I solemnly swear it's not a knitted jumper again!
May 3, 2014 5:44 AM   Subscribe

What are your go-to craft projects for gift giving? What handmade goods do you like to receive?

I'm trying to build a list of go-to gifts I can make myself, by hand, that are decent enough to give as gifts, don't cost too much by way of materials and don't take too long to make. So far, this is what I've come up with:

- For weddings: knitted bunting with crochet lace edging & stringed with satin ribbon. Usually made out of DK & 4-ply pearled cotton in cream and white.

- For writers/teachers/thank you gifts: crochet lace bookmark, woven with ribbon.

- For young person/teenager: find out their favourite game/fandom and knit an amiguri or iPhone/iPad case (e.g. I made my nephew a Minecraft Creeper sleeve for his Kindle).

- For new babies: this is easy -> baby blanket, usually one of crocodile or bubble crochet stitch in 100% washable wool.

- For pet owners: crochet pet bed & blanket.

- For stylish adult women: chunky knit cowl.

I can knit and crochet to an advanced level (i.e. fair isle, intarsia, crochet lace (0.6mm hook + thread)), but cannot sew to save my life. I'm not at the stage of Mrs. Weasley and giving everybody the same knitted jumper for Christmas, but I would like to expand the type of crafted gifts to give people of all ages and situations.

So when life demands a gift, what do you make? Or, more importantly, what would you like to receive?
posted by Chorus to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (33 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
Lots of people like coffee cup cozies.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:00 AM on May 3, 2014

Those tree rattles are adorable.
posted by travelwithcats at 6:09 AM on May 3, 2014

I will have to admit in advance, I don't know what half these things on your list are, although the ipad/iphone etc sounds cool, so one idea is to look beyond the age ranges that you have, but beyond that.

Mittens/gloves - practical and who doesn't need a new pair each year?

If you know kids in the 3 to 5 yr old range (or absolute animal lover), a knit animal hat.

Also, depending on the person and how much actual interest they express in what you are doing, a coupon for a few hours of tutoring by you on how to make crafts or how to make X or whatever (speaking as a former child who had people show me oil painting, craft X, best.time.ever).
posted by Wolfster at 6:12 AM on May 3, 2014

I've made people sets of felted bowls and filled them with tea and stuff. No idea how they really felt about em, but I had no complaints anyway.
posted by missrachael at 6:16 AM on May 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

I also came across this the other day (apologies that it's a buzzfeed link) - "50 Adorable DIY Gifts":

Some of them look pretty cute. Others not worth the time.
posted by missrachael at 6:18 AM on May 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I've just crocheted my first pillow, that was fun and creative and more of a challenge than I'd expected it to be for my level of skill. This one is for a friend who particularly loves the design I made on the face of it (it's a Mondrian pillow!) but I got a deal on the pillow inserts so I'm definitely making more. People love accent pillows because they're something not everyone thinks to buy for themselves but as long as they're not covered in hard things like buttons or beads they're practical. They're good for weddings, housewarmings, going away to college, and you can customize the pattern for anybody's style.
posted by Mizu at 6:22 AM on May 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

I would be thrilled to receive a blanket - a throw, or even a full-sized one. However I would be even more thrilled if it were cotton, not wool. Lovely year-round! (plus, allergy to wool.)
posted by tomboko at 6:47 AM on May 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

I do quilted pillowcovers (for 16 or 18 inch square sofa throw pillows) and recipients seem to like them quite well. Perhaps you can learn to sew enough to do that? it's really just a running stitch, nothing requiring advanced sewing skills.
posted by RRgal at 7:00 AM on May 3, 2014

You did not specify that you only want knitted/crocheted gift ideas (though those are what you listed), so I will say that the handmade lemon shea sugar scrub that my sister gave me for Christmas is amazing, and very useful for me despite the fact I have sensitive skin.
posted by Juliet Banana at 7:13 AM on May 3, 2014

This really depends on who you are giving gifts to. Unless it is entirely in line with their style, some people, no matter how kind, will not appreciate handmade gifts the way others will. I knit, but I would never knit for my family or many of my friends, not because they aren't kind and deserving people, but because they will see zero difference between what I've made and something cheaply store-bought. And in fairness to them, it's not really their job to justify my hobbies, so I save my knitting for those that will love it wholeheartedly.

