It’s Small Business Saturday this weekend – and most people will be missing the Christmas markets, given we can’t hold them at present due to the pandemic. Many of the businesses who operate at the markets are little businesses who make all their money for the year from those markets, so without realising it you may have been supporting a tiny business previously by buying from them. Since we can’t currently do markets, it’s slightly harder for people to find businesses to support – and so Small Business Saturday is actually quite important this year. It’s a time to support that business your friend/parent/family runs and also discover new businesses whose products and services you love.
Now I like my haberdashery shop and products, but I’m well aware that they aren’t always the right thing for gifts – so I’ve spent some time looking for ideas from other sustainable small businesses you can support, too.
What is Small Business Saturday?
Small Business Saturday is a day to support little businesses like mine by buying your Christmas gifts from them. It was set up several years ago by American Express to encourage more people to shop with small, local businesses rather than spending all their money on Black Friday with massive chains. Christmas is a big deal for lots of little businesses, plus you often get some really interesting and unique gifts from them which you can’t get elsewhere, so it’s worth checking some out before you commit to buying something from a big chain store.
The main benefit of buying from a little business is that you’ll get more personal customer service – a one person business like mine will often know each and every order or customer, and they’ll want to make sure every one has the best experience possible. Independent shops with a small number of staff are similar, as some customers prefer to go to particular staff members for their needs, knowing that they understand or get along with them best. This type of service just isn’t available from big businesses. Many small businesses are leading the way on sustainability too, while big chains drag their feet and are well behind where they could be.
Small Business Saturday – Patterns and Kits
There are some fantastic kits out there which are ideal for gifting and are aimed at different abilities, from absolute beginners to those who are already very skilled.
For knitters, there are some great kits out there. My personal favourites are the Jolly Narwhal hat and The Loch shawl kit, both from Loch Ness Knitting, plus the Incantation Shawl and the festive kits from Shilasdair Yarns – sadly the Wee Croft House kit is out of stock, but the Festive Trio of Trees is still available.
There’s some beautiful crochet kits out there too. My favourite crochet jewellery kit has to be this gorgeous Knotted Necklace made with real silver thread by Solid and Marl. It’s perfect for beginner crocheters as it comes with everything they need to make it, so if you know someone who decided to take up crochet during lockdown this could be a good option. For more advanced crocheters, Solid and Marl also have this beautiful Herringbone Scarf kit. I also love this Mountain Top Cushion kit by Wool Couture Company – perfect for the crocheter who loves the outdoors.
If you’re buying for a sewist, check out Offset Warehouse’s Mystery Sewing Boxes. Offset Warehouse is a deadstock and ethically sourced fabric supplier, so you can be sure that all of the fabric, notions and other bits contained within the box are truly lovely ex-designer and sustainably sourced pieces. The box also includes some lovely sweet treats and a downloadable sewing pattern and there’s a couple of different colour options you can pick too. You can also get kits for specific sewing patterns which include everything needed for that pattern – Wild Orchard Fabric have kits which range from jeans made with organic cotton denim to tshirts and skirts.
Lots of us are interested in more crafts than just knitting, sewing or crocheting. Some are amazing artists who dream of designing their own fabrics, others want to learn to carve, mould and stamp leather to make bags and other items. I’ve collected together some ideas for other crafts for this exact reason.
One option which seems to be rather popular, particularly for anyone with some sewing skills, is to make your own shoes. The most popular option is to make espadrilles – and while there’s some great kits from A Happy Stitch and Tipu & Tapu, they’re summer shoes, so probably not the best option for Christmas. Crafoot and Sneakerkit both have kits for making trainers though, which look like they’d be pretty fun to try – Sneakerkit have four pattern options too, so you can really customise your shoes to how you like them.
If you know someone who enjoys painting, or perhaps even a child who is getting into art, I really like Beam Paints. They’re a plastic free paint company making gorgeous coloured paints with local materials such as birch for the palettes. They are a Canadian company, though you can get their watercolours in the UK from Sketch and Story. One of the really lovely, personal things I like about Beam Paints is that owner Anong Beam is a member of the M’Chigeeng First Nation and so names the paints with ojibwe names, so you learn more about another culture as well as art with these paints. My personal favourite colour collection (and name) is M’nidoo Giizs’onse, which means “Little Spirit Moon” and is the ojibwe name for December.
Lots of people use cosmetics but don’t realise how fun and simple it can be to make your own. I’ve been dabbling in making my own cosmetics for a while now and can honestly say I wouldn’t buy some items in a shop now unless I really needed to. Sweet Cecily’s have some great kits for making lip balms, body scrubs and facemasks, though some of the ingredients do come in plastic zip lock bags.
Another option, perhaps for those interested in knitting or crochet, is a wooden loom kit like this one by The Squid Ink Company. With everything needed to weave their first textiles, this kit is sure to give endless hours of fun and inspiration to someone who enjoys working with wool.
You don’t always need to buy crafters something to make or to use for making items. Sometimes readymade items are just the ticket – especially if they’re something they can appreciate, use and admire.
Mourne Textiles produce some gorgeous hand woven items including scarves, blankets and cushions. Each item is woven with incredible attention to detail and is something that will be treasured for many years to come.
The Border Tart has some lovely readymade items like this Marcelle Wrap, as well as cushions and project bags. She also has lots of kits for knitting and stitching, plus beautiful yarns, threads and fabrics – so you may find gifts for several people in her shop!
Hopefully this gives you some ideas for gifts which support small, sustainable businesses like mine this Christmas – but be quick, as lots of little businesses sell out of their stock quickly around this time of year!