When the girls were little, we were broke, and by broke I mean that I really, really struggled with Christmas.  There were several years in a row where we often had about $5 to spend on each person in our extended family – and not much more for the people in the immediate herd.  We solved this by being extremely crafty.  We painted mugs, we baked, we canned, we knit and sewed, and we always had great presents.  It was nice actually (not the being broke part, that sucked monkey balls.  I know money can’t buy happiness but if you’re pretty happy already it can take the edge off of the festive season like not much else) we had to really think about our gifts, and consider them, and put time and effort into coming up with an idea instead of just tossing cash around inside the mall.  Anybody can buy you a shirt from the Gap, but tee-shirts painted with your children’s own art?  Priceless.  (It is good to see, by the way, that the time honoured tradition of the handprint reindeer has not gone out of style.)  We painted frames to put family prints in…. we wrapped up cookies and home made marmalade – we even made chocolate spoons one year.  The interesting thing is that I didn’t realize it then, but what I was really doing with my kids was training them for their own inevitable broke years.  What do young students/women with entry level jobs do for Christmas if they grew up crafty?
Well, for starters, Meg and Amanda bought some of those Pebeo porcelain paint markers, and a bunch of dollar store mugs, and they solved some problems.  Problems like that if you call your grandparents "Nana Carol" "Old Joe" and "Gramy"  you can never find mugs that say that.

They made me an yarny art one, and Joe one with the logo for his studio (beautifully hand drawn) on one side, and "The Boss" on the other.

They delivered little bags of handmade chocolate truffles and cookies. (They were delicious.  Amanda used my Pistachio Lemon biscotti recipe to great effect, much as I had done in the lean years.)

Sam though – Sam had access to some pretty handy people, and a woodshop, and she produced a few beautiful things.  First up, a chess set for her Grandfather. (Photo’s produced by way of Grandmother’s cell phone.  Thanks Nana Carol!) 

She built a box, with a hinged lid to keep all the pieces in, then painted the lid like a chess board. 

Thick dowels were cut into different lengths, and then stained two shades, and finally –

She painted the names of the pieces on top of them.  Tall ones that say "King" small ones that say "pawn". Very cool, and designed by our clever girl herself.   When she was done with the Chess set, she decided to break my little heart, and made me a few tools.

I am the proud recipient of a hand made, beautifully smooth niddy noddy, and very fine knitting needles, all with the date burned into them so I’ll always know.

It’s moments like this that make me grateful for all the time I spent with them making stuff when they were little.  I thought I was just occupying them, and being thrifty – but the girls got something out of it I wasn’t expecting.  They really understand that if you don’t have money, you have to replace it with skill and thoughtfulness.  I’m pretty proud of them.

Q&A- There were a ton of questions in the last round of comments, so here’s some quick answers.

Is that your house? 
No.  I dream of that being my house. That’s my Mum’s.

Why are people wearing paper crowns? 
They’re from the Christmas Crackers.   Crackers are pretty rolls of paper waiting for you on your dinner plate at Christmas, if you live in the UK or most of the Commonwealth.  Each one has a (tiny) exploding strip inside that runs the length of the cracker.  You hold one end of your cracker out to the person next to you, and each of you takes one end a pulls.  The strip breaks with a loud "CRACK!" the cracker is pulled apart, and your prize, your crown and your joke tumble out. The prize gets laughed at, the joke is told to your family, and the crown goes on your head for dinner.  (Best joke out of a cracker this year: What do you call a broken boom-a-rang?  A stick.) 

Why are people pointing at each other in that picture?
We are dancing and singing. We are that kind of family.  That would be during "Sweet Caroline" Which in part has the lyrics "reaching out… touching me….touching you…" which should explain everything, including the apparent groping.

What’s that big fish with Hank?
Air Swimmer Remote Control Inflatable Flying Shark. Yes.  It’s that cool. We all should have thrown our gifts in the bin once Ken gave him that.  No competing with it.

Who’s the pregnant lady?
That’s my sister in law Katie. I’ve got to start her blanket. 

Is that Amanda with tools?
Damn straight it is.  She’s 22 and just moved into her own place. Seemed obvious.

Now, if you don’t mind, today is the 4th day of Christmas, and our annual big  party at my Mum’s, and I have a lot of cooking to do.  Wish me luck.  This level of merriment is hard to maintain.

134 thoughts on “Makers

  1. We have Christmas Crackers in Yonkers too! And one year, my Uncle Paddy got a tape measure as his prize. I traded him for it because I figured that straight up stealing wasn’t really in the spirit of things.

  2. send us pictures and enjoy Day 4! 🙂 (and this post reaffirms why i will offer after school art club again this year. Go crafty people!)

