All I Want For Christmas Is… Socks? How Cool Are Hand-Made Gifts?

By Anna | November 26 2013 | 27 Comments

It’s that time of year again, the time when magazines start urging us to make Christmas “even more special” by making a home-made gift. What could be nicer, we’re told, than making a unique pressie? Whether it’s a pair of home-knitted socks or a Liberty print hot water bottle cover, we’re often encouraged to delight our family and friends by turning to some DIY.

On one level, as someone who loves knitting and sewing and generally just messing about and making stuff, this is music to my ears. I love gorgeous craft magazines like Mollie Makes and Crafty, and I’ve always got a couple of arty projects on the go (whether I finish them all is another matter).

craft mag

In fact, I’m currently knitting a cardigan for my brand new baby nephew. But I’ve got to admit that I’m also a bit wary about making people presents. Because as all of us who make things know, creating a gift can take up a lot of time and effort. And there’s always the chance that at the end of it all, it’ll be greeted with a forced smile and an over-enthusiastic cry of  “Oh wow! Did you make it yourself?” Which will leave you feeling the urge to respond “Hang on, do you know how much work went into this?” Hardly the Christmas spirit.

And with home-made presents, there’s also the chance that the recipient will think it’s a somehow lesser offering. After all, most of us are just a generation or so away from a world where everything was home-made, whether you liked it or not. In that context, home-made isn’t bespoke and unique, it’s just cheap and second rate.

It’s like being a kid and praying for a Barbie and getting a home-made rag doll in a blonde wig instead. In this country, most of our families never had the luxury of seeing home-made gifts as a special treat. These days, of course, the materials needed to sew or knit an item might cost more than buying it in a shop – decent sock yarn costs around a tenner –  but you can’t exactly tell people, “Don’t worry, it’s actually quite expensive!” Also hardly the spirit of the season.


And of course, many of us have experienced receiving such dodgy gifts – the wonky jumpers knitted by a granny who’s not as good at it as she thinks she is, the scarf that’s bigger at one end than the other. We know it’s the thought that counts – and when we love someone, we’ll wear the scarf anyway. But we might find ourselves wishing she’d just given us a good book instead.

Of course, it’s always a lovely feeling when you make something and the recipient is thrilled by it – I made my sister a book cover from Grayson Perry’s limited edition Liberty fabric a few years ago, which did go down very well. But I do always worry a bit when I embark on a gift project. Although I think my new nephew will be fine with it. He’s only a few days old, after all, so he can’t be too fussy.

So are you planning to give some home-made gifts this year? Have you ever given – or received – a DIY disaster? And what makes a personal home-made gift really special?

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27 Replies to "All I Want For Christmas Is… Socks? How Cool Are Hand-Made Gifts?"

  • Claire says:

    I’ve never received a home made gift, but this year I’m making up festive treat boxes for my BF’s families just to give them something. I’m already worried about their reaction despite my BF telling me that it’s a lovely idea and they’ll be so surprised because they won’t expect anything I can’t but help having self doubts!

  • amberangel says:

    Oh Anna – how lovely you’re knitting for your new nephew – that will be cherished gift!!! To be honest, I enjoy knitting, but I’ve also gotten a bit older and wiser about it. Some people absolutely love hand knits and others detest it. So if it’s something that I want to put time and effort into, I make sure it’s what the recipient enjoys. It’s defo not a cheap option – recently knitted a fab blanket for my niece – it cost €50 alone for wool!!! But to me it’s priceless as I enjoy it so much.

  • Carky says:

    I received beautiful hand knit cardis for my daughter from my elderly neighbour, they are gorgeous and I also received a beautiful crocheted pram blanket from my friend. These are the presents that will be kept and remembered in my opinion as time and effort went into them. I’ve made lovely scarves for my sisters and mother over the years and lets just say all were not appreciated equally! And yes, good wool is not cheap!

  • annieapple says:

    I love homemade gifts- something yummy to eat or a lovely photo book maybe. I hated the jumpers my mother knitted for me as a child though because they were really itchy! If the good wool is the scratchy stuff then the cheap stuff will do me fine thanks!

    • Anna says:

      There used to be a lot of scratchy synthetic wools until recently, so today’s home made garb would probably be more comfortable!

  • (alex) says:

    I love homemade presents! Especially foodie gifts. I love making these and getting them as presents myself :)

  • Andrea says:

    I love homemade gifts! I have a friend who is the most amazing baker and I would be disappointed if I didn’t get my mince pie present.
    I always feel like a bit of love has gone into the dough, the stitches, whatever. But I think the key is that it has to be tailored to the person, a bit of thought has to go into it. Like I love the aul baked goods but a knitted scarf would leave me cold. Which would really defeat the purpose of the aforementioned scarf.

  • Nomes says:

    This is making me want to learn to knit!! I don’t think I’ve ever done home made Christmas pressies before except as a kid maybe, though I’ve made food for birthday presents a few times. I went to a friend’s birthday get-together a while back and funds were tight so I couldn’t afford to buy her anything decent, so I raided my cupboards and made her a strawberry cheesecake and a banoffee pie instead, which were appreciated just as much and I was all proud of myself! Some of my friends have made big, framed photo collages for each other for 21sts and the like and they’re class as presents.

  • OtherMary says:

    I love handmade presents but I’m not much into making them myself but I really enjoy searching Etsy for awesome handmade things.

  • thefrog says:

    I would love to receive handmade gifts but would never dare to give them. I know the work and love that go into making them (embroidery, silk painting and crochet are my thing) but I would be afraid people would think that it was just cheap.

