Need a creative gift for baby and/or mom. Nothing seems quite right.
July 31, 2013 10:24 AM   Subscribe

A dear friend of mine who lives in another part of the country had her first child a few months ago, and I get to visit in a month! I want to bring something for the baby and/or for my friend. The catch is that my friend is VERY sentimental and quite creative and belongs to a community that also includes lots of creative types. As a result, know that she's gotten handmade quilts and handpainted onesies and all kinds of other very personal gifts. I would feel like a total goober just buying something at the store (I had some stuff delivered from The Gap when baby was born and feel pretty stupid about it). I am reasonably crafty and can do basic sewing and needlework and follow directions, but I'm not as good at coming up with projects and ideas on my own.

The stuff I can think of to make, like a simplistic needlepoint portrait of their new family or a nails-and-thread plaque, is all decorative and kind of generic. I haven't seen their house yet and I don't know how they've decorated the nursery (but I'm 100% confident they HAVE decorated it to a tee), so I don't want to impose upon them something that they'd have to try to shoehorn in. But when I try to think of functional things, I get lost there, too, because I'm guessing they already have a glut of quilts and blankets and baby clothes &c.

I know it sounds ridiculous that I'm so anxious about this. I love her and I want to give her something meaningful when I meet her baby for the first time. But what?
posted by payoto to Grab Bag (37 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Your favourite book(s) as a child, with an inscription about how much they meant to you?
posted by jeather at 10:30 AM on July 31, 2013 [18 favorites]

You can totally do a handpainted onesie just like everybody else, but do it in a larger size: 6 or 9months, or 1 year. Everyone else gives teeny newborn or 3 month clothes, and they run out really quickly. It will be a gift all over again when the baby reaches that size and she gets to pull it out of the pending drawer!
posted by Liesl at 10:31 AM on July 31, 2013 [4 favorites]

Maybe something in the picture frame family of things? There are lots of creative ways to decorate a picture frame. You could do two -- bring a framed photo of you and her (I think it's wonderful, as a mother, to have your importance as a person and a friend be recognized at a time when it tends to be subsumed by your new "mother" identity) and also a frame for a print of the baby -- which you will take yourself and get printed, because printing photos is a task that tends not to get done by busy new parents -- I know I have thousands of digital prints, but very few hard copies.
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:32 AM on July 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh, reading fail. Baby is not newborn.

Okay then, a toy is nice. Wooden toys are beautiful and last a long time. The nice thing about toys is the box tells you exactly what age they're appropriate for.
posted by Liesl at 10:32 AM on July 31, 2013

yeah, I love the book idea. You can never have too many for your kid - and you can give her classics now even though she's a baby.

Consumables are nice - a big gift basket of snacks. Moms forget to eat! So it's nice to have some yummy snack things that she wouldn't think to buy for herself.

Seriously, if you came to my house with a book, some food and a bottle of champagne, I'd invite you to visit any time!
posted by dawkins_7 at 10:32 AM on July 31, 2013 [4 favorites]

If you have your heart set on something "crafty" - for the kid, especially now that the baby is a few months old, try getting a pair of plain canvas baby sneakers and hand painting them with acryllic paint in a fun design. It's easy, inexpensive, and something that not everyone thinks of. I tried this once for a friend - plain canvas baby shoes were under ten bucks, and I just got a couple colors of plain aryllic paint and had fun. You can go with stripes or squiggles or plain block colors or whatever.

As for your friend - look, she's a dear friend of yours, so presumably she knows you're not really a crafty person and she presumably loves you anyway. So you could always NOT go crafty for her and get her something you know she really likes.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:33 AM on July 31, 2013

Someone gave my baby niece a onesie with her name (the baby's, not the giver's ;)) across the butt. So it was iron-on letters in pink in a cute font, sort of in an arc (but with all the letters at slightly different angles) that spelled 'Daisy', on a generic white onesie.

