Handmade Holiday Gift Guide 2011: Handmade Gifts to Make

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Happy Thanksgiving!

In the U.S., the day after Thanksgiving (Black Friday) signifies the official start of the holiday shopping season.  In the spirit of keeping the holidays a little more handmade and small business and a little less mass produced and corporate, I’m sharing several holiday gift guides today.

Handmade gifts to make

This time of year, many crafters are using every spare moment to make holiday gifts for their loved ones.  Tracie Barrett‘s Gift Giving Guide on the Fibers by Tracie blog gives some great suggestions for quick-to-make holiday gifts and Fearless Leader recently posted a teaser for the Crochet Liberation Front‘s upcoming Official Guide to Super Awesome Gift Giving.

My personal favorite last minute crochet gift projects are scarves made with bulky yarns (or multiple strands of yarn), hats, and cotton washcloths.

For scarves and washcloths, I turn to my stitch guides for inspiration.  Don’t have any stitch guides?

Not sure how many stitches to start with?  This post in my Crochet 101 CAL explains how to use your gauge to figure out how many stitches to start with if you want to make a project of a specific size.

Some of my holiday 2011 washcloths.

Hats make wonderful, quick holiday gifts.  Some of my favorite crochet hat patterns:

Stocking Caps. (Photo (c) House of White Birches.)

I just reviewed 60 More Quick Knits, which has some great knitted hat patterns, as well as patterns for mittens and scarfs.  My favorite crochet mitten pattern, amazingly available in 8 sizes from infant to XL adult, is Heart Strings by Cathy Pipinich.

Amigurumi can make a fun gift, too.

Filled with great gift ideas!

Speaking of books I haven’t had a chance to review yet, there are three great patterns in Little Crochet: Modern Designs for Babies and Toddlers by Linda Permann that would make speedy children’s gifts: Cozy Crawlers Leg Warmers (6 mo – 2 years, and available here as a free excerpt), Tiny Tee Appliques to add to store bought or hand sewn clothes, and Beanie and Bonnet (in baby, toddler, and child sizes).  (Beanie and Bonnet errata available here.)

handmade gift bag can be a wonderful addition to a handmade or store bought gift.  These bags can be also reused, unlike conventional wrapping paper, making them more eco-friendly.Kathryn from Crochet Concupiscence has a great list of crochet patterns for bags in this blog post.  The Mel Stampz blog has a list of 50 templates and patterns for papercrafts gift bags.

Deborah Atkinson from Snowcatcher has excellent crochet patterns and tutorials in her Snowflake Monday posts.   (It would be great if you could contribute to her charity of choice, Bike MS, so that she can send you a PDF of her 20 most popular designs.)  These snowflakes would make great holiday decorations or embellishments for gifts.  Some of the patterns would also work well as a set of holiday coasters.

With all of this holiday crocheting and knitting, you may be running low on yarn.  So why not stop by your Local Yarn Shop to celebrate Small Business Saturday?  You can even register your American Express card in advance to get a $25 credit on your statement if you spend at least $25 at a small business on Saturday, November 26.  Your LYS employees are guaranteed to have some additional project ideas and maybe even a few new patterns or yarns for you try out.  (If you’ll be yarn shopping in NYC, check out my Visitor’s Guide to New York City Yarn Shops.)

If you aren’t in the mood for knitting, crocheting, or papercrafting, handmade food gifts are another option.  I like to make jar mixes:  I don’t exhaust myself with last minute baking, the mixes last longer and can be used after the holidays end, and the jars can be reused in the kitchen or for craft storage.  Nestle‘s Very Best Baking is a good site for finding classic gift recipes.  My favorite jar mixes to give are the classic Toll House cookies mix, the chewie brownie mix, and the hot cocoa mix.  For those who don’t like chocolate (and there are some of them out there), I like the pumpkin cranberry bread mix or the oatmeal chip cookie mix (substituting butterscotch chips, raisins, or craisins for the chocolate chips).  You can also check out the Best Cookie Mix in a Jar Recipes and Dry Soup Mix Recipes pages at Allrecipes.com for more ideas.  If you can’t find canning jars in your area, there are many online options for ordering these days.  Just remember that if you are shipping jar mixes, you need to be careful about packaging.

