AI: The Holiday Hustle

Most years it’s impossible to not go broke getting a gift for everyone. Add to that the fact that I love giving presents and will add random people to my list just because they were extra nice to me at a random time before Christmas and it really turns into a problem.

This year we were particularly careful with money, considering the impending arrival of our daughter any time now (Seriously, get her out of me. Please?), so I put a recently-learned craft to use. I crocheted every gift we gave with the exception of our nieces, to whom we gave book store gift cards because they’re young and knowledge is power. [I hope you also read that in Schoolhouse Rock form, because that’s what happened in my head as I typed it.]

All I can really make at this point are scarves and hats, but still I’m pleased with myself and I’ve gotten a great response from everyone I’ve gifted so far. The only thing with making gifts for everyone is that you either have to work on it night and day or some people are going to have to wait until after Christmas to receive their bounty. Regardless, I’m glad that I get to supply the people we love with something I made with my own hands.

Do you get crafty with gifts? Did you receive anything this year that someone made specifically for you? Have you ever given a gift that you’re particularly proud of?

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear daily at 3pm ET.


Chelsea is the proud mama of an amazing toddler-aged girl. She works in the retail industry while vehemently disliking mankind and, every once in a while, her bottled-up emotions explode into WordPress as a lengthy, ranty, almost violent blog. These will be your favorite Chelsea moments. Follow Chelsea on Twitter: chelseaepp.

Related Articles


  1. One year I bought a bottle corker, some bottles and some corks and gave everyone custom cocktails. It was messy. It was expensive. It was more math than my mathematically-challenged brain can handle. It was awesome.

    It was also probably less expensive than buying gift gifts for everyone (but it doesn’t seem like it when you’re dropping a few hundred dollars at the liquor store and you’re not having a party), plus I still have the bottler for when I want to do this again and I got to keep all the leftovers. There’s never leftover gift certificates or iPods.

  2. I feel guilty this year, like I received gifts out of proportion to what I gave. But I did give some very nice ones, and gave more than I could easily afford this year.

    The best gift I got this year was from The Girl, who went online and made one of those picture books that you can upload photos to (Mac users will recognize iPhoto, I’m not sure what she used). She made it of photos of us from the last year and a half that we’ve been dating – I was really, really touched by that.

  3. Gifts that you make yourself are really the only things that are special. All else is shopping. Shopping for someone else is nice, but doesn’t show a lot of thought. Unless you are an expert in a particular field shopping is usually best done by the person who wants the item anyway.

    This being said I think that mandatory gift giving is a blight and a plague and we should do our very best to eliminate it. The tag on almost every birthday, wedding, and Christmas present should read “I got this for you to save myself embarrassment of not having got you anything.” This is also why most of them are crap. And people know it’s crap which is why registries and gift cards are so popular. Gift cards are also a good way to show that you care about a person so little you aren’t even willing to shop for them. And secret Santa? “Here I got you this because I drew your name from a hat.” Very touching.

    I’ve eliminated mandatory gift giving in my family and mostly expunged it from my in-laws as well. (The down economy helped.) This frees us up to focus on things like enjoying each others’ company.

    This being said, my objection is to mandatory gift giving. I am hugely into spontaneous gift giving. If a really great idea occurs to me I’ll go with it whatever the time of year and so will my close friends and family. No pressure, no thought of reciprocity, and no mixed motives. This is what gift giving should be.

  4. I can’t make anything from scratch. I can do needlepoint from a kit and have made a couple of gifts I’m proud of, including a Christmas stocking for my husband. Once you figure in the cost of the kit and framing (if applicable), though, it can actually be rather expensive!

    My Mom is a quilter and made a nice set of placemats for us this year. She also made me and each of my siblings a shadowbox with a photo of my late grandfather and a belt buckle from his extensive collection. It was very touching to receive that.

  5. I made truffles for all this year: bittersweet w/cinnamon & cocoa coating; peppermint w/white chocolate & peppermint stick coating; hazelnut praline w/milk chocolate, and orange filled w/dark chocolate & candied orange peel.

    My youngest nephews got cookies, because they prefer those to truffles. There’s no accounting for taste amongst the youth of today…

  6. I knit and only people who I KNOW will appreciate how much work goes into a knit item will ever get something. (My aunt is going to get the world’s most expensive mittens RAWR, I’ve ripped them out 4 times so far. :( )

    But last year I made calendars for my family. I put everyone’s birthday on them. And all the photos were pretty simple outdoors photos that I took myself. Anyone who didn’t say “Hey thanks! I really like it!” didn’t get one this year. It’s not worth my time and effort and mostly hurt feelings to make and ship them off to people who don’t care.

    It is much easier to get hurt feelings from handmade gifts than from store bought ones, I would say it is very much a double edged sword. And I know I’m supposed to give without expecting anything in return but hey my grandma made it clear that all us grandkids were supposed to say thank you (and write thank you notes!) and if it was good enough for her it is good enough for me. I don’t expect a gift in return, just a thank you.