  3. I think that handmade is always way better, my kids took pictures for each of the grandparents! We are done Christmas! It’s exhausting but fun!

  4. It is so great to see the result of your crafty time with them! I know I learned the value of making from my mom and hope I can pass it on to my boys the way you have to your girls.

  5. I am all teary-eyed by Sam’s needles. (I have no idea what a niddy-noddy is……….) I know you will treasure the mugs and needles. Well done.

  6. Handmade gifts are the best! And those knitting needles look delicious.
    I knitted quite a few this year, next year I hope to learn electronics!
    If I ever do end up with lots of money, I hope I’ll continue to make gifts too.

  7. Ah, the joy of crafty children! And your time invested in teaching them that they *can* make things with their very own hands was only a small fraction of the time they’ve spent watching you do that very thing. They were, in a most fortunate sense, doomed to be makers by nature and by nurture. You are an amazing mom and they are amazing girls!

  8. I am so glad to see that we aren’t the only family that gets a bit nutty when we get together and has a way with being crafty. This year we are moving so there isn’t a tree or decorations. HOWEVER, my DD who is 15 and too cool for most things made a paper chimney and fireplace to put our stocking under and used a tiny lit up tree to place our presents under. It was the very best decorating I’ve seen in years.

  9. What wonderful gifts. Kids pick up on so much. Just when you are questioning who they will become as an adult, they blow your mind with something fantastic. Good job mom!

  10. Who’s the hottie?,Paul Newman look-alike?
    Love the hand-made presents (esp. the knitty related ones!)

  11. I LOVE that Amanda got tools. Girls need tools too! (This year brought me a jigsaw, Dad likes buying me tools)
    Crafty/other skills presents are a wonderful thing. Last year my brother wrote me a computer program. Which was an incredibly special (and very useful!) present.

  12. Love the painted mugs–so elegantly done! And the woodwork is also stunning. Your girls are awesomely crafty.
    How are you handling another kiddo moving out?

  13. We gave all manners of handmade items this year. We did ceramic tile coasters, scented bath salts, a few hats, cocoa mix, and jewelry. I think I got more raves over those items than anything (except the fancy coffee maker, because lets face it, it’s coffee). My kids helped make several of the items and were proud to hand out their gifts. Even if I had a budget 3 times what I did, I would still make gifts. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

  14. Oh, I love the handmade gifts! How beautiful and creative and personal. I don’t even play chess, but that chess set is so wonderful- if somebody gave me one, I might try to learn!

  15. Did you know that in England some shops make you prove you’re over 18 to buy crackers because they have “explosives” in them? My cousin couldn’t use the self checkout at Tesco because he had to show someoen ID.

  16. I remember being that broke growing up with my mom. Every year we baked tons of cookies and decorated them. One year we made wild black berry jam. This year because I was broke I hand spun most of my gifts and made something for my relatives. It always blows them away what I can do with mere fluff

  17. Those are amazing gifts that your girls crafted…so much better than storebought!!! But really, one couldn’t expect anything less coming from such a crafty-mama!

  18. One year my #2 wanted a Cabbage Patch Doll more than anything in the world. A friend of my mother’s was dying of CA and her son-in-law flew in from Japan to say his goodbyes with very specific instructions from the friend not to come without a doll for #2 and the dear man flew with it on his lap from Japan. #3 & #4 also want a doll so I made two of them. Then my #1 daughter [10 years older than #2] said she also wanted one. I stayed up two nights in a row finishing that one as she was of an age that she did not go to bed until 10:00PM at that time. Her comment? “There is a Santa Claus”

  19. You are right that you taught them well with the handmade gifts. I always include some cool handmake-able items on my wish list, not just for those in the family running low on dough, but also because I miss having all of my family close by and each thing they give me is a little piece of them.

  20. Although my boys were very thoughtful this year for Christmas, I so ENVY you your daughters and their crafty talent. Most boys just don’t fly that way. My youngest did write a song for his great grandmother once.

  21. Oh my gosh – I thought everyone had crackers. And speaking of handmade, my parents forgot to buy crackers and realised the night before Christmas, so my sister cut up the innards of a roll of wrapping paper, grabbed some small items from round the house as gifts, and some left over wrapping paper and made six crackers in the 2 hour drive up on christmas day. And we all shouted BANG when we pulled them. Amazing. The downside being that she’ll now have to do it every year as they were much better than bought ones.

  22. LOVE home made. I will file the reindeer idea for grand children. I want to be the fun, cool grandparent, when it ever happens.
    That Ken is a stinker. Great gift.
    Girls with tool, SCORE.

