Letter from the Editor: Homemade for the Holidays

It seems obvious that I'll be making the majority of my Christmas presents this year.  But I'm learning that's not something to take for granted.  I'm discovering how rare a talent it is considered to be able to make things, and how few people believe they could too!

Often I find myself socializing with a group of professionals – people in finance, medicine, law, education. When they ask me What Do You Do, I find it hard to explain. “Well, I make stuff. And then I take pictures of it, and write about it and tell you how you can make it too. And I help other people who want to do the same.”
The amount of admiration I receive for knowing how to “make stuff,” overwhelms me. It seems like basic life skills to me, nothing too impressive. The fact that people whose work I admire could be envious of mine is not just flattering, it’s telling. While DIY is a natural way of life for me, there are still millions out there (loose estimate), who have yet to discover their own hidden hand-crafting talents.

For example, I was recently scouring Chinatown for some interesting feathers to use in my Feathered Headband Instructable, when I struck up an interesting conversation with a shop owner. She didn’t know where to find feathers for sale, and was wondering what I needed them for. When I explained the project, she expressed amazement at my ability to make something. By myself. With my hands. Maybe this comes from spending all day peddling cheap merchandise direct from China (which is an accurate portrayal of this particular shop), but she was so impressed with the idea of hand-crafting things, that she invited me into the back of her shop, served me tea, and even gave me a tiny jade dragon to keep (since Dragon is my Chinese zodiac sign). What a turn of events!

I finally realized just how impressive hand-crafting is when I learned from my mother that she and her friends are exchanging only hand-made gifts this year. It suddenly struck me how big a deal that really is! Not only is DIY a way to overcome feeling beaten down by the economy, it’s a way to share something personal with the people you love. It’s a challenge to yourself to stretch your imagination and learn new skills. The value of the gifts you make will far exceed anything you might have bought in a shop (even with Black Friday sales!). And you know what? It’s not hard. It doesn’t have to be. Make cookies, or candy, or cake in a jar! Make a lovely zippered case with no sewing experience needed! Write a letter – by hand. Make a coupon book redeemable for chores and errands. You know what your skills are.

But how do you convince someone who doesn’t think of themselves as handy or crafty or creative that they really are? How do you let them know how much more treasured a hand-made gift is than something store-bought? My question for you is: How will we spread the DIY movement this season? Who can you convince to make their gifts this year?  

And, oh yeah, what are you gonna make?

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janw7 years ago
I rather receive a hand-made gift than a bought one, even if the handmade one is a bit dodgy or ill-conceived. The idea that someone made time for me to sit down, think about an idea and actually made it, gives me a warmer feeling than unwrapping another CD, or book or whatever someone gives me.

When I tell people that I can repair something for them, they often look at me in disbelieve. In the first place because repairing isn't something that pops up in their mind and in the secondplace because lots of people doesn't know anymore how stuff work.
They often complain about how expensive life has become but they have to call a 50euro plumber to replace a 0.50euro rubber ring in their tap because it leaks.
A lot of people also can't undestand that making stuff in your freetime can be very relaxing even if it involves a lot of maths or hard manuel labour. For them it is the same as working.

Thats why I love instructables so much. Here people understand what it's like to make something. They like nicely cafted and goodlooking projects but they can also look behind the looks of an object and just appreciate the fact that it is handmade, personal and made with a certain kind of love for "making'

Jayefuu janw7 years ago
Best comment ever. Made me smile. Thanks :D
janw Jayefuu7 years ago
I'm glad that it make you smile. It is just how I feel about it and I do believe that there are more instructable members who feel the same.
kelseymh janw7 years ago
"Thats why I love instructables so much. Here people understand what it's like to make something."

The doers, the risk-takers, the makers of things. It took a while, but our (I'm in the U.S.) current President recognized the value of what we do.
janw kelseymh7 years ago
From the moment that you realize that you can make things, an entire world opens up. You begin with a little project, but already you are thinking about impementing it ( what you have learned from it) into a bigger or more complicated project.
You start to see how stuff is made and how to replicate, repair or improve it and you wonder why everything seemed so complicated before.

Its asif everything gets possible. Doers, thinkers, makers: the world is ours. We can really build our own dreams and the best thing is that we are also willing to share it so that everyone can enoy it.
romanreb7 years ago
This is an excellent letter. We so desperately need to ditch the mere consumerism and give love instead. I am familiar with that experience of having people amazed at the idea that one can make things. Last weekend I invited my DIL's over and we made ornaments. They were amazed at what they created with their own hands, at their own inspiration. All I did was provide the materials. (and I got to keep the babies--sneaky, huh?)
Something you made says "I love you". That's all there is to it. Please continue your worthy crusade.
I plan on making a nice queen-size comforter with a custom design sewn on the front.
scoochmaroo (author)  JamesRPatrick7 years ago
That sounds amazing! I can't wait to see it.
Done! (It was for someone special)
I broke soooo many needles... I probably should have taken some pictures before I gave it away.

P.S. I also made the Umbrella Corporation pillow next to it.

I actually find it a little disconcerting that more people can't make & do. When I was a kid we used to make things as gifts all the time it was something we grew up with, my sister & I still do.
This year for example the better half & I made rather a lot of https://www.instructables.com/id/Grans-Green-Tomato-Chutney/ so we shall be giving it to friends & family I am also planning to make some https://www.instructables.com/id/Drink-Can-Tinwork/https://www.instructables.com/id/Entwined-hearts/ among many other things.
My parents made gifts as did my grandmother & most of my aunts & uncles, maybe I just came from one of those families I don't know.
Getting back to my point though it seems that people are far less inclined to do things for themselves these days, when I talk with people about things I make & do they seem to be amazed that I am able to do these things & I personally find it a bit worrying.
I grew up believing that there is nothing I can't do just things I haven't learned yet, as a result I have become fairly well skilled in most of the usual areas of DIY such as carpentry, building, decorating, plumbing, motorcycle mechanics etc.
I also make & repair leather work, make & alter my own clothes I have learned copper beating, pyrography, furniture restoration & upholstery & much much more besides this.
I am by no means an expert in all of these things & have made my fair share of mistakes but I see this as part of the learning process as well as part of the fun of it all.
As a result I have become the go to guy for any of my friends & family who want something made or repaired.
Given the opportunity I would love to spend the rest of my days learning then passing on some of the crafts which modern society seems to be losing touch with, unfortunately short of a lottery win all I can do is hope that some of what I do has rubbed off on my kids & hopefully my better halves grandsons & we carry on our tradition of "men (and women) in sheds"

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