Christmas Chronicles I: The Gifts

For some reason, whenever Christmas rolls around, I feel compelled to start making gifts for the people on my list. It seems like it’s the ‘meaningful’ thing to do. (To stress yourself out, and lash out at your family in anger and frustration, that is.) And every year, when the gifts are finally finished and wrapped, I vow ‘never again’.

I don’t even know how the ‘homemade gifts of 2008’ saga began. I learned about freezer paper stencils in a craft book; and walked past a display of Ugly Dolls at a bookstore……yada yada yada….I decided that all of my nephews and nieces should get an amorphous stuffed creature and a stencilled t-shirt from their aunt Nicola.

Right now, there are seven nephews and nieces on Jason’s side – including my two. And there are two more on the ‘docket’ for 2009, which made me think that – based on numbers alone – 2008 was the year to attempt handmade gifts for them all. Probably for the last time, since the kids are only getting older each year, and at some point, stencilled t-shirts and stuffed creatures – or homemade gifts of any kind – just won’t do.

After racking my brain for a suitable design, I decided to make stencils with a star, the individual’s name and the year. In my mind, I could just picture all the cherubs posing for a group photo wearing their adorable shirts made by their favourite aunt.

And then I started actually using an x-acto knife to stencil names onto the paper…

My cutting skills are pretty bad. I remember helping Jason make architecture models as an undergrad, and being completely unable to execute clean lines – instead producing jagged, slanted windows and walls. Luckily this usually happened at 4am on the day of a presentation, which means he was too pressed for time to harp on my incompetence.

I started with my own children’s shirts, figuring it was okay if theirs looked ‘kind of crappy’. The x-actoing was easy enough for letters like H, and N. Not so much for G, O, C, S and B. And of course all the names were at least five letters. Seriously – if only our wretched siblings had named their children Jim, Sam, Bob, or Ann, things might have been a bit easier. But ‘Isabelle’ and ‘Bennett’ and ‘Sophia’ nearly put me over the edge.

After hearing a few too many late night expletives, and after trying his own hand at ‘Isabelle’ (with atrocious results), Jason offered to put me out of my carving misery by laser-cutting the designs onto the freezer paper. Which saved the day – sort of.

I set to work one night, ironing the stencils on the shirts, having taken great care to put the right stencils with the right sized shirts; pairing the red paint with the boys’ stencils and the green with the girls’. But, apparently the stencils weren’t particularly sturdy as I realized once I’d peeled the paper off the dried shirts, the next day.

Four of the shirts looked bad. Really bad. There were lumpy stars and letters bleeding into each other. ‘Aiden’, ‘Sophia’, ‘Olivia’ and ‘Isabelle’ looked like they’d been painted by an infant. Even with my glasses off…from far away…..they looked bad.

I was mad. At myself; at the fragile stencils; at the Superstore who didn’t have any more white shirts in stock.

In the end I had to buy (different) white shirts from Wal-Mart for the oldest girls. And the price tag of my once affordable craft, quickly skyrocketed into ‘sort of pricey’ territory. As I wrapped up the shirts-and-creatures combinations, I vowed ‘never again.’ Which is what I said two years ago when I made everyone felted wool animals, despite not being able to sew a straight line on a machine….

3 thoughts on “Christmas Chronicles I: The Gifts

  1. You could have been the “cool” aunt giving all the kiddos “cool” nicknames…Oli, Soph, Isb, Aid & Corb. Lucky for you there’s already BAM! Who is the 7th niece/nephew?

  2. Nicola, I’m so strangely comforted by your craft adventures as they so exactly resemble what mine would be if I actually even *tried* to be crafty. See, give yourself points – you at least TRY. I know my craft projects would be disastrous, half-finished, tear & tantrum inducing nightmares so I don’t even try. 😉


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