  23. Children can be more creative if given less stuff, and your darlings just proved my point. They made fabulous gifts straight from the heart, which mean all the more to everyone.

  24. I don’t think there will ever be a time when I am so rich I won’t want to make gifts (supposing I ever get rich at all!) Yes, it’s nice if you can afford the fancy electronics and fashionable clothes the kids put on their lists, but giving something handmade and unexpected really adds to the shine of the whole occasion.
    This year I made hats, socks, scarves, sweaters, cowls, a spa headband and washcloth, mittens, wrist-warmers and a baby cocoon. Since I also paint, crochet, cook, sew, make jewellery and make soap, I am pretty much able to cover all the bases with handmades. Hence the handpainted jewellery box I made for my son to give to his girlfriend. Everyone LOVED the handmades, which is gratifying. Nope, no plans to quit that any time soon. The boys aren’t crafty but they do appreciate crafts – my son gave me a great gift when I was knitting a baby sweater and he watched for a while and then said “Mom, you never cease to amaze me with all the things you can do!” (I cried)

  25. Ditto the other great comments! You’re a great Mum! I’m trying to teach those same sentiments but never would have thought of the mugs and chocolate spoons! Now we have ideas for next year!

  26. WOW!!!! Not only can Meg and Amanda draw beautifully, but they did it on a MUG! I can’t draw on a flat piece of paper. And I’m blown away by the woodworking Sam did. The chess set is clever and unique. But it was the knitting needles that brought a tear to my eyes (I’m not kidding). One of the most amazing gifts I’ve seen some make for another person.
    Your girls are an inspiration and do the family very proud!

  27. We have Christmas crackers in the US, as well, they’re just not as widely known. This year we had “musical” ones, where the crowns were printed with music and the “prize” in each one was a little whistle. All the whistles had different tones and numbers on them and you were supposed to have one person “conduct” and point to people in a special order so you could play carols.

  28. Wonderfully creative presents. Homemade presents or cookies have an intangible quality that makes them so special. It must be the good thoughts that do into their creation. Thank you for sharing!

  29. Did you know that “Sweet Caroline” was written by Neil Diamond for Caroline Kennedy? And it is sung at every Boston Red Sox home game. We love that song in New England.

  30. Very cool!
    Families who “make” and value handmade gifts have rich rewards!!
    Your posts this year have made my holidays better, thank you, Steph.

  31. A great reminder of why working with our hands is such an important skill to have learned along lives road. Perfect oct to remind us all . . . homemade gifts are simply the best!

  32. That brought a small tear to my eye. I love that your broke but crafty girls made Christmas happen. I am endeavoring to teach my own littles the same thing, since we are chronically broke too. Enjoy your day!

  33. It’s a thrilling moment, isn’t it? That instant when you realize that your children were actually paying attention. That you managed, in spite of everything including whining, begging, threatening, pleading and nagging, to instill a sense of values in your children. That what you thought was going un-noticed was really sinking in. That – oh the horror – they are a whole like their parents after all. It almost makes those awful teenaged years worthwhile. Almost.

  34. What a beautifully inspiring post!
    It was a tough Christmas, for sure, and one that reminded me that I intensely dislike the rabid commercialism of the holidays. I made a few gifts as time allowed, but I think after this year I’m bowing out of buying a darn thing.
    I probably should get started now. 🙂

  35. Would you adopt me into your family before next Christmas? My family didn’t have near as much fun as yours did.

  36. Tools for girls rule!
    The handmade gifts are lovely, and truly the best. Making gifts teaches so many things, and they are so full of love.
    Thanks for such an enjoyable post.

  37. I come from a family of makers on the male side – Grandpa made furniture and leather-worked accessories, my dad made furniture and now carves beautiful figures, and my brother makes all kinds of art, most recently woven paper collages and hand carved animals. I’m the main “girl” craft maker although my sister also knits. It’s the handmade gifts that really resonate, isn’t it?

  38. So, I have to ask – did you cry over those gifts you received??? Maybe you are not a crier, but I would have cried for joy. What lovely thoughtful gifts. I was always told a hand made gift would be loved more than a store bought gift. I don’t know if that’s true for those that have received my gifts, but I know I certainly cherish every gift that’s ever been made and given to me.
    Happy 4th Day of Christmas.

  39. My family loves Christmas Crackers! Something that everyone can share in and enjoy. Even the youngest gets to wear a crown. I gave out tins of cookies for gifts to friends this year – Nine pounds of butter used through the months of November and December.

  40. Good luck with the cooking!! It will be awesome. My dinner is Boxing Day and as much as I love doing, I’m always glad when it’s done.

