Thursday, March 22, 2012

giving handmade gifts

This past weekend my first-grader was invited to a birthday party for a girl in his class.  He was excited to go, excited about the prospect of cake, and about giving her a gift.  He wanted to give her Barbies and pink, since she she's a big fan of both.

Those of you that have been reading my blog a while know I'm an advocate of handmade gifts.  I want my kids to feel that a handmade gift is just as "good" as store-bought.  I want them to know that whether handmade or store-bought, there needs to be thought behind the gift.  Without the thought, a gift is just stuff.

But sometimes the decision to give handmade can make me waiver a bit, especially when the gift is going to someone we don't know well.  What if she doesn't like it?  What if it embarrasses my son?  What if they think we're too cheap to buy a gift and are offended?  Not everyone shares my view about handmade, of course.

I thought about it a bit, but rather than offering up the 20-mile trip to town for a Barbie outfit as an option, I simply asked my son if he'd like to make the girl a wool flower, and told him he could pick the colors.  He was all for it, and excitedly picked out the most vibrant pinks and purples I have in my stash, certain that these were her favorite colors in the world.

I helped him lay out the fibers and he did the felting.  He picked the beads and I sewed the pieces together.  I put a pinback on it so she could wear it if she liked.  He painted her a birthday card and together we wrapped the flower up gently in tissue paper and twine.

He beamed, holding the little gift on the ride to her house.  I was so proud of him, and happy to have had done the project together, and crossed my fingers and toes that if the present wasn't well-received, that he'd be okay.

As it turned out, she loved the flower, and the family was most impressed that he made it himself.  Hooray!  and whew!

How about you?  Do you value handmade gifts?  Be honest.  Do you hesitate to give handmade gifts yourself or do you embrace them?


Anonymous said...

The most expensive, even priceless, clothes, accessories, furniture, objects etc are handmade by craftspeople. Tailor-fitted and "constructed for" are also signs that whatever you are going to buy is going to cost more.

There is a big difference between handmade and craftmanship. We can all reach some level of craftmanship but it takes time and practice or at least lots of care. It sounds like your boy put a lot of care into his work and it shows.

I think when giving homemade gifts to anyone except family, you just have to be honest with yourself if you like it because you made it or because you made it well.

Beautiful flower!

Anonymous said...

I love hand-crafted gifts. The thought and care given to a hand-crafted gift make those gifts special. I treasure those gifts for those reasons. You are wise to instill these principals in your children.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful flower. Job well done!
I give handcrafted gifts to close family & friends because they can be taylor made for each person.

marie said...

I love receiving handmade gifts...they are usually my very favorite gifts!
When it comes to giving them, I don't as often as I'd like to. But it's usually more a matter of time than desire.
The flower is beautiful and your son gave from his heart. What a wonderful thing that is.

Jill said...

I do love hand made gifts but RARELY give them even to my family because I don't know if they would really like it. When I had a couple of my sister in laws actually ask for my hand made items as gifts I was honored and paranoid. Were they just being nice?! I thought. I agree that the thought put into it is EVERYTHING whether purchased or made. I'm so happy the little girl liked her flower and that you and your son went for it!! It is beautiful.

cherishables said...

I love giving and receiving handmade gifts. I always put a lot of thought into my gifts -- bought & handcrafted. While I prefer to give a handcrafted gift, there are some people I always buy for. They seem to value a store-bought gift more and that's okay with me too.

Unknown said...

'Without the thought, a gift is just stuff'. Wise words, Lisa! The homemade gift is the best! xxoo, sus

Marion said...

I love giving and receiving handmade gifts. I think most people appreciate the effort and thoughtfulness that goes into the making. Your little needlefelted brooches inspired me to do something similar and I did a piece inspired by a local scene and set it in a seashell. I gave this away as a gift and the recipient was overjoyed. I love your blog and the things you do. Very inpsiring.Thank you

Jacqui said...

I prefer receiving handmade gifts because I appreciate the time and thought that has gone into the making. If they are from someone I know they mean even more to me. I try to give handmade when I have the time or if not buy something handmade to give.

Colleen said...

I love making and receiving handmade gifts. I think when you make something with your hands you really give a piece of yourself with the gift. It shows that you really thought about the person rather than just picking out something from an aisle of mass produced stuff.

Melanie Routhier said...

