…and that’s why I don’t make handmade gifts anymore.

Once upon a time, I was a serial crafter.

I love making things. All kinds of things. Always have.

Earliest crafting memory? When I was about 7-years-old my mom signed me up for a Saturday morning holiday ornament class at the local craft store. I’ve been a craftaholic ever since.

Why, of course I still have those ornaments! Aren’t you adorable to ask! (#hoarder)

This first one was made from a tuna can. Honest to Pete. Nothing says “Welcome Baby Jesus!” like the lingering redolence of Chicken of the Sea…

TheBeardedIrisVintageTunaCanOrnament

This next one is a wreath ornament made with the ancient pot-infused art of macramé, ever so popular in 1977.

TheBeardedIris Vintage Macrame Wreath Ornament

My mom would put on her Fleetwood Mac Rumours record and we’d knot our little hearts out together while my little brother and I snickered about the album cover. 

fleetwood-mac-rumours_sq-11b0b64b5817a55faed7c89d205d46f1d9afcf45-s6-c30

What the hell are those dangling things anyway? *snicker*

I loved making those macramé wreaths so much, I gave them as gifts to the whole family. Even twenty years later, when I was a newlywed, I made a set for my husband’s Aunt Ellen because she was a crafter and we connected on our mutual love of making things. Sadly, she passed away a couple of years later after a terrible bout with cancer. I still miss her.

Aunt Ellen was the kind of woman who really appreciated handmade gifts. She enjoyed my macramé wreath ornaments so much that I made her a beautiful quilted patchwork Christmas tree skirt the following year and she adored it.

Actually, I’m not sure if she loved those gifts as much as I think she did, or she just effused over them to make me feel good. It totally doesn’t matter. She made me feel loved and valued in a big loud Italian family where it’s hard to stand out. She was a good woman like that.

I realized this year as I was drooling over the thoughtful handmade gifts from (favorite) friends and family that I don’t really make handmade gifts anymore, and I feel a little sad about that.

But it’s also kind of funny… purely in a shit happens kind of way.

For instance, way back when I only had one child, I designed and made him this quilted Christmas stocking. He had a thing for dinosaurs; I’m pretty sure his first word was Micropachycephalosaurus.

TheBeardedIris Handmade Dinosaur Christmas Stocking

I mean, seriously. Look at the detail.

TheBeardedIris Handmade Dinosaur Christmas Stocking Closeup

That’s a combo of hand-appliqué, machine quilting, embroidery, and beading, motherfuckers.

I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody…

Then I had two more kids.

These are their stockings.

TheBeardedIris Kids Two and Three Get Bubkes

The one on the left was a White Elephant gift, the one on the right *may* have come from a dumpster.

Sorry, younger kids. Mama doesn’t sew like she used to.

Actually, it’s kind of their fault—so sorry, not sorry. I had to box up my sewing/quilting supplies when Mini-Me was a preschooler. Have you met Mini-Me?

sticky-situation-4

Yeah. That’s why.

She used to sneak into my little makeshift sewing corner and pilfer things like scissors and pins and rotary razor cutting tools. Eight years later, I’m still finding straight pins and sewing needles all over the house. It was a hard decision, but ultimately my kids’ lives were slightly more important to me than my primal urge to make stuff. (But only slightly.)

That was around the time I took up knitting (2005-ish).

Knitting was more portable, less dangerous (mostly), and way less messy. I got so into it that I started selling scarves. I even sold one at my gynecologist’s office to one of the nurses! A few years later, Bucket Head invited a friend from preschool over to play and when his mom arrived to pick him up, we stared at each other like, Gosh you look so familiar! How do I know you? Yep: scarf-buying-gyno-nurse. So funny… and also kind of awkward. I don’t always let my son’s friend’s mothers peer into my vagina, but when I do: RETAIL SALES OUT THE WAZOO! (See what I did there?)

I had a nice little cottage industry going there for a couple of years. But that was around the same time that people were buying those fuzzy machine-knit acrylic scarves for $5 on every corner, and it became harder and harder to sell my upscale handmade scarves that took hours and hours to make. Sometimes I spent more on the yarn than I felt comfortable charging for the scarf. I’m a great business woman that way. (Sheesh.)

Once Bucket Head arrived on the scene in 2007, I had even less time for crafting and switched from knitting to crochet. Smaller projects, only one needle… sometimes less really is more.

The following year I made these adorable little crocheted animals for the kids for Christmas.

TheBeardedIris Crochet Animal Gifts

Ike ate one of their faces off.