  41. Over the years I’ve done the porcelain marker mugs (mine looked nowhere near as good as those), painted T shirts, made jellies and jams and painted plastic buckets for gardening grandparents. It is hard if the family you married into think store bought is always best and hand made is only any good if you bought it. I can’t work the last bit of that out, I can sell stuff for someone else to give but it’s worthless if I give it myself. They get boughten stuff, my time goes to people who will appreciate it.

  42. I want to say three things: I have enjoyed your postings leading up to and over the holidays VERY much. I especially liked the “knitting is binary” bit and I want to put it on a tee shirt someday. I want to thank you for encouraging people to donate to MSF. And I want to wish you a wonderful and productive and joyful 2012. That’s actually a bit selfish, you see. I want you to keep on being articulate and smart and outspoken and also I love to look at your amazing output of beautiful knitting. Happy New Year to you and yours. I love reading your blog.
    (Oh yeah. And thanks for the notes from way back on the edges of the Noro striped scarf. Was unhappy with the edges of mine and felt I had read you discussing it somewhere. Searched and found! I love it when you explain things.)

  43. My 10 year old DD made me an orifice hook out of a wire bracelet she broke. Perfect little pink metal hook, exactly the right length and size of bend and with a hanging loop made from a plait of her own handspun. I cried over it, yup.
    The USA doesn’t have Christmas crackers???? Who knew???

  44. I love seeing your crafty daughters at work. The different items they put together made me cry with that strange joy (especially strange, because it isn’t like they are my own (nonexistant) children) of seeing someone take an idea and move with it beyond expectations.

  45. As Winnie from the UK mentioned in an earlier comment, my husband here in the US also had to show his driver’s license before purchasing this year’s Christmas crackers. He was told it was because they have “gunpowder” in them. Sigh.
    Love the handmade needles. What a treasure.

  46. Ooh, lovely gifts. I am in awe of the needles. Handmade is always the best. We’re a family of makers too. This year we got a bag of homemade jams and pickles from DD & DIL2. I made olive oil soap and crocheted soap sacks from Christmas dinner table favors. I nearly bought crackers but resisted. Next year.

  47. About Christmas crackers: they were a tradition in my home. It became more fun when we discovered you could buy the snappers –the things that make them go “bang” Saw them yesterday at Michaels, for anyone interested.

  48. Dance one for me, girl. (Is it that Joe Don’t Dance, or does he just dodge cameras? I know where my money is, but don’t really know.)
    And that Air Shark is getting bought for SOMEone.

  49. Love crackers – one year my mum bought a kit to make them herself. She also made the little gifts inside. I must look for something like that……..

  50. My mom would set aside a few dollars each month and buy baking supplies in November or December and we would bake tons of cookies for everyone. I want to start that next year with my daughter, especially as I now have 5 nieces and nephews on my husbands side. Can’t wait for her to be big enough to do crafts.

  51. What wonderful gifts! They’ll be kept long after store bought gifts have been tossed out. Christmas crackers are not unknown in the states. We always had them when I was a very small girl back in the early 50’s. I have meant to buy them every year & forgot. This year I discovered a place that has a set of 8 which contain little whistles that are all tuned differently & with the music for Christmas carols. Unfortunately I didn’t discover them in time to order but I may just order some now for next year. My grandsons both take violin & my son in law plays guitar. I think it might be even more popular than this year”s cookie decorating.

  52. My daughter is a nun, so she has NO money–absolutely none. But, she says nun gifts are fun gifts, so on her visit home, she picked out photos she treasures that still adorn her room, wrapped them, and gave them to her father and me. It was touching.

  53. I made crackers as a program with the kids at the library this month and as soon as I saw that picture, went “Darn! Forgot the hats!” They mostly loved making confetti with my collection of craft punches, anyway 🙂

  54. What lovely gifts! My handmade stuff went over better than anything else. I knit my brother a beard as his job does not allow facial hair. The cell phone pics that came to me all day were hilarious!

  55. thank you so much for this post. my family and I are experiencing some ‘lean years’ right now (like much of the world I think), and this year we decided to only shop for our kids, keeping the budget small. we both got a single gift for each other. I spend the rest of the time in the kitchen baking and canning, and knitting gifts for friends and family. their faces lit up so brightly when i gave them homemade hot chocolate mix, or peppermint bark, or cookies, and I felt so much joy over the giving. It really reminded me what the season was about, and quite possibly the best Christmas I’ve ever had in my life. Knowing that my boys might take on this tradition themselves makes me feel even better about it.
    Thank you again!