Then when the baby sleeps face-down, it makes for TEH CUTEST PHOTO EVAH. (Even better if it sleeps face down with its little butt stuck right up in the air).
posted by Salamander at 10:36 AM on July 31, 2013 [2 favorites]

Nobody with kids has too many tote bags. You could work your needlepoint idea or some photos printed on this or printed on this and then ironed onto fabric, to make a patchwork bag or two, and then maybe add a couple first books or toys to put inside.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:36 AM on July 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

First of all, I don't think you should feel bad about sending stuff from the Gap! Even the most creative parents sometimes need a plain onesie! Kids are messy creatures and in the final analysis, basics are a GREAT GIFT, because they're always needed -- especially, actually, if you run in a crafty crowd. Sometimes the baby needs something they can just toss in the wash. So you are not stupid to have done that AT ALL.

I agree with the books. Books are a wonderful gift, and if they are your favorites, very sentimental indeed. I'd also bring consumables, if it's not a pain to pack them -- or even something luxurious that's specifically for your friend (super pricy lotion if she's into that, that sort of thing).
posted by Countess Sandwich at 10:36 AM on July 31, 2013 [2 favorites]

I think your favorite book(s) with an inscription is a great idea! I loved knowing who gave me what books when I was a kid.
posted by radioamy at 10:39 AM on July 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

Make a sculpture out of diapers, like a diaper cake, but a little differnt. It won't take up space for long...
posted by WeekendJen at 10:41 AM on July 31, 2013

Best answer: If you can crochet (or sew), a nice and potentially useful gift would be a bag/bucket of crocheted balls. They're super easy---all you need to do is be able to single crochet and count (or sew). The premise is that this is a collection of things that the kid is allowed to throw in the house. It's a gift that grows with the kid: first, the baby can pick up the balls and drop them for an adult to pick up. Later, the proto-toddler can spend time putting the balls into the bucket. Finally, the toddler can throw them in the house and you/the parent doesnt' have to worry about breaking things. It's a win-win-win!

(Roughly, the pattern I use is: row (1): SC 6 stiches or so. (2) increase every one (i.e., SC, sc twice into the same space (this is your increase), SC). (3) Increase every 2 (i.e., SC, SC sc twice into the same space (this is your increase), SC). (4) increase every 3. ... (7) increase every 6. (8) increase every 7. Now, reverse: (9) decrease (i.e., SC two together) every 7. (10) decrease every 6... (14) decrease every 2. (15) Decrease every other one. Probably time to stuff firmly with polyfill. (last) SC two together until you run out of stitches and finish off.)

Alternately, a huge bucket of OxiClean (seriously. Awesome on poop. And there will be a lot of poop.) and a portable highchair. Super useful for years and years---after the kid doesn't need it, they can use it for other random babies/toddlers that come visit.

It sounds like maybe she's got 'crafty' under control and might appreciate 'useful'.
posted by leahwrenn at 10:45 AM on July 31, 2013 [4 favorites]

A collection of childrens books. Ones that mean a lot to you, ones that tie into some joint experience you've had, just ones you really like try and make them special in some way not just random book everyone is buying. Maybe buy or make some cute bookends to go with them.

Or look into useful presents, trust me crafty stuff is great until you have to clean it and then it's all hand washing and futzing and small threads and buttons that are dangerous to curious babies. You also want and need things you can just throw in the wash and dryer and not think about. Your Gap present might not have looked as "crafty" but I bet it's got more use than anything else.

