by Evelyn J. Mocbeichel
As we watch the news it constantly repeats about cargo being stranded on ships and unable to unload, thereby causing a potential shortfall in items to buy for holiday gifts. I guess for families with young children this poses a problem, but for adults there may be another solution for the persons on your gift giving list. Here we are in November with many of us still working from home or going out less, so time is there to go back to making something hand-made. This might be the perfect time to resurrect those hobbies and craft skills to create some unique, original gift items for our loved ones. I am sure that many homemakers have a craft closet or plastic storage bins chock full of sewing or craft item leftovers that can be used as starter pieces for these projects. I found several large bins in the attic this month when I was searching for our heavier sweaters to bring down for the fall. This discovery reminded me about the talents many of my friends once shared and some of the presents they made to give for the holidays, birthdays or any gift giving occasions.
Do you remember how many birthday party invitations your children used to receive in nursery or elementary school? I sure it was at least one or two a month. Sometimes we received the invite several weeks in advance and at other times, it was merely four days before the event. Since it was not always convenient to run out shopping for a present, I used to buy several presents when they were on sale and save them for the next party. The supply included gifts that either a boy or girl would enjoy. For my children’s very close friends I decided to create a more lasting present and began sewing their gift. I had the time for this since most of their close friends told them in advance about the date for the party. The present I made was a customized pillowcase that was embroided with the child’s name and designs of his or her hobby or interests. I bought the material on sale, buying several yards of various designs that were colorful, yet light enough to show the embroidery detail. Maybe the child liked horses, cats, flowers, rocket ships or a favorite cartoon character. Embroidery patterns were traced on the material and then I embroidered the colored threads over this design, trimming the entire, wide edge border of the pillowcase. These “one of a kind” gifts were inexpensive to make and lasted longer than box clay molding set or puzzle. In fact, many years later these same friends said they were still using their “name pillowcase” in college to remind them of the fun times of their early childhood.
When I think of some of the nicest gifts we have received over the years, many of them were handmade friends or family members. The huge, intricately designed pinecone wreath that my husband’s cousin, Marie, made us many years ago is still a decorative favorite of ours. It is hung up mid November and remains there until January. The amazing part about this gift is that Marie had five young children at the time and she still managed to give several family members this present. Besides this craft was only one of her many talents. Marie also sewed outfits for her daughter’s cheerleading team and baked the most delicious Christmas cookies. This goes to prove that those people, who are the busiest, still get the most done!
There is a long list of homemade items that can be made given as gifts. Woodworkers can build birdhouses, mailboxes, toys, homemade name signs for the house or cute little signs for the garden to denote what has been planted. Flower arranging is an art and whether working with silk or dried flowers, these arrangements are long lasting and can be enjoyed year round. Holiday cookies are a favorite, but do not overlook other items that can come from your kitchen. Our neighbor, Liz, loves to bake and often pops over on a cold and snowy Saturday with some treat that she just extracted from her oven. Whether it is a loaf of banana bread, apple muffins or whole-wheat rolls, they are delivered warm and ready to eat. What better neighbor can you think of than that? If baking is something you love to do, this would make a perfect present for those that do not have time or talent to tackle it. Mini loaf pans are just the right size for this idea and a jar of jam or preserves to go with it make a wonderful complement. Speaking of jams and jellies how about sharing a few jars from your canning shelf with those that have not planted a garden or have trees bearing fruit. Another cousin, Hilda, has apricot, pear and plum trees growing in their mini orchard and is busy at the end of summer canning for both her family and for the Christmas baskets she puts together as presents. This holiday season may have to be one for cutting back because of supply shortages or economic reasons, but that does not mean that the gifts received are any less endearing. Discover your talents, your hidden skills and share them with those you love. You will find that this holiday season maybe actually be the most memorable one of all because of the gifts you give are from the heart.