Monday, December 15, 2014

5 DIY Gifts for Small Children (That I'm Actually Giving This Year)

I had big intentions to get this post up in early December so you could all benefit. But then, I had intentions to be done with all of my DIY Christmas gifts by now, so I should have known it wouldn't happen. Full disclosure, I've been working on some of these things for awhile so they haven't been stressful to put together, but I don't recommend you tackle them all in the remaining 10 days before Christmas. However, if you need a last minute idea or want to save it for next year, I've got you covered!

I really love Christmas, and I love giving gifts, but I really don't like the huge price tag that you can very easily attach to Christmas if you aren't careful. To stretch our budget this year (which was intentionally small since we just had a baby and a gallbladder and bought a bigger car), we made quite a few of our gifts (and fixed up things we got at the thrift store for some of the others.)

A couple of tips about DIY gifts from someone who has spent many years being overly ambitious and has repeatedly overestimated her skills:

  • Making your own gifts is really only a pleasant experience if you pick projects that are doable for you and that you will enjoy making. I've used my sewing machine to make some gifts before, but this is the first year I've felt confident enough to tackle multiple and varied projects with it - and that I've enjoyed sewing enough to even want to. Even then, I keep it simple and try to avoid things that I don't know how to do. Learning new skills isn't for Christmas time. 
  • Be realistic about how much time you've got an plan accordingly. Don't wait until December 20th and then decide to make homemade gifts for everyone on your list. I love to tinker around with things in my sewing box, so sometimes I restrain myself and toss whatever I've made in the back room to save for Christmas or birthdays or whatever. I think part of the reason homemade gifts get a bad rap is that people try to make them all in December and make themselves crazy - or they think that have to make something perfect that is out of their skill range and then they just want to cry and throw it on the fire.) 

Here are a few of the things I am giving this year that I made myself (or with my husband) without resorting to swearing. I'd love to hear what you've made!

For my baby, I made these soft blocks. The first couple of attempts were a little lopsided because I was not very precise and then was too lazy to unpick my mistakes, but since I added lots of little ribbons and there's bumpy minky on a couple of the sides, I think she'll like them anyway. In my experience, 3 month olds seem to care little about things like right angles. By the time I'd made a couple, I was ready to make the next present.

Next we made a version of this game, which is actually quite reasonably priced (I thought), but which my husband saw and said, "We could make that!" So I made a 10" by 10" soft block using the above tutorial (this one finally came out square) and a little pocket using . . . my brain . . . and a scrap and some velcro, and my husband drew cards, and it's the cutest thing you've ever seen. Observe:
There's no real tutorial for it that I know of (maybe I'll make one sometime), but if you decide to try it, I decided to sew a couple of strips of velcro to my cube and to the little card pouch for storage purposes, and the cards will each be outlined in one of the colors on the block so that when you roll you pick one of the cards in that color and do an activity in one of 6 categories. We found out what categories were in the game from the comments on Amazon, then modified it so it was something we thought our 2.5 year old would really love. My husband has been drawing cards while we watch Fringe, but if you don't have an artist in your house I imagine you could use clip art.

Another thing that struck my fancy a few months ago was this toddler sewing kit that I found while browsing Pinterest. My toddler is ALWAYS wanting to dig in my sewing box, and since it's full of needles and pins and scissors, that means it can't be out when she's around. Her sewing kit includes some empty spools, some pipe cleaner, some pom poms, a plastic needle, an embroidery hoop with some drawer liner on it, various bits of yarn and fabric, plastic mesh for "sewing," a zipper I had for a project I didn't use, and measuring tape. I found a little jewelry making box that looks like a tackle box or a tool box (except pink) for $8 at Walmart and decided that would keep things together better than a basket (the closest I could find online was this one, but the one in the store was much cheaper and didn't have the green lid), and voila! I think she'll love tinkering with it while I'm working on projects.

This is the inspiration basket. Mine looks nothing like this.

I also whipped up a couple of these hooded animal towels for my girls, since they are both using the three towels I got when CB was a baby, which are starting to look a little ratty well-loved. Because I was feeling a little lazy pressed for time, I made a ladybug and a butterfly and didn't sew any spots on the back, because eyes + antennae = the easiest of these, except maybe the Mickey Mouse one (although I did find some kind of fun towels to attach the hoods to that had some pretty stripes). I've made these before to give as baby shower gifts, so these came together in about 1.5 Doctor Who Christmas specials. (I've made a cow and a lion before, and they are a bit more time-intensive, although not ridiculously so.) 

Of course my favorite option is always this doll pattern from Wee Wonderfuls, and I have some fabric stashed away for one this year that I'll hopefully post later.  My girls aren't getting any this particular Christmas, but my new baby needs one at some point, so I'll be working on that when this stretch is over. The creator of the pattern just posted this Elsa doll that she made using the pattern on her blog, and I am dying. I'm not sure if I can figure out the hair, but I'd like to try (and I think an Anna doll would be easy-peasy). 
Isn't she darling? See her here.

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