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Handmade for Birthdays

July 10, 2010

It’s my new pledge.

Somehow every year, in the last two months before school is out, everyone and their dog sends out birthday invites. We ended up turning half of them down just to get a good family weekend day together without someone having to rush away in the middle of everything. The first few gifts ended up being last minute dashes to the expensive kids boutique in town where I’d  end up plonking $30 down for a decent birthday package and then off we’d run, late to the party.

Well, when we started averaging 2 party invites a week something had to give. Either we needed to shop elsewhere or completely rethink these presents. And it got me thinking about the kinds of gifts my kids receive at birthdays, and how most of them are plastic and meaningless, get played with once or twice and then forgotten about. Ugh.  And really, why should children cling with delight to some mass produced hunk of marketing plastic, that’s made 1/2 way around the world in order to exploit the cheap labour found there?

Nope. No more excessive plastic wrapping, and no more wasted money. It’s about time kids received something neat, handmade especially for them, with a good amount of care and love. And maybe if I’m lucky, they’ll even appreciate and cherish it. So I decided that from now on it’s all going to be handmade with some sort of personal touch, even better if I can exclusively use my stash or at the very least upcycle something fer pete’s sake!

First up is a quilted sling bag made entirely from my stash, stuffed with a book I sent Maya to pick out, with a homemade bookmark.  Total cost $12.

I painfully cut into some of my most favorite fabric because the 11″ panel was just the perfect size, and I have yet to meet a 9 year old girl who doesn’t like it.

It has a velcro closure and some custom embroidery on either side of the inside edge..

I know when my kid smiles and nods in approval we’ve got a winner.

The weird thing about parties around here, is that no one seems to open presents during the party anymore. So there’s no official giving and receiving, no “thank-you’s” or “you’re welcome’s”. The gifts are plonked down on a table to be opened after everyone has left. How disconnected it’s all become.

So you can imagine my delight when the next day as I dropped Maya off at her classroom, the recipient of this lovely hipster sling bag, shyly came up to me and asked if I made the bag for her. Her huge grin and twinkly eyes were all the thank-you we needed when I said that yes I did, and that Maya made the bookmark and picked out the book especially for her. (Oh yeah, all the cards are handmade by the kids as well.)

Next up is another hipster sling bag custom made for another 9 year old girl recently interested in knitting…

This one took a few hours to do so I didn’t get around to adding any embroidery, but I did make sure to add slots for some really cute knitting needles..

…and crochet hooks and patterns. It’s just the right size to hold a small project or two.

Total cost: $6 for the needles and hook, and $6 in fabric. = $12

You should have seen how downright pleased the mom was to confirm with me the next day that I had indeed sewn the bag, and how completely ecstatic her daughter was to discover what it was. She said that she actually argued with her husband that it was handmade and not store bought!

This last gift I thought was especially cool. It was for one of my son’s friends who turned 6.

I went to the thrift store in town and found a great pair of men’s cargo shorts for $4. I cut off one of the legs featuring that great outside pocket. Squared it off, sewed it up and used the waistband for the strap. It really only needed a bit of a lining at the top edge so I was able to sparingly use another of my most favorite fabrics.

I found some really neat origami folding papers which slid into the pocket perfectly…

But the best part of the gift was the pencil case. My 5 year old Liam wanted to sew his friend a square for his birthday, so he did…

I still get all teary just looking at the picture. He saw Maya doing some stitching and he wanted to try it too. This smiley square was his very first embroidery project. He chose his most favorite alien fabric for the back, and I pulled a nice plaid for the lining.

Liam was so excited to hand this gift to his buddy at the party. Even though Damon didn’t open it then, the proud and satisfied look on Liam’s face was “thank-you” enough for me.

Total cost: $4 for the shorts, $4 for the origami papers = $8

Now this is more like it.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. July 12, 2010 6:11 am

    This is one of my favorite posts ever! Thanks for getting my dreary Monday off to a better start with a smile. I LOVE that cargo short bag … hmmmm, do I smell a pattern or tutorial?? You should totally make one!

  2. July 12, 2010 6:11 am

    PS. Love your new header, too. : )

  3. July 12, 2010 3:45 pm

    You rock, Sonja! What amazing gifts! Congratulations on avoiding the plastic present. I love how your son embroidered his friend’s pencil case. Are you going to make a few gifts to have on hand for those surprise birthday parties or will they all be custom like these ones?

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