The Value of Handmade Gifts

This is an article I wrote a while back for our community magazine last fall. I wanted to share it on the blog as well.

The holiday season is upon us, and people are already beginning to buy gifts to give – if they haven’t started already. Gift-giving is an art form in and of itself, and it takes many factors into consideration: age, cost, usefulness, etc. The best gifts can also remind the recipient about the giver as well, and this is where a unique group of gift-givers excel – the handmade gifts.

It’s a common misconception that handmade gifts are low cost or even “cheap.”  But nothing could be further from the truth.  When someone takes the time to buy/collect supplies and craft an item specifically for a loved one, that takes a personal investment that simply cannot be duplicated in an item purchased from a store.  Not to say that bought items aren’t special because, of course, they can also be cherished.  But there is something about a handmade gift that endures beyond its time and even beyond the item itself.  Some of my favorite pieces of furniture, while not the most attractive, are special to me simply because my great-grandfather made them. And as of the last several years, they are also a lasting memory as the man himself is no longer with me. So what is it about a handmade item that gives it that lasting power? The explanation is more profound than one might first think.

In 1992 Gary Chapman released his book The Five Love Languages. He identifies five areas where people express their love for others as well as how they feel the most loved.  These areas include Acts of Service, Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, and Physical Touch. As a quick review, Acts of Service translate to doing nice things for a person, like washing their dishes or mowing the lawn.  Words of Affirmation simply mean a person likes to be told how much they matter.  Quality time can mean a date or any one-on-one time. My eight-year-old daughter feels most loved when we spend time together, so a trip alone with her to the grocery store can help her feel connected and loved. Receiving Gifts doesn’t mean that a person is greedy – just that a gift, no matter how small, is a gesture that means more than just the item itself.  My sister showed her love to her friends every year as a child by spending her birthday money on Christmas gifts for them.  And she is so very proud when she knows she has found THE perfect gift for someone. And Physical Touch doesn’t have to be overly dramatic.  It could be as simple as hand holding.  My six year old son feels loved if we are sitting beside one another while watching a movie.  As long as some knee or foot is touching me, he feels loved. And while it is possible that some gestures can fall across multiple areas, I can only think of one thing that combines all five.

A handmade gift is unique in that it covers multiple Love Languages.  The act of making it with a specific person in mind, the time spent on designing and crafting it, and even a sweet note accompanying it all touch on multiple routes wherein people feel loved. It says over and over again, “I love you.” A person made this item specifically for that person, spent time on it, made it with their own touch, gave it freely to that person, and it often includes an explanation or sweet note with it.  A handmade gift has the potential to say “I love you” in all five Love Languages. And in that, it is no small feat.

So if you are lucky enough to receive a handmade gift this holiday season, take a moment and realize exactly what you have been given.  It isn’t a mere item or token.  It certainly isn’t cheap. It is the ultimate expression of what it means to love another person from every conceivable angle.  Honor the handmade gift for it was made with love.

Doll Quilts

I’ve been sitting on this project for a while because it would give away a surprise. However, I learned that the gift has been bestowed and was given permission to post away!

I played around with the notion of doll quilts for 18″ dolls and came up with these after finding some diamond cuts left over from a previous project. I’m thrilled they’re being put to use, and I can’t wait to see what all I can come up with on down the road!

I am loving the central star design, but I don’t think I’m ready to make a quilt bigger than this using it. I’ve enjoyed the more traditional look of them, though. They’ve been posted on Etsy already. You can find them by clicking here.

Wine Silhouette Quilts

Update – there are a couple of these now listed in the shop!

Disclaimer – I LOVE silhouettes. I am fascinated by the idea of how something so simple can convey so much, especially with people. I’ve experimented a lot with them in previous quilts: Star Wars lightsaber duels, Disney Princesses, Hocus Pocus, Darth Vader, Luke Skywaker, and Rey and BB8. From there, I began playing with jelly rolls and making some half-and-half images: guitar quilts and viola quilts.

I’ve had a wine-themed jelly roll for a while now and finally figured out how I wanted to approach it. I’m proud to say I free-handed the wine bottle and the wine glass. I added a burgundy border around them to make them more lap quilt size instead of wall quilt size. One of them was claimed pretty quickly, but the other one is still up for grabs.

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Quilt Reconstruction

A friend from church messaged me earlier in December and asked if I might be up for possibly fixing her long-loved quilt that her grandmother made her. I’m friends with the grandmother, and we talk shop about quilts all the time.
She sent me a picture of the original top before the quilt was finished.  It was made of bright 2″ squares and was scrappy in design.  Cute as could be.