  56. I think that is wonderful teaching! It is interesting that when you are in the process of distracting children so you are driving each other nuts they actually LEARN something that sticks with them. I am in awe!

  57. I love the niddy noddy and the needles! Also, I gave my little sister hand tools when she went to college. She was the most popular kid in her dorm. (cuz hammering in a nail is way easier when you have a hammer)

  58. When I moved into my own house (after my divorce, so it was MY house and not my husbands’s), my father came to visit, fixed a few things, taught me how to fix a few things, and bought me power tools.
    Best. Gift. Ever.

  59. Nifty Christmas Craft—Save for next year.
    1. Buy boxes (more than you think you would need) of clear glass ornaments. (michael’s, Joann’s, etc.
    2. Buy a bottle of floor wax.
    3. Collect containers of glitter in whatever colors you like. (At our library we buy it by the lb.)
    4. Remove caps from glass balls.
    5. Pour floor wax (1 tablespoon?) into ornament, swish around so that the inside is coated with the wax, and empty into designated trash container.
    6. Quickly pour some glitter (1 tablespoon?) into the ball and swish around quickly and thoroughly. The object is to coat the inside of the ball. Empty excess glitter into something.
    7. You can keep the caps off for a while so that the interior dries, or you can put the cap back on immediately.
    8. They were a huge, huge hit at our Make-And-Take.
    9. I suggest you make some sacrificial ornaments for practice.
    19. You will have SO MUCH floor wax left over.

  60. Bravo! Bravo Meg, Amanda and Sam! Wonderful talents and presents. And, thank you Ms Stephanie for all the lovely posts this past year, and especially the gifts for knitters series. I longed, unreasonably so, for a blue yarn bowl. And LO! received one as a present from someone who neither knits nor saw your blog (hard as it is to believe there are such people). Must be the vibes in the airways.

  61. Just went and bought Christmas crackers to put away until next Christmas for the grandchildren. Your blog reminded me that we had these as children too but it seems they’ve disappeared down here in the US. Have fun at your party.

  62. Steph, your kids are just flat-out amazing. What wonderful gifts – and now I want a niddy-noddy, whatever that is, just because of the name.
    In the US, Costco has Christmas crackers!

  63. This post made me seriously teary – I hope someday that I can teach my own kids to value homemade as well as you’ve taught yours. Nice work.

  64. That chess set is really, really cool. I love the simplicity and beauty of it. I also love how it leaves the door open for renaming the pieces whatever you want. Well done, Sam. Very well done. I might be making a set of my own.

  65. Ok, this one has me a bit speechless. WOW, i’m impressed and shouldn’t complain about getting a very small gift this year since we are doing OK finally in the money department and i have a wonderful family of my own as well.
    Thanks for sharing yours with all of us! Here’s to continued Merrymaking and a Happy New Year! Can’t wait to host knitting this Sunday at our house!!

  66. Your mug was in ‘your colours’!
    Brava for their ingenuity, and from whence it came.
    Great post – thank you.

  67. Somewhere along the way, amid the struggle, your family got it quite right, and I’m quite jealous and awe-inspired. Sadly, my immediate family (all male) have no appreciation for anything handmade (from food to crafts/knitwear/quilts), despite my efforts to raise my children with just such an appreciation. If it’s not electronic, in their books, it’s not worth mentioning. Maybe you could write a book on fixing such “wrongs” in society? I would buy it.

  68. I think you better get cracking on that blanket for Katie. She is further ahead on her project than you are on yours!

  69. A niddy-noddy is a tool that is used by handspinners to take the spun yarn off the bobbin to turn it into a skein for dyeing/washing/drying. You secure the end of the yarn to one arm and then take it up, across, around, down and back, and as you are doing this you will notice that you are swivelling the wrist of the hand that holds the niddy noddy back and forth, back and forth. Up and down, up and down, just like one of those “nodding donkey” type oil wells you see all over the place in Alberta. It goes nid-nod, nid-nod, hence the name. They are not horrendously expensive to buy; but of course you have to find a spinners’ supply place or order online. To have one made for me as a gift would be the stuff of dreams!

  70. OMG you got an airshark!!!!!!!!! I wnated one so badly… next year!!
    PS: handmade is the only way to go.

  71. I am so jealous. I would love to do a handmade Christmas. My husband’s family would turn up their noses as they have in the past when I was a newbie in the family and made things like fudge, and knitted scarves. I hate how they expect so much money to be spent on them! (We were supposed to do a Yankee swap this year; they showed up with presents for everyone anyway — then looked at my hands only holding the yankee swap gift, and gave me that “you blew it” look!)

  72. Awesome gifts. A lot of work and time must have gone into them too.
    – Some craft stores sell packages of ‘snappers’ for making Christmas crackers.

