A Handmade Christmas

Seems  like it was 3 years ago, yet the calendar say it was a mere 3 weeks ago when the family gathered together for a week of hilarity, memory making, and opening. Last year I stole minutes here and there from The 70273 Project to make some gifts for giving.

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care . . .

When Mom was a baby, her mother took her to visit one of her grandmothers. Mother reached down and grabbed a tiny fistful of the lace collar on her grandmother’s blouse. “This baby is gonna’ like pretty things,” the grandmother correctly predicted, so Mother’s stocking was made with flowers to reflect her flourishing green thumb and topped with lace.

My daughter-in-law, Marnie, is an art historian who enjoys art that’s so old it makes my head hurt. Before our trip to see The Bayeux Tapestry several years ago, Marnie gave me enough background information that I should’ve gotten college credit hours. Her stocking was topped with embroidered trim depicting a section of The Bayeux Tapestry.

When my daughter was born, I took her stocking to the hospital with me and added the last element – her name  – after she was born and before we brought her home.

Fourteen months later, I did the same thing with my son’s stocking, taking it to the hospital to add his name once we knew whether we were the proud parents of a girl or a boy.

The Engineer’s grandmother, we called her Maw – made a quilt of old suits once worn by The Engineer’s grandfather, Pops. Though I could’ve repaired the quilt, I chose to make The Engineer a stocking from it.

Calder Ray celebrated his first Christmas in 2016. I used colors from Alexander Calder’s artist palette to make the fabric for my grandson’s stocking, cuffing it with some wool fabric from Ireland, and Calder Ray did just what you’d expect a seven month old to do: he chewed on it.

Remember I told you how Marnie likes ancient art and how knowledgeable and enamored she is with The Bayeux Tapestry? Well, this year I put the quilting frame down and picked up the wool to do a needlepoint canvas of one of the scenes from The Bayeux Tapestry. After finishing  it, I could not decide what to do with it. Should I frame it?  They don’t really have that many available walls, so maybe not. Make a pillow? That would mean cording, and I am not good at cording, so no. When I spied the adorable little stool with the hinged lid in the antique store, I knew what to do, so now Marnie has a footstool, covered with a needlepoint scene from The Bayeux Tapestry and a wee little bit of storage space to boot. (I just hope their new, rambunctious Border Collie, Harper, who has a hankering for gnawing on wooden furniture, never discovers the wood underneath the needlepoint.)

With visions of not sugarplums, but with dreams of a ritual of the quilt being pulled out every December 1 and slept under till the New Year, I made Calder Ray his Christmas quilt, not to hang on the wall, but to use. I’ll show you better, fuller photos later when I’m finished quilting it (Yes, I gifted it to him partly quilted and partly basted) so you can see that branches and needles of the red tree (I’ll explain the red later, too) are in the shape of my hands, and the trunk is in the shape of Calder Ray’s feet.

The body of the angel that perches at the top of the red tree is made of drawings of Calder Ray’s feet, and her wings are made from drawings of Calder Ray’s pudgy, recently-discovered 7-month old hands. Her raiments are from a napkin The Engineer found for me in a local thrift shop.

You know, 4.5 decades ago, I made everybody’s Christmas gifts as a matter of economy – as newlyweds, we didn’t have money to spend buying a lot of presents – and I remember getting a note from my sister-in-law saying that she felt like the lucky one because while The Engineer bought his brother a nice gift, hers was handmade. Her words didn’t really mean all that much then, but now, when I snuggle under the quilt my grandmother made, when I look at the crewel work my mother stitched, when we hang those handmade ornaments on the tree, I understand and offer up a wee little wish that Calder Ray and his parents put these things in their cherish column one day, too.


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  1. Chloe

    You know what? This post, and all the overflowing goodness in it makes me so happy. Coming from a family of non-makers, the only handmade thing I remember being given as a child was a pink and red rug with my name on it which was hooked for me by my Canadian aunt. That rug greeted my feet every single morning and I adored it. Being given something made especially for you is like being given a hug in 3D form without touching 🙂 ❤

  2. Nancy Carroll

    I come from a family of “makers” and your post brought tears to my eyes… my grandmother must have had a drawer full of dresser scarves by the time I got married … I embroidered one for her and my Mom every Christmas … My mom knit when and sewed when she had the time … with 5 and eventually 8 children to raise, there wasn’t much of that …I have always knit for the children in the family and continue to do so… this year, toques with stuffed… think teddy bear… animal heads on top and mittens knit in colours to match … my middle sister and I were talking about this yesterday, as she cut blocks for me to add red XXs to for the 70273 Project … we were four girls first then four boys(I am the eldest) … I knit, crochet, embroider, do needle point, crewel work and petit point, sew and make simple quilts — my next sister passed away 6 yrs ago, but she mastered crocheting to a great height making afghans for each of us and a lace tablecloth for my mom, she also did crewel work — the third sister, who was helping me with blocks, is an enthusiastic home quilter and, has even learned to knit left-handed — the youngest sister crochets like a dream — last, but not least, the oldest of my brothers (who I grew up with) is as fantastic a gourmet cook and bread-maker as my Dad was — BTW, my Dad taught my mother and me how to knit, I taught her how to sew, my Dad taught my next sister to crochet, and she taught myself and my youngest sister — I taught my middle sister to knit … unfortunately, none of my parents’ grandchildren are interested in being “makers” … granted there are 4 girls and 8 boys … <3
    Thank you Jeanne … you always offer me a trip down memory lane to a happier time…

  3. Kipp

    Thanks again so much for these. Already in the ‘cherish’ column. 😉

  4. Lori East

    Handmade. For those who get it, it means so much, imbues life with such depth and wealth. Your family is obviously blessed with your ability to see meaning in things.

    I pity those who don’t get it, who don’t know how to cherish, or don’t know how to show their love in that way.

    p.s. Calder Ray is growing like a weed! He’s adorable and is one lucky little guy, to grow up so adored.

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