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Then she sent me pictures of the back and the damage that had come from pretty constant use.  Once I had my hands on it, I noticed that many of the squares in the front were also shredding.  In fact, the quilt itself had almost been loved to death – the ultimate compliment for any quilter.

The first step was to disassemble the quilt.  This was actually easier than anticipated because it was a tied quilt.  I actually brought a seam ripper with me to my grandmother’s and got to work while she and I were chatting after Christmas. I separated the front from the back and batting and removed any squares beyond repair.

When I returned home, I used squares already cut from my own scrap stash that would blend in easily color-wise. Then I added a layer of white fabric underneath the top. This gave the thin top layer something to “hold on” to and to take the stress of the thread off of that thinner fabric. I found out from a previous reconstruction that it can also help revive some of those faded colors. It did result in a heavier quilt, though, especially since I’d changed it from the original polyester batting to cotton.

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From there, I had to pick a different backing as the store didn’t sell that same pattern anymore. I found one pattern that was closer in color, but it was thinner, and I didn’t want to be right back where we were again so soon.  So in the end, I chose a brighter green pattern that was a bit thicker and would last longer.

The quilting on this one needed to be closer, especially on the squares that still had some damage. I went with a stipple pattern because it would help when some squares needed extra quilting, and it would even out any misalignment from the top being pulled into shape and the old fabric stretching more. Pretty much every square has at least two lines of quilting running through it.

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In the end, I’m pretty proud of it, but I’ll admit I held my breath a bit when I put it in my washer and dryer.  But it turned out fine, and I am confident that it will stand up to many more uses to come.

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Related Blogs and Posts:

DIY Quilt Repair/Reconstruction

Saving the Double Wedding Ring Quilt: Vintage Linens and Trims to the Rescue!

Saving the Pink Fan Vintage Quilt

 

Flower Fairy Quilt

For as long as I can remember, I have loved the late Victorian style fairy illustrations, especially those of Cicely Mary Barker. They were enchanting in their simplicity and dreamy color pallets. This would explain why I couldn’t help myself when I came across a fabric panel featuring three pink flower fairies. I normally don’t use fabric panels in my works, but this was so pretty that I couldn’t resist. I bought this fabric months ago and am only now getting around to using it. I also found some purple fabric that also featured a smaller flower fairy design, but they were more of a nighttime look.

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Originally, I was going to incorporate the purple fabric as a border around the pink panel, but I decided that it just wasn’t complimentary to either fabric. They were both so pretty that they needed their own space. After some quick measuring, I realized I had enough to make the purple fabric the backing to the pink panel.

For the pink panel, I added some greens to accentuate the leaves and then one last pink border to tie it all together.  I wasn’t expecting the corners to be as awesome and picture frame looking as they were, but I’m delighted and might use that design again in other quilts.

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Rainbow Guitar Wall Quilt

Before this set, I have made four other guitar quilts and one viola quilt in the same style. I bought the music fabric at a Black Friday sale (okay, it was really a Black Saturday sale) at JoAnn’s and had been sitting on it for almost a year. I hadn’t quite figured out what I wanted to do, but the idea of another guitar quilt set had definitely come to mind. When I found a jelly roll at JoAnn’s that featured an earthy rainbow pallet, I knew what I would do!

What I love most about the guitar quilts is the fact that if you cut out the guitar carefully then you’ll automatically have two quilts! If you notice, one of this set is the negative of the other. I love it.

I’ll admit that the guitar pegs at the top of this one are a little more “homemade” than I’d like, but I know how I plan on fixing that for next time.

For these, I used wool batting instead of cotton to give them a puffier look and keep the weight to a minimum since they’re going on a wall.  I’m so used to cotton batting that these feel like they weight nothing at all.

In the past, I’ve done a much more detailed quilting design, but since the music fabric already had texture to it, I didn’t want to distract from it.  So I ended up keeping the quilting simple.

These are both for sale, and I’m hoping one of them will sell at the December show I’m doing on the 6th.

Zombie Pinup Girl Lap Quilt

I’d seen this really fun fabric in the Halloween fabric section at JoAnn’s.  It has a soft green background and features retro pinup girls with a slight twist…they’re zombies! It was hilarious to me! However, it was also some of the more expensive quilt fabric I’d seen, especially for JoAnn’s.  Well getting close to Halloween, most of that seasonal fabric went on sale, and at 60% off it finally was at a price I didn’t mind paying for it.