  7. Everything we gave out this year was handmade. I knitted some fingerless gloves for people, and we gave out jars of jam (from berries we picked over the summer), salsa, and applesauce, plus we made some pretty fancy candy–salted caramels, raspberry-chipotle fudge, and sesame-seed five-spice chocolates.

    I feel a little awkward about it, because my partner’s family goes All Out for holidays, giving literally hundreds of dollars of presents to each person, but the stuff we made was delicious and, I think, a little more meaningful than an Olive Garden gift card.

  8. I make most of my gifts every year because I am one crafty-ass bitch. This year I made my sister the ubiquitous infinity scarf, my niece a sweater and matching cap, my mom some jewelry. I also made jewelry for co-workers.

    As the future owner of the Skepchick Island bakery, I also made some damn delicious cookies this year.

  9. We picked wild black raspberries this summer and I made jam for everyone. We also made raspberry jam from our backyard bushes. I made applesauce from apples grown on my parent’s trees and bought cucumbers from the farmer’s market to make pickles. I packaged the jars in cute baskets. These were great for the parents who don’t need anything.

    My daughter is a fantastic baker and made her own vanilla for everyone using different varieties of beans.

    My older daughter made infused vodka. It was all a hit and very affordable for us.

  10. Usually I don’t get too crafty with my gifts simply because I am an art student. This might seem counter-intuitive, but by the time gift-giving season rolls around, I have zero desire to add making personalized gifts to the end of the semester work load.

    This year was the exception however. I didn’t have much any money for gifts, but I did have a lot of left-over steel in my studio. So for Christmas I forged my parents a coat-rack.

    It was hot, sweaty, callous-inducing, extremely rewarding work.

  11. @Zapski: That’s a very sweet gift. For my husband, since I’m not working at the moment and therefore would have had to spend his money on him to buy a gift, I did a little sentimental thing.

    At our baby shower last month, the restaurant send his leftover lunch home in a plain white paper bag, but they wrote “DAD” on it. He refused to throw it away and left it sitting, open and upright, on top of the fridge. I got a small frame, cut out the message and re-wrote it as closely as I could on the other side of the bag so he wouldn’t notice, and returned it to the top of the fridge with the hole facing the wall.

    It was something he really appreciated and I was glad to have married such a sentimental man that something so simple could be just as good to him as a store-bought gift.

  12. Here’s some personalized gifts I’ve given over the years:
    – 100 pens with the person’s name engraved on each, for someone who was always short a pen
    – I once gathered up all the recipes someon had scribbled down on various scraps of paper and had them printed and bound into a proper cookbook
    – various t-shirts, sweatshirts and such with custom designs printed on them

  13. I knit a balaclava for my sister – she just moved to Saskatchewan and is dealing with her first prairie winter. There’s about $1 worth of yarn in it, but about 10 hours of work.

    Does it say something about me that I have something to contribute to the crafts thread, but not the sex thread? ;)

    oh, and Chelsea, the “Dad” story is adorable.

  14. My daughter’s boyfriend gave her a pillow he made for her out of one of her cheer shirts he stole when they first met. He sleeps every night with a t shirt pillow his grandmother made him when he was small. I thought it was incredibly thoughtful and romantic for an 18 year old and thinking of him sitting around trying to sew just warms my heart.

    I’m not so sure my daughter is as enamored with the gift. I hope one day she realizes how sentimental this is and doesn’t have to learn the hard way…Seriously, any boy can buy you jewelry.

  15. Every year for Hanukkah, my friend Caroline makes my family original hand knit/sewn items. In the past we’ve gotten an unbelievable assortment of things: an alligator-shaped scarf, a “faux-hawk” winter hat, leather lined gauntlets… and this year I got a beautiful velvet “bordello” bag for my schwexy side.

    She’s awesome, and she does it because we love the fun of her gift-giving and never fail to express our joy and gratitude. She quit making things for most of her family b/c they just don’t care.

    I buy stuff for kids, since games and tickets are very cool with them. I also try to buy from my crafty friends – alpaca sweaters, Japanese paper covered tins, pottery, cheese and beer.
    I also have dinner parties instead of gifts for friends and family. Way better! Homemade food counts a lot. It’s also the kind of home made stuff I have time for.
    I like giving things all during December when people are on vacation or have time to spend with me. I like to give things to people who have helped me during the year. More of a festive month or so than one particular holiday.

  16. I did a lot of canning this year: mango chutney, tomato relish, salsa, tomatillo salsa, plum jam, plum chutney, and apple cider jelly. A portion of that went into gifts to family and fiends. (I do hope they actually use it, and it doesn’t get shoved to the back of the cabinet or fridge. It’s good stuff, although come to think of it I never did taste-test the tomato relish. . .)

