Sunday, December 03, 2006

Crafting Holidays

Given our discussion on holiday shopping, I'm wondering if any of you give handmade gifts for the holidays.

I suppose someone with four sewing machines and floor to ceiling shelves filled with fabric and a myriad assortment of crafting materials qualifies as a Crafting Geek. And this time of year I reach the Zenith of Crafting Geekiness.

My latest project are these little dolls made from pipe cleaners, embroidery floss and wool felt. (Just click the link to see them in Photobucket.) There was a fairy doll but Jessica, my 21-year-old daughter, fairynapped her. So now there's just Fiona the village girl, Minerva the wise woman, Rowan the herbalist and Brother Todd, the village priest. I'm partial to Rowan, with her little leaf-shaped apron. But for some reason almost everyone loves Brother Todd. I think it's the tiny cross hanging from his belt; I found it at a bead store and thought it would be perfect for him.

I thought it would be nice to make sets of these as holiday gifts. They're fun to make, although I do get a bit of a headache when embroidering or sewing beads onto those tiny outfits. Ultimately it's worth it, though. I'm considering giving them not to children, but to adults. Everyone could use a little whimsy in their lives.

My more complex holiday projects include these Christmas stockings I made. The crazy quilt one is made from vintage handkerchiefs. The snowy owl on the other stocking was fashioned after a drawing I did. I put little snowflake buttons all around him.

Of all the stuff I've bought folks for Christmas over the years, the one that I made myself about fifteen years ago was the one that was the most appreciated. It was for my mother. Money was really tight that year and I couldn't buy her anything. My mom is like a kid; she loves gifts so I felt terrible.

I had like five bucks so I went to the store and got a back of thirty Thank-You cards. Then I sat down and - picking out thirty of the best memories from my childhood - wrote her a note thanking her for each one. I thanked her for teaching me to draw my first bird when I was four. I thanked her for all the hours we spent horseback riding together. I thanked her for the incredible stories she told me and my sisters. I thanked her for the good feeling it gave me to come home from school and find the house warm, clean and smelling of homecooked meals. I tied the bundle of notes with a pretty ribbon and told her to open one note a day for the next month.

My mother never forgot that gift. And she told me recently that she still takes out those notes and reads them. That makes me so happy.

If you haven't done all your Christmas shopping yet or - if like some of us - you're emphasizing quality over quantity and expense, consider making something for your loved ones. Don't worry that it has to be perfect. I still cherish the hand-knitted scarf I received last year. It wasn't quite even on the ends but its imperfections are part of the charm and it will always be special because it represented the first knitting effort of the person who gave it to me. She knew I loved knitted things and took the time to give me something from both her heart and hands.

That's the perfect gift.

44 comments:

Anonymous said...

Those little dolls are so adoreable! Have you considered using them as Christmas ornaments? You could glue little hangers on their backs. The Victorian-looking stocking is my favorite of the two. Did you do the stitching by hand?
God Bless You,
Margaret

Morgan said...

Margaret,

I actually had a friend suggest I do just that. The only one I put a hanger on was the fairy that my daughter took for her tree. But I have the other little people in our tree now and they don't need hangers. Because they are so bendable and flexible they can "hold" the branches with their hands.

No, I didn't hand stitch the stocking. I have a machine with about 100 different embroidery stitches. Not as old-fashioned but it gets the job done. I do some hand-embroidery but have to be in the mood for it. I've been working off-an-on with one embroidery project for about a year now. It's a bell-pull and I may actually have it finished by the time I'm 80.

Anonymous said...

Well it is beautiful just the same. I do a bit of counted cross stitch. My most eleaborate project was an angel. It had lots of shades of whites, creams and silver and lots and lots of backstitching. I didn't think I would ever finish it but after six months I did and it was worth it. It feels good to stand back and look at something you made yourself.
God Bless You,
Margaret

Andrea said...

I love to cross stitch too! Unfortunately, all my stuff is in storage back in Texas, 2500 miles away. I'm looking forward to taking it up again if we can ever manage to get our crap back.

I have given stitched & framed designs as gifts before, and I have a few Christmas pieces that I've kept for myself as decorations, plus lots of cute little ones I use as tree ornaments.

Morgan said...

Andrea,

I'm teaching my oldest daughter to cross-stitch right now, which is cool because I was a bit younger than her when I started. Like you, I gave away a lot of what I made but still have a couple of pieces; one is a sampler and the other is a folk-art design with a quote about motherhood. They're framed and hang above my sewing area along with some paintings by my son and other family members.

There's something so feminine about needlework; I know that sounds silly to say, but whenever I'm at my embroidery I can't help but think of all those women from generations back who spent their days embroidering elaborate tapestries, weaving or sewing clothes by hand.

