Making sustainable presents for the holidays and everyday
One of my favorite ways to show love (and save money!) is by hand-crafting presents. I try to make things year-round, to keep on hand whenever I need a gift, but I definitely ramp up the craft process in the autumn! Some inspirations I've been looking at this fall include:
Our embroidery thread. (Have you seen it? So exciting!) There are so many things you can make with embroidery thread, and I'm thrilled that there's finally an organic option. Here are some of my current favorite embroidered projects:
- The Embroidered Family Hands project would be excellent for grandparents, spouses, etc, especially if you have small people in your life (and thus differently-sized hands!).
- I also love the idea of an Embroidered Love Note -- I made something similar for my 14th anniversary last month, and even my generally non-sentimental husband really liked it!
- People with, or expecting, new babies might appreciate this beautiful -- and simple -- Moon Rabbit embroidery pattern; it'd make an excellent wall hanging, design for a pillow, or focal point for a homemade quilt.
- And if the people for whom you're embroidering have a more modern, ironic sensibility, check out the Ninja Embroidery Blocks of the Month. They're clear winners, for the right recipients. (My 9-year-old son among them, I have no doubt!)
As a parent, I love getting my kids involved in the present creation process; one thing they've been particularly good at since their early days is decorating. We love making apple designs using eco-friendly paints on placemats and napkins. (When the kids are making the napkins, this is the pattern we use. It's safer that way.) Apple printing works well on hobo and messenger bags also. (When the kids were reeeeeally little we frequently just decorated with their handprints -- either sewn, as in the above embroidery link, painted, or outlined using fabric markers.)
One of my favorite ideas is gift bags made from our organic sateens -- yes, I give sets of gift bags as presents. People tend to really like them. I also give shopping and tote bags, particularly the ones that fold up to fit in a purse, glovebox, or bike basket. I often choose our lighter hemp and hemp blend fabrics for these bags, as they tend to be more durable than a plain cotton would be. Another kind of bag that can make a wonderful present is a storage bag; they can range in complicatedness from these cute Lincoln Log storage bags to much more modest bags out of my favorite light striped flannel to hold fabric scraps, mending that needs done, and more. (I don't use Wonder Under, which shouldn't surprise you. Applique may be a bit fussier without it, but it's also a lot more sustainable!)
(Can you tell that I like to give either very personal presents or gifts that can help people journey farther on the path towards sustainability? Yeah, I'm pretty obvious that way...)
One way many people try to save money and reduce their carbon footprint is by using their climate control less -- letting the house be warmer in the summer and cooler in the winter. If you have friends who are making that choice, and if they have a microwave oven, consider making several Cold and Hot Comfort Bags. Having pocket or neck warmers can make all the difference on a cold day, and when chilled the bags can be very helpful over the summer too. (We don't have a microwave in our house -- they draw too much energy for our off-the-grid lifestyle -- but we love the pieces of soapstone we put on the woodstove that fill essentially the same purpose as a rice bag would.) For another quick, easy, and very welcome warming present, choose one or more of our gorgeous, jewel-toned fleeces (made from organic cotton, of course!) to make a single- or double-layer throw blanket, a scarf (preferably with pockets on the end, for those chilly mornings), or a shawl. You don't even need a pattern for any of these, but here's a pattern from the wonderful Meg McElwee for a similar but even nicer Cradle Song Blanket!
If you want to make a non-fabric gift, I love the idea of this "Remember" box for kids' quotes. It could so easily be made from materials most of us have sitting around -- if you don't have an old recipe box (I don't), consider using part of a cereal box covered with a collage, a cigar box, or simply joining a bunch of cards or papers (recycled, please!) with a loose-leaf binder ring. As a mom who forgets the funny and insightful things my kids say way too often, I'd love a gift like this. (Which kid was it who recently said he couldn't practice his instrument because he hadn't emptied the cat litter yet and really wanted to? Hmmmm...)
And I know I'm not the only person who values my fabric scraps -- I think all fabric is valuable, but I particularly appreciate our wonderful organic fabrics and can't bring myself to throw away anything that might someday be useful. If you're like that, check out this wonderful quilted floor pillow; just looking at it is giving me all sorts of ideas for baby and throw quilts that could combine our organic batting, gorgeous organic thread, and my plethora of beautiful ColorGrown Cotton scraps.
So those are my ideas and inspirations right now -- what sustainable presents are you thinking about?