Part I can be read here.
I like homemade Christmas gifts because, well, I enjoy making things, but also because I feel like I can give people higher quality things for a cheaper price. For example, a pair of men's washable wool hiking socks can run $15-$20/pair. Homemade men's washable wool hiking socks will save you $3-$8/pair depending on how great the yarn sale or coupons.
A fun perk of homemade gifts is that you can give seemingly odd things without looking weird. For example, if you hand someone a pair of socks, it's all, "Oh, thanks for the socks. Now where's my real gift?" But if you hand them homemade socks, well, that's a different story.
I just realized that the completed sock and the display yarn are two separate colors. The completed sock was part of a set that went to my dad and the display yarn was for as-then unmade socks for my father-in-law. Homemade socks were a big hit as my dad is perpetually cold and my father-in-law loves not getting more junk to clutter up his house. Both spend a fair amount of time working outside, so the socks (which also layer well), should provide ample warmth. And you can totally crochet while watching movies on the couch.
I find kids gifts to be way hard. So I have eight nieces and nephews under eight and they already own pretty much every little animal play set, train set, car set, baby doll set imaginable. They have more clothing and the girls have more hair accessories than they could ever wear. We love books, but not many 4-year-olds get excited when they get a book for Christmas. Plus there's the jealousy issue. Same-gendered, close-in-age kids need similar toys and I'm never sure whose favorite color of the moment is pink and whose is purple. I'm sure I'm putting way to much thought into it at this point, but I'm that kind of person.
Last year, I made all the kids their own crocheted blankets. It took me all year (I honestly started in January), and crocheted through two moves and three states (FL to MI to IL). It was not a very inexpensive year, but I wanted it to happen bad enough to subsidize the Christmas budget with my own spending money (the "allowances" that we budget for ourselves). This year, that wasn't happening. But I needed something that could live up to last year's epic awesomeness. It took a week or so of brainstorming, but I finally came up with the perfect solution.
Super. Hero. Capes. Inexpensive, quick, simple, reversible super hero capes.
At 3/4 of a yard per side, these guys don't take a lot of fabric. (They actually use way less than 3/4 of a yard, but you have to cut them on a fold, so there was a lot of extra fabric. Maybe a better seamstress could have gotten away with less, but I'm not that talented). I got a bunch of sateen when it went on sale and avoided making any emblems to sew on (save labor plus materials!) Plus these capes are incredibly fast to make. It was seriously a weekend project to cut, sew, and iron on a velcro neck closure on EIGHT super hero capes. It would be an excellent beginner's project, as there are no complicated twists in the project. I used a free pattern I found online and just cut the older kids' capes a bit longer.
I avoided the jealousy issue with a sneaky little maneuver: all the girls have hot pink on one side and a unique color on the other (even across families), so they can all sport their hot pink to be on the same team or the unique color when they're on opposite sides. The same holds true for the boys with red. Not only does saying that distract them from their jealousy, but with two sides, one of them is bound to be good enough to top a sibling. (Note, I made very sure the "gold" and "silver" capes did not end up in the same family. In the store, there were distinct gold and yellow colors, but when we got home, the yellow sure looked gold next to the silver).
I chopped up a cardboard box that delivered presents from Amazon to fold the capes around, wrapped them in some tissue paper we had lying around, then wrapped them in the brown paper leftover from last year. So I didn't spend a dime on wrapping supplies. I think Matt told me that it came out to under $10 per kid.
The only exception was the five-month-old baby. I made him a crocheted blanket (since he wasn't around for one last year) and I made Abigail a cape so she could join in the fun.
I know next year is going to be much tougher to make gifts with a second baby scooting around, but I do already have an idea floating around in my head for the kids that should be pretty doable. Either way, I've pre-written in my planner on August 1st to start brainstorming/planning the gifts so as to avoid this year's mega crunch, and in the meantime, I'm going to enjoy my nieces and nephews flying around the room saving one another, whether or not anyone needed, or wanted, saving.