TheBeardedIris When a Handmade Gift Becomes a Dog Toy

Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Another reason I don’t give handmade gifts anymore is that I’m way too needy. When I make something for someone, I require a lot of praise and gratitude. The year after I made that tree skirt for Aunt Ellen, my Mother-in-Law said she wanted one too, and I dutifully obliged. But a few years later, I stopped over at her house around the holidays and noticed a very plain store-bought green velour tree skirt under her tree.

“MOM! Where’s the handmade quilted tree skirt I gave you?!” I shrieked. (#classy)

“Oh that? I’m not using it this year. I got this one at Walmart. I just like to switch things up from time to time.”

I. Was. Devastated.

And being the cool cucumber I am, I told her so.

The next year, my tree skirt was back…

WRONG SIDE UP.

Oh. Yes. She. Did.

Well-played, old woman. Well-played. Have I mentioned she’s Italian? I’m lucky I didn’t end up with a horse head between the sheets.

Truthfully, I was pretty hurt; but I also realized what an ass I was to have said anything in the first place, and I never said another word about it (to her). So she doesn’t like the fabrics I picked (which are fucking fabulous!), or the style of the tree skirt, or probably me in general. So what?! She’s in her 80s and probably doesn’t have that many Christmases left. She should be free to decorate the way she wants!

(But I do want that thing back someday, Angela!)

The whole experience was actually a huge a-ha moment for me about giving and receiving gifts. It perfectly illustrates the adage, “When you receive, never forget. When you give, never remember.” Deep, right? (Bonus: it applies to sex as well as holiday chatchkes.)

Unfortunately, I’m only good at forgetting important things and I hold a grudge like nobody’s business. So it’s really a blessing for all of us that my crafting days appear to be over… at least until I’m an empty nester with no pets or In-Laws.

And on that note, I hope you have a wonderful weekend full of whatever it is that brings you joy.

I’ll just be here, tenderly wrapping my tuna can ornament (not a euphemism) and making false promises to my two youngest children about the Christmas stockings I’m going to make for them… someday.

Your formerly crafty friend,
Leslie

P.S. – Read more about Mini-Me and the infamous bubblegum story fabulously illustrated by my talented friend Amber a couple years ago. It’s one of my favorites!

About The Bearded Iris

Leslie Marinelli is a writer, humorist, blogger, life hacker, and invisible vessel for grandchildren and PTA donations.
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54 Responses to …and that’s why I don’t make handmade gifts anymore.

  1. Jean says:

    My family ill-advisedly bought me a sewing machine for Christmas. I told them they are all getting a handmade birthday gift from me this year as a token of my gratitude/revenge. Looking at what you can do, I’m assuming if you saw what I made my husband for his birthday (sadly, too soon after Christmas for me to develop any skillz) you would faint.

    • No I wouldn’t, Jean. It’s the thought that counts! I love that you got a sewing machine and are learning a new skill. And I think it’s awesome that you are making gifts even though you just started. Stick with it! You’ll get better. :)

  2. Heather says:

    How do you always know EXACTLY when to send me a link to something that makes me laugh out loud at the exact moment I probably shouldn’t??? Sorry for my outburst, other patrons at the pediatric dentist office, I’m blaming it all on Iris!

  3. Sue says:

    My kids have seriously stifled my craftability, plus they just don’t show enough appreciation when I do spend hours and hours making them something completely awesome.

    And I certainly won’t be making anything for my brother-in-law again after he sold his car and didn’t transfer the vagina gear knob cover I made to his new one. Apparently his new BMW is too classy for it.

  4. L. Hewitt says:

    My disappointment is overwhelming! #craftwhorenomore

  5. I don’t make anything but goat berries. I don’t think they would be appreciated any more than my gas is as a gift.
    The gas is ephemeral, but the berries are fertilizer so maybe they are a good gift….

  6. Astra says:

    Thanks, as always, for making me laugh out loud! I’ve tried so many times to be a crafty person; honest I have. I’ve been knitting the same scarf at hockey practices since my first one started hockey… in 2005. Sigh. Let me know when your cottage industry crafting is resurrected :)

  7. I’ve never been able to cut a straight line or thread a needle and the site of construction paper and glue gives me anxiety. I once tried to sew a button back on The Hub’s work shirt but I put it on the wrong side….epic fail. No crafting for me. Next year I’m putting my request in early for one of your scarves…or maybe just a tuna can ornament.

  8. Jane says:

    My first home-made ornament was made in kindergarten- we took a light bulb (yes!) and rolled it in glitter, tied a pipe cleaner around it so it could hang from the tree. The whole time I kept thinking it was going to break. It didn’t and I think the ornament is still somewhere- but the stress of it all scarred me for life!

