Christmas is just around the corner! What did those words make you feel? Were you excited, filled with anticipation about all of the beautiful things that you are going to craft by hand this year? Or did you immediately feel a sense of stress – worried about just how you’re ever going to be able to get everything done?
Most crafters feel a mixture of both; we love to make decor and gifts for the holidays, but we also feel a lot of (often self-imposed) stress to get more done than might feel good. This guide will help you figure out the right craft plan to reduce the stress and enjoy Christmas crafting.
Get Out Your Calendar
The key to this stress-reduction plan is to use a calendar, so even if you aren’t typically a calendar kind of person, you’re going to want to get one and follow along. This will help you significantly in figuring out what you really have time for this holiday season. You want to use a calendar that allows you to block time out, hour by hour, for each day. Tip: Do the following steps in pencil or in some digital form that can easily be changed. You may need to re-work your calendar quite a bit until it feels good.
Block out all commitments
Go through your calendar and block out all periods of time when you are definitely not going to be crafting. Times when you will be working, attending holiday parties or otherwise dealing with life, should be blocked out. Have you forgotten to add in anything that is going to take time but doesn’t have a specific set schedule? For example, have you accounted for the time you need to spend shopping, decorating and cooking for this holiday season?
Highlight definite crafting times
Now it is time to define all of the times that are going to be definite craft hours from today through Christmas Eve. Are there times that you already know you are going to crochet? For example, perhaps you always crochet for an hour before bed (or could easily commit to doing so for the holiday season). Highlight that time each day on the calendar. Do you have some big gaps in your schedule when you will have downtime? Highlight any hours where you can commit to crafting.
Review your calendar
How does your calendar look at this point? It’s important to allow yourself to feel whatever feelings you have as you look at the calendar, as this can help you immensely when setting priorities for the season. Do you already have way too many commitments blocked out and feel stressed about that? Make space in your calendar wherever you can to reduce initial stress.
Pay attention, too, to what you’ve highlighted as crafting times. Does that feel realistic? If you’ve blocked out a whole ten hours straight for crafting, is that something you are really going to do? Just because you have the time to do it does not mean it is feasible to get it done. And maybe there are places where you can add in time that you didn’t notice at first. Adjust and re-adjust your calendar until it feels do-able until you don’t feel stressed looking at it.
Now, let’s pause with the calendar, but keep it handy, because you are going to come back to it.
Make Your Holiday Craft List
Now that you have some idea of when you are going to have time to do holiday crafting, you need to get a grasp on what it is that you will be making with yarn this year.
The first draft
Brainstorm a list of every single item that you want to knit or crochet this year including both home decor and gifts. Don’t forget anyone from close family members to your mailman or child’s teacher. You may also want to add “extras” – the kind of generic gifts like wine bottle cozies that can be used last-minute when you’ve forgotten to buy a gift for someone. At the end of this exercise, you should have a big list of decor and gift items to crochet or knit for Christmas.
Check in with yourself
Now that you’ve got a big list, it’s time to get really honest with yourself. Even if you had all of the time and energy in the world to make each of these items, do you really, really want to make them all? Ask yourself if some of the items on the list are there out of a sense of obligation. Do you feel like you have to give something handmade to your mother-in-law because you give one to your one mother and she’ll guilt you?
Here’s a secret: handmade items are designed to be made from the heart with love. You can technically craft items you don’t want to, but it misses the point and adds a significant amount of stress to your life. You don’t need that extra stress at the holidays! Go ahead and cross anything off your list that you don’t truly want to make with all of your heart.
Still feeling guilty about some of the things you took off of the list? Start a new habit … make handcrafted items for people’s birthdays. It is easier to deal with those obligations one-on-one. During Christmas, make what you really want to make. Consider this your gift to yourself!
Prioritize the list
Once you have whittled down your list of holiday crafts to what you really do want to make this year, it’s time to prioritize that list. Give most priority to:
- Items that you really, really, really want to make sure to get done.
- Home decor items, which you probably want to have done around Thanksgiving
- Gifts to be shipped out of the country
Expand the list with project details
It is time to choose the knit and crochet patterns that you will be using to make the items on your list. You may know that you want to give Grandma a crochet shawl, but now you need to decide exactly which shawl. Next to each item, list the pattern. Review the pattern and add a guess as to how long crafting it will take.
Go Back to the Calendar
It is time to go back to the calendar that you created and map out exact times for when you will create each item on your list. Take the highest priority item on your list and match up the hours it will require with the first available “highlighted” crafting time hours on your calendar.
Continue along your calendar, going down your prioritized list of projects, until you have reached Christmas Eve. Hopefully, every item on your list is now on your calendar and assigned a crafting time. If not, you need to re-assess., knocking some items off of the list.
Order Supplies and Get Crafting
Yes, this is definitely a lot of prep work just to get ready to do your holiday crafting. But here’s the thing; if you can make an organized plan that works on a calendar then it is a lot more likely that you will get everything done this year that you want to get done. More importantly, when you can see what you need to do, you tend to feel more in control of the process, and this will allow you to enjoy it more instead of stressing about it.
During the planning stage is the time to work out the kinks. Give yourself permission to craft less, to choose projects that really excite you, to block out crafting time instead of party time if that’s what you find most relaxing (or to attend parties and make less handmade gifts if that’s what feels good.)
Once your list is ready and the calendar feels good, you are ready to actually craft. Here are your next steps:
- Print out or otherwise collect all of the knit and crochet patterns that you are going to need to use this holiday season. Organize them in order of priority on your calendar.
- Order all of the yarn that you need for each of the projects. Err on the side of getting too much, not too little. Be sure to also order any additional supplies that you need including crochet hooks or knitting needles in the correct size, embellishments, stuffing, etc. Of course, you can shop your stash before you shop in a store.
- When you receive your yarn, organize it by project. If possible, dedicate a crafting space that is large enough to allow you to place each project, with its pattern, in order of the priority in which you will be crafting it. If not, boxes and bags will do, labeled with the name of the project and the dates on your calendar that you expect to complete those projects.
- Stick to your calendar the best that you can. At the beginning of each day or week, look at what you plan to get done. If it doesn’t feel do-able, re-adjust the calendar or simplify your plans. For example, you may decide that instead of crafting the ten-hour knit blanket, you will instead choose a bulkier, faster blanket pattern so that you can get that gift done during a busy week.
Additional Tips for Stress-Free Holiday Crafting
The calendar and list are a great starting point for helping you to make a realistic plan for holiday crafting. Hopefully, you find them useful. However, there are lots of other things that add stress to the holidays, so here are some additional tips:
- Be flexible. Change yarn, patterns or project ideas as needed if it’s going to make your life simpler.
- Be willing to let go of projects that aren’t working or to give an IOU as a gift and let the person know they have a handmade item coming in the new year.
- When you feel stressed, stop everything for just a few moments and check in with yourself. Find out what is causing the stress. Breathe. Ask yourself what you need to be able to move forward with less stress. Honor whatever the answer is. Put yourself first.
- Laugh. When the cat gets into your project bags and the yarn is everywhere and it throws off your whole calendar, just laugh. When you complete a sweater and realize at the end that it will never fit the recipient, just laugh. Handmade items are wonderful but they are not everything and it is okay if we don’t take this process too seriously.
- Remember what you love about knitting or crochet. We do these crafts because we enjoy them. Take the time before each project to give gratitude that you know this skill and to get in touch with the joy of the experience.