The Case Against Homemade Gifts

I don’t like getting homemade gifts. The perfect example of why is shown below. This is a “punch needle” project that I am making for my sister-in-law as a joke. Notice the poor stitch work, the raggedy border between the colors, the horrible skin condition that the cat appears to suffer.

Homemade Gift Photo Pen of Jen
How do I thank you for this lovely piece of art?

Would you really want to receive something like this as a gift? Of course you wouldn’t. And neither would anyone else. Except for two exceptions discussed below, homemade gifts should not be given unless all of the following criteria are met.

You are a professional artisan who is actually skilled in the art you are creating. If you are professional painter whose works sell for hundreds of dollars, then by all means give me a painting for a gift. Otherwise, keep your amateur paintings (woodworking project, needlepoint, craft, sweater) to yourself.

You know for a fact that the gift is compatible with the receiver’s home decor. Unless the person for whom you are making the gift decorates their house in Early Cross Stitch and Kitsch, chances are they don’t want the lovely needlepoint picture you made for them—no matter how good the workmanship. I also suspect that virtually no one decorates their house with pictures of cute kittens, clowns, children with big eyes, puppies, and inspirational sayings–all hallmarks of cross stitch and “do it yourself’ needlework kits.

You were personally asked to create the gift. If someone truly asks you to create them something—without prodding, hinting, or strong-arming by you—it is acceptable to create that gift. For example, if you knitted a sweater and someone admires it and says: “Could you make me a sweater just like that for my next birthday?” you are then permitted to begin work on such a project.

Besides being hideous and poorly constructed, homemade gifts also provide an additional burden on the receiver. Because you made the gift with your own two hands (presumably after much aggravation, blood, sweat, and tears), the receiver cannot in good conscience throw away, return, or regift the item. They are stuck with it. And if you are a frequent visitor to their home, they may even feel obligated to put the gift in a prominent spot in their home, where it causes them to shudder each time they pass by it.

As I mentioned, there are two exceptions to the homemade gift rule. The first is that homemade baked goods are acceptable and even encouraged (especially really sinful, gooey, chocolate ones). However, it is critical to ensure such items taste good before you give them. My rule is to make a batch for yourself, eat the entire batch to ensure quality, and then make another identical batch for the gift. (Keep in mind that fruitcake is not acceptable; nor are those kits where the receiver gets the ingredients and has to make the cookies/brownies/cake themselves. That’s just work for the receiver!)

The second exception is if the gift is made by a child. A child’s craft should look poorly made and on the brink of falling apart—that is what makes it charming and cute. (Not so cute when a 40-year-old makes it.) Of course, it should go without saying that a handmade gift from a child should only been given to someone who adores and worships the child—such as a beloved aunt, grandparent or parent. No one else wants your child’s crappy artwork.

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