The exception to handmade gift items, of course, is food. Everybody loves food or finds someone else who does, and because it is consumable, there is no obligation or guilt associated with hanging on to an object for years to come.
posted by Diagonalize at 7:14 AM on May 3, 2014 [4 favorites]

I've been meaning to give one of the cross-stitch kits from Steoch a try. They have them in all sizes, and you may even have the kind of experience that would let you create your own patterns. There must be some free patterns available online, too.

Two of my go-to resources for inspiration are Make:Craft and Geek Craft. Make:Craft in particular has a lot of fiber art ideas.
posted by Room 641-A at 7:20 AM on May 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

Knitted Christmas ornaments make a lovely gift also.
posted by SLC Mom at 7:55 AM on May 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

For babies and toddlers -- monster pants. http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/monster-longies-monsterbukse

For kids and some adults -- novelty hats (cabbage patch kid, viking braids, mohawk) or stuffed animals. My SIL made an adorable dragon with wings that my daughter loves, and my sister made a young cousin a dinosaur. These are so much better than the ones you can buy!
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 7:58 AM on May 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm a cross-stitcher, so I inflict cross-stitch on people. Bookmarks are at least mildly useful. They can range from the beautiful to the cheesy, as it might suit your victim recipient.
posted by Athanassiel at 8:13 AM on May 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

For kids and playful adults: this is a friend's company. She crochets hats with themes the recipients like, such as their favorite animal.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:27 AM on May 3, 2014

If you are ok with non-fiber-based suggestions, cold process soap is easier to make than you might think and people love receiving it. You could add a fiber element by making felted soap or by knitting washcloths to go with it.
posted by in a dark glassly at 8:34 AM on May 3, 2014

Best answer: I get my husband who is not a crafter at all to look at a few proposed patterns in Ravelry and decide before I make something for a non-knitter. Things that appeal to me for technique are invisible to non-knitters.

My new go-to for smallish children are variations on a pillow bear pattern there - relatively fast and customizable with colours and designs, and more of a pillow to sleep with than a toy.

If you do socks for adults, do socks in bright stripey colours in relatively thick cushy wool and call them bed socks. Non-knitters have no idea how tricky thin socks with delicate stitching are when comparing to machine-made socks, but big cozy socks in gorgeous colours are hard to buy and are quite delightful to pad around in at home.

Stay away from embroidered pieces unless you are giving it to a crafter. People have no idea how much time goes into delicate work and will assume it is something minor.

Pillowcases are great - you can buy plain pillowcases and crochet lovely lace edgings on them and they look luxurious. Sew on satin ribbon trimmings, and ta-dah. If you ever learn to sew, they are pretty much the easiest thing to do from pretty cloth as just straight seams.
posted by viggorlijah at 8:55 AM on May 3, 2014

Best answer: As a crafter, the best thing I ever did was diversify (it does help that I can sew), so that I have a bag of tricks to pull from and am not just giving candles/crochet things/sewn things/food every year. This is (I think, anyhow) what has changed people's perception of me from "the home sewer" to "person who gives lovely handmade gifts").

Things that I have done over the past several years that had an easy learning curve and that had little-to-no start up costs (I have having single use equipment hanging around).

- easy to sew potholders
- candles in tins
- home mixed spice rubs
- very simple jewelry (ie: strung beads on chains)
- Baby bibs (a pregnant friend said "we're getting bibs from you, right? RIGHT??")
- decoupaged map trivets/coasters
- Tote bags from t-shirts

If you want to stick with the knit/crochet theme, soft toys for babies are always good - better than blankets, actually, because most people swaddle and it's hard to swaddle in handknits. We live a pretty crafty life and I don't think I'd use anything else on your list except maybe the ipad/kindle case. Drink cozies would be good and useful. Honestly, knit and felted hot pads/dish scrubbies would be awesome. I love the pillowcase idea.

The best (and most used) handmade gift I've ever gotten was actually cutting boards: oak planks that were cut to size (rectangles) at the lumber place and then hand sanded and finished (no power tools) by the giver. We use them every damn day.
posted by anastasiav at 9:51 AM on May 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

I personally find trivets, coasters, potholders, that kind of stuff useful.