    • Ohmygosh Janie – a lightbulb? A real one? That sounds hideous! (And believe me, I know hideous #TunaCan.) (I’m really over using the hashtags today.) (#SorryAboutThat.)

  9. Nicole says:

    I used to make glass mosaic vases & cookie jars as gifts…I even had some very fancy glass nippers (huh huh)….but talk about hazardous shrapnel! I had to sell my whole tote of gear to a nice lady who doesn’t have kids that value their toes. Too many instances of glass splinters in my feet and those suckers are HARD to fish out!

  10. Hilarious. A Destined Writer. And now I find out with a side of kick-ass crafty! Did you make a deal with the devil?

  11. band says:

    This is one of the best commentaries/pieces EVER on crafting. I relate to almost all of it.

    I honestly love you, fellow Craft Whores. I do.

  12. HouseTalkN says:

    I am a recovering scrapbooker. I spent hours on scrapbook gifts and followed up by constantly seeking praise and appreciation. My bad.
    I love your “Kid #3″ stocking!

  13. Teegz says:

    As “the crafty one” in my family it is kind of expected that whoever I get in our not-so-secret Santa gift giving each year will get a handmade present. It kind of puts the pressure on, particularly since I’m hard pushed to knock something together for my own kids! Just like you I have children who have a real curiosity when it comes to any of my more dangerous craft items (“Look Mum! I found a glass jar full of pins, a scalpel and some gigantic scissors!” And only had to climb on 5 boxes precariously balanced on each other to access it all!) so my crafting is usually relegated to late night sessions when my eyes are falling out of my head and I’m delirious from a day of child wrangling. I don’t know why I persevere… but sometimes you gotta get that fix I suppose, even if there is a risk of losing a finger, or giving a shitty, half arsed gift!

  14. Jules says:

    I owned the aforementioned Fleetwood Mac album in Jr. High and I never really took notice of the dangly things hanging down between Mick’s leg until you brought it up…Thank you!

    • WHAT?! Jules! No way! How does a Jr. High kid possibly MISS those enormous dangling orbs right between his legs?!

      Wait. Unless that means you were a nice normal kid and my brother and I were (are) completely perverted.

      Yep. That’s probably it.

      Damn.

  15. Amy says:

    You have mad talent, even if you have retired your tools. You should sell your wares to those of us who have received sewing machines from our in-laws, but have no desire or skill. It could be like a black market for crafts.

    I can’t believe I never noticed the balls on the Rumours cover until now.

    • NO! Et tu, Amy? Et tu? WHY AM I SO PERVERTED?! WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?

      Black market for crafts?! YOU = Evil Genius. (Except at noticing huge dangling black balls on album covers.)

  16. Beth says:

    I like your blog. It’s the first time here. I was looking for wreaths and came across your post. It is fun and edgy. My husband has a Christmas wreath company, so I’m always looking for ideas and sometimes I’m luck and come across a plucky read and get enjoyment.

    Thank you,
    Beth Kelley

  17. Lisa says:

    At least you didn’t switch to vaginal knitting in an effort to stop your kids from stealing your craft tools. That would be the wrong way to keep yarn away from your kids.

  18. Amy says:

    You should teach your kids to craft, and start your own sweat shop!

  19. OMG! Tuna can ornaments. I totally forgot about mine. I made one with a Baby Jesus and a couple others. If my mom threw out those gems, I will be devastated. DEVASTATED, I tell you.

    Also, I’m convinced that I am an only child because my mom spent so long creating stockings for the three of us, she couldn’t bear the thought of making another. Or worse, buying one at cvs for poor child #2. She’s that much of a perfectionist.

  20. Susan says:

    Oh, you can make me laugh like nobody’s business. But wait… after sitting here in my recliner reading your post and chuckling, I gasped as I glanced down at my side at the tunisian crochet hook all tangled up in purple yarn, half constructed into a wrap for my sister. SHE HAD BETTER LOVE IT! She will, won’t she? I need for her to think it is the most beautiful wrap/poncho thingy ever!

    p.s. I am still crocheting scarves and selling them on Etsy. Oh man! I am pitiful! Hey, this post isn’t funny at all!

  21. Bethany says:

    I’ve never made anything that people fawned over….except my kids. They’re my first and last great craft project. I guess I knitted them in my uterus? I don’t know…there’s a good joke that I botched there.