My youngest daughter's homeschool history club has been studying colonial crafts and the instructor (who is also a talented seamstress and re-enactor) said in Colonial times needles were so prized that women got them as wedding gifts, and if she lost them she just did without.

One of my favorite artists is Waterhouse. I love his paintings based on the Tennyson poem "Lady of Shallot," about the woman who spent her days embroidering a tapestry of what she saw in her magic mirror. She was obsessed with Lancelot, but couldn't look directly out the window towards Camelot or else she'd suffer the effects of some unspecified curse. But one day she did and, knowing that the curse was now upon her. Knowing she would die, the Lady of Shallot laid down in a boat that floated downstream to the castle. There, the man she loved looked sadly upon her beauty, never knowing that the dead woman had so pined for him.

Of course, later he probably went off and partied as if she never existed, which only serves to warn women against the folly of obsessing over unattainable men. On the other hand, somebody's got to do it, and there are women who always will even it does makes for predictable tragic endings.

Andrea said...

That's awesome that you're teaching your girl to cross stitch. My mom taught me when I was 10 and I've loved it ever since. I'm not all that great at it, but I find it relaxing and addictive and just so cool to watch the design slowly take shape.

Yeah, I used to be all about unrequited love. I spent my days and nights pining over whoever I was currently infatuated with. But I always knew deep down that it was just crushes, nothing near real love. Funny as hell to look back on the Drama of my late teens and early 20's though :D For grown women to still be trying to do that nonsense when they should know better...I'm sorry but that's just pathetic.

Morgan said...

"I find it relaxing and addictive and just so cool to watch the design slowly take shape."

That's exactly what I keep telling Jessica. The reward with cross stitch or any embroidery comes as the picture begins to develop.

Margaret, I don't know if I'd have as much patience as you, though. I generally avoid designs that use too many similar colors. Of course, the backstitching adds definition but the design you describe sounds like one for a person with more dedication than I would have.


"Funny as hell to look back on the Drama of my late teens and early 20's though :D For grown women to still be trying to do that nonsense when they should know better...I'm sorry but that's just pathetic."

Oh, we've all been there and thankfully most of us don't suffer from that kind of arrested development. I'm not sure if the ones who do realize what a bad name it gives all women. Unbalanced, needy women provide just the stereotype mysoginistic types need when they say all women are unstable. Ironically, those are the very types of guys those unstable women are often attracted to.

Erik said...

Good thing I dont celebrate Christmas. I got laid off this morning so I wouldnt have the money for even the smallest of trinkets.

On the plus side it is a new experience for me?

Morgan said...

Oh man, Erik. That sucks. I'm so sorry to hear that. Do you have anything else lined up?

Andrea said...

That bites, big time. What crappy timing that employer has.
You'll find something else, Erik!

Morgan said...

We had two guys with the company I edit for laid off recently and they'd been there forever. It seems to me that companies could at least wait until after the holidays to make that kind of decision.

thimscool said...

It's a classic dilemma...

Do you wait until after the holidays, when they've spent all that cash and are looking at big January bills, or do you lower the boom before the spending, but ruin their celebration.

On balance, I'd say that it is better for the person to know before the holiday, but that rings pretty hollow if it's because the owners/partners want to cut payroll to harvest a big year-end bonus.

I'm sorry for the bad news, Erik. I hope you find a better job soon.

thimscool said...

Nice stockings, Morg.

Lord Omar said...

I make Almond bark for the in-law aunties and this year T is making her own Xmas cards. They are very nice and I plan on using them as well. BUT, I cannot stand Christmas ;-)

Erik said...

I dont have anything lined up yet but I am doing what I can. There wasnt a whole lot of choice for the company. The housing market is down 48% and that is where the majority of concrete goes. Oh well. A new experience for me, being laid off and all.

But looking for a job isnt a new thing. Not at all! and it takes far too long to get one. Not to mention the lackluster job market here. But I cant afford to move tho I may do so before too long anyways.

Morgan said...

thimshool, that's a good point. I guess it might be better to know before incurring a bunch of Christmas debt or taking off for a holiday trip to the Bahamas. And I agree with you about the ethical issue of companies laying people off and then rewarding CEO's with big bonuses. That's bad karma.
Glad you like the stockings. :-) I want to make more if I can find the time.

Morgan said...

Lord Omar, Almond bark is the best. They have peppermint bark at one of the local coffee shops. It's my favorite holiday treat. That's cool that T is making her own cards. I did that several years ago. I had this picture of my cat hissing at our dachshund. The cat looked heinously evil and the dog was literally holding her off with his paw. I used it as the cover shot on the card. Inside it read "Peace on Earth." Those cards were a big hit.
I see you still have your Avatar. Has Woozie forgiven you? I just borrowed a copy of Brokeback Mountain to watch. Everyone talks about how edgy it is, but I've seen enough gay sex on Six Feet Under to consider myself desensytized.

Morgan said...