  17. I guess my favorite is when I made someone a musical instrument and I boxed it up and gave it just after she put up her tree but I wrapped up two identical boxes and gave her the one that was too light and sounded funny. The day before christmas, her friend (who had a key to her apt) let me in and we very carefully replaced the false box with the real one which was by now deep under other gifts. It worked, she had no clue what she was getting even though she knew I made musical instruments. The look on her face when we finally got to that box and she tried to pick it up and it weighed much more than it used to… priceless.

  18. Wow, what a terrific bunch of stories about home made gifts.

    My wife, Dawn, knits little gift bags for many people in my family (our family xmas parties are 20 to 35 people each year, so she makes a lot of these). She fills the bags with special items for each person. This year, everybody got a SurlyRamics necklace (thanks, Amy!), some nice chocolates, and a few other small personal gifts.

    No one else in my family does this, and everyone appreciates the effort, time, and thought she puts into these gift bags.

    Me, I have no crafty talent, but I am great at buying things :)

    Also, I agree with davew (wha!), I am annoyed buy obligatory gifting, but adore spontaneous gifting.

  19. @jdhmsmith: It took me like an entire minute to wrap my mind around the fact that you hadn’t accidentally omitted the word “blue” before “cheer” in that first sentence.


  20. I did a lot of knitting. It’s quiet in the evenings and I enjoy knitting then. I used to only do scarves, then I discovered youtube and now I can knit a HAT. I even posted my OWN youtubes (kittinh) about how to knit a baby hat that has bunny ears, and a flying pig. I learned the mobius scarf pattern, which I love to do as it takes so little paying attention (I can watch videos and knit). plus, it’s really warm whenyou double wrap it. So next year, mobius scarves for people! For those in warmer climes I am trying one in cotton instead of wool.

  21. I am not that creative, but mostly I just don’t have the patience to make gifts.

    I did give a kick ass gift, though: I gave my almost 8 year old nephew a telescope for Christmas. I’m an awesome aunt. :D

  22. @davew:

    Shopping for someone else is nice, but doesn’t show a lot of thought.

    I don’t know about that. I’m pretty good at picking out gifts for most people. Generally I just ask my sisters what they want, unless I already have an idea. My dad however is easy peasy: He loves science. I got him a great Discovery Channel NASA DVD — it tickled him pink, like I knew it would. That wasn’t “just shopping”. That was thoughtful. And it wasn’t even that expensive (on sale on Amazon for $12!).

    My nephew LOVED his telescope. He loves looking at the stars with my dad (“Pa”) on my dad’s big telescope. Now that was an awesome gift that is not only fun but educational, and very thoughtful. It certainly wasn’t “just shopping”. I knew he’d *love* to have his very own telescope. I knew he was getting into astronomy. And I know how much he loves spending time with his Pa, doing things like this, and it was kind of also partly a gift for my dad, because my dad seriously loves doing this kind of stuff with kids. Basically they will both spend hours together and with my nephew’s friends, with this telescope I *bought* that wasn’t even that expensive.

    You don’t have to spend a lot of money to *buy* great gifts that are also thoughtful.

    Also, I don’t mind gift cards. My dad got me a gift card and some slippers. Now I can get some new pots and pans, which makes me happy. My mom and grandmother both gave me cash — cash is always welcome. I’m broke! Gimme cash! Now that’s thoughtful: Give cash to someone you know needs it.

    My boss gave me a Border’s gift card, which I thought was *super* thoughtful: She remembered how much I love to read and shop for books. I will not say no to $25 for books, hells to the no!

    You can “go shopping” and still buy thoughtful gifts that aren’t that expensive.

    I think this idea that the only gifts “worth” something are “made” is ridiculous. What about those of us who can’t make shit? I really don’t have the patience to make shit. However, for most people, I’m pretty good at picking out gifts. Also, picking out gifts for an almost 8 year old is freakin’ fun. They appreciate everything, and I can use my Aunt power to buy fun but also educational gifts. Well, maybe that Nintendo DS last year wasn’t all that educational, but he loves that stupid thing.

  23. I knit gifts for my partner and MY family. I know from past experience that a homemade gift to his family is responded to with a puzzled look and “oh, um, that’s nice…” So I only make gifts for people I know will appreciate them.
    I also make cookies for friends. Lots and lots of cookies.

  24. My friend in art school is decorating my white chucks with a tardis on each side. I’m pretty xcited that now when I’m not wearing geeky clothes, I can still wear my geekiness with pride.
    And it totally makes sense because our love of tennant and doctor who keeps us in contact going to different schools.

  25. I make a lot of gifts–baked or knitted stuff, mostly. I think the best gift I ever made/gave was a sweater that I knit with Mr. Spock’s face on it*. I gave it to my sweetie, who is a huge STTOS fan, and Spock’s his favorite character.

    Ah, geek love!

    I also have the color grid for the Wicked musical logo, and I want to knit that into some kind of satchel in the next year or two. But that will be MINE!

    I found the color grids/patterns for the Star Trek characters online.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Back to top button