Whenever the kids go back to school and summer begins to wind down, a little alarm goes off in my brain telling me I better get to crafting if I want to have Christmas presents ready for my family and friends. If you’re anything like me, you’ve already started thinking about what to make for everyone.
I probably would’ve just done the same old thing—you know, knit or crochet as many hats, scarves, toys, or pairs of socks and mittens as time will allow—but this year, I found a book that has really inspired me to try something different.
Back in March, I was visiting one of my favorite craft sites (and a second home of sorts for Squirrel Picnic patterns and tutorials), Cut Out + Keep, when I noticed that the site’s founders, Cat Morley and Tom Waddington, had come out with a new book. In 2011, this adventurous couple departed their home in Scotland to take a tour of the US. Around the USA in 50 Craft Projects was the brilliant result. Inspired by everything they saw and experienced on their journey, they created this book to showcase their stories from the road and an original craft project for each state they visited.
Having lived in or visited every state in the continental US, I was very intrigued to hear what they would think of my homeland. And they did not disappoint! They experienced the whimsical side of the United States. The things they saw and did make me want to trace their steps and visit all the same places.
They stayed in the quirkiest hotels, like a cottage shaped like a beagle at the Dog Bark Park in Idaho, a train caboose in California, and a treehouse in Oregon. They ate some interesting things like fried pickles in New Jersey, poutine in Vermont, and a pretzel milkshake in Maine. They took pictures with Mr. Potato Head, Bob’s Big Boy, Ben & Jerry’s, a giant prairie dog, a giant Marilyn Monroe, and Smokey the Bear.
When I asked Cat about her trip, she said, “I was most inspired by Savannah, Georgia and the whole of Louisiana. I loved the Spanish moss hanging from the trees, swamps and bayous and gorgeous French architecture. We slept in a cabin on an alligator filled swamp and it was so exciting and inspiring, like being in a real horror film. Tom loved Omaha, Nebraska—so many friendly people doing inspiring things!”
I can tell they enjoyed Nebraska because the crochet pattern inspired by their visit is so clever and absolutely adorable. I have a friend who loves popcorn, so this year I want to make her a Popcorn Plushie with Cat’s pattern. See how it goes from corncob to popcorn faster than it takes to pop a bag in the microwave!
As a source of Christmas present inspiration, this book can’t be beat! If your family and friends are scattered across the US, you could use the pattern that Cat created for the state they live in or the state they most long to visit. If your life is populated by quirky people like mine is, you’ll find plenty of inspiration in these pages. I’d love to make the Wanted Sign Mirror for my little brother. My mom would die if I gave her Moonshine Perfume, and I know my dad needs a Vacationland Passport Holder. Now that I’m working for the Geological Society of America, I’m thinking that my coworkers might get a kick out of the Gemstone Soaps.
The bag shaped like a rock guitar would impress any music lover, while I can see the Sasquatch Boots being a bit hit in the college dorms. If baking cookies is more your thing, I suggest adding Cat’s Bacon-Bit Pralines to your Christmas assortment this year.
But my favorite project by far is the Jackalope Jewelry Holder. In the book, Cat and Tom point out that while they were in Wyoming, one of the locals told them the origin story of the jackalope. Are you ready for this huge secret? They made it up to play tricks on the tourists. I plan to make one for myself… and everyone I know.
And what would Cat make for Christmas? “The gemstone soaps would make a great stocking stuffer,” she says, “but I’d love to make someone the Furry Bear Hood, it’s so cosy and perfect for winter.”
With so many fun presents to make, I better get started! Good thing it’s just the end of August.
Here are some other books I’ll be using this Christmas for patterns, tutorials, and inspiration to make this the craftiest Christmas yet!