  • says:

    I decided to become crafy this year, learned how to knit and crocket and bought a circle loom too… Made my friend a couple of cardi’s for her baby and she seemed to love them. Also made a few hats recently and they went down well too! I think handmade gifts are awesome but completely agree that you choose carefully who gets them as they are not everyone'[s cup of tea, and some people wont realise the hours you pour in to them.

  • witchgirl26 says:

    I love getting home made things but think the comments about tailoring them to the audience makes perfect sense. I do a lot of cross-stitch and know there are some people who’d really appreciate it and love it and others who wouldn’t at all. But they’re not into that kinda thing so that’s grand. I also am making all my own cards this year. I’ve worked out the people who would appreciate the effort more than others and am making the more fancy, complicated ones for them and simpler ones for the others.

    • salsera says:

      My sister did a cross-stitch of a tango-dancing couple for me. Now, I used to dance salsa, not tango, but the impulse was nice. I’m afraid I don’t think I reacted with the unbridled joy she expected at the time, but I love looking at the tiny bit of gold thread she used for the earring. (I must tell her that..). It grew on me.

  • Fiathina says:

    My best mate knit me a pair of deep purple sparkly elbow-length fingerless gloves a few years ago. They are the BUSINESS.

  • Praxis says:

    A neighbour knit me a scarf a few years ago, after I had given her a favour, and I was really touched. I love a handmade gift. My nearly 11 year old still has a small knit teddy another friend made when he was born. Im making part of my husband’s present this year, based on something I saw on Etsy. Mind you, i havent started yet.

  • Senora Espana says:

    I always make my own cards but I’m afraid thats as crafty as they get.
    My Mam is a big knitter and for years I yearned for a shop bought school jumper/cardigan from being pereptually the only kid in the class to have a home made one!
    Now thought every time I go home she has a new pattern for something she thinks I’d like and I would LOVE her to knit them for me but she somehow never gets around to it.
    One of the most treasured things I have is a patchwork quilt made for me by my Mam, I know she put months of work into it and its personalised to me. She’s in the process of making one for my sister too, makes me wish I was a bit more handy!

    • witchgirl26 says:

      Your mam sounds like mine! Although by 6th year I did treasure my slightly too big, oh so comfy, school jumper as it was warmer than everyone else’s shop bought ones! I do have a fab crochet beanie with a flower on the side that she did for me a few years ago & it always gets comments when I wear it.
      I also have a giant crochet-squared blanket that she did as a replica of the ones we had as kids for me & I adore it so much.
      Can’t crochet or knit worth a damn so makes me appreciate her talent!

  • Kittykat says:

    Flathina, those gloves sound fab.
    Claire, that sounds like a lovely idea. I make lovely malteser rocky road and would love to make some to give to my neighbours and pals in work this christmas. Can I ask, where do you buy your presentation boxes ? I would love to get nice christmassy boxes and tissue paper if anyone knows where I can get them ?

  • Shygirl says:

    I love knitting but I only can do basic things like scarves and stuff. I want to learn to crochet, and sew. Agree with comments above, not everyone would appreciate the sentiment but would be priceless to someone else.

  • Babs says:

    Christmas is the time for crafting for me, this year I made Christmas puddings in ceramic bowls with lovely Ikea fabric to wrap them as gifts, I’m also making gingerbread biscuits to give out, recipe on odlums website is the business! I’m also customising converse for my two nieces for their birthdays (one in December one in January) and I make name frames for any new baby / christenings and they are always well appreciated. I’ve been asked to make the frames for payment by people too so I must be doing something right! :) I love a handmade gift, or just anything handmade. We are getting married next year and I am doing a lot DIY – cake, veil, flowers, invites, table centrepieces and decorating our ceremony room too, I really enjoy it. I love to receive a handmade gift. A friends mother makes jam receives a chutneys as gifts – fab! There are people who don’t appreciate them but you can kind of tell who they are. I started making the name frames after I was looking fieva gift for a friend’s baby’s christening and couldn’t find anything but Newbridge stuff and it’s just so “done”. My friend loved it and sais it was so nice to get something handmade and different (she got a LOT of picture frames!!) I really wish I could knit and crotchet, that’s next on my list of things to learn! (it’s a very long list!)

    • salsera says:

      One year, I learned glass painting. I gave all my nieces and nephews their own Nescafe jar with their name and a picture on it. The 4yr old boy got a yellow digger, the 7 year old girl got a butterfly,and the 12 year old boy got a pirate skull in white on an Alta Rica jar (with Gothic writing).

      Turns out, they all still have them. The 12 year old boy is now in college! They all keep them for something special, like foreign currency. I found that very touching, I must say.

  • Babs says:

    My phone but in a receives after the word jam for no apparent reason :(

  • Callie says:

    I do paintings on canvases or drawings put in a frame of family members or pets.. I gave my dad a painting of our dog who had recently passed away.. he cried and didnt even acknowledge the dark knight triology or crate of stella I also got him. Proof that its the thought and effort you put into gifts that make them… I hope.

  • Em says:

    I do cross stitch and make an ornament each year for my brothers and sisters and two aunts. They really appreciate them. One of my sisters who cannot sew at all displays all the hand made ornaments and cards from everyone on a small tree in her conservatory. My sis in law does the same. I wouldn’t do for anyone other that family and if they said they didn’t like them I would not take offence. I do make birth samplers for friends who have babies and they are appreciated.

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