On homemade gifts

As the holiday season approaches, it's time to consider what gifts you want to give. Homemade presents may express more thought and care than something pulled off a shelf.

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    A Sawicki family Christmas card from 2006, featuring their daughters. Cheryl Sawicki of Royal Oak, Mich., uses her computer to create a family holiday card featuring a photograph of her family annually. Homemade cards and gifts may well mean more to recipients than purchased ones.
    Photo illustration / Gary Malerba / Detroit Free Press / MCT / Newscom / File
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A few weeks ago, my wife and I were chatting about some of the best Christmas gifts we’ve ever received.

Many great Christmas memories from childhood came up, as did some other great memories from various holidays since our marriage.

Yet, when we both began to list some of our favorite gifts received over the last several years, we found that many of the memorable gifts we received weren’t ones that were picked up at the local department store. They weren’t expensive ones, either.

In fact, a lot of the gifts that really stood out as thoughtful and memorable were homemade gifts.

Rachel is particularly good at these types of gifts, and so it’s unsurprising that several of the gifts we both mentioned were ones that came from her. As I’ve mentioned before, Rachel is a close friend who chose a career in social work and took on the incredible challenge of working with mentally handicapped individuals, doing what she can to enable them to enjoy the simple pleasures of everyday life and camaraderie with their peers. It’s incredibly challenging work, yet somehow she does it every day.

When it comes time for holidays, Rachel often makes handmade gifts for people, and it’s those handmade gifts that are memorable. She’s done all sorts of things over the years – I particularly remember some handmade journals made from homemade paper. Beautiful and one-of-a-kind.

Reflecting on that, Sarah and I asked ourselves, “Why don’t we make mostly handmade gifts for people this year?”

The reasons are many.

They’re often less expensive in terms of dollars and cents. Homemade gifts aren’t free – they always have a cost. However, when you compare the cost of a homemade item to the most similar item to it that can be purchased in a store or online, you can make many such items at home at a lower cost.

Instead, they pass along value in the form of time and care. More importantly, though, you get to choose everything about how you assemble the gift. Every ingredient, every visual element, every choice – it’s all up to you. A homemade gift allows you to pour some of your care for others directly into the item that you’re giving instead of just pulling it off the shelf at Target.

They’ll make for memorable gifts. Since homemade gifts are most assuredly not just something shipped to you from Amazon, they’re also going to be memorable. It’s easy to forget an item yanked off the shelf at Wal-Mart. It’s harder to forget a carefully-made homemade item with a custom, thoughtful label.

We might make some useful things for ourselves along the way. Many homemade gift ideas can also serve a purpose around your own home – after all, you’re making items that you consider worthy of giving to people you love, so shouldn’t you find them at least somewhat useful yourself?

We might learn some useful ideas and skills along the way. As we make homemade gifts, we’ll be picking up knowledge and skills along the way. Not only will this serve us in terms of knowing how to make the item, many individual pieces of knowledge and specific skills can find applications elsewhere.

So, this year, we’re going to try our hand at making a lot of homemade gifts… and we’re going to share these experiences and gift ideas with you.

Over the next several weeks (somewhere between eight and twelve, depending on what gift list we finally decide on), Friday afternoons will feature a post outlining a homemade gift we’ve made for the people we care about.

Some will be simple. Others will be complicated. At least one will seem a bit dangerous. Some will be very cheap. Others will have some additional cost to them. A few will seem awesome to you, and others will seem boring (I’m betting, though, that the boring/awesome divide will be different for different people). You might even decide to try some of them, both for yourself and for gifts.

I’m going to try to order the series so that the posts focusing on gifts that require the most lead time come first. If you decide to make a particular gift right after reading the post (even if it’s for yourself), you should always have enough time to get the materials and get the gift ready before Christmas.

At the end of the series, we’ll give you a peek at all of the items we’ve made for gifts for others. We have a lot of people to give small gifts to, from neighbors and teachers to friends and business associates. Plus, we’re going to bundle some of the items as gift baskets for people close to us (with a few little surprises for them that won’t be spoiled on the site).

Tune in this afternoon for the first in the series, a very simple homemade item that we’re practically as anxious to use ourselves as we are to give it to friends.

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