I've got a knitted iPhone sleeve for my phone, and it is completely adorable and absolutely worthless because you've got to take the phone out to use it and ain't nobody got time for that. It's sitting in a drawer.
posted by drlith at 10:35 AM on May 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

Reusable bags. Also small wallet-type things that go into your purse - the right size for tampons, lipstick, metro cards.
posted by bunderful at 10:54 AM on May 3, 2014

Best answer: I am a fairly expert knitter and crocheter and I hate receiving handmade gifts. I think the problem is that many craft projects are of a decorative nature, and for the item to work as a gift it has to fit in with the receiver's existing decor or wardrobe as well as aesthetic preferences. And in my own case I extremely dislike decorative knick-knacks, and am very particular about the accessories I will wear, so that eliminates a lot of handmade gifts. A handmade gift I would love to receive, though, is handmade soap. Strangely enough it is one handmade gift I have not received yet.

Handmade gifts which I have given which went over well were knitted dishcloths and scrubbies (do a search for "tawashi patterns"). Note that these were functional items that did not require any special care and did not have to match existing items (and were things that could be tucked away when not in use and did not need to be displayed). Oh, black cashmere knit berets have also been very well-received, by relatives who wanted attractive warm winter hats. I used the most basic top-down beret pattern imaginable, no lace or cables or anything, but the recipients loved them because of the simplicity and the cashmere yarn, it made them basic wardrobe items that didn't clash with what they already had.
posted by needled at 10:58 AM on May 3, 2014 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Guys like fingerless mitts or fingerless gloves. Especially outdoorsy/DIY type guys. I mean, people of the female persuasion love them too, but since men can be harder to craft for I think of them as especially good for them.
posted by HotToddy at 11:14 AM on May 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

It's a different type, but in terms of handmade gifts, I prefer getting foods. These were things I've received at some points and they were huge hits in our house:
Butter Fudge, Caramels, cookies

I've also gotten 2 gifts that I'm still kind of in love with even though I got them more than 5 years ago.
A mobile of gorgeous amorphous-slightly leaf shaped kind of things that hangs from the ceiling
My friend who works with clay, made me an amazing set of cups.
Finally, another designer friend made me a very cool looking, artistic clock
posted by uncreative at 11:28 AM on May 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Guys, I love the diversity of opinions here - esp. from those who say what they don't want, just as much as what they do.

And I love the idea of being open to new crafts, along with the much more simplistic pattern suggestions, e.g. berret, cup cozies, etc.

Thanks sooo much for the suggestions. It's such a great eye-opener to get different opinions on what people may or may not like!
posted by Chorus at 12:04 PM on May 3, 2014

I got a crocheted muffler in the MeFi swap, and I like it a lot. A knitted vest/waistcoat or sweater would be excellent, if, and only if, I had a say in color and shape. Socks - definitely yes.

Babies always need little booties. The knitted blanket my aunt made for my son will go to his son quite soon.

Children - mittens. 3 mittens, because 1 gets lost. Or 4, go nuts. I'll bet many adults would enjoy fingerless gloves or mittens, at least those of us in the frozen north.

Pets - my small dog wears sweaters, and it would be nice to have one that is a reasonable shape and does not have a stupid saying or excess decoration on it.
posted by theora55 at 2:13 PM on May 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This type of stacking crocheted bowls are very practical and can be made in nice colours to suit someone's decor or in something like jute or garden twine so they are really hardy. Or another thing, depending on the person, would be making a chunky floor rug like this

Also recently dove into making vinegars - blueberry and raspberry & thyme. So easy as its the same recipe for any berry and you can add herbs as you like. Also, its a set and forget type of thing (mine are still sitting in the fridge steeping, in 2 more weeks I can tell you how successful they were!). Decant into pretty bottles and give as tasty gifts. I will also be making little recipe cards to give ideas of how they can use their vinegar (blueberry dressing, add to soda water with some sugar syrup for a nice drink, etc).

You could also foray into the world of polymer clay and make jewellery!

