Sunday, December 14, 2008

Gifts Made By Hand with Love


No longer a perjorative, today this word marks a turning point in our culture. A silent revolution. A change of heart. A slow turning away from quick and the commonplace. A detour whereby we take up knitting needles and glue bottles as a way of proclaiming, “Despite the turmoil of our times, despite a world in which I hold so little sway, I am important because I can create.”

This week the owner of a local independent scrapbook store told me her business was doing well. In fact, she says it's never been better! And I’m not surprised. This is the era of the handmade, the homemade, the presents wrestled into being by love, skill and creativity.

And I am not immune! I’m focusing on handmade gifts for this holiday. I’m not interested in spending a lot of money. I am interested in turning back the tide of mass-produced, ordinary and meaningless THINGs which seem to be overwhelming my family. I am thrilled to think that my little fingers can produce unique items that by their very existence proclaim, “I love you.”

Here are some simple, heart-felt gift ideas:

I-Pod Purses--From a Goodwill or thrift store buy an all-wool sweater of a color you like. Throw it in the washer, soak it in hot water, and run it through the dryer until it becomes a soft and pliant felt. (The finished fabric will be about 2/3 the original size.) Cut a pattern of newspaper, 14” long and 4 ½” wide. Pin it to your felt and cut. On another piece of paper, draw a letter (the initial of the person for whom you are making the gift), thicken it up, and cut it out of felt. Add stitching with embroidery thread. Sew the initial onto the bag. Add a button and button hole (stitch around it with pink embroidery floss). See the photo for placement. Blanket stitch the sides together, and blanket stitch the flap. Add ribbon handles.

Memory Jar—Find an empty jar or plastic canister with a lid. (You can buy an inexpensive jar from Walmart). Create a “label” out of attractive scrapbook paper. Add sticker lettering to create your recipient’s name. (You might also add a saying like, “Beautiful Memories.”) On your computer or by hand, write down happy memories. (They’ll read: “Remember the time we took a walk by the beach and saw the turtles hatching? Remember the time we slid down the hill on flattened boxes?”) Put the memories in the jar.

I’ll share some more ideas next week! Meanwhile, to hear more about how crafts have become the revolutionary icon of the next generation, go to


Betty Hechtman said...

I couldn't agree more about handmade gifts. They are special and personal. I love the idea of felting the sweater and using it in a new way.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

It's a great way to recycle! All you have to do is cut around the moth holes.

By the way, I posted early in anticipation of an ice storm...the ground is "slicker than owl snot" as the locals say. Who knew owls had snot?

Emilie said...

Hi Joanna,

Saw what you were doing on my Facebook page. What a great blog. Crafts and murder. I'm all for it! I know your gifts will be lovely.

Emilie, who made her editor a quilt, but don't tell her!

Monica Ferris said...

I love the memory jar! What a wonderful idea!

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Emilie, a quilt? Wow, won't she be thrilled.

Monica, the memory jar is such an easy idea, but a loving one. Isn't it?