than when I have to stress about what to buy for who, so this part of the season is actually quite fun for me. Glen could tell you himself how excited I was last year, even during the thick of the Christmas shopping season.
So here you have the few things I’ve made so far for the kids, though only about half my ideas are complete (it’s only October right?). I’ve also included links or brief descriptions on how to make them, but most of them are quite simple.
Both Glen’s and my parents had a tradition of giving us a new Christmas tree ornament every year, and we naturally continued this special ritual with our own children. Until this year Glen and I have been shopping for ornaments at a specialty ornament shop in “the big city” an hour from us, but after running across this idea in Scrapbooks Etc. magazine I decided to make some this year, mostly from materials we already had on hand. Last year we spent about $20 on two ornaments, this year we spent about $2 on three. For downloadable directions, click here.
Next on the list was a memory game for Nemo and Daphney. It might seem a bit unconventional because I used juice concentrate lids for the base, but I think they make the perfect material for young kids because cards always get beat up and don’t last long, plus they are hard to manipulate with little fingers. I decorated them with various matching sets of stickers, and the great thing is that I can easily add to this set as their memories grow stronger! The idea came from the book, The Complete Tightwad Gazette, but you can vary the idea and use pictures of family members or something else for matching. I found an cute can in the closet that works perfectly as storage for this memory game.
And then I made a wave bottle for Atlas. This idea also came from The Complete Tightwad Gazette, and it is quite easy to make. I used an empty apple juice bottle from the the recycleables, cleaned it out and removed the label. Then I filled it half way with water dyed with food coloring, and filled the remaining space with vegetable oil. After sealing the cap with some hot melt glue, this gizmo attracted quite a bit of attention from Daphney, and I think she and Atlas may have to duke it out over this one on Christmas morning! The only downside I can see is that the oil does take on a bit of the coloring, and the gazette did report that after vigorous shaking the contents do foam up. I hope it lasts a while, but I think it will make for a good amount of fun!
Using the $2 of yarn we bought for the ornaments, I made this cute monster hand puppet for Atlas (to be played with an adult who fits the puppet of course!). I was originally trying to follow these directions to make Mr. Ribbet, but realized I didn’t have enough green yarn on hand and thought maybe I’d make a bear. Then Glen recommended adding goofy ears and hair to make it a happy monster. I think such creations are actually popular, so my experiment might be a hit among young friends? Anyway, if you want to try it for yourself, follow the directions above and use your own combination of stitches to make the ears (I used sc, dec, inc sc, and probably a couple others to make mine). I used a back stitch to go around the eyes and make the mouth, and made a pom pom for the hair, tied into the inside of the puppet. Althogether I spent about three evenings on this project.
Today I made the older two a “geoboard”. Otherwise known as a scrap piece of wood with screws in to hold elastics in interesting patterns. My mom made one for me and my sibs and for some reason the idea stuck with me so I’ve been meaning to get around to it for a while. I was going to use nails but couldn’t find the right sized ones kicking around so I used screws, a piece of scrapwood meant for the fire which I sanded down, and paint that I think we bought for the bathroom but have yet to use yet. I make this sound so artistic don’t I? lol. It worked out quite well I think, but if you have a choice I’d use a wider board so you can make a larger square. This one is roughly 10″ by 4.5″.
These last two pictures are for a project still in the works. I’m making a bean bag toss game, fondly referred to as “potty” by my family. I made six bean bags, starting with a cloth size of 5″ by 7″ for each one. I used the same pattern I did for my cloth napkins, which I of course can’t find the directions to right now. Essentially you put the right sides of the cloth together, sew almost all the way around, turn it right side out, fill it part way with rice or other material, tuck in the hem around the hole, then stitch a second seam about 1/2″ from the edge all the way around to close it in. Be careful not to add too much stuffing or it will be difficult to sew the final hem. The end result looks something like this…
The remaining work is the target. My poor hubby fractured or at least bruised a rib at work and hasn’t been able to do much after coming home each day, so he hasn’t been able to make the target yet. We’re not following directions on this, and I know there are many designs out there for bean bag targets. Our idea is to take two small (2′ x 3′ ?) pieces of plywood, cut a hole in the center of one, sand them out, paint them, and attach them together with a hinge or something at the top so that it folds up.
I’m also working on a cloth road map, which is still in the rough beginning stages, but I began with these directions, and I’m using materials I already have to make it. I’m pleased with how it’s looking right now, but it’s certainly not picture worthy at this point. Nemo and Daphney both enjoy making roads for their cars and I think this will be fun to roll out on the floor.
Ideas we’ve put on paper but have yet to start include: a bird house to be assembled by Nemo, and hobby horses. I’d also like to come up with something just for Daphney.
I’m having so much fun and I’m so glad I’m getting this head start. What ideas are you working on for gifts?