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Home-Made Gifts From The Heart

by Mary Jo Shannon

Not everyone will agree with me, but I have always believed that home-made gifts are more meaningful than those purchased at the mall or gift cards that leave the selection up to the recipient. Love and patience, time and talent are all required to choose and create just the right gift – a  gift that is actually part of the person who created it.

When my children were small I encouraged each of them to make gifts for family members. Even before the stores displayed Christmas decorations (shortly after Halloween) I started planning, reading craft books and women’s magazines, searching for ideas.  Since I had preschool and kindergarten children at school, and sixth and seventh graders in Sunday School, in addition to the three at home, I needed projects for several different age levels. My goal was for gifts that would be useful and attractive, which parents would welcome.

Christmas tree ornaments our children made through the years become more precious as time goes by. It’s amazing how Elmer’s glue, gold spray paint and glitter can transform recycled milk tops, stars cut from Styrofoam meat trays, and plastic lids from margarine, into attractive   ornaments. Glue a picture of the giver in the center, print name and date on the back with a gold pen, and you have a unique decoration. These simple projects were easy and suitable for the younger children, although they required preparation by an adult.

Items found on nature walks, summer and fall, were saved to make Christmas presents. Shells from the beach became mobiles or soap dishes. Hemlock cones glued to brown paper rings made individual candle rings. A more ambitious candle ring consisted of a variety of seed pods and cones glued to a plywood ring. (Harry has always been willing to cut the wood we needed for more advanced endeavors.)

When I organized a gift-making workshop for all age levels at church, one gift every child made for his/her parents was a jar of nine-bean-soup mix. Children of all ages could decorate a jar, scoop the beans to fill it and attach a recipe. This gift was such a hit with parents we decided to repeat it the following year. When we told the children, one girl shouted, “Oh NO!” Her family had four children and had finally consumed last year’s gifts!

Many of my gifts have been made during the summer when fruits and vegetables were plentiful in our garden. Jellies and preserves and pickles are usually welcomed, as well as baked goods such as whole wheat bread, which few people make these days.

Early in our marriage, I learned an important lesson about the limitations of gift making. Each year I tried to get the most value for the money we had saved for Christmas. I enjoyed sewing and one year I decided to make robes for the three women on my list. I found a simple pattern that included three sizes and purchased enough pale blue velour for three robes, matching blue satin for the trim, and the thread and interfacing that I would need.

That night I proceeded to cut the material, carefully pinning the pattern pieces, then placing the cut material in three neat piles. The following morning I had a sore throat, and as the day passed I felt worse. I set my sewing machine up in the living room, and alternated sewing and stretching out on the sofa for two weeks. I had spent the money and couldn’t buy other gifts, so I had to finish those robes. Fortunately they turned out well and I didn’t tell the recipients what a struggle it was to make them.

As a result of this experience I vowed never again to overextend myself. I would limit my gift making to one person and rotate those on my gift list so all would eventually receive a home-made gift.

My children continued to make gifts for family members as they grew older and no longer needed my supervision. During her high school years, Kathy sewed shirts for her father and brothers and a blouse and pot holders for me. John is artistic and made pencil portraits of his parents and his children. His love of woodworking has produced a storage unit for CDs for his dad. I’ve written before about Harry’s soap carvings, and now that he has a farm, we get sausage and his home-made wild raspberry jam.

Home-made gifts come straight from the heart!

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