Also maybe look at baby toys for when the child gets a bit older, it won't be long until they are looking for good well made and stimulating toys.
posted by wwax at 10:51 AM on July 31, 2013

yeah if she's a dear friend of yours then you're a dear friend of hers. Go for the sentimental, which can come naturally and out of something unique to you (two), rather than the creative, which just measures your handicraft skills against a bu. The book with inscription is good, or a tree to plant in the baby's name and a letter about how it will grow with her etc or adopt an X endangered animal in the babies name and present the certificate with appropriate stuffed toy, or even better take on and pay for a World Vision sponsorship and commit to supporting that child in your friend's baby's name, poss also with an eye to encouraging the baby to make friends with the kid when they're older, etc.
(Damm am choking myself up, my best friend is pregnant)
posted by runincircles at 10:53 AM on July 31, 2013

Offer to take a bunch of photos of the entire family while you are visiting? It can often be tricky to get both parents in the photo, or get the person who is usually behind the camera in the picture. It may not feel as uber-crafty as crocheting something, but it is personal and sentimental.
posted by ambrosia at 10:59 AM on July 31, 2013 [5 favorites]

Nothing wrong with a mass-market gift! Handmade artsy stuff can be overly precious, both in the "too cutesy" sense and the "this is way too nice to ever actually put near a baby" sense. And there's always the awkwardness of getting a gift that you don't particularly like, but you know the giver spent hours making it.

I like the idea of a book that meant a lot to you. A really nice stuffed animal or puppet might work too (maybe of an animal that has special meaning for you or her?). For the mom, some sort of superfancy local treat that she can't find in her part of the country, like artisan chocolate.
posted by Metroid Baby at 10:59 AM on July 31, 2013

Best answer: I am a crafty mom with many crafty friends who have made wonderful things for my children. Please do not feel bad for sending a thoughtful gift of any type to your friend. I'm sure your gift was appreciated and that your friend did NOT think "Geez, couldn't she have MADE something?" Or if she did, that's her problem. For real.

If you do want to make something crafty now, that's fun too!

There are so many crafty ideas for kids. You can buy basic bibs and embroider on them -- her kid is just getting in to the bib phase, probably. There are also a lot of quilted bib patterns and tutorials out there.

I am in love with these blankets. So pretty! So soft!

I have made many an applique onesie, and the idea can also be used for shirts for bigger kids, etc. You can also embroider on onesies and tshirts. Those burp cloths in the previous link are good too, but personally I haven't tended to use burp cloths for much after the first few months. What I do use, though, is washcloths and towels!

And, wow, I just found this portable highchair tutorial after seeing leahwrenn's post, and that is adorable and seriously, super useful. I might be making one this weekend now :)

I could clearly go on and on. Sorry about that. You could poke around on Pinterest for some ideas, too. There are a zillion boards of cute baby stuff!

Another thing to consider is that if she's crafty, she might want to start thinking about fun crafty toys for baby -- things like washable bath crayons, lacing cards, etc.
posted by freezer cake at 10:59 AM on July 31, 2013 [3 favorites]

Do you have favorite songs from your childhood? Maybe your friend would appreciate a music album for kids. I just mailed my 10-month old niece a CD of Pete Seeger's animal folk songs. If your friend is a music lover, maybe you could get her some music for children that your friend herself wouldn't find grating or annoying when playing for her baby. They Might Be Giants has a kid's album (or two maybe) that parents and fans of TMBG seem to really like, just as an idea of what's out there. There is probably some music for kids out there that also matches your friend's own musical taste.

It would be a neat gift to pair a favorite book and musical album from your childhood together for your friend's little one.
posted by shortyJBot at 11:03 AM on July 31, 2013

bu... nch of strangers.
posted by runincircles at 11:04 AM on July 31, 2013

This soft photo book for babies to look at, with photos of the baby's mom and dad and you and the close circle of friends and relatives.
posted by steinwald at 11:06 AM on July 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

It sounds like maybe she's got 'crafty' under control and might appreciate 'useful'.

I would go further than this. I would do some research on all the places in her area that sell baby things (Target sells most things, but Babies R Us or similar works fine).

I would go to visit her and, after you've done some chatting, say, "Ok. What do you really need that you don't have yet?" Maybe she's been fretting about needing to go get a high chair, or a playsaucer, or a cover for the tub faucet, or lots and lots of outlet covers or a training potty. Who knows?

