This year, our family decided to make homemade gifts with love for Christmas (already exchanged, no spoiler worries!) With the pandemic of 2020 looming over our normal holidays, and us being coasts apart, we thought that it would be nicer to make something from the heart for each other, rather than
spend our limited budgets on more gift cards and useless gadgets.
That meant we had to put on our creative thinking caps. Since I had recently finished a 12-week course in The Artist’s Way and was in creation mode, it was simple enough for me to decide to reconnect to a childhood craft: crocheting.
It has been about 25 years since I last crocheted, and it was amazing how the technique came right back to me. Either that, or I channeled my Nanny, who taught me as a child. I was filled with such warm memories as I took on this meaningful task.
Each item I crocheted for a family member had a meaning.
I first was introduced to the world of crocheting when my Nanny began making me a set of dolls, known as the Dumplin Gang. She made a series of ten different dolls for each of her granddaughters; except before she could begin my youngest sister’s set, she had fallen ill and couldn’t crochet any longer. My other sister, cousin and I each donated one of our dolls to her so that she could have a piece of that tradition, but it wasn’t the same. It wasn’t made for her.
Fast forward to 2020, and anyone familiar with these dolls knows that it is absolutely impossible to find the iconic heads. But, I didn’t need to. Hidden somehow within my craft cabinet were not just one of these ancient doll heads and hands, but TWO. It was a miracle, and it took me all of two seconds to decide that I was going to make my little sister her own doll.
I tried to remember which dolls we had given her, but without tipping her off, it was hard to tell. Instead, I decided to make her a brand new doll that no one ever made before: Orange Marmalade. Her favorite color is orange, and I couldn’t think of a more perfect doll to make for her.
I’ll admit, I fell so in love with her that I almost didn’t gift her (haha). She really was so incredibly precious. And my sister was deeply touched when she opened it.
One gift down, a few more to go.
Next up was my mom. As a teen, I made similar Christmas dolls in the likeness of the Dumplin Gang and sold them at fairs; sets of a boy and girl. Of course, they also made great gifts to my family one year, and even my own still stands among my many traditional and modern Christmas decorations.
Not so coincidentally this past year, I learned that in a family estrangement, my mom somehow lost the boy doll I had made for her. For whatever reason, I kept that in the back of my mind, so when this came up, I knew what I had to make: a replacement. After all, I had another head, so it made sense that I would make another of these dolls.
But I wanted to make it unique to her, so I changed up the pattern with a twist of different colors, and had him holding a candy cane instead of a present. Needless to say, she was touched and the intent to make her cry succeeded.
Last up was my other sister, who had the whole set of dolls, and I was out of doll heads anyway. I was going to just do a special photo album for her, but it didn’t feel right to not crochet her something after putting so much work into the other two gifts. A photo album was digitally done, and even though it would have been made with love, it wasn’t truly with my hands (drag and drop isn’t the same!).
I wanted to make something without the use of a computer.
That’s when I came across a site that sold animal patterns and saw it: the King Charles Cavalier Spaniel pattern—the same breed as her fur-child, Mia.
This one was actually harder to make than the dolls that came back to me naturally. With this one, I was learning loops and other tricks, and I’m not sure it came out all that well. But, it did match Mia, since I used her picture against the pattern to recreate the right coloring. Turns out, Mia is a big fan of her namesake and they like to snuggle.
To watch everyone open these gifts (and receive the same heart-thought-out handmade gifts from them) brought immeasurable joy to our family this Thanksgiving. And although we will not be together for Christmas, we already set the tone for the 2020 holiday season and what matters most: our love for each other.
Whenever you are struggling to find that “perfect gift” for someone, sometimes you don’t need to look any further than your own two hands. Or, those of the local businesses in your area who put their heart and soul into each creation.