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I decided to work in a soft light pink and a bright hot pink as a nod to fun “girly” colors and lipstick shades.  Since all the figures were different sizes and scales, I knew I’d have to do something that allowed for plenty of variation and didn’t rely on straight lines.

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At first, I just focused on the blocks, getting the figure outlined with plenty of space to play around in.  The smaller squares came as a result of the fabric’s price.  It was so pricey that I knew I didn’t want to waste any, so I started cutting out smaller images from the spaces between where I’d cut the original girls: faces, manicured hands, sassy shoes, and a brain burger were all isolated.

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I liked the idea of bold black lines separating all the images.  I was thinking of some of those older shows and how they would have thick black lines around the words or on the poster itself. Something like The Creature from the Black Lagoon or Attack of the 50 Foot Woman.

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The result of all that black trim was a retro cinema feel with the smaller pieces actually looking like film strip!

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I went in to this quilt with only a vague idea of what I wanted, and I am so thrilled with how the end result looks.  I love it when a quilt helps design itself and surprises me.

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Hocus Pocus Quilt

I have wanted to make this quilt since last year, so I decided to go for it before finishing up some of my other commissions.

I couldn’t find an outright silhouette or image that I liked, so I free-handed them and then made them bigger with a projector.

I went back and forth a bit with what kind of background I wanted to do, and I ended up going with a crazy quilt style because of the hodgepodge feel of the witches themselves and their outfits.

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I was pretty pleased with the backgrounds over all, but there are some choices with the green fabrics that I wouldn’t include next time. I added a black border and quilted in some rough swirls to mimic the cauldron heat.

One last detail I had fun with the adding a cord to Mary’s vacuum since it played a bit of a role near the end of the film.

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For the backing, I went with a black fabric that featured a simple swirl design.  I felt like it was just perfect for the overall feel of the “magic.”

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I am planning to put this one up on the Shop page in a few minutes.  I will also have it up at the next craft fair or so until it sells.

Eagle Scout Quilt

I’ve been sitting on this one for a bit because it was a surprise. In fact, many of the quilts I’ve been working on have been presents, so I couldn’t post about what I’ve been up to.  Hence another factor in the radio silence from me.  This one was presented tonight, so I am free to write about it.  I am so happy to be present when they’re gifted because that usually isn’t the case.

This quilt features the Riley Blake Modern Scouting line.  The center is an Eagle Scout themed panel, and the fabric in the border is all from that line as well.  I did add a burgundy sashing outside the panel as well as around the border to help tone down all of the busy fabric and badges included. I went with a navy backing to tie it all together.  I’m a fan of darker backings, sashing, and borders as I feel like they help maintain some form of control and order with the other fabrics.

This one had about 75 badges I had to include, ranging in size from 1.5″ to 8″ across. They also ranged from Boy Scout badges all the way to the newest Eagle Scout badge. I used invisible thread to sew the badges down.  It went a bit quicker than I thought it would, to be honest.  I pinned them all in place one afternoon while a friend was over, and then I sewed them all down later that week.

The Eagle Scout received this right at the end of his ceremony.  My little Tiger Scout and I went to see it, and I loved hearing all the stories and seeing how much this young man had accomplished.  I am hoping my son picked up some inspiration along the way, but I’m thinking he was pretty focused on food the last 1/3 of the time.

I truly enjoyed both the ceremony and the project.  It was a nice change of pace from the t-shirt quilts, and my kids and I loved looking at the different badges as I worked with them. I didn’t learn until the ceremony that this was a mere fraction of the badges he possessed.  I could have looked through them all afternoon; they were so neat!

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Dog Scarf Quilt

This commission was unique in that it was a memory quilt for a sweet little dog, Munson, who had passed away.  His owner was so sweet, and she loved him very dearly as was evidenced by her getting choked up just talking about him.  Apparently he had a scarf for every occasion: Thanksgiving, Halloween, 4th of July, Christmas, and many other colors and patterns in between.

After taking a look at them, I realized there were so many variations of fabric and size that my options were limited.  The best option to include them all was a crazy-quilt style design.  I sorted the scarfs by occasion and/or color and went from there.  The owner did give me one t-shirt that she wore, so I made it the centerpiece and worked around from there.

I like that she chose a light blue backing.  It reminded me of the sky, and I thought it fitting.  This was also one of the first times I’ve added a label onto the quilt.  Hopefully I can remember to do it more often.

So here it is – the dog scarf memory quilt.  I just love it, and it was wonderful to work with something new.

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