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The Gift of Present

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If you’re anything like me, gift-giving can be a bit of a stressful endeavor. Sometimes it’s a last-minute affair, remembering a gift the day before it’s needed because your busy schedule drove it from your mind. And on top of that, there’s a pressure to find a “perfect gift” that shows how much you care for the person.

This year, I decided to combat my gifting stress by making most of my gifts by hand. I love handicrafts and baking and wanted to share them with my loved ones while removing as much of the stress around gifting as possible. But making things by hand takes time! I had to intentionally plan out what I was going to make and follow through sometimes months in advance. I had to find pockets of time in my busy day to add a few knitted rows to a project or plan out my next gift. 

For my son’s first Christmas, I knit him a Hobbit Vest, a pattern designed by Lisa Chemery. I worked on it while he napped and delighted in its details, the heathered green yarn with hints of gold and blue and the little acorn buttons I sewed onto the lopsided button band. There are a few odd stitches and the pocket linings are uneven, but I love it and I hope he will, too. 

For other loved ones in my life, I’ve created a medley of small items, such as homemade vanilla extract, hand-knit potholders or dishcloths, embroidered napkins and baked good mixes in Mason jars. These things might seem small and mundane but they’re transformed into something intimate and precious when they’re made with our hands. I felt as though I was giving them a small piece of myself: my time and energy and presence, wrapped with an imperfect bow.

What we make is often flawed; handmade and imperfect could be synonyms. A machine can knit stitches and sew seams much more neatly than we ever could. But I learned that is part of the handmade present; we’re giving something that reflects ourselves. Instead of stressing over the perfect gift, I’ve embraced the imperfections that inevitably come with my creations. I am not perfect, but through this gift I’m giving a piece of myself, flaws and all. 

As these pockets of time added up, I realized I was not only making gifts for others. I was being blessed by making these gifts. The process grounded me and gave me a sense of presence and peace in my daily life I hadn’t expected. I spent less time on my phone and more time talking with my family, hands busy as we laughed together. I chatted with strangers about knitting as I worked on a pair of socks in a dentist’s waiting room. And above all, I found myself thinking of the gift’s recipient and how grateful I was for their influence in my life. I held them in my heart as I worked, each stitch and second of my time a chance to reminisce on the gift that person was to me. And just as I thought of them whenever I worked on their presents, I hope they’ll think of me every time they use what I’ve given them.

When I made the resolution to focus on gifting handmade items, I was surprised by how much it gave back to me. Next time you have a loved one’s birthday or anniversary, consider taking a little extra time and making them something with your hands. You might be surprised at how much it gives back to you.

Story and photos by: Rachel Fenton

Rachel Fenton is a writer and mother who homesteads on the family property with her parents and grandparents. When she’s not running after her baby, you can usually find her knitting, reading, writing or gardening. Follow their homesteading journey at