10 Steps to a Stress-Free Holiday Crafting Season

Crafting for the holidays is supposed to be fun — but so often our yarn balls turn into stress balls as we try to meet deadlines and get everything done. But with a little planning, you can keep yourself happily making as the holidays approach. Sounds magical, right?

1. Begin With an Intention

Intention setting isn’t just for yogis! Take a minute to ask yourself why you want to make handmade gifts for the holiday season. Make a list of the reasons, including ones that aren’t so charming. (“Because I want to impress my family” or “Because it’s what I’ve always done.”) Be honest with yourself.

This list of “why” can reveal a lot. You may discover you’re most inspired making holiday decor but don’t like crafting gifts, or vice versa. That’s all OK — you don’t have to knit or sew anything you don’t want to this year!

Once you’ve decided what you truly want to make, set a conscious intention to guide your crafting approach this season. This might be something like “I’m crafting to connect with others” or “I’m crafting to spread joy” or “I’m crafting for me-time.” There’s no right or wrong here. (Anyone crafting to avoid their in-laws? We see you, and it’s OK.) You don’t have to actually write down your intention, but a little note tacked up in your crafting space can’t hurt if you feel like it.

2. Make a Project List (and Check It Twice)

Now that you know why you want to make, it’s time to decide the what. Make a list of all the projects you have in mind, and the intended recipient for each one. If you’ve got big plans for tons of projects, it can also help to break your list into gifts and decor.

Once your list is ready, it’s time for some tough love. Review the lineup and look for anything you don’t actually want to make but feel obligated to; anyone who won’t actually appreciate your handmade gift; anything that stress you out. Pare down the list and eliminate anything that falls into those buckets. It can be hard, but it’ll be worth it for all the joy that comes with focusing on projects you truly want to create.

3. Select Your Patterns

Choose a pattern for every project on your list. Do this now — not later. It’s a bit of a pain in September, but you’ll thank yourself come December. Print out all of your patterns and organize them how you best see fit, or create a document with links to all of the patterns in one place.


4. Comb Through Your Stash

Digging into those yarn and fabric leftovers isn’t just smart, it’s creatively rewarding. Look at what you already have on hand and let your imagination kick in. All those scraps could have a whole new life as mini quilts, pom-poms and cute headbands! Plus, stash-busting for the holidays gives you permission to treat yourself to fresh supplies come January. Bonus!

5. Order All of Your Supplies

Now that you’re aware of what you have — and more importantly, don’t have — it’s time to stock up on anything else you need to complete your project list. Again, do this now before all the good stuff gets scooped up. A few things to keep in mind:

  • Order all the yarn or fabric needed for every project, including each color in enough yardage. (If you can, order more than you think you’ll need. You’ll find a use for extra, and running out is the worst.)
  • Make sure you have the hooks and needles you’ll need.
  • Check for extra notions or supplies, such as stuffing and toy eyes for amigurumi, floss for cross-stitch and batting for quilting.
  • Consider buying kits instead of stand-alone patterns, so you get everything you’ll need all at once. (They can be a real time-saver.)
  • Whether charm squares or fat quarters, using precuts will save you time on cutting. Plus, you get an assortment of fabrics that coordinate without ordering each separately.
  • 6. Organize Your Supplies

    Fact: You’re way more likely to power through your project list if all your stuff is right at your fingertips. So put everything you need for one project in a bag — include all the yarn or fabric, hooks or needles, extra notions and pattern in there. (If you didn’t print the pattern, write a note with its name and where to find it.) Make a bag for each project, then stash ’em in a safe — and visible! — place in your craft room so they’re ready as soon as you are.

    7. Set Deadlines On an Actual Calendar

    Prioritize projects that need to be done first, like gifts that must be shipped or decorations you want to put up this season. Next come the projects you absolutely want to complete this year. Remember to build a little breathing room into your calendar, in case things take longer than expected or you find yourself needing a break. After all, you can always be ahead of schedule!

    8. Get Social

    Crafty friends are the best, and there’s no better way to guarantee you’ll hit your deadlines than by planning social crafting hours with friends. Plan a few group nights early in the season, before everyone’s calendars fill up. Then cheer each other on through every hat, sock, sweater, scarf and quilt you make. Extra points if you include Christmas cookies and your favorite holiday tunes.

    9. Plan a Selfish Post-Holiday Project

    An important question: what are you going to make just for you once you get through making all those holiday gifts? Anticipating the fun of digging into a no-deadline project can be a good motivator when you’re feeling buried under a mountain of giftables. Scroll through your pattern library and see what sparks the most excitement — then get to making once your calendar clears.

    10. Make It a Judgment-Free Zone

    For many crafters, putting on pressure to finish is practically a holiday tradition. But cut yourself a break this year and remember: projects you don’t finish on time are not failures. They’re a head start on Valentine’s Day!

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    13 Responses to “10 Steps to a Stress-Free Holiday Crafting Season”

    1. Cindi

      <strong>I have MS. This came on later in life. When I was younger I could do all linds of things. Now my left side is wear, so I am limited to what I can do. I have tried several things to see what I can do. With that in mind there are several things I can still do like cross stitching, and cooking . I use to do knitting. But l can’t do that any more. The other thing is room. I have to things that I have room for. Small projects are great for me. Stress free woks wonders for me, I am looking forward to do the projects and being stress free. I put enough stress on myself with other things during the holiday season.

    2. Diana Kuhn

      I like to knit, crochet, quilt. I keep a planner and to do list going all year. I like your suggestions on #2. I plan on trying that. Thanks

    3. Cecilia G Flores

      <strong>I like to knit and crochet and do a little bit of plastic canvas. I start projects for the next Christmas immediately after "this years" Christmas. I usually have enough yarn, so supplies is not usually a problem. Even though I live in a modern house with a/c, ceiling fans and table fans, I still do not like to have a large piece of yarn (such as a blanket) all over my lap as I get hot easily. Then when the particular project is done, I put it in a plastic bag (sandwich to large garbage) with the yarn band to include with the gift for washing instructions. Then I tape on a piece of paper into the bag with the name of who it is for. Sometimes, I will wash the item before putting it into the bag, but then the sweet smell of fabric softener may wear off by Christmas. By doing it this way, I am not stressed as the holiday season draws closer (unless I have decided to make too many items!)

    4. Mary Beth Halstead

      Every year I say I'm not waiting til the last minute. This will definitely help me to get it done in time for the holidays. So glad to get these reminders.

    5. Iris Cooper

      Hi. I always make a list of what to make and buy for friends and family. For making I get my patterns, see if I have the necessary in my stash and set about buying what I don't have. The problem with crafting is you never know how long making things will take. So, you do have to be good to yourself, when you realise in late November that some things won't get done (or you forgot how old a granddaughter is and what you've made is totally inappropriate 😁😁). The answer then is to leave that item and buy a Costa card for them. If you don't do this then crafting will become a chore and not a thing of art and beauty as it was meant to be x x

    6. Elizabeth

      Great article!

    7. Suzanne

      I also want to join this stress-free holiday crafting.

    8. Linda Sanford

      I am a member of Craftsy and want to join this stress free holiday crafting

    9. Catherine

      These 10 steps are really helpful! I had several bags with projects and yarn, but didn't have the pattern's name attached. Plus making sure the other tools are right there was a great insight. I spent part of this morning getting these bags organized. But I particularly liked your idea about having a project just for yourself after the whirlwind, and that unfinished ones are not failures. Thanks so much!

    10. Patti

      This looks like just what I need to avoid the usual holiday stress. (Especially the part about paring down the list. ) Thanks for this article.