So, Christmas time is here again and if you’re struggling to find presents for some of the people in your life, let me make a few suggestions of things that I have found to be wonderful. These are all things that I have either used myself or friends of mine have used and really liked. Just to be clear, I am not getting any money or products from any of the companies that I am posting here.* This is just stuff that I like. However, if any of them wanted to send me products for say, review, I would be more than glad to have them:-)
Land’s End totes. I’m pretty sure that I have written about my addiction to Land’s End Totes before but I can’t make a list like this without putting them at the top of it. These are great for both men or women or even kids! I’ve had the small one personalized with the name of the recipient before and then filled it with smaller gifts and candy. This personalized present went over really well. The extra-large bags would even be big enough to take the place of a toy box in a child’s bedroom. I cannot recommend these totes strongly enough for pretty much everyone. That and the service that I have consistently gotten from the employee’s at this company really make me want to keep going back to them for everything.
Eddie Bauer Favorite Tee’s. Eddie Bauer is another company that makes things that last. As I write this, I’m wearing a long-sleeved shirt that I got from Eddie Bauer in high school (which was a while ago y’all) and no-one looking at it would ever guess that. It hasn’t dated style-wise and there’s not a part of it that looks faded or worn in anything close to the (oh God) 15+ years old that it must be. I’ve given Eddie Bauer bedding as a gift and it is still in use and still looks good 10+ years later. The Eddie Bauer Long Sleeved Tee’s are one of the staples of my wardrobe, something that I wear on a daily basis. Usually with an Eddie Bauer Men’s Fleece Vest over the top of it for greater warmth (and more pockets!).
Now, I know that I have mentioned these folks before, but they deserve another mention. Queen Bee Creations. I am still getting compliments on my Christmas present truckette purse from at least 3 years ago. I use it pretty much daily and it still looks nearly new. And I’m not one of those women who babies her purse. Un-uh. It has been thrown and shoved and stepped-on and wadded-up and shoved in other luggage. Still, I get stopped by strangers on the street (for real) asking where I got my purse. This isn’t some “it” purse of the season (Are “they” even still doing that? Clearly I am not a fashionista [like you couldn’t already tell that from the above choices!]) but if you chose one of their bags it will be well made and stand-up to nearly anything you throw at it. I’ve taken this bag on lots of trips and on forays into some kinda dodgy places and I wasn’t too worried about my bag getting nabbed as it has securely sew-on seatbelt webbing straps that are long enough to go across your body. There’s no way a would be thief would be able to grab your purse and have the straps break off. It would take some pretty serious cutting at which point I would hope that you would hit him with it! I also have the Poppy Trucker which I am currently using for job interviews (it matches the interview outfit:-)) and it’s held-up as well as the purse has (though it hasn’t gotten nearly as much use…)
Kershaw Scallion Plain Edge Folding Knife. I know, it is probably a little weird to be going from a purse to a pocket knife, but hey, that’s who I am! I’ve had this knife for at least 8 years now. I carried-it on a daily basis when I was working in the greenhouse and it got used a lot. I’ve gotten a lot of compliments from guys when I pull it out to cut something and not those, “oh isn’t it cute she carries a pocket knife,” kind of compliments rather ones more like, “nice knife, where did you get that?” or even better, “wow, I have one just like that!”. I see that they sell a version in pink now so if you have a slightly more girly girl who you think needs a good solid knife, she has one that the guys will give back for sure! Personally, I would love the red version as I have nearly lost this green one in foliage a number of times (and I just love red!).
While I am on the “sharps” part of the list I would be seriously remiss if I didn’t mention Slip N Snip Folding Scissors. This company has been making these in the USA for years now (I remember my Grandpa carrying these in his store when I was a little girl) and they are still making an excellent product. I’ve taken these through many security lines at airports just sort of attached to my key chain. Since they don’t look like anything exciting when they are folded-up going through an x-ray, I never had any problems with them even when they were confiscating the little tiny Swiss Army knives. They are sturdy and fold-up smoothly every time, even after years of use. These would make a fantastic stocking stuffer for everyone except small children (there are pointy, sharp bits) and can be found on Amazon.
