Sunday, January 03, 2010

My efforts toward a handmade holiday

I've never been a particularly remarkable or thoughtful gift giver. This is something that I'll readily admit and honestly, I don't even feel too bad about it. However, this year I decided to try a little harder. The results--while far from perfect--do illustrate a semblance of premeditation and thought that may have been less apparent in the gifts I've given during past holiday seasons. A quick rundown:

A very small banner for larger occasions.
When I was making the binding strips for that atrocious but endearing quilt, I ended up with a bunch of triangles in light cream, gray, and denim fabrics. I thought they all looked really nice together--it was a good scheme--so I decided to sew them all together into a small garland. This present's also sort of interesting because it was 100% free. Perhaps it's not something to brag about, but I do think it's nice to make something out of materials that would otherwise just have been discarded.

Here's another shot for purposes of scale:

Art supply kits.
My three nephews (ages 9, 7, and 4) all enjoy making art. I'd been contemplating making a little hanging desk caddy for my oldest nephew for him to store his supplies, and my brother suggested that I made a folding or roll up kit for him. He also said that he thought that all three of the fellows would enjoy that as a gift, so I embarked on making one for each of them. For the base, I used a sturdy navy blue fabric that I had on hand. It's either canvas or duck cloth. I can't remember the difference between the two. Then I used some orange fabric, some nice blue and white gingham, and some rad dinosaur fabric (that Noodles brought me from Japan) for the pockets and ties.

I chose a few supplies for each of them (pencils with funny toppers, markers, crayons) and then came up with a few specialized items. The youngest one got a little package of modeling clay and an awesome wooden top that looks like a lion. The middle nephew got a container of bounce putty (what I assume to be similar to Silly Putty) and some wood toy sticks from Kiosk. The oldest two got Scotch tape--an exotic treat. The eldest nephew got a stapler, some pens (he's a budding graphic novelist and playwright), and some comic book speech bubble stickers that I custom made. (I designed a bunch of different speech bubbles on Comic Life, then printed them out onto labels, then cut out the labels, carefully leaving a little tab on each one to make them easier to peel).

The three kits are all a little bit rough around the edges--clearly homemade and not commercially constructed. I didn't follow any sort of pattern, and instead just eyeballed things, making improvements as I went. It was a fun project to work on--for each one, I troubleshooted a different set of problems or design issues I encountered. Still, they're not perfect. Stuff falls out if you turn them upside down and give them a good enough shake (as the kids inevitably will), but I think they serve their purpose pretty well. Plus, if I remember correctly, kids often love things with lots of little pockets, so perhaps they'll be repurposed for other play activities. Here's what they look like rolled up:

Baby shirt and shoes.
When my first (and only) niece was born last year, I worried that all the aunts and uncles and grandparents would swoop in and overpower her with cute and frilly things. We've all been waiting for awhile for the chance to buy things with ladybugs and flowers and other conventionally girly things on them. Oh my. Who knew that soon I'd be equally responsible for wanting to dress her up in silly clothes? To my credit, I tried to select styles and fabrics that departed from traditional baby girl fare and that offered a little bit more sophistication and class. She is a classy lassy.

The shirt is the Sailboat Top pattern from Oliver & S. Next year, I'll make her the pants and possibly the skirt, too. I constructed the shoes from a free tutorial I found online somewhere. I downloaded the PDF and can't find the original source. However, there seemed to be several very similar patterns out there. The shirt is allegedly very easy to make. For me, the sleeves were the most harrowing component, and I feel like I should quickly make another shirt to mentally solidify how the whole process works. I found the shoes particularly enjoyable to make. I love them. I also made a pair of the striped ones for my neighbor, who's a few months younger than my niece. It's fun to use tougher fabrics for the soles. For these two pairs, I used a sturdy corduroy and some nice brown felt.


kasha said...

love these, meredith! do you have a pattern?

Jill said...

I'm just wishing I was on your gift list. Very well done!

kasha said...

sorry, i got preemptively excited about asking for the pattern, now i've read more carefully and see you already answered me question.

danasaur said...

i want some shoes like that.

Roxanna said...

I am impressed with your creativity as always.

w. leavitt said...

Merbear, you really put together something special. I like them so much.