  73. Every girls should have her own tools!
    I’m extremely jealous of the lovely hand-made items, makes christmas more special, doesn’t it?

  74. Oh, Stephanie, the tears just welled up in my eyes seeing all those beautiful hand-made things. Damn right you should be proud of your girls. You raised them up right. What a Christmas to remember! (I so wanted to get those Air Swimmers for my nieces and nephews but got them books instead. Still waiting for the reactionary explosion of joy on that.)

  75. That chess set is probably the coolest thing I have seen all year! Please let you daughter know. Merry Christmas to you all!

  76. I wont talk about the Flying F@*K I saw somewhere. And after seeing one in action on Youtube,,, I really was thinking of getting hubby one. But since he doesnt give one (one way or the other), I saved my money.
    First thought that I had once I saw the Flying Shark!

  77. I got a tool set my first year in my own place and it was amazing. My first birthday in my apartment my mom joked that it looked like a bridal shower and I loved those dishtowels.

  78. Wow, what great presents from the girls. I love the knitting mug. Does the maker take orders? Also How does one create/make knitting needles? I would think the sizing and such would make it extremely difficult. Again, does the maker take orders? Thanks for the links for the various homemade goodies, I’ll be checking them out as soon as I hit Post.

  79. Oh1I love those Knitting needles.
    You never have to worry about me showing up in Canada and stealing them though.Im too far away.
    Just Kidding,Id never do that.
    My sons are really artsy,but the one who is the more so Wont.Dont know what went wrong.
    Happy New year ,Yarn Harlot.

  80. I knit Christmas crackers this year – they were a huge hit (found the pattern on ravelry). Unfortunately, the Michael’s store in our area was unable to get the snappers in this year (they always have in the past) so we said SNAP when we opened the crackers.

  81. The best gifts are handmade – no question! Oh, and you did know that someone was going to ask for your Pistachio Lemon Biscotti recipe, didn’t you?? Sounds amazing!

  82. We have been semi-poor for nearly all of the 38 Christmases since we married, hence many, many handmade gifts over the years. Our nieces and nephews still remind us now and then of our first Christmas, when they all (around 25 of them at the time) got a handmade Christmas gift from us…yarn dolls changeable outfits for the girls and marbles and marble bags for the boys. What a fun year that was! 🙂 Thank you for the reminder of what’s really important.

  83. Oh my word. Your girls…are…so…talented!! The apples sure did not fall far from the tree! Happy New Year! Thanks for inspiring me with every post you write.

  84. Right after Xmas I took my Computer to the fixit Lab and as I dug the mini hard drive out of my bag the fabric I was taking to a quilting workshop fell out. I explained what it was and the young tech clerk proudly showed off his sweater that his sister had knit as a Xmas gift. I told him that I would love to send her a note telling her how he shared the joy of her gift with a customer. Then from your blog I told him how long socks took to make and that he was in his sister’s thoughts as she knit hours and hours on his sweater. He expression changed as he thought that through and expanded the gift. Thanks Steph for sharing the joy.

  85. DH just corrected me. Actual wording of the Best joke out of a cracker this year was: Why did the bull wear a bell? Because her horn didn’t work.

  86. Handmade gifts RULE and are always the most treasured when people gift them to me (and hope they feel the same!)
    Already have a short list of things to make for next season because NEXT YEAR I will be very organized, ahem, then.

  87. Handmade gifts are lovely. We do them all the time.
    The thrift shop is a nice alternative for people who are broke to find good presents.
    Also “Five Below”. Have that in Canada?
    Discount bookstores also rock.
    Just my two cents.

  88. Very fun – and sorry to be a Grinch – but please, people – haven’t you ever heard of Christmas crackers? Don’t you read books? Haven’t you travelled? Don’t you watch tv? Come on now……

  89. I hardly ever leave a comment although I regularly read your blog. You have given your daughters the most precious gift – the joy of creating things. Well done you for raising such amazing girls.

  90. I was wondering if a babyblanket had to be started, finished or was already finished, now I know. Would Prince Philip have had a cracker in hospital, you always see pictures of members of the Britisch Royal family wearing the hats at dinner. I wish you and all yours a happy 2012 and all your good hopes to be fullfilled manyfold (well, maybe not more then one baby for your SIL, two could be nice though). It is remarkable that little things you took for granted when doing them turn up to be loved memories (and even copied) by your grown-uo children, must have done something really well after all, like you.