  22. Leigh Ann says:

    My kids all have handmade stockings. Not by me. My SIL is a whiz at throwing stuff together – a true designer. They are gorgeous and have various textures, ribbons, little beads, tiny bells, perfect trim…and she says “I didn’t use a pattern or anything, just made it up as I went along…” And then I hated her. But loved her, because if it weren’t for her, my kids would have no stockings. I love making things, but I am an over planner. I have to know exactly how it’s going to look before I start. So…I never start.

  23. Anna says:

    Your crafting is still changing lives, if not for craft whores I never would’ve met you!

  24. Allie says:

    You are a better woman than me. I don’t have the talent, imagination or patience (not to mention – time:)) to do crafts.

  25. And now the words to “Second Hand News” will be playing in my head all day long.

    P.S. How did I never notice those things dangling between his legs? Proof I’m not a detail-oriented woman.

  26. lisa thomson says:

    Love this Leslie! Your stocking photos tell the story of what happens when we have more than one kid…My daughter promised me a scarf for Christmas but I’m still waiting. You sound very talented and I’m sure you’ll get back to that when the kids are a little older. I love handmade gifts! I wouldn’t switch up a handmade tree skirt with a Walmart junk. Really? I can’t believe that.

  27. Lisa says:

    This was seriously funny! I spent one Christmas making all these hand made gifts – I read the tutorials, bought all the supplies….worked my tail off and they ALL flopped. I don’t know what I was doing – 4 kids (one a new baby….). I was nuts. I’ve never picked up that torch. I’m scarred for life. I may never craft again. Okay…maybe not never, but not any time soon.

  28. Suniverse says:

    You need to craft more.

    Also, full disclosure, there is an ornament I made in 1st or 2nd grade that is a diorama . . . in 1/2 of a L’Eggs container. A bright blue L’Eggs container. I need to take a picture of that.

  29. Katie says:

    My Mother in law made us a tree skirt, 5 flower arrangements, and 4 wreaths for Christmas THIS YEAR. And honestly, I don’t like very much of it, and I always feel pressured to use it. What about me and the hubby being able to decorate our house the way we want? It makes me sound terribly ungrateful, but we just have different tastes and I’m way independent and want to do my own thing. It is so overwhelming to be happy in my own home without hurting feelings, ah navigating in-laws :(

  30. Leighann says:

    I just learned to knit last week and it’s no joke. I don’t know how you get the rows even or how you keep your sanity while knitting. Everyone tells me it’s a relaxing hobby but I haven’t had one relaxing minute yet.

  31. OMG, Leslie! ME TOO! No lie, I used to make custom handbags. And although they cost me a bazillion dollars in time & material, I sold them for next to nothing because you could buy a similar one (lower quality, of course) at Target for $19.99. I think I really just loved doing the craft shows with my Mother-in-Law who, wait for it….sold knitted scarves! She practically gave them away too. Honestly, we were just happy to get out of the house.
    Funny enough, it was at one of these craft shows that I saw something that inspired me to create my Beaver Babies. I’ll never forget sitting at our booth and me excitedly telling my mother-in-law about my idea. Now that I think about it, that was the last show we ever did together. hmm.
    Anyway, I finally gave it up the handbag biz when my youngest pulled herself up to the coffee table and started sucking on my fabric scissors while using a rotary cutter for a rattle.

  32. W.C. Camp says:

    Since you require praise for your effort, I felt obligated to give you some on this post. Very humorous and heartfelt. Love the tuna can ornament idea – Can’t wait until next Xmas so I can make one! W.C.C.

  33. Jayme says:

    This.Is.Brilliant. I am a papercrafter who wants gobs of attention/praise for cards. I die a little inside when I don’t get it or just get a “cute”. Meh.

    I think you are my new favorite blogger (found you over on Anna’s site, My Life and Kids. )

  34. I did the handmade thing this year. I learned to make soap! And I have already called everyone and demanded the praise… ummmm, requested the feedback… I needed. :l

  35. I think it was terribly generous to make her the tree skirt to begin with. I cannot believe she was using a store-bought one the very next Christmas. She must not be a crafter. (I’m sure she’s a lovely person.)
    I craft a lot. mostly knitting. I prefer not to knit requests. I want to be inspired to knit. For a lot of people, crafting is love. every stitch, every loop, every knot has time and love wrapped up in it. I wish more people genuinely understood that.

  36. Danielle says:

    Oh great! Now I totally want that “how to make crochet animals” book so I can go on a crafting frenzy. :-) Good news is my bursts of craftiness leave as fast as they come (crafty hot flashes). I’ll just wait a few moments and it will pass…I hope. Love your posts!

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