I want to make a Christmas present for my girlfriend
December 3, 2005 5:36 PM   Subscribe

I want to make a Christmas present for my girlfriend!

Even though I don't have much money I have a tendency to give my girlfriend expensive gifts. I want to show her how much I love her and I think it's a nice way of doing it. She has told me that she appreciates it but she doesn't want me to spend all my money on her.

I still want to give her something for Christmas that shows her how much I care, though, and I think a nice way of doing it would be by making her something. The only problem is that I don't really know how to make anything.

Could I sew her a cover for her iPod shuffle? (I have access to a sewing machine and I could probably get the owner to thread it for me, but I don't really know how to sew.)

Could I learn knitting in time to make her something cool for Christmas? Could I make her some jewelery? Any suggestions are welcome.

Oh, and we're both in our early twenties and we like indie-style fashion.
posted by sveskemus to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (31 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
What are her interests/hobbies? (e.g. Does she play any musical instruments? Have a regular athletic/exercise activity? etc.)
posted by winston at 5:46 PM on December 3, 2005

Check out craftster which has great forums full of indie-style diy crafts including the ever popular ipod cover. You will definitely feel inspired!
posted by Biblio at 5:48 PM on December 3, 2005

DAMN! Wrong link. It's craftster.
posted by Biblio at 5:50 PM on December 3, 2005

If you have some time to devote to it, you could totally learn to knit in time to do something for Christmas. Actually, even if you don't have a ton of time, you could learn how to knit something -- a skinny scarf, maybe, or an iPod cover that you can knit as a rectangle and then sew up the sides to use as a pouch.

I recommend learning how to knit from an actual person, because it's simple for them to correct any mistakes you're making right at the start. But if there isn't a knitting group near you, there are lots of online instructions -- for example, does this make sense to you?

You won't need a pattern, just yarn and one pair of knitting needles. If you want a skinny scarf, get pretty bulky yarn and a matching big set of needles, and make a long skinny rectangle that's vaguely scarf-shaped. If you want an iPod cozy, measure her iPod; you'll want to make a rectangle slightly wider than the iPod and twice as long (to sew up the sides), and you'll probably want softer, finer yarn and matching smaller needles. Wherever you go to buy needles and yarn, someone should be able to advise you on how they'll match up. Let me know if you want more information -- good luck!
posted by booksandlibretti at 5:52 PM on December 3, 2005

An Ipod cover would not be that difficult to sew. If your friend with the sewing machine would be able to give you a little technical support in addition to threading, that should be doable. I recommend looking around Craftster - search for "Ipod" for a whole host of ideas. They even have a section on "Occasions and Holidays," with threads galore on crafty gift ideas.

I don't knit, but I crochet - depending on what you mean by "something cool," you could probably do something. Remember that even something as simple as a scarf can be meaningful - she'll be cuddling up in something warm that you made for her, and everyone knows that homemade things by loved ones are warmer and cozier than mass-produced items.

I wonder, though, what skills you already have that you could use to make a nice gift, rather than pressuring yourself to learn something new. Are you a good cook? What about making a fabulous gourmet meal, or giving her a week's worth of meals and not letting her lift a finger? Writing your thing? Write a cute book about all the ways in which she's great. Music guy? Write her a song, or go back to the classics and make her a mix tape. It sounds like you feel pressured to make a grand gesture - either by spending lots of money or by busting out a heretofore-unknown skill, but really, the hallmark of a good gift is something sincere and thoughtful that shows you care for the giftee.
posted by hilatron at 5:56 PM on December 3, 2005

Maybe a paper tole? (think of a 3D picture).

I have no artistic talent yet found it pretty easy to do (just scissors, an exacto knife, glue and curling of pieces of paper). It also wasn't very time consuming (4-5 hours for a pretty simple one 4-5 layered one).

You can even pick out something appropriate for her tastes (if she likes mainstream things like Winnie the Pooh, Disney, Precious Moments, etc., they already have those types of premade instructioned toles). You could personalize it by choosing her favourite cartoon strip (thought might be a bit more difficult to do).

