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A Non-Crafter’s Guide To Christmas

It can be hard to buy Christmas presents for loved ones and friends – especially if you don’t know a great deal about their hobbies or the things they’re passionate about. What do you get for a knitter when all you know is that they knit? 

After hearing many folk at the Farnham Maltings Christmas Fair last week saying something to their friends along the lines of “oh so-and-so [knits/crochets/sews] but I have no idea what to get for them” – and those same people walking away without even asking for advice – I thought it was worth putting together a guide for folk who really don’t know what their crafty friend needs, wants or will use. Given this is also Small Business Saturday here in the UK, this guide incorporates both my own products as well as products from other sustainable small businesses.

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A Christmas gift guide for those who have crafty friends and loved ones but have no idea what to get for them.

Christmas gifts for sewists

Sewing can be a complicated hobby to buy a gift for, as there are so many aspects to it. Does your intended recipient sew clothes, home decorations, quilts, or bags? Do they do cross stitch or embroidery?

If your answer to the above is an exasperated expression with your hands in the air, don’t worry. 

From my own shop

Perhaps one of the most universal items for sewists that I can almost guarantee will be appreciated and get used is thread. It makes a great filler for a Christmas stocking or a hamper and all you really need to do is choose the colour. For that, I’d recommend starting with a colour you know is their favourite and then looking at the different shades to try and work out what they might like most. Alternatively, if you really aren’t sure what they’ll use most, try a neutral colour. I stock all 34 shades of organic cotton thread available; this thread is lovely to work with and is suitable for virtually any kind of sewing – plus it comes on a beautiful wooden spool.

Organic cotton thread on wooden spools
Take a look at the different colour options of my thread by clicking the image above.

My most popular item for sewing is, by far, my seam ripper. Seam rippers are an essential for anyone using a sewing machine – though they can also be useful for those who prefer to hand sew items. Many seam rippers on the market are cheap plastic items which break easily and need replacing often. My seam rippers on the other hand have a beautiful, ergonomic handle made from beech, which are produced to my specification here in the UK. The blade is removable and can therefore be stowed safely away when not in use by simply turning it around – or, if they need to replace it entirely they can do so easily by purchasing a new blade rather than a whole new seam ripper.

From my bookshop

Books are a wonderful resource for any crafter and there’s some fantastic ones out there for sewists. Whether you choose one about garment sewing, embroidery techniques or how to make use of all the scrap fabric your sewing friend inevitably has lying around, you’re sure to find something for them in a book. My top three recommendations for “general” sewing are as follows:

Sewing For The Soul by Jules Fallon is a lovely combination of a guide on how to sew your own clothes and baking recipes – perfect for anyone who loves sewing and baking. It includes the patterns for the garments featured, though several also have guides on how to self-draft the garments. 

Sashiko by Jill Clay has a range of projects for sewists to try, from large bedspreads to small brooches. Teaching the Japanese art of sashiko (meaning “little stabs”, which refers to the embroidery style), these items make gorgeous decorations around the home or beautiful pieces of jewellery. Sashiko is also a really wonderful way to craft mindfully, as your sewing friend can focus purely on the pattern of stitches – therefore making it surprisingly calming. Perfect for any folk who could use a little me-time.

Sew Eco Friendly by Debbie Shore is a wonderful resource of very useful, practical items items to be made for around the home using up scrap fabric. Additionally, there are recipes for bath products and other items in the book which relate to specific projects (for example, recipes for bath salts to be used with the bathroom projects).

From other small businesses

Offset Warehouse has several sewing gifts that you can choose from this Christmas, though the one which stands out to me this year is their Block Printing Sewing Box. There’s two sizes available, standard and large, and included is everything your recipient needs to print their own fabric and sew it up into something, plus a sweet treat. Fabric is always appreciated by sewists – regardless of whether they primarily make clothes, home decorations or quilts – and the ability to create their very own fabric will add to the fun. 

Is your sewist friend or loved one an animal lover? Then these cushion kits by Sew Different may be just the ticket – my personal favourites are the fox and the hare. These designs are wonderfully unique, so you’re unlikely to find them anywhere else! 