  91. In our family we celebrate Solstice by exchanging handmade gifts or service. It does require that the giver put more thought into the gift. My favorite gift to date I recieved last year from my, then 13 yr old son. He rigged up a pulley system so that I could easily bring boxes etc up and down, into and out of the attic space above our garage. It was ingenious and I was so proud of him. And all it cost him was the price of 2 pulleys from the hardware store. The rest was made from an old swing (seat and chains) found in the garage.

  92. Three cheers for your Three Wise Daughters! The gifts they made are stupendous. (And the basic undecorated mugs were a good choice for ones to decorate — I have several that various museums had decorated and then sold to commemorate special exhibitions!)
    And an extra cheer for “Uncle Ken” on his choice of a gift for Hank! The coolest uncles — whether by blood, marriage, or just because — always know the perfect gifts for their neicephews. (I know this because my niecephews have deemed me “coolest uncle” several times.) Ken really came through on that this year!

  93. Oh, I forgot one thing: girls and boys need tools when going to live on their own. Like the b and d’s for hammering, drilling etc., they should leave with a moving-dowry existing of a first aid kit (it is astonishing how many cuts and scrapes moving house takes) and a helping-hand-sewing-kit, to mend little clothing disasters. It should contain a few sewing needles, at least black and white sewing yarn and three of their loved clothes solours, no need to buy spools, just wind a few yards, maybe 5, on a piece of cardboard, a pair of small scissors (they will cut paper with big ones and unsharpen them) a few safety pins and a few buttons in different sizes, maybe a 4 inch piecee of Velcro and a cardboard note with website adresses containing videos of how to’s, because they will have forgotten you showed them how to sew on a button or close a ripped seam, All of this put in a brightly coloured tin, like a penciltin. Saves them from stapling loose seams, the staples do show brightly. You should think the cost of sewing needles and a spool of yarn is the same as a ticket from Alaska to Moskou, so better have them prepared, boys and girls, for small disasters. Yes, they will be in demand by owning bandd tools and these kits, no better way to make friends then being helpfull.

  94. WONDERFUL gifts. My husband made me two pairs of double points, out of carbon fiber!!!! They are virtually indestructable. My best present this year.
    I can’t believe *everyone* doesn’t use Christmas crackers! I didn’t realise it wasn’t a worldwide thing. They are one of my favourite parts of Christmas 😀 This year my sister made ours, and each little item inside was individually made for each person. Loved it.

  95. Wow, what amazing presents! You must be very proud!
    And I too, am shocked that not everyone knew what Christmas crackers were!

  96. Those presents are truly spectacular!
    I would like to thank you for your presents for knitters series this year. It will be for ever after my recommendation to my family for present ideas for me. I received 2 skeins of Koigu yarn in Merino and silk – which I carry with me all day while I dream of what to make with it.
    And to Dutch Margeet – I am sure the Royal Family will have had crackers. We are always taught here in the UK that the custom originated with our Hanoverian kings and was made unbelievably popular by Victoria and Albert. For an extreme version, watch this programme.
    This is only available for a few days and is aimed more at men (the programme is called Manlab) but is great fun to watch.

  97. I made each of my four boys a pair of “skully’ fingerless mitts for Christmas. We had unusually warm weather for December in Ohio, but they all wore their mitts all day! Coolest part of the day, was watching the little ones open presents their big brother had bought them, ON HIS OWN AND WITH HIS OWN MONEY!!

  98. I am in that broke stage right now. I have been for several years. Luckily for my family, my knitting is getting better, so their gifts are getting better. I really should get the kids involved in making presents for everyone as well. I definately will next year.

  99. We have had Christmas Crackers every year since my parents lived in England for a stretch in the early 90s. They are awesome and we look forward to them every Christmas day. If you live in the US, you can usually find them for a good price at places like Marshalls or TJ Maxx around the holiday. We also wear the hats throughout dinner. It’s fun!

  100. Glad you and yours had a lovely Christmas. Looking forward to the party pics. BTW, I donated $20 to KWB/MSF. End of year good mojo.

  101. You should/must be so very proud!! You sure did something right! And, won’t those girls pass this stuff on to their offsprings (one day)??? Yep, you sure did something very very right!! Wishing you and your lovely family a new year filled with good health and happy times….

  102. Such a lovely and talented family. You have every right to be proud.
    Very cool to give Amanda good household tools. I would have been over the moon at her age if any of my relatives had given me a drill set or other good household tools when I got my first apartment.
    Flying shark? Beyond cool.
    And may I remind commenters that the word “tool” is not limited to “construction tools?” Just about everything that one uses to manipulate another object is a tool — knitting needles, spoons, scissors, etc. “Tools” does not mean “construction and woodworking tools most commonly used by men” any more than “knitting” means “a pastime for great-grandmothers.”

