Writer and maker Chris Gardner is is the main man at ManMadeDIY, a crafting blog for guys (though this gal really digs it too). He’s also the editor at Curbly.com, a community of people who make things for their homes. As Chris explains, “ManMade recognizes that all sorts of creative outlets can be realized by, for, and with men. Rosie can rivet, Chris can craft, and all demographics can DIY!”
I’m been a big fan of Chris’s creative how-tos and crafty finds from around the web. In the spirit of the holidays, a couple posts of his you’ll want to checkout are Why You Have to Make Egg Nog… and How to Do It, How to Make Modern Perforated Tabletop Christmas Trees, and How to: Turn a Tacky Glitter Reindeer into an AWESOME Glitter Reindeer.
Oh and while you’re at it, don’t miss Curbly’s mega set of holiday roundups like 10 Other Places to Hang Your Christmas Stockings, or their rad gift guides like 30 Hip Design Gifts Under $25. Here he is sharing gifting tips and tales as only Chris can—thanks so much Chris!
Have you ever done any sneaky research to determine the right gift for someone?
Oh my, yes. I’m a total trickster when figuring out preferences or sizes for gifts. My masterpiece was giving someone a hug while secretly holding a tape measure. I also made up an elaborate story to snag my sweetheart’s fingerprint to make some original art for Valentine’s Day last year, and have managed to use calipers to figure out her exact finger size while she was taking a nap.
Could you share a wrapping secret with us?
I think brown kraft paper will never get old. It looks amazing simply tied up with string, but can be customized in all sorts of fun ways. Last year, I cut out the recipient’s name from old books I got for ten cents at the thrift store and simply glued them on. I also figured out a way to make custom gift “envelopes” by sandwiching the gift between two layers of craft paper and stitching it shut with a zig-zag stitch on my sewing machine.
Plus, it matches regular brown paper sandwich bags for those small or bulk gifts, which can look amazing with a simple stamp or hand-printed gift tag.
What’s the best food to give as a gift?
The kind you make! It’s the only kind to give anymore. If people want store bought jellies and cheeses and cookie baking ingredients, they can pick out their own. Plus, lots of people have too much special foods during the holidays anyway. But a homemade jam? That’s a different story altogether. A store bought assortment of pantry items says, “You matter enough to get a gift, but I don’t really know what you like.” A homemade food item says, “I made this for you, and I wanted you to have it.”
Last year, we made DIY vanilla extract for our friends that like to bake, and apple butter for our extended families. This year, I’m going to try homemade black truffle-infused honey.
Have you ever given a gift in an interesting way?
I celebrate Christmas, and I love being able to give someone lots of things to unwrap. But, that can be hard when you invest in one larger gift, rather than several smaller ones.
Last Christmas, I arranged a long weekend getaway as a gift (scheduled vacation days with her co-workers and everything), but that’s not something you can really wrap up. So, I created a series of ten puzzles, hints, and clues as to the trip, and had her unwrap each of them and try to figure out her actual present. It was lots of fun, and made the under-the-tree part of Christmas morning last longer. I made them extra tricky, so she only figured out with lots of help, allowing us to work together on that special morning.
What’s the most inexpensive item you could receive that warms your heart every time?
Books. While they’re not always super inexpensive, they’re always the best thing to receive as a gift. It takes some knowledge to pick out a book for someone, and when you get it right, it means the world. For me, that’s especially true for non-fiction.
Personally, I have such book lust, that I really have to temper the ones I actually buy vs. borrow or check out from the library. (Or just sit down in the aisle of the bookstore and read the whole thing.) So, it’s awesome when you get one as a gift, cause it’s usually one you wouldn’t buy yourself, but you’d love to have.
What Chris wants to give:
1. For my sister, Carrie, this Fancy Peg. She’s an organizer fanatic, and she’d love to use this to get things of of flat surfaces and use all that juicy wall real estate.
2. For my nephew, Isaac, these Eames House Blocks. He loves to set up little worlds, and is a master block building architect. He loves all the Charley Harper for kids things I’ve found him, so now that he’s a bit older, it’s time he learned about the Eameses.
3. For my buddy, Adam, the Julian Pocket Scarf. This is such a fantastic idea, I wish I’d thought of it myself. I thought about trying to whip one up myself, but the price is so reasonable, I’m happy to order it from its creators, Kristen and Sara.
And something he wants for himself:
4. For me, The Sexy Book of Sexy Sex. I have a secret crush on Kristen Schaal, and have been waiting for months to dive into this. I’ve placed enough hints over the last year, that I think I might actually get it this year.