The gifting season is upon us. Although it’s always a pleasure to give and receive presents, there’s no doubt that people are much more gift-minded at this time of the year. It’s a wonderful time for those of us with a crafty vein to show our love to those dear to us by whipping up a our most thoughtful gifts.
But our creative natures and generous intentions can really cause us trouble if our list of projects gets out of hand. Recently, I sat down to write out all the projects(mostly gifts) that I want to finish in the next couple of months. There were over thirty! Over the next couple of days as I remembered more I think the list may have broken forty.
Yes, all those scarves and seasonal decor bits and matching slippers for the kids really added up. With a busy life that includes more than just knitting and crochet, even thirty or forty small projects is a lot to take on.
So to help me sort through my bigger-than-ever handmade project list, I’ve gone back to the strategies that have often helped me decide where to start. With plenty of trial and error on my part, I’ve come to clarify my thoughts on good craft prioritizing into five questions. I hope this helps! Also, if anyone wants to share pictures or stories of what they’re making to gift this season, I would so enjoy seeing them. And yes, that includes anything you might be gifting yourself!
Here’s what you can ask yourself when confronted with a big list of to-do projects:
The Five Key Questions
One: Do I already have the materials?
This is a fairly easy starting point. Once you’ve decided what to make, it’s a pretty simple matter to see if you have the materials or not. Decide for yourself if you want to count projects if you have most of the supplies already or just what you need to get started, or if you feel more secure having everything on hand before you commence your crafting.
You may have a lot of appropriate materials (like the right color yarn for someone’s crochet hat), in which case your planning isn’t quite finished until you decide exactly what to use. But, if you don’t have the materials yet and it doesn’t work for you to head out and grab everything right this minute, that might mean you work on crafting a different project in the meantime.
Two: Is my recipient likely to value this gift?
I’m not sure how this question is going to sound to everyone, so let me clarify a little bit. I fully believe that gifts should be just that-gifts. I shouldn’t feel that I am owed a certain reaction for a gift, even a handmade one. I do my best to root out any entitlement I may have before I give a gift, because I would never want the experience to put pressure on someone else. After all, even handmade gifts are things, and people are more important than things.
But balanced with that, I’ve also heard the rejection in a fellow creative’s voice as they told of a time when they saw a handmade and very time-consuming gift that they had given on Christmas, in a dumpster one day later. Likewise, I’ve known the sense of happiness and satisfaction that comes from seeing a gift make someone’s face light up, or hear a sincere “Thank you!” and especially seeing a gift recipient use something from me years after it was made. So even though our crafty gifting is best done out of love and generosity, it is good for us to look at who we are giving gifts to. We might find upon reflection that some of our loved ones would be better recipients of certain gifts than others, based on who will be able to see your love through your gift. And, if you find that you can’t help yourself and want to create a labor of love for even a “craft blind” person, that’s wonderful too.
Three: Do I have a pressing due date?
As I write this, we are about to enter real Christmas and holiday prep season. Actually, a lot of serious knitters and crocheters start working on their Christmas and holiday gifts in the summertime to give themselves plenty of time. That’s certainly admirable and perhaps someday I will have grown into that kind of preparation. For many of us though, gifts are still coming to mind when some are breaking out decorations. Thankfully that’s more than enough time for many handmade gifts to be under the tree.
But being realistic about what you can do starts with knowing your REAL goal of when different projects need to be done, and those dates may be sooner than you realize when you first think about it. For example, if you are working on projects for people in your immediate household, then you may be able to afford working up to the last minute. However, gifts for anyone farther away may need to be shipped, and no one likes to pay extra for rush shipping! Also, if you have people traveling then their schedule may dictate when the best time would be to have that handmade gift ready and waiting for them. If you can plan ahead enough to have that cabled scarf ready when your sister drops by for a weekend mid-month, it will probably be extra delightful to her AND you!
If you use my rubric tool or draw up your own, it may help you to write the actual date in the square for this question that you want to have a project done by. I like to go a few days before my “real” date and sort of trick myself into having some wiggle room there at the end, but calculate it however you think will work best for you. You can also just use a check mark for the couple of projects that are most urgent.
Four: Is this a higher-stress project?
This is definitely a subjective question, and more stressful projects will be different for everyone, but the principle is the same. Any element of a project that requires your concentration and attention beyond what you normally give can make it stressful. Many times this will mean mastering a new skill or practicing one that feels rusty. For instance you may have your heart set on making your husband that fabulous fisherman sweater, but you know that all those cables have the potential to really frustrate you. In these cases, it is wise to simplify complicated projects or limit the number you try to finish in a season. Taking on those projects can be invigorating, so its just a matter of knowing when “good stress” is likely to crossover into “bad stress” or recognizing when it already has. It’s admirable to challenge yourself, as long as it doesn’t turn in to overextending. Know your limits.
Five: Do I really want to get this done?
This is the most important question-the one that is going to supercede all of the other questions we’ve looked at so far. If you really want to make something, then procuring the materials, thinking of the recipient, finding time to do it, and taking the energy it needs are all secondary. This is probably the most self-explanatory question, too. You may not be able to tackle any project you think of just because you want to, in the time frame you want. However, your energy and drive will make certain projects attainable when nothing else will. When it comes to crafting gifts, of course you want to do it all. The true question then is simply which ones you want more. If you get all the way to this question and you are still stuck between projects, find some way to break out of the indecision so that you start something. Flip a coin if you need to, and enjoy!
Even after using these questions to put all of your projects in their proper order, I think there are very few of us that wouldn’t want to get a little more done in less time. To be more productive without adding any stress to your crafting, consider designating one project as your “primary” work and one or two less-important projects as your “secondaries”. Your primary work is the one you are most dedicated to until it’s finished. It’s the one you spend your prime crafting time on. Likewise your secondary projects are the ones that fit in somewhere if it works-you stay on the lookout for spare moments to make a little progress or have a secondary project ready in case you have some unexpected free time.
For example, I may consider it important to work on a special painting for my mom and I do my best to work on it for blocks of time at home when I know I can focus. On the other hand, I know that some matching knitted slippers for my kids aren’t actually going to require a lot of mental energy to work on, so I may slip those in a bag and keep it by the couch for watching TV, or in my car in case I ever get stuck waiting somewhere. Keeping a good mix of primary and secondary projects and knowing when and where to have them leads to more completed labors of love.
So there you have it! I hope these questions and tips help you to head in to a busy making season with purpose and confidence. We may not be able to get it all done, but we can choose to order our work for the best results.
Final Encouragement(and a little tool for you)
As I mentioned at the beginning, it’s pretty easy to grab some scrap paper and put your hopeful projects into categories based on how many of these questions they can hold up to.
However, if you need help figuring out what to make for gifts and also how to prioritize them, then check out my Handmade Ideas Mixer. It will help you come up with the perfect handcrafted gift ideas to work on for the special people in your life, and you can come back to these questions to see what to work on first!
Keep the crafting delightful!