Enjoy the first gift guide, and feel free to share your favorite gifts to make in the comments!

WIP Wednesday – Patterns galore

This week, I took two big steps in my design career – I started pattern testing and I started my own group on Ravelry.  Let me backtrack a bit here first.  Since I started formally writing up my designs last year, I’ve had several patterns published in print magazines.

Stocking caps, in Crochet World’s December, 2010 issue.  Photo (c) House of White Birches
Snowball hat and keyhole scarf set, also in the December, 2010 issue of Crochet World. Photo (c) House of White Birches
The Sunshine blanket and pillow in Issue 20 (August, 2011) of Inside Crochet.  Photo (c) Inside Crochet

Today marks the first day that I’ve had a pattern published in an online magazine.  I can finally share that my broomstick lace shawl, Quadrilateral, is included in the Fall, 2011 issue of Knitcircus. This is the top secret project I mentioned in these posts (#1, #2, #3) and which I can finally show you.

(c) KnitCircus
(c) KnitCircus

I love the way the outdoor photographs look.   The pictures really highlight the beauty of the yarn, Heather by the Schaefer Yarn Company in the Subtly Solid Botanicals Thistle colorway.  Working on Quadrilateral was my first opportunity to work with Schaefer Yarn, and I’m so glad Jaala Spiro (the editor of KnitCircus) recommended it!  The yarn is so lovely to work with and the colorway really highlights all of my favorite things about purple :).  The issue goes live today and I have the opportunity to give away PDFs of several issues.  But more about that later…

So my work in progress for this week is getting some patterns “up to snuff” for self-publication.  When you work with a publisher, they hire people to tech edit your designs, photograph your work, and layout the pattern.  (Often they also arrange for yarn support and handle the questions that readers have about your pattern, too!)  On the other hand, when you self-publish a pattern, you have two options.  You can just write up a pattern and publish it without testing, editing, or considering layout, or you can try to replicate all of the functions of the publishing company in addition to your own design work.

I’ve been teaching crochet since 2007, and I decided that I didn’t want to be one of the designers who just presents their work to the public, warts and all.  I didn’t want to be one of the designers that have people convinced they don’t know how to read patterns (when actually the pattern is full of errors).  So I hired a tech editor and when the patterns were returned to me, I started pattern testing.

I was lucky to find a great group on Ravelry called the Testing Pool.  Through this group I have found thirteen very nice crocheters who are each working on one or two of the three patterns I’m testing right now for a fall release.  Two of these patterns are in the Crochet: 100+ Patterns Throughout the Year: 2012 Day-to-Day Calendar and one has never been released.  The pattern tests are working great so far.  The testers have found typos, made suggestions for layout, and identified phrasing which could be unclear or confusing.

Managing all these tests on email has been a bit challenging, since I’m trying to link up (in my mind) people to their Ravelry IDs.  So I decided I would also start an Underground Crafter group on Ravelry.  This could be used for pattern testing, crochet a longs, info on upcoming classes, and other cool stuff that I have yet to imagine.

What are you working on this week?  Check out the other WIP Wednesday posts at Tami’s Amis!

The Giveaway

Here’s your chance to win a PDF of the patterns in the Fall, 2011 issue of KnitCircus!   This issue includes 27 crochet and knit patterns, as well as all of the other goodies KnitCircus is known for like recipes, articles, and reviews.  If you’re not familiar with KnitCircus, you should check it out.  Much of the content is available for free, and you can see awesome photos of each pattern before you make a choice about whether or not to buy an issue.  You can also buy individual patterns through their pattern shop.