Wednesday, July 13, 2011


My oldest son on the day we moved into our new house,
taking that nap that mommy was praying for.

I love handmade gifts. Love... love.. LOVE them.

Looking back, I do not come from a family where handmade or homemade was a byword. My mother cooked mostly from scratch, but I can not remember any kitchen based gifts from her hands, despite the fact that she was a very good cook. On old pictures I see her crocheting or knitting like crazy, but I rarely remember her with a needlework in progress while I was a child, except for one memorable sweater she made for me out of a teenage magazine. That sweater transcends the ages. It is so eighties that recently it became fashionable again! I don't remember anyone else giving handmade gifts either. For some reason, it just wasn't something that was 'done' in those days.

We did get 'needlework' at school, but I was clumsy and the materials we had to work with were so uninspiring. I remember a horrific pillow and a bag out of rather coarse material and a color that honestly reminded me of garbage bags.

The one reminder of my school needlework, and probably the prettiest: my first year sampler.

My first connection with handmade gifts came through my embroidery. Over the years I started to acquire some skill, even though it is still VERY limited compared to some. And I started to give some things as gifts. To my surprise at the time, people seemed really pleased. I started to see something that had just been a personal hobby as a way to actually create things FOR people. Now I am the cobblers wife with holes in her shoes, so to speak. Twenty years of embroidery, and there are only two embroidered objects in my own house: the sampler I made as a child in school and the partially embroidered baptism stole for my youngest son. I love to make things for people. I love to think about them as I stitch. And I love to imagine how blessed they will feel.

That blessing was brought home to me again a few days ago, because of the blessings others have bestowed on me. My little boy came out of bed and wanted to hold on to a bunny. That bunny had been knitted for him, before he was even born, by a wonderful friend in England.

Michael with the little bunny. He got very attached to it after we started to read
"Pat the Bunny"

That same evening, I snuggled up under a queen sized summer quilt. That quilt was made for me by an American friend when I moved into my first tiny studio apartment by myself while still living in Belgium. I remember when it arrived, at my workplace, with all my colleagues oohing and aahing over it. I really wish I had a picture here, because it is beautiful. She made it in colours that would fit with the interior I had chosen for my first little domain.

When my oldest was born, my English friend made this little baby quilt for me. And another little quilt was made by a friend of my mother in law that I have never even met. For my second son, my mother made the cutest little white knitted coat, to which she added Peter Rabbit buttons that I found.

This jacket is so much more adorable in reality than it shows here on the picture.

More and more I find little items in my house that are the work of loving hands. I am always reminded of a quote from Little Women, about Meg: "So she made her wedding gown herself, sewing into it the tender hopes and innocent romances of a girlish heart." When you make something yourself, you give more than the gift itself, you give of yourself, your time, your hopes and wishes for that person... all somehow end up in that gift. And years later, just seeing those items (because they quite often last longer than store bought too) will make you smile. Like that quilt that was made for a little apartment in Antwerp, that was brought with a new bride to the United States, that covered her when she was pregnant with her second child and could not find comfort in a bed, so she ended up on a half inflated air mattress, and that now graces the bed in the heat of summer when the usual duvet is tucked safely away. That quilt is a story.. and a friendship in itself.

Three handmade gifts in one picture:
the pillow on which the boys rest, as well as the purple quilt from which you catch only a glimpse were gifts from my English friend Lesley, the animal quilt on top is a gift from a friend of my mother in law.

The bunny knitted for my second son, the little quilt on which he took a nap during our moving day into our new house, all of these memories become precious, and even more so because they are physically tied in with the love and blessings that friends and family members are.
Oh yes, I love handmade gifts, because they are touchable reminders of the love that surrounds us during our every day life.

1 comment:

Matushka Anna said...

Oh I love handmade things too! I treasure the things that were made for me, the things that were made for my mother and given to me (etc.) and also the things that were made for my children. I tried to always make something, either a quilt or a blanket, for each child before they were born. It was so important to me for each of my children to have something handmade by me that I crocheted the blanket that my last son was buried with. I wanted him to have something just like his brothers and sisters.

Thank you for such a heart-felt post.