At gift-giving time, take stock of what’s in the tub

Posted Nov. 15, 2010, at 6:12 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 12:54 p.m.

I’m one of those elf types. All year long I make items to give as gifts at Christmastime. I store those things in a plastic tub so I know where to find them when December arrives.

I recently did a quick inventory to see what I had stashed away. The list includes socks, hats, a scarf or two, several crocheted clutch bags, lavender sachets, felt bird ornaments, cloth grocery bags, crocheted grocery bags, crocheted dish cloths and beaded necklaces.

Most of the items in my tub can be made quickly and easily with little or no outlay of cash. Many of the things are made with materials that come from my always excessive stash of fabric, yarn, beads and threads.

Take the clutch purse, for example. I used ribbon yarns or yarn with a metallic thread twisted into it. To make the purse I crochet a starting chain to measure 6 or 8 inches, depending on how large I want the purse to be. Then, skipping the first chain, I single-crochet into each chain across. I turn the work and single-crochet across, and on and on, until the piece measures 12 inches in length. I break the yarn and weave in the cut end.

I fold the piece so the top flap measures about 2½ inches. I sew the sides together.

Then I choose a yarn of a contrasting or complementary color and crochet scallops across the edge of the flap, including a loop that can act as a buttonhole.

I cut fabric to the dimensions of the “pouch” part of the purse, stitch the sides on the sewing machine and, turning the raw edges in, I hand-sew the lining to the purse.

I add a button and there it is, a pretty purse to carry on a night out or a handy place to store special pieces of jewelry or to use as a carryall for doublepoint needles, crochet hooks or other sewing tools.

Making sachets is as simple as raiding your fabric stash, choosing what you like, cutting the cloth into 4½-inch squares, sewing them together into a tiny pillow and filling with lavender, balsam or other nice-smelling stuff. For my sachets I used brown and ecru striped linen. I embellished each square with a small snip of wool hand-stitched in place with a button sewn in the middle. I stacked three together and tied them with a pretty ribbon.

One nice thing about the “tub method” of hoarding stuff for the holidays — I always forget what’s in there, so when I go looking it’s like opening a present.

If making things is not your style, but you know someone who does make things, then books are the answer:

KNITTING AT HOME: 60 CLASSICS FROM ELLA RAE DESIGNS, by Leann Prouse, $24.95.

This book from Sixth and Spring Books contains designs for all manner of things useful in the home, including afghans, pillows, place mats and, my favorite, hot water bottle covers. The book also includes designs for sweaters, slippers, bags, dolls and even a felted fedora. The author assumes that readers already know how to knit so the how-to’s of knitting are not included.

COWLGIRLS: THE NECK’S BIG THING TO KNIT, by Cathy Carron, $19.95.

A cowl is a one-piece ring you wear around your neck to keep out drafts while managing to look off-handedly hip and stylish at the same time. Cowls also can be pulled up from the neck and worn as hoods.

The book offers 41 designs to knit in all manner of yarns from bulky to lightweight. It also includes a hat or two.

Snippets

The Maine Crafts Association based in Dover-Foxcroft is featured in an online resource designed to assist communities in the United States with promoting historic and cultural attractions. The website, www.preservationnation.org/survival-toolkit, is produced by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and supported in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

The website posts profiles of more than 80 communities. The site also provides links to online resources to help cultural and heritage tourism attractions and organizations stay viable during difficult economic times.

Tracy Michaud Stutzman, Maine Crafts Association executive director, said that when the Center for Maine Craft in Gardiner opened in December 2009, there was some concern about the state of the U.S. economy and how that would affect the venture. Fears were unfounded, she said, and the center has attracted more than 100,000 visitors in the past year and now provides more than 70 percent of the operating budget for the association and supports more than 350 artists statewide.

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