Christmas gifts for knitters and crocheters

Knitting can be a tough hobby to buy for, though perhaps not quite so difficult as sewing. Most knitters will have a favourite item they like to knit, or a preferred yarn weight, but that won’t stop them from knitting other items with other types of yarn. This does actually makes it a little easier for gift givers, as you have a little more flexibility in what to get for them that they’ll actually enjoy using.

As with knitting, crochet is more flexible than you might initially think when considering gifts to purchase. Many crocheters will make a range of items – from scarves, to home decorations, to toys, and even large projects like bedspreads and garments. Again, some will prefer to crochet a particular type of item, but that wouldn’t stop them from trying something entirely different.

Because these two groups of crafters often use the same or very similar tools, I’ve decided to keep them together for this section of the post.

From my own shop

The obvious choice when purchasing a Christmas present for knitters is to buy knitting needles. These could be a wonderful gift for someone who has only just started their knitting journey, plus some more experienced knitters may benefit from updating their knitting needle collection to something that is better for their hands – metal and plastic needles can be difficult to work with if they’ve developed arthritis or have trouble with the muscles or blood circulation in their hands. Wooden needles are much better to work with in general than metal or plastic – they prevent cramps and pain in the knitter’s hands – plus they have the benefit of being warmer and more flexible to work with than metal needles. They don’t make annoying “clack” sounds either, which is especially handy if you live with the knitter and dislike the sounds their knitting needles make! I sell 6 different diameters of knitting needle currently, or you can buy them in a set if you like also. 

The same can be said for crochet hooks: wooden hooks are much kinder to a crocheter’s hands than metal or plastic, as well as being kinder to the planet. I find my wooden hooks much nicer to use than the metal ones I bought when I first taught myself to crochet – plus they’re actually far better for my hands than the ones which have a rubbery handle, which oddly enough used to give me really bad pains in my hands. The other key difference for me is that when I put my crochet down, my wooden hook doesn’t slide out of place – my metal ones do this constantly and I’m forever searching down the side of the sofa or in the bottom of my project box for them. As with the needles, I currently have a range of 6 diameters of crochet hook, or you can buy them together as a set.

A useful little tool for knitters and crocheters alike is what’s known as a swatch gauge. When knitting or crocheting an item, it’s important that the maker gets the size of their stitches correct in order to ensure that the item is made to the right size. This is especially important with garments such as jumpers or tops, where a mistake in the stitch size (known as tension or gauge) can lead to an item being much larger or smaller than intended. Therefore, at the beginning of a pattern, the designer will provide details of how many rows and stitches should be in a 10cm by 10cm square – and the best way to calculate this before launching into the project is to knit or crochet a little square, known as a swatch.

I personally learned how important it is to make up a swatch when crocheting a jumper for my dad for Christmas a couple of years ago – I skipped the swatch step and only learned halfway into the jumper that my tension is very different to that of the pattern designer and I should have been using a bigger crochet hook to get the correct stitch size! I’ve learned not to skip this step now.

My Knitting and Crochet Gauge is a 20cm ruler laser cut from Oak, with centimetres along one edge and inches along the other. In the centre is a series of holes which are there to help work out what size hooks or needles the maker has – these holes are in both metric and American sizing. This is especially useful if the maker has needles or hooks which don’t have markings on to state their size, or if the markings are from the older (and now rarely used) UK sizing. It’s also a handy tool to use for measuring other things – I use mine for measuring hems and other seams when sewing as it’s such a useful length and size of ruler.

From my bookshop

Crochet and knitting books are varied and focus on a range of things, from different stitches to new techniques and more. There’s always something new about a craft that can be learned, even by experienced crafters and this is especially true with fibre arts.

My top three recommendations for crocheters are as follows:

Crochet to Calm by Interweave is a collection of 18 patterns intended to help the reader clear their mind and make something beautiful. Mindfulness has become an ever needed practice thanks to the super-fast pace we all seem to be living our lives these days, so this could be the perfect Christmas gift for a crocheter who needs to take time out for themselves every once in a while. 

