Recently I’ve been having two kinds of crafty thoughts.
After spending tons of time writing these past few months, I needed a therapeutic creative outlet. And I got it. I’ve been cooking and sewing and painting, and it’s been great.
But in addition to the here-and-now, the holidays are coming. Not for normal people, but for crafty ones–the ones who like to make their gifts–December is not that far away.
I don’t like to make gifts just for the sake of making them. I want them to be worth my time and trouble. But it’s hard for me to tell in advance which projects are going to be worthwhile, and which ones are going to give me headaches. Because if a handmade project is going to give me a headache, well–I’d rather just buy it.
With that in mind, I’ve created this handy flowchart that helps me decide whether a handmade project is likely to be worth it–or not.
Click here to download a printable flowchart.
Here’s a sampling of some of the projects I’ve made recently. Some were worth making; some weren’t. Let me tell you why.
Buy or DIY?
1. My sister-in-law is a Mary Kay consultant, and I thought cheerful nesting bags would make a fun and practical gift. I used the zippered pouch tutorial in Bend the Rules Sewing as a jumping off point. It was way more time-consuming and expensive than I expected.
I was torn over whether this project was a “make” or a “buy.” Since I made 3, I decided it was worth making, because I was able to customize the colors and the sizes, save a little money, and put some extra heart into it. But if I only wanted to gift one pouch, I would say “buy” for sure. Verdict: Make (barely).
2. I thought this She Carries Flowers purse tutorial from Tea Rose Home sounded fun, but turned out to be a poor fit for my personality. I don’t enjoy fine detail work–and this project is full of it.
The good news? My grandmother loved the bag, which I made her as a gift. But it still wasn’t worth it. Verdict: Buy.
3./7. This is the “Flower Girl Dress” from Heather Ross’s excellent book Weekend Sewing. Make no mistake: girls’ dresses like this are cheaper to buy on a good sale at Old Navy or Target, when you can scoop them up for $8. I think the supplies on these dresses cost me $12.
But my girls and I had so much fun making these. They helped me choose the fabrics and cut out the pattern pieces; my 7-year-old even sewed some of the seams on hers. Sewing each dress took less than 2 hours, and now they have high-quality, custom creations–right down to the extra-long hems–that they had a hand in making. Verdict: Make.
4. I’m in love with this hooded towel and washcloth pattern from the Purl Bee. It’s a little more expensive to make this than to buy it–the supplies cost about $12, and you can pick up a hooded towel at Target for $10. But this set makes the sweetest baby gift, and it’s so much more special when it’s handmade.
We made the above set last week for the brand-new baby across the street. It’s not hard to sew–it’s all straight lines–and it only takes 60-90 minutes start-to-finish. Verdict: Make.
5. I read how to dye your own play silks on Simple Kids right before Christmas last year, and knew my kids would love them. I dyed some with food coloring and some with Kool-Aid packets; both methods turned out gorgeous play silks that my kids have been playing with regularly ever since. It was fun; it was easy.
It wasn’t until last week–when we visited a new toy store in our town–that I realized just how much it costs to buy play silks. $15 a piece! I paid about $19 total to make 7 for my kids. Verdict: Make.
6. I wanted to make owl rice heating pads as stocking stuffers for my kids, who have enjoyed sleeping with tube socks filled with rice for years.
These owl rice heating pads are charming. They’re fun to make and to give. You can make them from scraps, which means they’re inexpensive, too. I’ve never seen them in stores. And did I say charming? Verdict: Make.
Have you attempted a handmade project that turned out not to be worth making? What was it?