There are so so so many things you need for babies that are not cute and handmade. Tiny nail clippers! Baby soap! An extra changing pad! Diapers, almost certainly. Formula and bottles, if she uses those.

And either go out and buy those things, or, take her with you and say, ok, let's go get the things you need.

If you had done that for me when my kid was a baby, I would've kissed you.

But let's say she's supernaturally well-prepared and stocked up with all she needs for the baby until it hits puberty. Then perhaps you should consider a spa gift certificate (or taking her to one, if she can get a sitter), or something else specifically just for her and wonderfully indulgent.

Again, when I was a new mom, you would have been my favorite friend ever.
posted by emjaybee at 11:07 AM on July 31, 2013 [6 favorites]

Blocks. Get a 2x2 piece of hardwood lumber, cut it into 2 inch, 3 inch and four inch sizes. Sand well --- VERY well. Paint (with a safe-for-babies paint --- ask at the paint store) either in solid colors or flowers/animals/whatever.
posted by easily confused at 11:10 AM on July 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

In addition to the "baby" gifts here, maybe you can arrange with dad (or other secondary caregiver) to have a few hours of "mom" outing time - get your nails done, have a nice brunch, gossip about all of the non-kid-friendly topics in your lives.
posted by melissasaurus at 11:11 AM on July 31, 2013

Don't feel pressure to bring something crafty. Anyone who showed up at my house with any sort of gift was lovely and I really appreciated it. I still fondly remember the Gap outfits, the lasagna, the board books, the butterfly mobile...everything whether it was store bought or not. If your friend is the creative and sentimental type, I would say a lovely gift is Your Birthday Book. It's a once a year memory book that allows you to go nuts if you want to, or just fill in a few details if you don't. It's a keepsake you keep adding to every birthday. I would have loved to have received it but now give it to friends.
posted by biscuits at 11:13 AM on July 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

Haptic Labs sell all sorts of DIY quilting kits that are super-easy to personalize.
posted by evoque at 11:17 AM on July 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

I made some washcloth animals similar to those when a friend had a baby and they seemed to go over well. Mine were not puppets, just animal shapes cut out with eyes/mouth embroidered on and two sides sewn together.
posted by jabes at 11:18 AM on July 31, 2013

I was given homemade gifts when my baby was born that I still treasure dearly.

By the gift that made me cry was when my ex-roomie brought over a box of diapers, a bottle of red wine, and a coupon for 8 hours of baby-free time redeemable at any time, night periods encouraged.
posted by blue_and_bronze at 11:35 AM on July 31, 2013 [3 favorites]

Holy moly there are some awesome ideas on here - the portable seat is truly amazing. I will be making one of those now.

Anywho - as baby gets older she may start sleeping in a sleep sack. But those buggers are expensive, so you could make one. We kept our first kid in one until he was about 2, they are that awesome, so depending upon the sizes that you make, she could easily get a lot of use out of them!
posted by tafetta, darling! at 11:47 AM on July 31, 2013

Can you knit or crochet? If so, an adorable animal hat might go over well (I always wanted an owl hat, but I can't knit). I have a few of these inside-out knit stuffed animals and they're amazing (and my son loves them). Or, how about little felt softies? You could make characters from a favorite book, perhaps (I had a set of felt three little pigs as a kid that I loved...actually I still have/love them!)

Nthing taking your friend out without the baby for a fun activity, if it's feasible.
posted by Empidonax at 12:08 PM on July 31, 2013

I was also going to say to decorate a set of blocks!
posted by dpx.mfx at 12:49 PM on July 31, 2013

A friend of mine handmade a completely personalized storybook for her sister's baby-- like, she made a series of illustrated pages by doing simple cut-and-paste pictures (a tree, a flower, a woman, a bird, etc.) out of construction and scrapbook paper, then adding cut-out photos of family members and places that were important to the baby. The plot/text was hand-lettered and pretty simple, kind of like "This is $Baby! Here's baby's mom $Mom! Here is $town, where they live in a big house! Baby likes to do $thing...," but that's the kind of thing that small babies really go for in a book, anyway.