Sheepskin slippers from either Land’s End or L.L. Bean. Yeah, they are pricey, but they last for years and years (assuming the dog doesn’t take a liking to them!) and enable you to lower the temperature in the house. If your feet are warm, the rest of you will be a lot warmer too! And who doesn’t like the gift of lower heating bills! One brand that I would not suggest is Ugg brand slippers. If you have an adolescent that is begging for Uggs, don’t try to cheap out of it by buying them slippers instead of the boots. They will not get it that they are slippers and will wear them outdoors, thus ruining them. Trust me on this, I worked in shoe retail for a Holiday season and I saw more than one pair brought back in which this happened. Uggs are much more expensive than the two that I already named and not particularly better quality. They are not worth the extra money.
If you have someone on your list who just loves Christmas and really does the decorating and the whole shebang, then I would suggest Rubbermaid Roughneck Storage Boxes. I can hear you rolling your eyes at me, but really, these bad boys really stand-up to everything you can throw at them year after year. As someone who has made two international moves I can testify to how well they survive. Don’t skimp and get the cheaper ones as they will crack and break eventually, trust me on this! Now they are making a Roughneck Sheds and I have a feeling that I would like them as well. Sigh…
Reisenthel Bags. Another bag company that I’ve talked about before, but really, when you use two of their products on a daily basis, you really should be talking about them! I have the All Rounder in (I think) Large. I use it as my carry-on bag for flying. It’s large enough to fit my laptop (and all the wires and crap that comes with it), my camera and a couple of extra lenses, a small pile of magazines and books for reading, and all the other assorted travel crap that you need. It’s padded so that even if it gets slammed by a neighboring roll aboard in the overhead, your laptop will still work when you get there. The strap is sturdy and the padded bit has some rubberized stuff on it so that it doesn’t slip off your shoulder. Excellent, excellent bag. This is another bag that has gotten a lot of use and does not show it at all. I also use the Mini Maxi for shopping. It’s big enough that it holds a lot but sturdy enough that you don’t feel like the seams are going to come out of it carrying your shopping home. Since it rolls up into a nice little packet, this bag would make a great stocking stuffer!
Source Sports Sandals Classic. I bought a pair of these at least 7 years ago and they are still going strong. More importantly, they don’t smell strong! One of the reviewer’s on the site mentioned that theirs had a, “Great vanilla smell even after 3 years!”. Mine don’t smell like vanilla, but they don’t smell like ass either! One of the unique features of these sandals is that they come with a green dot on the bottom of them. The warranty on these sandals is 2 years plus up to an additional 2 years if the green dot is still visible so that folks who don’t do heavy-duty hiking in them will have a longer warranty than those that are harder on them. I still have the green dot on the bottom of mine, and I wore them A LOT when I lived in Florida and they were pretty much all I wore in the summer in the UK too! I think that you would have to be doing some pretty serious hiking on a daily basis in order to wear out the green dot before 2 years was up.
Charities that I think use the money effectively are Doctors Without Borders, Heifer International, The Salvation Army and Habitat for Humanity. If you have someone who really does have everything, before you buy the next gimmicky adult toy at the department store, think about taking that money and giving it to a worthwhile charity. A donation that is non-specific as to where it goes does the most to help these organizations get goods and services to the people most in need. Besides, even if they don’t like it, they aren’t about to complain about it to anyone:-)
So I don’t have any of these but they are so cute I just have to share (and would like them myself!). This print and this print and this calendar all from the talented artist Katie Vernon on Etsy. I think that these minimalist fairy tale prints by Christian Jackson are amazing and would be a really cool alternative to some of the hyper-saccharin children’s decor there is out there. Or even for some adults! And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Aardvark Press manifestos. Kill your TV indeed!
Charmin to Go.This is a total stocking stuffer, but I have to mention it especially since it appears that you can get a pack of 24 for $21.99 on Amazon! One for everyone’s stockings right now!!!!