I *love* handmade gifts! My son was just born in Dec and the gifts that I will cherish and keep are the ones that were made by hand by family & friends. Because I'm a knitter I know how much time & energy goes into making a gift for someone.

I don't give handmade as much as I would like to though. I had a horrible experience with a knit item that left me a bit brokenhearted. I knit a baby blanket for my niece, which took 4 months to create. It was left in her closet and was not used.

Annie said...

A gift made just for me, what's not to like! But I have an aunt who buys poorly made craft items at village fairs and passes them on at birthdays and Christmas ... that's the worst of both worlds, not made 'just' for me, and not much use!

I give handmade gifts, but as the first Anonymous says, I make sure I make them well, and I always tailor them to the person they're for.

Great post, and how wonderful for your son to have had such a positive experience of gifting such a lovely something made by him. :D

Dar Presto said...

I love this story.
Living your values and using your strengths are special gifts for your son. It's exciting to think about all the things he may go on to create. How cool that he is aware of his classmate's likes.

I'm in the midst of sewing gifts for some teens. I don't need them to think the items are awesome (not gonna lie, they are!). They know that I think of them while I work, so it is my hope that they know they are cherished. If they love the items, that will be pretty great. I think I'm honest with myself that that is not my motivation.

Amanda Pedro said...

for the past 2 years, I've made all of the bday presents for my children's friends, with the exception of 4. The girls all got custom dolls to their favorite colour. After a few birthday parties were given, they started to catch on that when I asked what their favorite colour was a week before their birthday, they too would receive that doll. They loved it.

It was a little harder for my son, but he has some friends that appreciate the hand made thing.
I hope to keep it up for some time, as long as the kids will appreciate them.

nice job on the flower. i think it means so much more when kids can own a piece of what they are presenting. He made it, it gave him joy too!
great job.

Anonymous said...

First, I'm really impressed that he made it himself too! And of course as a handmade artist I'm all for this idea. BUT, I do agree that it's a tough call sometimes: if I can't make it, I try to buy it handmade, but beyond that, sometimes making/ buying handmade for kids is tricky. I made knit toys for my nieces & nephews last Xmas and was a bit worried that they wouldn't compare to the hard plastic & electronic toys they would get. But you know what? They might not be that exciting, but the kids love to snuggle them to sleep at night.

Lacey said...

I held my breath to get to the last bit of the post with the good reception of your boy's gift. I would have hated to see it turn out any other way than it did. Whew!

I love getting handmade things (if they are well crafted and not sloppily thrown together). I value them above all other types of gifts except gifts of time or experiences together.

I shrink from giving handmade a lot of times. When I was a young, fresh knitter, I measured my boyfriend's grandmother's feet and knit socks to fit them perfectly out of the nicest yarn I could find at the time. I even used a crazy complicated pattern and stretched myself to get them just perfect. She was a happy recipient, but she doesn't wear them because she prefers her socks baggy- something she never mentioned while I was on the floor at her feet with a tape measure.

So after that experience and fear that people will look down their noses at my handiwork that took hours and hours usually, I've been hesitant about giving handmade.

Even so, for the last few years, I've given handmade gifts to everyone in my dept. at work (~25 handmade scarves yr 1, ~25 hand sewn fabric scarves yr 2, and ~20 handmade shell and beach glass necklaces the last year I did it. I've never seen any of those gifts again. Ah well. It was the making and giving that gave me my joy. :D

ziezo said...

I love making and giving handmade gifts. I would also like to receive them, but they have been few.

My kids get at least one handmade (by mama) gift each birthday and we try to make gifts as often as we can for others. Half the fun is in making them together and they are always so excited to give. . . Those are the little things in life that make a big difference.

Noctua said...

I neither know you, nor your son. But while reading your post I was afraid the birthday girl wouldn't like it because this would have hurt your son - and I simply LOVED your description of his enthusiasm.

(I love handmade gifts, too!)

Ale said...

I like receiving handmade gifts, but what I like most is the thought behind the gift, and the fact that it's one of a kind. Just like the beautiful flower you and your son made. Not sure about my english, but I wanted to leave a reply... Alessandra

Eileen said...

I too love to receive handmade gifts. I don't give that many - only if they indicate that they really like the item and will use it. So neat that your son was so happy to make the gift.

Jamie said...

