Sunday, 29 November 2009

A Sustainable Xmas Gift Guide, by M.O.

I Took The Handmade Pledge!

Handmade gifts are Works of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. They have a unique and personal feel to them, and time and care invested in them rather than just money. Especially in the festive season, which at least in theory is about sharing joy with your loved ones, that counts so much. Making a gift for someone accounts for a lot more than just tradition. I think that even if it's not perfect "quality" or not as super spectacular as you could wish, it's still awesome like no purchased good can be. It comes with a strong message of love/care/affection. And anti-consumerism! Did you know yesterday was Buy Nothing Day? Did you know the book Handmade Nation is now also a movie? Did you know you could avoid massive terrible crowds in the streets and make all or most* of your gifts for friends and family? And that it would be awesome?

*I feel like books are exempted from this rule of make rather than buy. I firmly believe it's ok to buy books, and really great to read them. Though of course if you made books too, I'm sure it would be the ultimate awesome gift for anyone.

Note: for your supplies, try Freecycle for maximum non-buying effect.

See the post below for a bunch of ideas on embellishments. The embellish-your-tights tutorial is sheer brilliance!

But you can find a garment, any garment, and make it beautiful. Use old clothes, charity shop clothes, street-found clothes, whatever. A top trendy suggestion would be to add studs.

Lace is another top hot tip. Used as an embellishment is one, but you could really go to town and make a lace collar/necklace. You only need: a long piece of lace, or a few shorter ones to combine, a fastening of some sort, and needle + thread. You could sew the collar onto a shirt or dress, but having it as a self-standing item allows you to wear it with many things - all you need to figure out is the fastening. It could be all fancy and jewellery-like (and haberdasheries will have the equipment you need for making it work), or simple button-casual, or even long enough to not need a proper fastening - just make sure your head fits through. For inspiration, have a look at this etsy shop.

lace necklace by MillicentRussell


collars by Mertxe Hernández

You can also branch out into fabric collars/necklaces that are not necessarily lace. It's a really good accessory, and you could make it just by putting bits of fabric together on one longer piece of fabric that would hang from your neck. Catalan designer Mertxe Hernández makes ones like that - basically a bunch of vertical fabric strips sewn to a straight collar. There's also these two stunning collars/necklaces on etsy:

Did you get my mail Spam Neck Piece by squillinan

The Windsor - ruffle necklace with rope by louloudo


Snoods are all the rage this season! Even if you are not an experienced knitter, making a simple one should be super easy. Just knit a plain piece that's long enough to go around your neck and sew the ends together to form a tube. The lucky attendees of last week's knitting and crochet workshop should have no trouble with that. But if in doubt, ask Sophie or Katie! (Also look at this etsy shop).


Make a paper or fabric book cover. Here's a tutorial how to make one from a t-shirt, but you can use any fabric, and even print on it. Obviously same goes to paper.

a nice set from Book City Jackets


On the topic of printing: IRON TRANSFERS. There's lots around (like the gorgeous Sukie set), but you can also make your own. Here's a video. You just need access to an inkjet printer and some transfer paper. Then you can put it on any cotton-based fabric: t-shirt, top, hoodie, dress, cotton bag, pillowcase, curtain, fabric book cover, fabric necklace/collar, the list goes on.


Or "xstitch". It's very easy, and very cool. If in doubt, consult online videos. Make up your own patterns (pixelate pictures), or use ready ones - my heartfelt recommendation is Radical Cross Stitch (Radical Rags on etsy).
Anti-Patriarchy E-Pattern from Radical Cross Stitch

Question Authority E-Pattern from Radical Cross Stitch

Alternatively, if you don't have time to make your own gifts, buy stuff other people made. It won't be extremely anti-consumerist and a bit less I-love-you-look-I-made-you-this, but is still pretty awesome. The item will still have tme and care invested in it, and you support crafters who made it. Some ideas:


tattoons by Lizz Lizz

Lizz Lunney draws a lot of amazing stuff and puts it in comic books and onto postcards, pocket mirrors, bookmarks, badges, and even tattoons. See her website shop and etsy shop for more.


Hannah makes things with love in Manchester. She is like Tatty Devine, minus the super overpricage. I bought her purple button earrings on Sunday Upmarket over two years ago, and they are still my most favourite earrings ever. I like the look of this robot necklace. The measuring tape also comes in shape of a brooch. The lips are very Mae West by Dalí.

upcycled knickers and headband drawing by Pretty Green

I already blogged about Clare of Pretty Green. She has an amazing custom lingerie upcycling service. Tell her a bit about the person for whom the gift is, and she will make you a beautiful pair of knickers or a bra. Tested personally both for myself and as gifts for other people, and it worked brilliantly every time. She also makes knitted headbands to keep your hair in shape for winter, and you can choose colours! Stuff always comes beautifully packed and with a personal note. Clare is a UCL student, has an etsy shop, and also runs a blog.


Not technically handmade, but spot-on for sustainable credentials. Do The Green Thing launched an amazing project Glove Love, the objective of which is to re-use single gloves, matching them up into new pairs. You can order a pair online for a fiver, specifying gender and size, but what actual gloves you'll get will be a surprise. You can also donate gloves, and tell The Green Thing their story. Each glove comes with a tag with a name and where it was rescued from. This could be a gift for ANYONE, including distant family members, coworkers, or other people you don't know well enough to make a real cool personalized gift for. And it's universally useful - come winter, anyone would wear gloves. Win on all fronts, for £5.

Happy Crafting
and keep it Modo people ;)

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