If you get it framed afterwards might cost a bit of money, but the tole kits are pretty cheap.
posted by curbstop at 5:59 PM on December 3, 2005

Aw, I love booksandlibretti's knitting idea. If you go with the online learning, you might look at this guide which was recently linked off of MeFi as a "best of online knitting" instructions.
posted by whatzit at 6:09 PM on December 3, 2005

winston writes "What are her interests/hobbies? (e.g. Does she play any musical instruments? Have a regular athletic/exercise activity? etc.)"

She is into fashion ans design and she wants to get better at drawing. Also, she uses her iBook all the time. She already has a bag for the iBook (and I doubt I would be able to make one anyway).

Biblio - thanks for that link. I'll check it out.

booksandlibretti - that looks quite complicated but I guess it'll be easier if I actually have some yarn and some knitting needles to try it with. Unfortunately I don't think I know anybody who can knit so I can't get a real person to teach me.

hilatron - You are spot on about the grand gesture thing. But that was actually why I thought making something would be nice -- because it's less grand. And also because I think learning a new skill might be fun. We don't live together and I would like to give her something that will make her smile and think of me.

curbstop - Interesting idea. I'll check it out.

whatzit - That looks like a great guide. I like how it goes into great detail about things like how to tie a slip knot, which is also not a skill I currently possess. :-)

Thank you all for the great answers so far. If anybody has any ideas please keep 'em coming!
posted by sveskemus at 6:16 PM on December 3, 2005

Just want to throw in a vote for making jewelry -- I am the worst sewer and knitter on the planet, but I can handle making bracelets and earrings without too much trouble.

Craftster has a jewelry section in its forums that's worth visiting. You might also want to look at BeadStyle magazine -- they have basic jewelrymaking instructions in the back of every issue.
posted by gnomeloaf at 6:17 PM on December 3, 2005

I'm leaning against trying my luck at knitting (still not sure, though!). But I have a bonus question: How hard is it? Would I be able to make something like this if I bought those patterns or should I just be happy if I'm able to make her a simple scarf or iPod cover?
posted by sveskemus at 6:28 PM on December 3, 2005

Leaning against. That means I'm thinking about probably doing it, right? Well anyway, that was what I meant.

English is not my first language, sorry.
posted by sveskemus at 6:36 PM on December 3, 2005

I was going to suggest knitting, too.

Here's the secret (and if she isn't a knitter she'll never know): you can knit a scarf in just a few hours even if it's your first project as long as you use huge needles, fancy thick yarn (it doesn't even need to be expensive, just colorful) and knit in garter stitch (that is, you don't need to learn the purl stitch, just the knit stitch.)

I'm not going to recommend a book or pattern as others have already covered that, but I will suggest you go to your local yarn shop and explain you've never knit before and you want to make a fun, quick chunky scarf as a present for your girlfriend. If the shop is halfway decent they'll even set you up and get you started.

She will melt when she gets a handmade scarf from you, even if you think it's not as nice as something from the store, because you put the time into it and you designed it just for her. If she's not into scarves to a Google search for "two-hour hat" -- there's a hat pattern floating around that you work with big yarn on big needles in practically no time. If you have trouble finding it email me and I'll dig it up for you.

Okay, one book recommendation: Check out Deb Stoller's Stitch 'N Bitch: The Knitter's Handbook. It's full of fun and funky patterns; some of them are really quick. It's the book that taught me how to knit; she really breaks down the process well but I'd still recommend having an experienced knitter around when you're just getting started.

In the interest of full disclosure I should probably tell you that she published one of my patterns in a follow-up book but apart from that I don't have any connection to Deb Stoller or BUST Magazine.
posted by Opposite George at 6:37 PM on December 3, 2005

Check out ReadyMade magazine. They have DIY ideas galore. From this issue I like the shoulder bags made from army blankets and the cruelty-free bear rug (fake fur, plus a plastic head mold and glass eyes from a taxidermy supplier).
posted by hydrophonic at 6:56 PM on December 3, 2005

sveskemus writes "Leaning against. That means I'm thinking about probably doing it, right? Well anyway, that was what I meant."