I adore making and giving handmade gifts, but only if it's something I'm pretty darn sure the person will love, be able to use, etc. I'm not a fan of producing a bunch of something, just to give "handmade," though I've done that too (especially with food goods). Kudos to your and your son both on this one!

Lisa at lil fish studios said...

Thank you all, so much, for your comments. I guess I struck a cord here. I love hearing that so many of you appreciate a handmade gift made with thought and attention.

I'm also hearing that many of you also hesitate to give handmade from time to time. Sometimes we don't have the time we need to make a gift that we think a person will love, or we have people in our lives that don't value handmade gifts. I have those situations too and I try not to beat myself up if I have to buy a gift instead of making it. I do believe in the merit of giving handmade though so I'll keep challenging myself to do so.

Thanks again, everyone, for your thoughtful responses.

Stephane in Alaska said...

I'm late, I know, but I wanted to say I do love giving and receiving personally handmade gifts. Although I do try to make the things I give well, I'm very happy to receive things that are handmade--even if they're not well-crafted. It's the love that matters and that part lasts forever! : )

Freedom Acres Farm said...

Kudos to you and your son! Now if we can get more Americans to leave the corporate crud behind and self sufficiently share their talents our nation might have a chance at survival :-) Great Blog!!

Margie Oomen said...

i think handmade , either by oneself or another maker contains so much more than the gift itself. It is something not tangible or visible, like an energy or force. I think this is especially so if the maker was in a positive, happy mood while making it. Beautiful posy by the way

Sonia / COZY MEMORIES said...

I love what you wrote here, what your readers wrote, and what Margie wrote. All totally right. I just posted my blog post, and it's kind of related. When you handmake a gift, you spend time & pour love into it, it gives its extra meaning.
That brooch is splendid, you can be proud of your lil guy !

Way Out Wear said...

I'm glad it turned out well.

I have had a horrible experience, and so I've since become very careful about who I make things for. And I agree with the comments about 'hand crafted' - a friend of mine once thought was making great gifts of tin cans with holes punched in them as luminaries. However, the received just saw a bunch of tin cans and didn't fee the gift was much of anything.

That said, any gift gifting can be a success or failure, depending how much time is spent on choosing the item.

Your son's flower is beautiful, it's so lovely he could make it with you. And it's so nice it was received well. I too, almost held my breath hoping it was going to be a good outcome.

monique's mess said...

If my daughter received a lovely flower for a present I certainly would be borrowing it from her. A lovely thought and beautifully presented gift.

Manuela said...

I totally agree: handmade gifts are much more from-the bottom-of-the-heart than bought one. I love sewing, therefore my friends receive always handmade gifts. I only investigate carefully which is the right colour. Very important. When I see my gifts even months later, on a table, carried around...isn't that great?

Jolie said...

Yes Yes and Yes! We've definitely had these discussions at our place as well...actually I just posted about it this weekend. It's so hard to know if what we make will be appreciated, if it's a gift to someone whom you don't know well,(and don't know their feelings on handmade). It's kind of ludicrous to think that a My Little Pony doll could be seen as more or better than something handmade and crafted with love, but then I have to remind myself that we're not all makers, And that's okay.

Molly said...

You have wonderful talent!! And so does your son!

I truly love giving and receiving handmade gifts. You learn so much about other people (and yourself) thru handmade gifts. Do I hesitate on the giving end?...definitely. But, I grow a little more every time. My comfort zone stretches a little farther. My confidence grows a little larger. I gain a little more courage to do it again.

The process of making a gift with someone in mind is a beautiful meditation on them. The gift holds so much love. Sometimes I can't help but give them their gift regardless of how it turned out, because it is not mine in the end. (Depending on who it's for, of course!)

I know I am responding to this entry late, but you posted this with perfect timing. Showing my work to others is not easy for me. Reading about your courage in gift giving inspired me to enter a project in a contest. (I realize how different this is from gift giving. It's more about the courage.) I had it done. I was proud of it. My husband thought it was clever. (He's always so kind.) It's a small, meaningless contest, but putting something out there for everyone to see and...judge...UGH! I did it anyway. I put it out there. You wanna know what? It didn't hurt! and I'm still breathing! Amazing! This post was the extra nudge I needed to actually submit it. For that, I thank you.

(Sorry this got so lengthy.)

Molly said...

I'm not sure if you read the previous post but, in case you were wondering, I tied for 1st in that contest!!


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