Monday, January 10, 2011

Handmade holiday

December was very busy and it really wasn't until the last day before Christmas Eve that I started feeling the stress. Chris, Lily and I decided to make all of our presents this year, so at the beginning of November, we made a list of our skills, the people we would give presents to and things that we thought would be appropriate or appreciated by each of them.

Like I've said before, this time of year is great for looking at what we really need and how we spend our time – and none of us wanted to spend any time fighting the malls.

I started out sewing a set of four cloth napkins and two hot pads for Nigel and Jessica in various green fabrics because we knew their dishes were green (which I somehow neglected to photograph). Next were the set of napkins, two hotpads, four coasters and matching patchwork tea towel for Chris's youngest brother Jared and his girlfriend Andrea as they've recently begun cohabiting.

Then we had to learn to stencil with freezer paper (and find out where the heck you can get freezer paper). So easy and so satisfying. We started off with Finn's gift from us. (Actually our very first one was a total fail. I used spray fabric paint and it totally bled. I suppose it's more for free-style or graffiti-esque painting on clothing.) I drew the image in Adobe Illustrator in Japanese kawaii-style, printed it out, put it under the freezer paper and using an Exact-o knife, I cut it out. I placed the eyes and mouth on and ironed them onto the onesie – one that we had around since Lily was a wee one. Finn didn't care; actually he didn't even know!

Next we took what we learned from that and applied it to some Scrabble-inspired pillows for Leslie and Ryan. I used the pillow tutorial from here, cut out and sewed the back panels of the cotton twill with a similar colouring to the wood colour of Scrabble tiles. We then stenciled the letters on that we traced (in Illustrator again) from images of actual Scrabble tiles. Then I sewed all the pieces together, inserted the pillow forms and voila!

Meanwhile, Chris and I both went through our photos of the kids to make photobooks for their grandparents. That was a many-night affair choosing, and rearranging photos and layouts. Just used iPhoto on our Mac to do everything and then simply placed the order. Nice. Everything is easier on a Mac!

Then I tackled Lily's gift from us, a housecoat. She'd been pretending that a long button-up shirt of hers is a robe, so I thought she'd appreciate it. Actually, I stacked the odds a little by taking her to the fabric store and letting her pick the fabric. She was so excited trying to guess what it could be. I've never sewn from a pattern before and it wasn't something I'll do again soon – too many words and instructions that I don't have context for. But it turned out really good. That took three long nights and a couple mornings while Lily was at school.

Next it was time to make Lily's gift for Finn. We went through his clothes and found a nice blue striped onesie, seam-ripped off the little label that was on the chest and after I typeset it, cut the stencil and ironed it on, Lily sponged on some blue sparkly fabric paint. Nice. He looks pretty funky when he wears it.

For my friends this year, I didn't do as much as I usually do. Since I ran out of Christmas cards after the mass mailout and wasn't wanting to buy more, I just repurposed some Federico Fellini cards I've had for almost ten years and included the "happy holidays family photocard" that we also somehow squeezed in time to take, design and have printed. (Meanwhile, Lily was working on the cards for her friends that accompanied those deliciously decorated gingerbread cookies.)

And then it was crunch time, maybe four days before xmas when I got to Jessica's gift, a card holder with linocut-printed cards and envelopes. When I look at it now, it doesn't look as involved as it was. First I had to come up with a 4 x 6 design that I was happy with and that had simple enough lines and angles that I could carve it out of a lino block in a night or so. I transferred it to the block, then was the carving, then setting up a printmaking area in the dining room, doing test prints, doing more carving out of trouble spots, and trying to get an edition of five decent ones (I got four). The sewing was the easy part, but I also failed there. I had put a loop on, but apparently didn't sew in place strong enough and it slipped out so it doesn't actually close. Oh well, it was all fairly cute.

It wasn't until fake Christmas morning (fake xmas is when we celebrate a mock xmas with my side of the family) that we actually executed Nigel's gifts. The night before, hours after getting back from Christmas with Chris's side of the family, Chris cut out the stencils for a couple t-shirts. The next morning, Lily sponge painted them. She was especially proud of the playful use of inks in the ART one.

This design was based on an after-shave powder called Stag from the mid 1940s. Found it in a retro packaging book and Chris and I really liked the uniqueness of the "a" and the "g".

So that was our handmade holiday. It was exhausting just writing about it! But like I said to Chris, can you sit back and feel truly satisfied and proud when you look at a big pile of stuff you bought? This was a very satisfying experiment.

And then on the 28th of December, I picked up a new hobby...

1 comment:

SaylorMade said...

Good for you guys for making this commitment. We gave a lot of KIVA GCs this year as an alternative.

These are all really lovely items. I always look forward to seeing the items you make.