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It’s five days away.

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Are your gifts still piles of fabric? Still in the skeins? Does your sewing machine tragically need to go to the shop right now, in the thick of it, like a toddler with a bursting bladder only AFTER you’ve loaded up the grocery cart?

Oh my friends. This year I thought I had reached handmade gift zen. Last year was a menace, and a nightmare. I had decided to make EVERYONE A QUILT because everyone needs a quilt, and quilts are what I think I do best in the world. Cut to December 12, and I was a crying, shivering mass under a pile of scraps and WIPs with no present-able presents. I did eventually pull it together for the big day, but I didn’t want to be there again this year.

Today I’m on the other side of Christmas 2013, the done-with-a-fairly-handmade-Christmas side, and I thought I’d share with you a little bit about my process this year. Maybe so you can laugh at me. More so I can look back at this blog in August next year and play things a little differently. So, without further ado, here’s how I made my handmade holidays happen this year.

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1) Procrastinated. Pure and simple. Sarah started posting about Christmas way back in the heat of July. It was all a big blog hop movement to get people like me to get their rears in gear and make at least ONE Christmas gift while the making was good. I commented on her post about it. I was all, “I will do this!” And then I went and did another thing or seven, none of which was a Christmas gift.

Fast forward to the week before Thanksgiving, and commence step

2) Bit off more than I could chew. “What do you want me to knit you for Christmas?” I texted my family. “I can do all kinds of things! Socks! Cowls! Hats! Mittens!” My family, who, by now, knows I am dopey, kind of tolerated these texts and provided halfhearted responses, knowing in their gut they’d never see those emerald-green little-cable knee socks. How smart was I about this, though–after all the trouble I got in last year making quilts, I was in awesome shape. No quilts! All knitting! And knitting can be done in front of the TV! How relaxing!

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By now you’re guessing that the next step is certainly

3) Deny, deny, deny. I productively procrastinated by winding ALL of the yarn while watching Pitch Perfect on loop from the sofa on the day before Thanksgiving. I cast on my grandmother’s Bees to Honey shawl Thanksgiving morning, and knit three stripes during the parade, thinking, “this is just flying along! Going so fast! I’m so awesome! Going to do all the knitting!” Never once did I think “My Bees to Honey took four weeks to knit and I am in serious trouble right now.”

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4) Enter plague of death. You know the one. The plague that your kid brings home from some preschooler activity that makes her sick for one day, but that takes down all adults for a week. I was so sick that all I could do was watch Ja’mie on the sofa with my cast-on hat edge sitting next to me. (If you’re sensing that there is more TV than holiday gift making in my plan you are correct.)

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5) Get totally distracted. By cats. Because, Catvent! What an awesome idea! I love Advent! I love Christmas! I have scraps! I can make four cats a day and make a throw for my cat-loving sister! I have the backing! I have the scraps! It’s practically a free present–a present made out of pure freeness and love! Watch me watch me make TWELVE CATS A DAY!! (Still plague, here, also.)

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6) Realize there’s a problem in this plan. Also realize that Christmas is 20 days away and gifts must be shipped in 13-14 days. Panic. Work like a fiend, on all the wrong things. More cats! Penny Sampler! Finish Grandma’s Bees, feel awesome–but not for long because that hat got effed up while you were watching Ja’mie, gotta frog it all. Producing a ton of stuff at this point, but no gift-like objects are emerging.

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7) Wake with gift clarity, on December 8, when all the people are at Joann’s already. Tote bags are the answer. Let’s take the cats, make cat totes. Three cat totes. Need cotton duck. Need denim/chambray. Need zips. Need…Joann’s. I’m so grateful that I had my little tote revelation on a Sunday, when I could leave my toddler-helper at home. Joann’s is never really a place you want to be but it is the Last Place You Want To Be on a weekend day in December.

8) Sew totes. Produce things. On a roll! All the things that I was going to knit are now totes! Only my control-freak sister says my mother won’t use THAT kind of tote, she needs the OTHER kind of tote! OK I can do that too! Packing! Shipping! Totes! Books in the totes!

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9) Knit the things. On a roll! Two boy hats for the boys who presumably don’t carry things like quilted totes with kitty cat faces on them.

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10) Ship, on a snow day. With the toddler, in this stupid population-dense place we live, from a PO with the smallest parking lot ever.

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11) Here’s where I am now: January gifts. I really like to make little things for my friends, but that totally got lost because I put everything off too late. I think the January gift is the best idea ever. Everyone gets so many gifts in December, but January is when you are on your budget and on your diet and it’s cold and snowy and life really kind of stinks. That’s when you need your surprise cashmere-blend handknits, your Art Gallery Fabrics quilts. Right? Right?

How about you? are you still manic? (Clearly I am a little.) Or are you zen, having long ago figured out the key to having your handmade holiday and enjoying it too? Do tell! And have just the merriest of Christmases. I owe a finish to Do Good Stitches by 12/31, so keep a look out!

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