Leaning towards means you're still considering it, but you'd like to give it a shot. Leaning against is less common, but infers the opposite: that out of the options presented, it's less likely or favourable.

posted by fionab at 6:58 PM on December 3, 2005

sveskemus, a couple of things.

"Leaning towards X" means thinking about X, or probably going to do X.

Your link is actually crocheting patterns, not knitting patterns (there is a big difference). I would not recommend trying to crochet those for Christmas, especially if you don't already know how to crochet. I know there are amazing people who can whip those off in an evening, but I am not one of them and I suspect that as a complete newbie you won't be either.

You should be happy with knitting a skinny scarf or an iPod cozy -- both of those are good presents I would be happy to get, especially if I didn't know you could knit at all!

When you go to the store to get your needles and yarn, you'll need to talk to someone about what to get for the project you want to do. They should also be able to help you get started knitting. Many stores hold beginners' classes; if yours doesn't, someone at the store (either a worker or another customer) probably won't have a problem taking five or ten minutes to teach you. Knitting is a very communal activity, and people are almost always really happy to help.

I recommend learning from someone else, but it's also possible to learn from a book or an online guide. The only problem with that is that nobody's around to correct your small mistakes when you first start making them. So it will be faster if you learn from a person who can watch you making your first try, but it's also possible to learn from printed material.

Basic knitting is really, really not hard. In about five or ten minutes, you will have completely mastered the technique, and will be set to work on your scarf/cozy. For now, to save time, only learn the knit stitch. If someone mentions "purling" to you, just say no for now. You will knit the whole way through your scarf/cozy (which will be one color). Because while basic knitting is very easy, complicated knitting can be extremely hard until you're very good at it. Maybe next year, you can knit her a hat or gloves. For this year, stick to the scarf or the iPod cozy. I would rather have something simple that turns out really well, than something that tried to be too complicated and failed. I'm sure your girlfriend will be thrilled with a scarf you knitted in her favorite color -- I can't imagine anyone who wouldn't be touched.

My e-mail's in my profile if you have any specific questions about knitting.
posted by booksandlibretti at 7:07 PM on December 3, 2005

If you do end up knitting, the free online videos at knitting help are a great reference.
posted by missmerrymack at 8:03 PM on December 3, 2005

For clarification, I was suggesting knitting the iPod cozy. Scarves are awesome, but when you want unique, too, the knit iPod is the way to go.
posted by whatzit at 8:18 PM on December 3, 2005

These have been a hit with a bunch of people around here lately. It's homemade, it's a blanket, it's warm and cuddly.

Otherwise, I second the beading suggestion. You can get pretty creative, jewelry is always good, and you don't need a lof tools to get started.
posted by schnee at 8:26 PM on December 3, 2005

Glue gun coasters.

You squirt hot glue in a crazy overlapping squiggly pattern (in a coaster-shaped circle) over a colored magazine page. Let it dry and then pick off the excess magazine in all the holes and around the outside. The magazine that sticks to the glue looks neat, especially if you pick bright graphics.

I'm convinced that they are the next big diy fad after the duck tape wallet. Not super romantic but fun and quirky.
posted by intoxicate at 9:45 PM on December 3, 2005

A cheap n' easy knitting technique: broomstick lace. You can make something enormous and interesting very quickly simply by using two different sized needles: one that is kind of big, and one that is simply enormous. It looks fancy but it's actually simple and fast, no purl stitch necessary.
posted by Sara Anne at 10:08 PM on December 3, 2005

Intoxicate - wouldn't the glue melt when you put something hot on it????