Erik, good luck with the job hunt. Down here on the N.C. coast, the housing market is still going strong. Everyone wants to retire and move to the beach. I guess the crazy development won't stop until we run out of land.

You sound like a resourceful person; hope another employer snatches you up soon.

Keep us posted.

Bobbb - Citizen of Earth said...

Very crafty Morgan :)
You are both thoughtful and talented

Sorry to be away for so long but we are busy here at work - and I haven't been writing much at home.

I have a seasonal holiday message in me somewhere - I just need to bring it out.

Sorry about the Job Eric - good luck looking.

Yes I did take a look at the little dolls - no jokes please.

Does anyone else think that "Rowan" looks like you?

I mean that in a good way :)

Morgan said...

"Does anyone else think that "Rowan" looks like you?"

Thanks! She's my favorite.

"I have a seasonal holiday message in me somewhere - I just need to bring it out."

I look forward to it; I miss you when you don't write.

CJ said...

My wife makes little snowflakes from yarn and then dips them in starch to make ornaments. She's sold them at the church bazaar for the last few years. And I'm not a sentimental person but that story about giving your mom those thank you notes almost put a tear in my eye. Very nice Morgan.

Lord Omar said...

My best Almond bark tip is to always use salted almonds. The saltiness of the nuts tie in perfectly with the sweetness of the chocolate.

HUM BUG!

Sterculian Rhetoric said...

I've just started my christmas shoplifting. I figure I am not buying into the commercialisation of the holidays.
Innit?
VD

Morgan said...

SR, nothing says "Happy Holidays" like the gift of stolen jewelry. Of course, I'm to chicken to shoplift big things. The best I could do is fill the kids' stockings with cans of stolen tuna. They like tuna.

Lord Omar, thanks for the almond bark tip. Sounds divine.

Black Santa said...

HO HO HO!
I though you might enjoy this site:

www.crochetmycrotch.com

Happy Holidays!

Erik said...

Black Santa said...

HO HO HO!
I though you might enjoy this site:

www.crochetmycrotch.com

Happy Holidays!

3:14 PM


Well I've been needing a laugh and that most definitely did it! And a mini-gina is only $8! And coin pouches at $15 (tho who'd want to stick their hand in it?) maybe I can still give out gifts after all!

Erik said...

I forgot to mention what wonderful gifts that willywarmers make

sammyray said...

Those dolls are cute, in a creepy kind of way. LOL. Like Octavia.

Sterculian Rhetoric said...

I stole a momment once.
And it was a pregnant one at that.

Morgan said...

Black Santa, I-I-I don't know what to say. What do you give to the guy who has everything. A portable twat, I guess.
Now, if the person who knits the willy-warmers could just team up with the lady who makes the crocheted vulvas, then they could make slip-on pussies. Maybe they could make them vibrate or something.
Thanks for starting my day with a laugh.

Sammyray. Not creepy. Whimsical. Whimsical. ;-)

mitzibel said...

Everyone *was* going to get spiffy scarves and sleeveless glove/armwarmers this year, because the Knifty Knitter has stolen my soul and won't give it back. But then everyone I know decided to start popping their babies early, and with so many tiny hats and blankets to occupy my obsession, they might have to make do with bath salts. They're lucky I give Christmas gifts at all, when I don't celebrate the holiday. Bah humbug, indeed.

Morgan said...

Mitzibel,

I was bitten hard by the knitting bug last winter. It was like an obsession. I made so many scarves, including a cashmere yarn one for my mom. But my absolute favorite was one I made from this AWESOME merino yarn from Morehouse Farms:

http://www.morehousefarm.com/

One skein of the bulky will make a fabulous scarf that you will love forever. It's even softer than the cashmere.

mitzibel said...

Oh, wow, thanks! I love working with wool, even though I can't wear it--even the softest of merino fibers itches me like mad. Cross your fingers, but there is a good chance I'm going to be "inheriting" my husband's late grandmother's lifetime collection of looms and fiber. Since she used to teach fiber arts, and had an entire floor of her home devoted to weaving, you can see how I might be very close to SHITTING MY PANTS IN SHEER EXCITEMENT. Looms from scapula to rug sized, and an entire room full of cupboards full of skeins and spools and my god, I used to talk about new batches of crank this way ;) I must be getting old and non-suicidal!!!

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Elaine said...

HI Morgan!
Just getting some time finally to visit! I have been so busy - I can't even think straight!
I too craft, but haven't in a while. I decided to make my nieces some fabric photo albums. I just finished the last one. It doesn't take me too long - but I don't do much with embellishments. I hope they enjoy them as much as my other niece and nephew enjoy theirs. It always makes you feel wonderful when you see the appreciation of others.
Loved the idea of the notecards - plan on doing that for my mom's 60th birthday in January - thanks for the great idea!
Have a Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year!

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