Japanese Wonder Crochet by Nihon Vogue and translated by Gayle Roehm is a great way to learn how to apply crochet techniques in an entirely new way. The styles from the book all use the “traditional” crochet stitches that many crocheters have learned, but opens up about how the Japanese have taken these stitches and applied them in a completely different way to create unique patterns and designs. It’s a very interesting view on the cultural application of crochet from an Asian perspective with some great patterns in there too.

The Tunisian Crochet Handbook by Toni Lipsey is a fantastic resource for those interested in upping their skills and giving a completely different style of crochet a go. Tunisian crochet is similar to knitting, both in looks and technique, and so it can be a little confusing to learn at first without a proper guide. This book is an in-depth guide on Tunisian crochet, from the tools required to the different stitches, as well as beautiful patterns which utilise the stitches taught. Tunisian crochet is perhaps also useful for knitters who are struggling to learn how to crochet, as they’ll be very familiar with many of the techniques required to produce this beautiful style of crochet.

Next, you’ll find my top three recommendations for knitting books.

Conscious Crafts: Knitting by Vanessa Koranteng and Sicgmone Kludje is a wonderful introduction to knitting for beginners, with a focus on how this craft can help improve your mental health and balance your moods. Teaching 6 different stitch types across 20 projects, it’s intended to be a comprehensive guide on how to get started and become very good at knitting without the stress that learning a new craft can come with. Additionally, the book explains how to create yarn from upcycled textiles, so it’s perfect for a new knitter who has expressed an interest in knitting sustainably.

Knit Like A Latvian: Accessories by Ieva Ozolina is a collection of patterns from mittens to larger wraps based on traditional Latvian designs. The origin of these designs and their meanings are explained in the book, giving a unique insight into such a beautiful, cultural application of colourwork knitting. 

Wilderness Knits For The Home by Linka Neumann is a collection of Norwegian style knitting patterns with the designs drawing inspiration heavily from nature. This book would make a perfect Christmas gift for a knitter who loves nature, Scandinavia, or both! The second book in the Wilderness Knits series, this one focuses on home decoration and is more accessible for those who perhaps struggle with knitting garments, while sharing similar designs to the jumpers and cardigans in her previous book. Alternatively, it would make a great gift for knitters who always make garments, but have never tried making things for around their homes.

From other small businesses

Alpaca is a beautiful fibre to work with – it’s soft, warm and hypoallergenic, plus it takes and holds colour really well. UK Alpaca produces yarns from Alpaca fleeces sourced only from Britain, making this luxury yarn much easier to access and more sustainable too, as it’s produced locally in this country. They have Mystery Tins for both knitting and crochet which include a pattern, the appropriate yarn, a project bag and some festive goodies – you choose whether you want a knitting tin or a crochet tin and what yarn weight you think your intended recipient might like to use (yarn weight means the thickness of the yarn, not its physical weight). 

Wool Couture has featured on a Christmas gift list of mine previously with their Mountain Top Crochet Cushion kit, but honestly they have so many kits to choose from for knitters and crocheters that it’s hard to pick. Of course I still love the Mountains kit, but I also love Rosie the Octopus and her knitted counterpart Robyn the Octopus, as well as their Giant Cable Cushion knitting kit

Still not sure?

If none of the suggested items in this post have grabbed your attention, that’s okay. It can be hard to make a decision on the behalf of others sometimes, and at Christmas we’re all trying to think of something our loved one will adore and make use of. Just remember that it absolutely is okay to give them a gift card instead, so they can choose what they might like. Gift cards also make good last minute gifts if you find you’re getting close to the big day and you still haven’t found something for them – plus you’ll still be supporting a wonderful small business by purchasing one from them.

Like myself, all of the businesses mentioned do gift cards. Other small, sustainable businesses that you might want to support with your gift cards include the following:

There are of course many, many more small businesses you can support this Christmas, so it is also worth having a look at who there is locally to you or your recipient that you can support. Alternatively, check out the guide I put together a couple of years ago for other crafty gift ideas.

Ultimately, whatever you choose to spend your money on, I would only ask that you spend it with a small business and not a big chain. We small business owners really do appreciate every single sale and every single customer – and with the current cost of doing business, I’m sure you’d prefer that a little business can afford their bills rather than lining the pockets of billionaires with questionable business practices.

Thank you and Merry Christmas!