Saturday, December 06, 2008

Not So Handmade Holidays After All

I love making things for people. Not just any things. I love to be able to come up with something cool, that is an original design, and that somehow reflects who that person is, and/or reflects an understanding of something they could really use at the moment. I just love to bless people with wonderful, quirky handmade things. I consider it to be part of my gift of encouragement.

But there is a problem. I am a perfectionist, in my own small way. Not that I like to have things done perfectly (many of you can vouch for this, I am sure -- especially those of you who have had me visit with needle and thread in hand to mend my handmade gifts), but that I like things to be perfectly suited to their intended receiver, and to be perfectly original and interesting and cool. And I like the recipient to know (although I have come to realize that non-sewing people don't actually know the difference) that I have done more than just pump out a million similar items from a simple pattern and pass a few off to them. No, instead I have slaved away making the MORE COMPLICATED version of fill-in-the-item-here handmade gift. The quilted, hand bound baby blanket, not the flipped inside out, tied one. The two fabric bean bags with novelty fabric on one side and different legumes in each bag so the child can explore a variety of weights and textures, accompanied by a handmade matching bag. Okay, so maybe I'm not so much a perfectionist as I am really vain. And easily bored by making the same thing more than once or twice.

In any case, whatever the reason, I always find myself scrambling to finish the gifts I have decided are the ONLY possible ones I can make. I give my own children robots without eyes in their stockings ("I promise that when you wake up tomorrow morning, your robot will have a face, honey.") because I have decided that I need to make three kinds of fudge for all the choir members at our church and a hand made present for the youth group under-five-dollars gifts exchange. I don't get my Christmas cards sent until January because I decided to make a dozen hand stitched felt ornaments for my sister who is hosting me for a week. I could give you an example from almost every year since I stopped making Christmas crafts as part of the school curriculum.

This year is no exception. Just today I was starting to wonder how I was going to get all the bird ornaments I had decided to stitch up for Andrew's preschool teacher and assorted people around town done in time for Christmas, plus get the two cool, elaborate gifts I have planned for the boys completed in time. And I was thinking about this while I finished off the hand stitched dinosaur I need to send off to Sam for his birthday that was two weeks ago. I was getting grumpy with my kids because they wanted me to read them books while I was trying to sort through fabric combinations for assorted elaborate presents. I was getting grumpy with my husband for the fact that he has had so many funerals and greiving and dying people to visit in the past month and a half. that I can't get two hours to stitch birds together in the basement. And I was getting frustrated with my twenty three month old for the fact that his molars are taking so long to come in and that he decided to enter the "no"stage now, while I'm trying to figure out which pieces of felt to make his Tyranasaurus Rex out of and which to save for Andrew's fantastic felt rocket ship I'm inventing out of my head.

And I thought, you know, I stay at home so I can read to my children, and be the one to discipline and love them through their highs and lows. I decided to be a non-working minster's wife at this point so I could support my husband in his very busy, draining job. I do crafts on the side, for fun and occasional profit, not to add an extra stress to my life.

This made me realize that this is not really a year for hand made gifts for teachers and postmen. This is not a year for making overly complex gifts for people who don't sew and will be just appreciate getting a hand made present. This is definitely not the year for making complex gifts for people who will not want / need / appreciate them, thus burning myself out only to then be disappointed that my gift did not meet with the approval I had hoped it would. This is not a year for pleasing or impressing. This is a year to enjoying making a few lovely, well crafted presents for my boys and a few of our family members and friends. And for giving everyone else a sleeve of three nice chocolates or a bag of home-made gingersnaps. Because seriously, most people would rather add a few extra calories to their waistline than an odd object from Jill to their junk closet.

And of course, those who I know love my handmade silliness will continue to benefit from my craftiness. Just maybe not after I get my Christmas cards done.

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