For Pet Owners
Marchioro Clipper Carriers. Great pet carriers that stand up to abuse. A handful of mine have been in daily use, and you couldn’t tell the difference from the ones that are only occasionally used. They don’t come with the bolts that some airlines (I’m looking at you United!) require now, but they do have bolt holes under the snaps and you can pick-up the bolts cheaply enough if you are flying. These crates don’t fall apart like some that I’ve dealt with and are excellent for daily use.
Flexi Retractable Leashes. Another one that I use many times a day. I really couldn’t believe the difference between this retractable lead and a cheaper one that I got in the US. Yes, they are more expensive. Yes they are worth it. The mechanism in these leads is much faster and smoother than other leads that I’ve used. It has been dropped, kicked, dragged and thrown (extra bad dog day there) and it still works as well as the day I got it. I have the Classic Long Large for Malcolm but it looks like they have an option to customize the leads now for an extra special gift!
Birkenstock Garden Clogs. These are fan-freaking-tastic when you have to run out with the dog for the umpteenth time in an evening. The ones that I linked to aren’t exactly the same as the pair that I’ve had for 4 or 5 years now, but they are similar enough that I think that this is just the newest styling of the ones that I have. These clogs combine the comfort that you expect from Birkenstocks with the durability and water resistance of a garden clog. The shoes are fairly tall, so that even if you step in a bit of mud or water, it doesn’t get up in your socks. I wore these sometimes to walk the dogs in, they are that comfy. There are only a few downsides to these shoes really. First off they will make your feet really sweaty if you wear them in hot weather. Secondly, they aren’t great in snow. You will get snowy socks if you wear them in the white stuff. And lastly, my dogs seem to like to chew on them:-P
SmartyKat Super Scratcher. Will help to save furniture while making happy cats. Who doesn’t like that?
For all Fiber Freaks (Spinners, Knitters and Hookers)
The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook by Carol Ekarius and Deborah Robson. In a world becoming increasingly specialized, folks in the fiber arts should know where their fiber is coming from. The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook is really essential reading for anyone wanting a better understanding of the materials that they are working with, or really anyone interested in fiber animals! If the fiber artist in your life doesn’t yet have this book then you have at least one Christmas gift for them this year. Really, it’s a no-brainer. It’s a big, beautiful book that is destined to be a classic! Go get it now. Seriously people, get it.
All Wound Up: The Yarn Harlot Writes for a Spin. I will be honest here. I’ve not yet read this book. However, I have read everything else that she has published in the knitting genera and I feel reasonably confident that this book is just as excellent as all her previous books have been. Plus, this is one that I want for Christmas!!
Hefty One-Zip Jumbo Bags. These are 2.5 gallon zippered plastic bags. That’s big enough to get most of a sweater in progress in. Or a lot of roving or yarn. Love, love love these bags. Unfortunately, it seems that at least around here (meaning in all the places I’ve lived and visited in the US) the only place that I’ve been able to find them are at Target. It’s not that I don’t love Target, it’s just that it would be nice if these were in every grocery store and big box store like the rest of the Hefty line. And yes, I really have given these as gifts.
If you like the idea of a surprise of different yarns and goodies arriving for the knitter or spinner, then the Phat Fiber Mystery Box would be perfect! Each month there is a different theme and oodles of indie dyers, fiber producers, and folks that make knitting and spinning accessories send in samples of their products that fit the theme for the month. Not every box is filled with the same producers (that would be a lot of samples for one indie producer to come up with!) but they are all little representatives of what they can make. There is a yarn only box, a fiber only box and a mixed box. I got one of the mixed boxes for Christmas last year and it was so much fun! The only problem with this present is that you do have to stalk it a bit in order to get one. However, they do let you sign-up for a newsletter to let you know when the boxes are going on sale and what the themes are and things like that, so it’s not like stalking a particular color of Wollmeise!
