Handmade for Christmas ….aka My Thought Process

The most common type seasonal questions I get is “what did they make for Christmas gifts?”, “What did they make for Christmas ornaments?”, “What can I make?”, or “What can my child make?” I get to address this question theme during Preparing for Winter at GCVM coming in a few weeks.

Luckily, period writers help us out with these questions. I’ve shared a few of these over the years:
Jennie Juneianna: Talks on Women’s Topics by Jennie June. (Boston: Lee and Shepard, 1864) has several passages referencing gifts for the Christmas season. “Gifts that Little Girls Can Make” recommends toilet cushions and scent bags.
Christmas Day” includes a few paragraphs illustrating which family member will be gifted what. (Note: I shared this in two parts.) “The Season of Gifts” discusses the cost and meaning of gifts.
A list of gifts for gentlemen and particular occasions from Treasures in Needlework; Comprising Instructions in Knitting, Netting, Crochet, Point Lace, Tatting, Braiding, and Embroidery, by Mrs. Warren and Mrs. Pullan. (London, 1855)
From later in the century, I have excerpts from “Gifts for Women for Christmas” by Francis E. Lanigan and “Homemade Christmas Ornaments” from 1881, out of Cassell’s Household Guide.

Knowing the connection people had with the velvet strawberries a few years back, I am drawn to the desire of recreating that. The small, textured strawberries with up-close details don’t fit in the unique interpretive needs of this season. This year calls for finding items that can not only be seen, but can also spark a connection from a distance. Knowing no single item will spark the connection a strawberry did, I picture a variety of items. Preliminarily, this list of display items includes:


  • Slippers (completed and in process)
  • Purse (Long purse, aka miser purse)
  • Wallet
  • Pen-wipers (need to find a pen for explanation)
  • Pincushion
  • Toilet cushion
  • Medium size workbox (?)

Starting with the pincushion and toilet cushion, This could be one of the segmented cushions I made up in velvet this past summer. The segmented cushion is a curious looking style that is easy to see. This style opens a connection with other segmented cushions including the pillow pin-ball and the more commonly known puzzle ball, which many people may recall as it became a child’s toy in the latter 20th century. I would need to make a puzzle ball and tighten up the research as it is sprawling. Another connection would be comparing a toilet cushion to a sewing pincushion. This could lead to a visual comparison of size and types of pins, and lead to a discussion of how each was used.

The gift of a pen-wiper can be a role player in an interpretive vignette of gifts for a writer: pen, inkwell, paper, and pen wiper. Standing alone, many penwipers can easily be thought a pincushion. In the company of its fellow writing implements, the pen-wiper prompts question and discussion. The simple pinked circle version happens to be an easy demonstration project that families with children could replicate at home.

A purse and a wallet are a natural pair (though, a purse and a workbag are a tempting pairing as well.) Both are words that we can relate to now, with specific purposes. We can tangibly imagine what goes into each.When the nineteenth century versions present themselves, the question of “what goes inside” can be a fun one.

Slippers seem to come up frequently as recommended gifts, while illustrations for making them abound in the century. This season, slippers may be one of those conduits for connecting where guests are standing to what I am wearing, and…. Cold. While I can not have guests touch this year, I can have them look at where they sre standing: a bare wood floor, and ask how that compares to what their floor looks like at home. I am picturing a discussion on how to keep the feet warm and comfortable.


By default, I will be bringin a sewing box to accompany whichever of the above I will be working one during the day. So, bringing a sewing workbox may be redundant. We shall see.


Published in: on November 5, 2020 at 6:42 pm  Leave a Comment  

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: