Handmade Christmas Gifts
Yes I know it’s only May, but I love to give our family and friends handmade gifts for Christmas so now it’s time to start thinking about making those things. So I would like to give you a few ideas of gifts you can knit and crochet for family. In case you are not an avid yarn crafter I’ll take a bit of time to explain the types of yarn and what types are best for what kind of projects as well as give you a few simple gift ideas that you can make up in plenty of time for Christmas. If you do not knit or crochet there are many tutorials on YouTube that can teach you anything from the very basics to more advanced techniques.
If you do any amount of yarn crafting you really must join the Ravelry community! On Ravelry you can find patterns for ANY project you could possibly want to do, you can also keep an inventory of your yarn stash, hooks, needles, and tools, as well as keep a library of patterns you have purchased or downloaded all for quick and easy reference. You can also join message boards, communities of knitters or crocheters, and share projects you have done or patterns you have created!
First let’s look at yarn types. If you’ve only ever shopped at chain craft stores for yarn then you have no idea what you are missing out on! While I do buy yarn from those chain stores especially when I’m looking for crochet thread and cotton yarns, as they are cheaper in the chains, I do spend a lot of time at my Local Yarn Store (LYS) especially when I’m looking for soft yarns for baby gifts, socks, and shawls. Lets look at some yarn types:
Crochet Thread  – typically used for doilies, some shawls, and tatting (we are not going to talk about tatting right now).
Sock Yarn (also called Fingering Weight)  – typically used for socks, shawls, and occasionally scarves and gloves.
Sport Weight and DK Weight [2=3] – used for baby projects, some blankets and scarves, and lightweight clothing items
Worsted Weight  – used for most blankets, scarves, gloves, and clothing items, most common weight to find.
Bulky Weight  – blanket yarn, some scarves, home décor (rugs, chair pads, and the like), some hats
Super Bulky  – blankets, some hats, and home décor.
If you are new to crochet or knitting larger hooks and needles with worsted or bulky yarn are easiest. The finer the yarn the smaller the hook or needle you will use, and while some beginner projects do use fingering weight yarn on larger needles these are the exception rather than the rule.
Now we talked about yarn weights, lets talk about fiber content. Most of the yarn you will find in chain stores will be cotton, or acrylic, with the occasional wool or wool blend. Acrylic yarn is a completely man made fiber, and can be a little rough in texture however it is cheap and there are some softer acrylic yarns available. The biggest advantage to acrylic yarn is that it can withstand washing and drying better than wool, and doesn’t need any special care. However it can be irritating on sensitive skin, where as cotton and wool are often well tolerated by most people. Fiber choice is completely up to you, but there are some guidelines to remember. If you are knitting socks for example you will want to use a yarn that is at least 10-15 percent nylon and the rest should be wool or other fiber with a little stretch (cotton is a bad choice here). If you are crocheting for a baby you will want the softest yarn you can find. Now if you are shopping at your Local Yarn Store you will find mostly wool, cotton, linen, silk, cashmere, and other natural fibers with a few acrylic yarns and of course blends of multiple fibers.
Sometimes the weight and fiber content of your yarn is determined by the pattern you have chosen to work with, while other times you can adjust for heavier or lighter yarn by going up or down in needle size, it really depends on what you are making. For Christmas gifts I like to stick mostly with worsted or bulky weight especially if the gifts are for people who have cold weather. Of course I live in the desert so even during Christmas time I don’t wear a scarf or gloves for warmth, but I do enjoy light weight shawls and scarves made from fingering weight or lacy patterns done in worsted.
Ok, enough about yarn weight and type lets talk about some projects! I’m going to link to a few of my favorite patterns on Ravelry, some are free and some do have a cost, others can be found in books or magazines which you may find at your local library or can purchase online. The pattern you choose will tell you what weight of yarn you need as well as size of hook or needles. Some knitting patterns require circular needles while others are written for straight needles (I’ll talk needles in another post) however most knitting can be done on circular needles even for a flat fabric.
For Babies or Toddlers:
Blankets are always a lovely gift for a new baby, but they are also one of the most commonly gifted items so your handmade gift may be just one of many lovely blankets and not get as much use as you’d like.
Lovey toys are wonderful for babies and toddlers, and made from cotton yarn they won’t irritate skin or get a funky smell when wet (many acrylic yarns smell like wet dog when damp). Making these in nursery colors, holiday theme, or seasonal colors for when the child was born.
If you are comfortable with your skills a cardigan or sweater is always appreciated for those cooler days and evenings out at Christmas parties.
If you are looking for something super easy, try this crochet shawl, it works up quickly is easily adapted for any size (thus lending well for a mommy and me or kid sister and me gift), and uses any worsted weight yarn. It would also be lovely done in Christmas colors for family photos or parties.
Even Jumpers and dresses can be crochet or knit! Here is a cute jumper I made for a friends baby girl. As you can see I modified a pattern to suit my intended recipient.
For Older Children:
Slippers in fun shapes or colors are wonderful for cool winter nights and especially lovely on Christmas morning.
Cardigans or sweaters are lovely as well as the easy crochet shawl!
Also consider scarves and gloves for Christmas travel, or snow play.
Hats are of course lovely all year long and if you are comfortable working in the round take almost no time to complete!
For Teens and Adults:
Consider making beanie hats in team colors or favorite fandom or simply in a winter or Christmas theme.
Market bags are fast and always appreciated for the beach, Christmas shopping, or the library.
Of course you can make shawls a plenty , dish cloths and towels (cotton yarn only please otherwise you’re right back to wet dog), pot holders, pan scrubbies (some yarn companies even have special scrubby yarn that is durable and lightly abrasive).
No matter what you decide to make your recipient will love it because you took time to choose the yarn and make their gift and it shows you care! I even keep a stash of dish cloths on hand for when I need a last minute gift! I just grab three or four roll them up and tie with a ribbon.