As for cool gifts, if you decide that you're not crafty enough to make something, you could always get a Neighborhoodie - they're reasonably priced and quite personal if you put something fun on it.
posted by radioamy at 11:35 PM on December 3, 2005

Have you considered a mix CD? I know, it's overdone, but you could include songs that mean something to you both and then pour all your creativity into the cover/liner notes (drawings, mini-collages made from magazine or postcard cutouts, snippets from the lyrics in nice handwriting etc. etc.).

Don't know your girlfriend, but personally speaking, I'd probably prefer this to an iPod cozy. But then I don't have an iPod, and I don't know how many mix CDs you've already given her in the past. :-)
posted by mumble at 1:14 AM on December 4, 2005

Thank you all for your excellent suggestions. Tomorrow I will go to a store and buy some yarn and knitting needles. I will ask somebody there to show me how to use it. Then I'll try my luck at knitting her a scarf and/or an iPod cozy.

If I get frustrated with knitting -- or if it turns out I'm good at it and I have time before Christmas -- I'll try some of the other suggestions in this thread.

If everything else fails I'll just buy her something. At least I'll have tried. Thanks again for all your advice. I'll be sure to post an update in this thread after Christmas to let you know what happened.
posted by sveskemus at 3:49 AM on December 4, 2005

Sveskemus, most knit shops I know of have an open house evening each week where customers and students of the shop's knitting classes come to knit and socialize together. Look at all of the knitting shops in your area and ask about these gatherings. You'll likely be able to find a mentor there.

FWIW, I taught myself to knit from a book and encountered few obstacles. I suggest that you buy wooden needles and a natural fiber yarn, as acrylic/synthetic yarns are sometimes hard to work with. Perhaps buy another set of needles for your girlfriend and wrap them up with her gift -- knitting could be a nice hobby for you to share, and in my opinion, guys who knit are generally made more handsome by doing so.

When I first started knitting I had to undo my projects a few times before getting them right. Don't let yourself get too discouraged, eyes on the prize.
posted by cior at 5:58 AM on December 4, 2005

It might not make a bunch of sense to you now, but if you go the knitting route, beware of this common mistake, as it was the leading factor in my knit troubles as a beginner.
posted by cior at 6:02 AM on December 4, 2005

cior writes "Perhaps buy another set of needles for your girlfriend and wrap them up with her gift"

Wow, that's a great idea. I can't believe I hadn't thought of that myself.
posted by sveskemus at 6:32 AM on December 4, 2005

I think she'll love the knitted scarf.

If you have the time (and money) you could also make a piece of jewelry and a small handmade book (trust me, if I can make one, anyone can). There are lots of instructions on the internet. Even if they aren't very practical, they're perfect to leave as decoration near the phone or on a bedside table.

I would then find a cardboard box (maybe one that paper reams are sold in) and cover it with sturdy paper (either brown paper which you can hand decorate with stencils or freehand) or even an offcut of really pretty wallpaper (I'm sure a local decorating store will have them spare).

Place all of the gifts in this box to open on the day and she can then use the box for storage throughout the year.

Good luck!
posted by ceri richard at 8:33 AM on December 4, 2005

The classic expression of home made love is to cook her a meal. Think about some things she likes and come up with an easy, but multi-course meal. You can pick us so many partially premade things at the store these days--bags of mixed salad greens, beef or chicken already in a marinade, frozen bread dough ready to bake--that it needn't be intimidating if you don't normally cook. Add some candles and a bottle of nice wine and you are one sexy domestic hero.
posted by LarryC at 11:26 AM on December 4, 2005

How are things coming along?
posted by cior at 12:49 PM on December 7, 2005

Casting on is a bitch. I've tried a couple of times using the instructions linked upthread but I haven't been able to get it right yet. I just end up with cramps in my left hand and a couple of knots.

But I've talked to a friend who, as it turns out, knits and she has promised me to show me how to cast on one of these days.

So things are looking positive although I still haven't knitted as much as a single stitch yet.
posted by sveskemus at 3:51 AM on December 8, 2005

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