Friday, December 16, 2011


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


Chris said...

Oh my goodness!! I had forgotten all about making those mittens. How amazing that you still have them! I had a pair just like them.

I still love to make Christmas presents. I remember being inspired by visits to your house and seeing crocheting and stitching going on. That's when I first wanted a sewing machine with fancy stitches--I remember seeing cobbler aprons with the bias tape stitched with them. :-)

Chris said...

Okay, it seems I have to comment twice these days--I totally forgot to mention your lovely embroidered gifts!! They are perfect! Emmy's shirt is adorable, the ornaments are shimmery perfection, and the pillowcases are making me drool, they're so gorgeous. Well done!!

Kathy said...

I appreciate your comments so much, Chris. You are my mentor on the embroidery work. Through embroidery club I gained the confidence to do this work. Harriet liked the lace ornaments and I told her I would make more for her. The pillowslips went to Joni, but she also expressed interest in the lace ornaments.

Leah said...

How wonderful to have the mittens from Chris. I'd keep them in a special place. Handmade gifts from dear friends are the best.

Kathy, your amazing embroidery and hand-made gifts are exquisite. I just adore Emmy's shirt. Something about mice at Christmas time is such fun.

BH&G readers in 1954 were made up of lots of stay at home moms. The home made gift idea is something we only read about in books today. So sad.

Keep posting your dad's old post cards. So nostalgic.

Hallie said...

Those ARE all very great handmade items!

The last two years I've enjoyed making a little something for a dozen co-workers. Last year, I made marble fudge and put them in single serving containers with a little bow on top and a cute tag. This year, I gave 4oz. jars of jelly with a label. I know that we all get so many treats this time of year, and although people complain about it, we all love it. ;)

I like to crochet and do other projects, but I don't quite have time to do a lot.

Kathy said...

Good deeds! They make us feel good inside, and that's always a good thing. Yes, I think we do like it.