Someone’s sneaking down the stairs—it’s only 5:00 A.M.! But it’s Christmas morning. That explains it. You see him carefully rummaging around through the wrapped packages under the tree. There it is—a big, huge bag with his name on it. What is it? He’s been stealing squeezes ever since you slipped it under the decorated evergreen. The bulges inside haven’t given away the secret yet, but now the wait is over, and he gets to open it.
“What a surprise! And I get to do it myself!”
He liked it! What a nice feeling: you gave a gift that was just what he wanted. Is that the reaction you usually get? Wouldn’t it be nice if it were? It’s difficult to find the perfect gift and give it that special “just-for-you” touch that homemade, unique gifts have without a lot of time and expense.
Maybe this idea will help. This gift comes in its own wrapping—reusable for organizing, toting, and storing. Best of all, every time they use your gift, they’ll think of you. What is it? Well, it’s a “Be-Creative-Gift Kit in a Bag.” You (the giver) put together all the parts in a bag, and he or she (the receiver) creates the finished product.
The first thing to do is a little research. There are so many possibilities. Take for instance a towel robe kit. You buy three large bath towels (either all the same pattern or mix and match to make the finished robe exciting and vibrant with colors) and include some thread and easy-to-follow instructions. (The ones we’ve included may be of help.) Or maybe the person you want to give to has a knack for needlework—there’s no end of possibilities here. Give him a canvas on which you’ve drawn a simple pattern of a flower, an initial, one of the temples closest to you, or maybe a special date (a birthday or family holiday), or some favorite saying or scripture. Include enough tapestry yarn in assorted colors (store clerks can help with the amount), two tapestry needles, and a note to convey your Christmas greetings. Listed at the end of this article are other ideas. Let them be a starting place for your own creativeness. But no matter what gift you decide to give, you may find it helpful to follow these guidelines:
1. Use materials that are durable, easily available, and inexpensive. If you can find nice, recyclable things in your home (e.g.: material scraps, wood pieces, remnant yarn, etc.), all the better. The materials used should be of such a nature that the receiver can replace parts if necessary.
2. Remember the abilities and interests of the person to whom you are giving. If he isn’t especially interested in sewing or needlecraft, perhaps a better gift would be a special cookie recipe and the ingredients (dry ingredients like flour, salt, sugar, etc., all mixed in a large fancy bottle and a note that tells how to add the milk, eggs, etc.). If he isn’t very practiced at homemaking skills, maybe the makings of a scripture study program (looseleaf notebook, 3-by-5-inch cards, colored pencils, etc.) or some seeds and planting instructions for a spring vegetable garden would be the ideal thing. To young men preparing for missions it would be fun to give the beginnings of a lightweight, portable recipe file of easy, quick, inexpensive menus. (For extra ideas and good recipes see the 1976 December New Era, p. 19, “Missionary Menus” by Laird Roberts.) Whatever the gift, even if it isn’t the make-your-own variety, fit the gift to the receiver—what would he or she really like?
Now that’s the first part. Next, make a bag from old scraps of material from your sewing remnants. (Young men, this will be easy—just ask your mother what extra material she has you could use, and if she’ll let you borrow her sewing machine to sew some straight seams.) You can piece smaller scraps together or use a solid piece. Burlap or unbleached muslin makes heavy duty, long-lasting, easy-to-decorate bags. The only size requirement is that when it’s finished, the bag should hold all the parts of the gift. Take two oblong pieces of fabric; sew three sides together; hem the fourth, leaving openings for a drawstring (see diagram); insert the drawstring of cord, braided yarn, heavy string, or strips of strong fabric; and finish the edges. If you want to, you can embroider initials on the bag or sew them on in rickrack.
The third thing to do is to write instructions. It would be fun (and most of the time very necessary) to include direct, clear, detailed instructions. If you like to write, think up a short verse or clever paragraph to introduce the gift. If you don’t feel that’s what you want to do, then use the unfancied approach—just say what it is, why you hope he’ll like it, how to make it, and sign your name. You could use large Christmas cards (consider making them yourself) for the instructions or possibly print them on colored paper. There’s another idea, too; you could give as part of your gift some time of your own to personally help with the project.
Now for the promised list of suggestions:
Fishing flies (check with sporting goods stores)
Sleeping bag (2 sheet blankets to hold dacron stuffing when quilted or tied, 80- to 90-inch zipper, rip-stop nylon, or some other heavy-duty material as outside liner)
Towel robe (3 large bath towels, thread)
Wall hangings (scraps of wood or material, glue or thread, pattern)
Vegetable garden (seeds, planting instructions)
Missionary menu file (3-by-5-inch cards, recipes, pen)
Scripture study packet (looseleaf, colored pencils, 3-by-5-inch cards)
Furniture refinishing (talk to a store dealer to decide what will be needed for a specific project)
Cardboard doll house (cardboard, cutting diagram, glue, poster paint, bits of carpet, scraps of wallpaper)
Sock dolls (sock, buttons, yarn, felt, sewing remnants)
Braided rugs (scraps of material, heavy duty needles, strong thread)
Hook rugs (canvas, yarn, hook)
Christmas tree skirts (felt, yarn, sequins, ribbon, needles)
Gingerbread house (ingredients for gingerbread cookies, royal icing recipe, blueprints, candies)
Needlepoint designs (canvas, needles, yarn)
Centerpieces (evergreen trimmings, pine cones, ribbon, tree ornaments, candles, etc.)
House plants (pots, plants, plant food, watering instructions)
Granny square sweater (yarn and needles, or finished squares and instructions for assembling)
Cookies and candies (ingredients, recipes, bowls, etc.)
Candles (paraffin wax, milk cartons, food coloring)
Candles, candies, doll houses, tree ornaments, plants, rugs, study programs, wall-hangings, games, clothes—what a gift list! If you start ahead of time, you can glean even more ideas from store windows, libraries, magazines, sports and hobby shops, and the people themselves. The fun is in the challenge of fitting the gift to the receiver so that he’ll know that it was just for him.
Speaking of creative thoughts, here’s a list of “how to” articles you can find in back issues of the New Era. Each will give you instructions and a list of materials needed.
“Kites” by Ralph Reynolds, March 1972, p. 20
“Mini-garden in a Bottle, or Recycling Is Beautiful” by Elaine Cannon, May 1972, p. 28
“Stitchery Comes to the Point” by Elaine Cannon, August 1972, p. 32
“I Built My Own Telescope” by Paul Skousen, November 1972, p. 44
“Build a House for Christmas” by Vivian Paulsen, December 1972, p. 10
“Christmastime Mexicana,” December 1972, p. 42
“Closet Organization” by Sue Hollingshead, January 1973, p. 44
“Pack It … Don’t Sack It” by Louise Wynn, May 1973, p. 38
“Make Your Own Yogurt” by Kay Bodily, July 1973, p. 50
“Tie Dye and Batik” by Linda Ririe Gundry, August 1973, p. 30
“Vessels of the Lord” by Margaret J. Ellis, September 1973, p. 20
“Do-It-Yourself Jerky” by Max V. Wallentine, November 1973, p. 14
“Sew for Snow” by Mary K. Stout, November 1974, p. 32
“Tie a Quilt” by Carol Clark, December 1974, p. 24
“The Best-Dressed Table In Town” by Mary K. Stout, November 1975, p. 32
“In-Fashion Fun with Old-Fashioned Games” by Helen Felix Izatt, February 1977, p. 30
“Leadership Game,” June 1977, center insert
“Ties,” February 1971, p. 30