My dad's side of the family got together Thanksgiving day, and since (almost) everybody was going to be there, we did our Christmas grab bag exchange.
I wasn't quite prepared and armed with handmade gifts at that point, but I survived after a few adjustments.
For the kid's exchange I was going to make a sock monkey. I started one as practice maybe right before we decided to do the gifts at Thanksgiving, but it took longer than I expected (or I procrastinated a little too long) and it ended up being the actual gift. I hand stitched it all since I didn't get a chance to go to Mom's and use her sewing machine, but there wasn't too much I could have done on the machine. There's a few things I wished I could change, but I finished it Thursday morning and hadn't come up with a Plan B. I used this pattern, and like any recipe or instructions I made my own tweaks here and there.
For the adult exchange, since there's always a few undesired gifts that need to be thrown in, I recycled a gift we had gotten from a previous grab bag and never took out of the box.
The other adult gift was going to be some hand made tree ornaments, but those also took longer than I expected (are you seeing a pattern?), but I at least had a backup for that idea. A long time ago I had done a few home-made books. I don't remember how they all turned out, but I had a nice fabric-covered one almost ready to go, with lined paper all printed out and folded, but needed to learn how stitch it together. It's been in my craft box through both of our moves, and this was the perfect time to finish it.
I had instructions for doing the Coptic stitch, but the instructions weren't the most straight forward so I improvised a little. I was happy with how it turned out, although the stitching wasn't as tight as I would have liked. If the little one would have cooperated, I could have spent some time looking for different instructions on the internet, but that was not to be. I also wrapped the stitching thread around a pen to go along with it.
I'm not changing my mind about doing handmade/local gifts, but it's a lot different than I expected. For our immediate family gift exchanges, I knew it would be more personal gift giving, but for these grab bag gifts, I found myself a lot more "worried" than I expected to be about whether the person who got it would like it since I had invested more time. I could have quick run to Walmart and grabbed some easy $5 gifts and not cared whether the gifts were going to be enjoyed or put in a box to be regifted later on.
At least now I know I should get started on my gifts now, since they're all going to take at least twice as long as I expect. :)