I know, I’d rather not be thinking about Christmas just yet either. But if you like to give your nearest and dearest a little something homemade, you can’t afford to leave it too long before making a start. Here are 10 ideas for presents, none of which is costly or very time-consuming to make. I’ll cover another 10 in a week or two.
A stylish hat
How about the Brioche Hood, which suits women of all ages? A free pattern and quite an easy knit, but not beginner level. I like it so much I’ve knitted four of them.
A classy apron and oven gloves
I have a friend – you probably have too – whose kitchen is full of “designer” touches, from her Alessi kettle to her Smeg fridge. I noticed recently that she’d acquired a classy-looking apron with robins and holly on it. “Ha!”, I thought, “I can do that!”, and went out and bought some cotton furnishing fabric in a cockerel print, plus spotty fabric for the pocket and tape for the ties. In no time at all I’d made a couple of aprons for presents. I even made oven gloves using the leftover fabric padded with an old wool sweater that I first shrunk by putting it through a hot wash several times.
If there’s a man in your life who likes to barbecue, this idea would do for him – maybe in a butcher’s stripe if he’s the sort that thinks an animal print is too girly. I haven’t done a tutorial for the apron and oven gloves, they’re so straightforward to make, but send me a comment below if you need the dimensions or any other info.
Felt bead necklace
Big felt beads are great. They are bold and fun, plus they weigh little and are of low value, so good for little girls and anyone sick or elderly who lives in residential accommodation or has frequent stays in hospital. Pure wool fibre can be hard to find, but beads can easily be made from scraps of wool yarn – and we’ve all got plenty of that, haven’t we? See my “Felt balls from knitting wool for a chunky bead necklace” project on Instructables for full instructions.
A sophisticated scarf
It Takes Two is a dressy little scarf that can be made from about 50g of yarn. You’ll need two contrasting colours or else a yarn with a long colour change (like those by Noro, or umpteen cheaper alternatives), in which case you’ll be knitting from both ends at the same time – wind it into two balls first to avoid getting in a tangle. It’s a paid-for pattern, you’ll have to buy the Winter 2011/12 back issue of Vogue Knitting (USA) or Designer Knitting (UK), but there’s a similar scarf called Rodekool by the same designer available for free on Knitty.com.
I warn you, both scarves are strictly for experienced knitters only and I found It Takes Two considerably easier than Rodekool.
Canvas log tote
Another one that should appeal to the menfolk, because it involves fire again. All you need is 1m (1¼ yds) of canvas, 2.5m (2¾ yds) of webbing, strong thread and a sewing machine that can cope with some fairly heavy duty stitching. Using the photos below as guidance, cut a rectangle 1m (40″) long and 56 cm (22″) wide (or whatever width you want – this will be the length of the log carrier). Hem the 2 short ends and attach the handles. Then cut 2 rectangles about 30cm (12″) wide by 20 cm (8″) high and round off the bottom corners of each of them. Hem the long edge that doesn’t have rounded corners, then sew these end pieces to either side of the big rectangle to make a bag shape. Finally, turn in and hem the sides where they are free above the ends.
Do you know anyone who knits shawls? I bet she could use another shawl pin. I love the penannular design because it’s completely secure. I posted a few weeks ago about the penannular shawl pin I made from the copper conductor in a length of electrical cable, based on this Instructable: “Making a Viking cloak-pin“. A little experience of metal-working or jewellery-making would be useful, but it’s not essential.
Felted e-reader/tablet case
This idea would suit anyone with an e-reader or a small tablet computer. Like the padding in the oven gloves, it uses an old woolly jumper that has been felted in the washing machine. For how to make it, see my “Felted wool Kindle cover” Instructables project.
Leather passport holder
Using the instructions at the Poppytalk blog, it’s easy to make a passport holder with a couple of slots for train tickets or a credit card. I machine sewed mine which made it a very fast project. Don’t worry if you’ve never sewn leather before, just buy a leather needle for your sewing machine and you’ll find it isn’t very different from sewing fabric. The only thing is, you have to get it right first time because stitching leaves permanent holes.
Pocket tissue holder
There are instructions galore on the internet showing how to make a holder for those little packs of travel tissues, including my own pocket tissue holder tutorial. There can hardly be a woman in the western world who doesn’t carry a pack in her handbag, but the plastic wrappers always disintegrate well before the last tissue has been used. A fabric holder solves that problem and looks attractive too. They can be made from scraps of fabric and as plain or fancy as you wish. A perfect stocking filler or little present to keep in stock just in case a female friend unexpectedly turns up on your doorstep bearing a gift.
What’s a buff? A stretchy tube of fabric that can be worn as a scarf, cowl, beanie, headband, hairband or in various other ways. Outdoorsy types of both sexes love them, because they weigh next to nothing and you can set off in fine weather with your buff round your neck and then pull it up to stop your ears freezing off if it suddenly turns cold. Mine is covered in roses, but find a skull print fabric and you can make a buff that is suitable for a teenage boy or a born-again biker – it will fit under a helmet. For an adult size, you’ll need a 52cm (20.5”) square of fine-knit jersey fabric, preferably with some Lycra/Spandex in it.
Seam it into a tube with the stretchier direction of the fabric running around the tube, using an elastic stitch that stretches with the fabric. I sewed a lapped seam (right side laid on top of right side) with a 1cm (3/8”) overlap. It may not even be necessary to hem the ends of the tube because a finely knitted jersey fabric doesn’t readily unravel.