Friday, January 6, 2012

Sometimes Handmade Is Best

Snowman - Cross Stitch and Beading

Christmas Tree - Cross Stitch and Beading
(I made these cute little Christmas ornaments in addition to the larger gifts described below. The snowman was for my mother-in-law and the Christmas tree was for my mom, because she no longer puts up a tree every year. This way, she will always have a tree, whether she decorates a real one or not.)

There's no way around it. We spent a lot of money on Christmas. I've already used up my Christmas fund and am still getting more bills that I'm afraid to open.

The funny thing is that the gifts that were the biggest hits were the ones that didn't cost much money, but that I put a lot of time and effort and love into. I thought I would share with you what I handmade for Christmas this year that the recipients absolutely loved.

For Ben, who is an avid gamer (video games, for those of you without teenagers), he loves games with fantasy worlds. These are incredibly complex worlds, kind of like the book Bilbo Baggins made of his adventures in "The Hobbit," with maps and descriptions of the world and the creatures in it. For Christmas, he asked if I would get the map that came with his newest game framed for him. This is where I got creative.

Because custom framing is outrageously expensive, I went over to the new Hobby Lobby and picked out a black wooden poster frame to do it myself. It helped that all frames were on sale for half off. Of course, I don't have any framing experience and the back didn't have a hanger. This was a problem.

I took the map and the frame back to the framing department and the girl (the incredibly helpful girl) offered to put a hanger on the back for $1.00. I pulled out the map while she was getting ready to drill the holes for the hanger and she at first said she couldn't put the map in, but came back a few minutes later and said, well, let me look at it. It had a lot of creases from where it had been folded to fit into the box it came in. She also had to trim off some excess around the outside, which we were both a little nervous about, but the frame was on sale for $18 and she only wanted $1.00 to put the hanger on. I figured she would also add for putting the map into the frame, but when she finished, she attached a small sheet of paper reading "$1.00," even though she put a lot more than $1.00's worth of work into it . She had gotten all of the creases out of the map and it ended up looking like this:

I'm pretty sure the teddy bear hiding back in the corner is for his internet girlfriend that he won't talk about. Anyway, this was Ben's favorite gift and it cost me $19.

For my mom, who is a professional quilter, I found a cross stitch and beaded pattern of the log cabin quilt square. For those of you not familiar with quilting, this is the most popular quilt square. In fact, I actually made a baby quilt for a neighbor out of this pattern a few years back and I'm not a quilter by any means, but I am pretty darn good at cross stitching. I am also learning beading, which as it turns out, is pretty fun. Here is what I ended up with for Mom (after many, many intense hours of stitching to get it done in time):

I spent about $20 on the frame from the catalog I ordered the cross stitch kit from. The kit itself was about $12. The rest of the cost was only time and the love that went into making it. I believe this was definitely her favorite gift from me.

I spent the past six months working on a shadow box for my mother-in-law. Justin wanted to put the words that he said at his dad's funeral down on paper. I watermarked the back of the page of his words with the praying hands that were on the front of the handout given at the viewing, after he had fiddled with it for several months. I also scanned the inside of the handout and put the left half (with my father-in-law's information) on one side and the right half (a prayer that begins with "do not grieve for me") on the other.

I also took a picture on the day of the funeral at my mother-in-law's house of the shoes that my father-in-law had taken off and left under the coffee table the day of his heart attack. My mother-in-law has not been able to bring herself to move them (they're still there, under the coffee table.) I wanted to capture the shoes where they were, for eternity and got a great shot of them. I also was thinking clearly enough to take several roses from the funeral service, dry them and I used them for accents. After going shopping for a shadow box frame with my best friend, who found a frame for about $8, we went back to her house and used her glue gun to place everything into the box. Here's how it came out:

Justin and I decided not to wrap it, because we didn't want his mom to open it and be surprised in a bad way or upset. She was already having a hard enough time getting through the first holidays without Justin's dad. When we gave this gift to her, she ran her hands gently over the glass and burst into tears. She thanked me numerous times and obviously was extremely moved by the work I had put into it. And we all cried together because it was Christmas Eve and someone important was missing.

I have saved back about half of the roses from the funeral for a shadow box that I'll be making for Justin and, while we were there on Christmas Eve, my mother-in-law went searching to find the photo I've been looking for since last July. We finally found it in an album - a black and white photo taken in 1965 of Justin's dad holding him when he was about four or five months old. I'm not sure what else will go into the frame besides the picture and the roses, but I have time to figure it out. I'd like to find some mementos that mean something only to Justin to put in there, so that's going to take some investigation.

Of course, these homemade gifts sometimes don't really work when you have teenagers who are into the latest in video games and smart phones. But the gifts that I enjoyed the most and that were the most well received were the ones that I made that didn't cost much money and that I immensely enjoyed spending my time and creativity on making them. And Ben's map, although it was technically from a video game, was also a work of art. Whoever created that world should be writing Tolkien-esk books, but I guess creating gaming worlds is this century's way of doing that.

Do you find that your creative side comes out at the holidays? Is it out of necessity because of finances or because you really enjoy creating? I'm a crafter from my teenage years and just love it when things turn out so well. And I love giving things away, which means I don't many of the things I have put all of my love into over the years, but isn't that kind of the point? Why make something if you're going to hide it away in a closet somewhere, right?

(All photographs copyright Chelle Newton, Life on the Domestic Front, 2012)

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