Or leather work with these stacking baskets

SO MANY IDEAS! Now I must craft a storm.
posted by latch24 at 3:19 PM on May 3, 2014

Best answer: I'm a knit gifter. My default is socks, though like viggorlijah, I stick to bed socks or 100% acrylic. (Plymouth Yarn's Diversity makes shockingly nice socks, and, generally speaking, I hate acrylic yarn.) I keep yarn in my bag and just knit sock after sock when I have downtime in waiting rooms, etc, and assign them as needed for gifts.

I've also had great luck with crescent shawls, especially as gifts for older women. Arroyo was a recent knit for my mother in law, and I finished it pretty quickly.

Jersey-knit infinity scarves were very successful gifts a year or two ago, though I don't know if they're still cool. I literally just bought a bunch of xxxl teeshirts and maxi skirts from a thrift store, washed them well, cut the torso into rings (either thin or thick, depending on the look you want), stretched those out, and then wound a loop of sleeve fabric around the rings and secured it (stitching or glue). You can also braid some of the loops, or knot the fabric, for different looks. You can end up with stuff like this, this, this, and this.

I know it sounds stupid and cliche, but people go wild for homemade jam. I usually stick to strawberry or raspberry, or, for more adventurous people, strawberry-basil or blackberry lemon. My father and sister have requested the blackberry-lemon as gifts every year for about three years now, and my sister had my parents play deliveryboy last time they went to visit her. I had no idea that they would be this impressed by jam, but there you go.
posted by MeghanC at 6:39 PM on May 3, 2014 [4 favorites]

I'm not a huge fan of homemade gifts. I appreciate the thought, but, well, the family members who make them for me do so because they are not well off, and so they also tend to use the cheapest materials, like scratchy acrylic yarn, or cheap plastic beads for a necklace, etc. Also my mother can never ever get my size right. I have a huge stock of socks that are too small or too big (or in extreme cases, one of each!) and hats that are too tight. Plus I have a sort of minimalist decor in my home, so there's no place for knick-knacks, which seems to be the other popular craft option.

So for me, I would love consumables (jams, fudges, soaps), small items made with good quality materials (e.g. I'd rather have cashmere wristwarmers than an acrylic sweater), or super practical things (which is socks, plain pillowcases, monogrammed towels, tote bags, etc). One category of decorative items that I do appreciate is Christmas decorations (wreaths, tree ornaments, etc) as they are out for such a short time each year that I don't mind if they are kind of kitschy, and that's kind of a Christmas spirit thing anyway, so whatever they are like, I'll think them sweet. (I gave everyone in my family a set of six of these last year with little loops on top to attach them to the Christmas tree, and people went crazy for them.)
posted by lollusc at 6:52 PM on May 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

If someone gave me a basket/container with 4-6 of these dryer balls, especially with some essential oil scenting, I would think it would be awesome. Heck, I might start making these myself!
posted by angiep at 8:53 PM on May 3, 2014

What handmade goods do you like to receive?

Never food or clothes. I quietly bung them out or pass them along to others. Not books, either, because even I never know what I want to read until I'm half-way through reading it.

Give me art. Not art someone else made and the giver purchased, mind you. Make it art the giver made. And make it actual art, not crafts, never useful, not a semi-bloody-handy piece of stuff made from egg cartons and scrap wood and wool. But even bad art as a gift is a gift, a good laugh, and a kind act if well-meant, and the only gift better than good art would have to be a needed bodily organ.
posted by pracowity at 7:47 AM on May 4, 2014

Now this would not be everyones cup of tea but I would be very chuffed with a hand made set of sanitary towels! Stuff them with terry towelling and put them in a funky cover.. maybe not a crochet one hehe (there'll be lessons online) comfy, retro, money saving and green. Sock monkeys are great for kids (small ones are good for bABIES and a lot less work), great question :)
posted by tanktop at 7:13 AM on May 10, 2014

Lipbalm is practical and very easy to make. You basically melt the ingredients, combine, and pour, but you can also customize it with different flavors, add tint, etc. Once you've gathered the supplies, you can keep them on-hand for whenever you need to make a new batch.

Along the same lines (though I haven't tried making them myself), if someone gifted me handmade soap or candles, they would be my new best friend.
posted by Gordafarin at 7:40 AM on May 12, 2014

Homemade lipbalm squicks me out. I might be unusual in this regard, but lipbalm falls into the category of "things I'd rather have made in a nice clean factory."
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:24 AM on May 13, 2014

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