The kid loved it, of course (a book about Me, whoopie!), and the whole thing struck me as both nicely personal/sentimental and not too taxing on the crafting skills.
posted by Bardolph at 1:41 PM on July 31, 2013

When we had our baby girl three years ago, we got a lot of gifts. But lots of them were superfluous, doubles, good intentions but very ugly or uncomfortable for the baby. So my wife ended up buying lots of things from an ecological online store. If your friend is craftsy and somewhat left oriented/ecological, she will surely appreciate such gifts. One thing that has proven to be useful for many many months (and no-one gave it to us) was a wool sleeping bag. This is the one we got (the website is in Dutch, but you get the idea):

The baby may be too small for it at this stage, but it's great to have nice things like that ready for the near future. Life totally turns upside down when the first child arrives, so there's hardly any time for shopping. Or for deciding what is good or not for your child. Your help in that arena will be much appreciated.

BTW, rest assured.... we loved everyone for their considerate gifts, even if they were never used!

Good luck,

posted by hz37 at 1:56 PM on July 31, 2013

Just want to add to the chorus that the BabyGap gifts were definitely appreciated -- unlike handmade presents, if it turns out you were given twenty blankets and no bottles, say, you can take them back and get what you need. As lovely as those handmade blankets are, you have to keep all of them.

If you want a unique present, but aren't feeling crafty, there are hundreds of styles of Robeez shoes (Zappos link) for babies. Nothing stays on babies feet like them and they all are really cute.
posted by Margalo Epps at 4:55 PM on July 31, 2013

nthing the idea that Baby Gap was surely appreciated.

Bibs are super duper easy to make. You can Google around to find a print out pattern, or buy an actual honest-to-goodness McCall or Butterick Pattern at the fabric store.

I typically make a half dozen bibs by buying a half dozen fat quarters (small squares of fabrics sold for quilters) and a yard of beige flannel and make them with the six different tops and two layers of flannel underneath. Works like a charm and you can never, ever have too many bibs.
posted by anastasiav at 5:24 PM on July 31, 2013

Response by poster: Well. I am blown away by the number of fantastic ideas in here. I went from being starved for ideas to having so many that I wish my friend would hurry up and have more kids! I have marked as best the suggestions that I plan to go with but there were so so many to choose from. Many of the other ideas are fantastic but not ideal for this couple for reasons that I didn't go into in the question (e.g., making blocks or a high chair is a wonderful idea, but her husband is a woodworker and I'm... very much not. Some of the other suggestions are too bulky or perishable for me to take on a plane but will help others looking for ideas.). I also have to point out that freezer cake's link to a pattern for a quilted chenille blanket essentially answers a question I asked months ago, so even if I don't make one for my friend (and Margalo Epps has a great point about the burden of too many big gifts they can't get rid of) ... I am making one for myself!
posted by payoto at 5:50 PM on July 31, 2013

My very favorite baby gift is a strand of origami lights. They make a beautiful homemade alternative nightlight. All you need: a simple strand of white holiday lights, no fewer than 25 I'd say. A matching number of 6" origami papers. You may use wrapping paper cut to size if you so please.

Learn the "balloon" fold online and then pop each resulting paper cube over each light in the strand. It's creative and beautiful and very easy once you master the fold.

When traveling, I do all the folds except for the final step and toss them all into a ziploc bag to inflate when I get where I'm going. Your friend may enjoy participating in that step. I'd pack the lights separately or buy them there.

Even if you don't choose this as a gift, if you get there and see the room is just ripe for a strand, it can be a fun project you do together.
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 1:34 AM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Bottle of good wine and the Beatles White album. I know no new mother who wouldn't like that.
posted by FergieBelle at 7:47 AM on August 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

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