  103. Funny story – I moved from Indiana to England in 1990 for a few years (work related move). I met and made a really good friend there – she’s from Baltimore. That first Fall/early Winter we were getting ready for the holidays and money was tight so we took a class at the local school called “Christmas Crafts & Crackers”. Imagine how disappointed we were when there weren’t snacks involved! That’s when we learned the other definition of crackers!

  104. My family decided to make one of our gifts for each person this year. It was so fun to think of things to make for everyone (some of the making was not so fun, but I survived). Even my 7-year-old twin niece and nephew got in on the act!
    The gifts Sam made for you choked me up. Such thoughtful gifts–you can tell that she loves you. You have raised some wonderful women, Steph.

  105. OK, these presents are amazing! You did a great job teaching your girls. Handmade presents are the best, hands down. So full of love. 🙂

  106. I lived in France for a year in the mid 80s after I finished college. Met 2 girls there from England, and spent the Christmas holidays with their families since I didn’t have the money to fly home. Louise had mentioned Christmas Crackers, and I looked everywhere on the table for a package of saltines. My next surprise was Yorkshire pudding. I had read about it in All Creatures Great and Small and wanted to try it. Imagine my surprise that it is bread and not a smooth, creamy dessert! Still yummy! Oh, and I made all my gifts for the two amazing families who took in a homesick foreigner during a special family celebration.

  107. What wonderful gifts! I have always thought the gifts you make are very special because much more thought goes into them not to mention a part of you because of the time spent making the gift. I used to make something for almost everyone on my list, but over the years had gotten away from it. This year with times being harder, I went back to making some things. Even my two children made some gifts. My daughter is learning to make soap and made some for her brother. My son mulled wine and brought it to Christmas dinner. I am going to start planning ahead for next year and what I can make as gifts. If I start now, maybe I’ll actually finish. 🙂

  108. Oh my! Such lovely gifts.
    Whenever gifts are personal like that they mean so much more – whether enforced by a need to be thrifty or not.
    Thank you for sharing your family traditions with us. I don’t celebrate Xmas and have always wondered if there are crackers in the crackers (knew about the crown etc – but worried how stale those crackers would be!)

  109. Growing up crafty is a great gift in so many ways. Bravo! Happy New Year to you and yours.

  110. Your artistic ability has definitely been passed down to your lovely daughters – lucky them! No wonder you’re so proud of them. Your family stories always leave me with such a warm feeling -perfect this time of year!

  111. Your children are treasures, and you’ve taught them well. I’m blown away by the beauty of the presents they created for you.
    This past Christmas was my first truly “broke” one, and I’m 48. New experience for me. I’m crafty, but I was so sure I wouldn’t have the money to even travel to see my family that I didn’t think ahead to presents (for some reason, our family is all “show up if you want your gift” and not so much “we’ll mail it to you”).
    When I discovered I could swing the travel, it was too late to whip up creative gifts for seven people, so I’ll admit to resorting to my Home Depot card for the bulk of it and baking and scavenging my own stash for items. All were well received, and I’m already thinking about next year, though I intend to be back to the “wealthy” side by then.

  112. My son and daughter-in-law could only visited us for 1 1/2 days right before Christmas (the only way our travel schedule and daughter-in-law’s work schedule could be meshed and that is another story). I told my husband about 1 day before they arrived that I thought it would be fun to make a gingerbread house as my son and I had done (when I was a single mom). My husband said, “Don’t start making plans for them. (He’s thinking museums and lots of cool things in Tulsa, OK) Mike may have liked that when he was in elementary school, but he’s 28 and married now.” We picked them up and headed for a great local place to eat and I said…casually… “I thought it might be fun to make a gingerbread house.” My son and daughter-in-law both chimed in with yes. Apparently my son had been telling his wife some of our past traditions.
    We ‘cheat’ and use a box. Cover it with grahme crackers and the roof with vanilla wafers all glued on with royal frosting. Then as many candies as we thing appropriate, some do get eaten. We found a wrapped chocolate Santa and reindeer to go on the roof. Little ginger bread people had snowforts of mini marshmallows while another made a snowman out of regular size marshmallows. It was great. The only sad thing was my daughter-in-law took pictures during the construction (I got a few after it was done.) and then she accidently washed the camera in her jeans.
    My son also had me help on a secret project he was making for his wife. It is going to be fantastic when it is done. He does need to working on his timing as there was no way the final finished project is going to be done for a few weeks. lol
    We had great fun! What is that saying, “Raise a child in the direction you wish them to go…”? I hope you keep writing for a long, long time. You crack me up with your humor. Happy New Year

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