In 1954, the editors of Better Homes and Gardens included a section on homemade gifts in their Christmas Ideas edition. “Knowing what to choose [and] when and how to present gifts requires talent. Study the interests and hobbies of each person on your list – then let these be your guide to wise selections, dramatic presentation.”
Continuing, the editors preface the homemade gift section as follows: “If you can paint, sew, glue, or hammer, you’ll want to try your hand at making some of these smart gifts. And once you get started, you’ll work up other clever ideas of your own. However, don’t confine your talents to your family alone. Friends, too, will be delighted with attractive handmade presents – each of which carries a warm message that says ‘just for you.’ In addition, these gifts have another plus – all are easy on the pocketbook.
“Set up your own workshop and begin right now. Keep in mind any special interests of those on your gift list. If Dad likes to take hold of the spoon occasionally, a sturdy apron with a clever pocket is just the answer. Your junior cowboy will go galloping around house and yard on an easy-to-handle hobby-horse. And teen-age daughter who likes to read will appreciate a case for her books."
My research seems to indicate that at mid-century the homemade gift was not really popular and should be given with care, yet I come from a tradition of making gifts, and I can name several friends I believe are also from that background. When I was a child, especially in the ‘50s, we made gifts. My parents encouraged me to think less about what I wanted for Christmas and more about what I could do for others. I still prefer to think of gifts for my loved ones than to ask what the recipient wants.
Mike startled me when he said, “I don’t remember ever receiving a gift from my grandparents.” My first thought was, “How sad!” Then I thought of my grandparents and realized that while I did receive small gifts from them, they did not provide keepsake gifts. Grandmother Ina – well, we know from her letters that giving gifts was important to her, but she had to search her cupboards to do it. If she spent money for a gift, it was to satisfy a need. And my old-world but self-made Grandfather Portfors limited what he would pay for the obligatory gift, but he would slip a few dollars to me now and then – and he helped educate all of his grandchildren.
Going back even further to my great-grandmother Dickson, she said, “I’ll send you something but don’t expect much,” and the something she sent was a postcard, which was then cherished.
Well -- whatever -- individuals and families work through gift giving issues according to the factors involved. As for me, I'm still making gifts.
[The postcard is from my dad's postcard album -- a gift to him from Aunt Ida Patchen.
The mittens were made by our own friend and follower, "Aunt" Chris, about 50 years ago. I still treasure them.
One of my sisters said she would like as many machine lace ornaments as she could get, so guess what I'm giving her.
The shirt for Emmy was such fun to embroider. I've had the designs for several years, just waiting for her to be old enough to get the joke.
And I love the Christmas floral design on the white pillowcases.] KW