For someone who wants to feel like they are a part of where their fiber or yarn comes from, there is Juniper Moon Farm’s CSA program. They had the first fiber CSA in the country. When you buy a share you get percentage off in their shop, invitation to the Shearing Day Celebration as well as either yarn or rovings of your choice. This isn’t the “cheapest” way to get yarn or rovings, but it is one of the more interesting ways. Personally, I like it better than having a star named after me or something like that!
J&S Shetland Combed Tops or an actual Shetland Fleece hand-picked by Oliver for your favorite spinner. If you are living in the UK or Europe, you could order a raw Shetland Fleece to be picked-out by Oliver for your special someone. If you live elsewhere, you will have to order their combed tops as they won’t mail a raw fleece out of Europe due to international restrictions. However, the tops at J&S are lovely and a real treat to work with. Order the Superfine white for an extra special treat!
Mini carders. These are from P&M Woolcraft a lovely company based in Milton Keynes, England. I’m sure that these must be available somewhere else too, but I’ve yet to find them. If you do, please let me know in the comments! Even if you do have to order them from England, the folks at P&M are wonderful to work with and will get your order shipped-out as quickly as humanly possible!
A subscription to Spin-Off magazine. Duh.
For Knitters and Crocheters
Easyknits Yarn. Jon makes lovely yarns. If you aren’t sure what color to get the knitter or crocheter in your life order them a few months of one of Jon’s yarn clubs. There is the Sock Club which comes in different fiber flavors that you can choose from or the Shawl Club which comes with a sushi roll. Both clubs get patterns and goodies to go along with the yarn chosen that month. Since it is a month to month club, you can get as many months as you would like rather than having to get a years club (which can get a little pricey!). The colors are always new and Jon tries really hard to find fun new extras to put in the packages. Much better than a wine-of-the-month club (though that could be nice too I suppose…) Jon has also rolled-out (after much annoying prodding from me and others:-)) his Little Guys line, which is a set of 5-20 gram mini skeins all in a color family ready for color work or for a sock yarn blanket or beekeeper’s quilt. These would make an excellent gift for someone working on either of these projects! (Which I am….)
Patterns from Dutch Knitting Design. Marleen has tons of patterns available in English and really I cannot praise them enough. Her patterns are thoughtfully worded and graphed. Marleen tries to use commonly available yarns (she has a collection of Noro designs as well as a bunch of patterns in Kidsilk Haze) so that you aren’t running around trying to find a yarn at your LYS that simply isn’t available except in one corner of Mongolia (y’all know what I’m talking about here!)
A set of needles from Signature Needle Arts. This is not one to surprise your knitter with as these puppies are A.) sort of customized and B.) really not cheap. I don’t own a pair myself but I know a few folks that do, a couple of them knit for a living, and they all love them. They also do Gift Certificates if you still want to surprise them on the big day and then they can choose the needles that they want themselves.
Pretty much anything from Succaplokki. This artist is located in Finland and make all the Knitting Accessories from recycled plastic. There are Needle Sizers in all sorts of shapes, Stitch Markers, Mitten and Sock Blockers as well as Gauge Checkers. The products are all well made and packaged in funky recycled papers and packaging. All are very fun and would make great stocking stuffers!
The Quizzical Owl has all sorts of quirky jewelery and stitch markers from Legos and well pretty much anything little and fun that Alex finds interesting! If you want something that you don’t see in her shop, she is more than willing to make custom items!
Subscriptions to either (or both!) Interweave Knits or Interweave Crochet. Double duh.
For the folks on your list who only want really luxe, high-end stuff might I suggest a key ring from Tiffany’s. I got one of these as a graduation from high school gift and I still have it and use it. One of the things that they don’t tell you is that if you lose the little ball on the end of it (there was an incident in Mobile, Alabama after their Mardi Gras and silver beads on the sidewalk everywhere) they will replace it. At least when I went in to get it replaced, it was free. They just gave me another one. No questions and no issues at all. And, best of all, it still comes in that little blue box with all the trimmings!
*I have gotten presents in the past from Jon of Easyknits and Marleen of Dutch Knitting Design as I am friends with both but I am not receiving anything for this post nor was I asked to promote their products. I just really like their stuff!!!