A couple of years ago I came to a realization which stemmed from a longstanding passion for making.
I love making, and I believe that everyone would do well to make more things. I don't particularly care what one makes--it might be a scarf, a boat, a book, or a song--but it's sad that the past few generations have divorced themselves so utterly from the act of creation. Last winter I read a bit from Matthew B. Crawford's Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work, in which Crawford argues that people ought to have the governance over their things, and in order to effect such governance, one must begin to consider the work of the hands as worthy and intellectually stimulating. I agree with him.
Anyway, we've all heard the usual reasons why one ought to make gifts instead of buying them: handmade gifts are more personal, loving, and thoughtful; they're cheaper (sort of a myth); they're infused with a different energy than machine-made, store-bought, soulless objects. I agree with all the above arguments (excepting the second). Most people seem to agree that handmade gifts are superior.
So a couple years ago, I had an epiphany: if I'm so sure that handmade gifts are better, why do I still buy gifts for people? The obvious answer: handmade gifts take longer. But if one starts early enough in the year, all presents can be made with time to spare. That argument, then, is out. Why buy? Buying affirms and supports our hyper-consumer culture. Do you like this consumerism? Then, by all means, buy away. Do you wish the culture were less consumeristic? Then join me, please, and make things.
For the past two Christmases, I have made (almost) all my gifts. It takes a long time, but I spend that time thinking about the reasons I care for each recipient. The making process becomes not only a celebration of what the hands can do, but also of how wonderful the people in my life are.
All the gifts I give are either:
handmade by me
handmade by someone else
or the gifts are materials/tools with which the recipient can make things (yarn, camera, musical instrument, and so forth).
Here are a few of the gifts I made this season. Yes, it took me a long time to make them all, and yes, I'm still, as of December 29, working on a couple, but I was soooo excited to watch everyone unwrap them.
This is a scarf I wove on my little rigid heddle loom.
These are a set of placemats I wove on my big loom over the summer.
A pair of mittens and...
A pair of fingerless mitts, knit from my favorite mitt pattern, designed by Melanie Falick and found in Weekend Knitting.
A pair of socks that took me a verrry long time to knit...
and a blanket I made by hemming a couple yards of polar fleece and then stitching on a few appliques...
and a warp-face belt I wove from very strong cotton.
I tore many yards of strips from old cotton shirts, then tied them together and spun them on my spinning wheel, and finally knit them up into this rug.
I also decided to take advantage of my fancy sewing machine and stitch the tags for my gifts. I stitched them onto boring normal white paper, but they came out looking pretty magical anyway.
And here is a skein of art yarn that I spun and gave as a gift.
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