Many merry Christmases, friendships, great accumulation of cheerful recollections, affections on each and Heaven at last for all of us.

—Charles Dickens

Christmas Presents from the Past

by Janet Brigham

One hot August afternoon in 1898, Francella Adams bicycled up Brigham Street in Salt Lake City to visit some girl friends. She found them “on the cool, vine-covered porch in thin, fluffy dresses, their fingers daintily drawing bright-colored silks in and out of pieces of linen on embroidery hoops.” She asked them what they were doing, and they replied, “Oh, we are making our Christmas presents.”

Sister Adams recorded the incident in the September 1898 Young Woman’s Journal, a monthly magazine for young women of the Church. Eight years earlier the Journal had begun printing “Fancy Work” instructions at the direction of editor Susa Young Gates. Directions for making many inexpensive items suitable for Christmas presents were subsequently printed in the Journal. Most could be made in a few hours with such common materials as fabric remnants, thread, glue, cotton, snapshots, ribbon, and yarn.

Included in the Journal (and reprinted here with a few revisions) were a needlework bag, a closet sachet, an embroidered handkerchief, a souvenir album, and a Bible bookmark. These can be made by either young men or young women and are as suitable for gift giving today as they were in 1890.

Before you choose Christmas presents to buy or make, consider these remarks from the Journal: “Everything that is beautiful is useful, for it lifts our minds above the ordinary life, and is always refining in its influence; on the other hand, all that is useful is beautiful, too, in its adaptability, and in the dignity of service” (Journal 7, December 1895, p. 142).

Bible Bookmark

Choose a wide satin or velveteen ribbon and embroider a short scripture on it in a contrasting shade of embroidery floss. Fringe the ends of the ribbon by unraveling the crosswise threads of the ribbon.


Embroidered, initialed handkerchiefs were popular during the 1890s. To make one yourself you can use iron-on transfers, patterns you trace on, or you can design your own. Transfers and patterns are available in many variety and fabric stores. If you draw your own design, do it lightly, and then embroider over the design.

Needlework Bag

Make this bag with a strip of fabric 8 inches wide and 1 1/2 yards long. Any sturdy fabric such as pillow ticking, denim, or cotton broadcloth will be suitable. You will also need a strip of a contrasting or harmonizing fabric 5 or 6 inches longer than the first strip to use as lining, and a yard of narrow rope or piping for a drawstring.

Fold the 1 1/2-yard strip of outer material in half crosswise, right sides together. Sew seams in the long edges, press the seams open, and turn the bag right side out. Fold, sew, and press the lining the same, but do not turn it right side out. Put the lining bag inside the outer bag. Fold down the top edge of the lining to the outside, over the outer bag. Turn under the edge of the lining about an inch so no raw edges show. Then by hand or machine sew two rows of stitching around this overlapped lining edge. Since you will thread the drawstring between these two rows of stitching, make sure the rows are separated by at least twice the width of the drawstring.

Carefully clip open the lining seams between the rows of stitching. Cut the drawstring in half. Pin a safety pin to a drawstring half and thread it in one of the seam allowance holes, around the bag, and back out the same hole. Thread the other drawstring half into the other seam allowance hole and thread it similarly around the bag, so that it also comes out the hole in which it was inserted. Tie knots in the ends of the drawstrings and fray the strings below the knots.

Sachet Bag

Several yards of ribbon, cotton, a half-yard drawstring, and scented powder make a pretty and inexpensive sachet bag. You will need two colors of ribbon, two yards of each color. Ribbon up to two inches wide is preferable.

Cut 1/2 yard off each color of ribbon and lay it aside. Divide the remaining 1 1/2 yards of each color of ribbon into five equal parts. Sew the long edges of the ten pieces of ribbon together, alternating the colors. Let the edge of one color overlap in each seam. Sew the two remaining outside edges together so you have a cylinder of ribbons. As the cylinder is laid flat, the strips of ribbon should match at the bottom, so that the same colors meet. Turn the cylinder inside out.

Sew the bottom together on the wrong side, either straight across or in a large zigzag, so that a point is made halfway across each strip of ribbon. Trim the straight or zigzag seam and turn the bag right side out. Turn about two inches of the top edge of the bag to the inside. Sew two rows of stitching around the top to form a casing for a drawstring. The rows should be separated by slightly more than the width of the drawstring. Carefully clip the seam joining two ribbons in the front, between the rows of casing stitching, and thread the drawstring through the stitched casing.

Loosely pack the bag with wadded cotton or cotton balls and shake fragrant dusting powder into the bag. Close the drawstring and tie it in a bow.

Use one of the 1/2-yard pieces of ribbon laid aside earlier for a loop, attached to the back of the bag. Use the other piece for a bow at the top of the loop.

Souvenir Album

An album filled with pictures of home, family, and friends might be a perfect gift for a brother or sister who is going away to college, on a mission, or into the service. Also an album of remembrances of special times might be just right for a friend, cousin, or grandparent.

You don’t need to buy an expensive album. An inexpensive binder, even one just slightly larger than the photographs, can be used. You can purchase photograph album page inserts at many variety stores, or you can mount the pictures on construction or other heavy paper. Use triangle corners on heavy paper rather than the “magnetic” pages, to preserve the quality of the photographs. To make it even more personal, include poems or thoughts to illustrate the pictures.

Planting Seeds of Kindness

Ricky Maxfield can walk through Reno and see the fruits of his Eagle Scout project—cantaloupe, watermelon, squash, carrots, beans, corn, and peas. Fourteen-year-old Ricky, of the Mount Rose Fourth Ward, Reno Nevada Stake, received a pickup load of garden seeds for his Eagle project from the American Indian Services at Brigham Young University. With the help of nine Scouts in his troop and his brother Dale and sister Carrie, he raised $5,500 from selling the seeds and donated the money to American Indian Services. A tractor was bought with the money and delivered to the Hualapai tribe of northern Arizona.

Christmas Across the Border

The Christmas spirit knew no bounds as the Young Men and Young Women of the Huntington Beach Seventh Ward, Huntington Beach California Stake, crossed the Mexican border to celebrate Christmas with the Tecate Branch, Tijuana Mexico Stake. Christmas carols were sung in Spanish and English, and colorful piñatas made by the Mexican Saints were broken, scattering candies and fruits to everyone. A delicious homemade tamale dinner followed, treating the Californians to the tasty talents of their new friends. The Huntington Beach Ward then gave gifts of throw rugs designed by the Young Men, handmade stockings filled with treats made by the Young Women, and 16 tricycles and bicycles to the Tecate Saints. Both groups joined in a tearful rendition of “O, Little Town of Bethlehem” as they said good-bye to their newfound friends.

Singing the Gospel to New Zealanders

“Aren’t you the ones who were singing the other night? Come in!”

That’s the reaction some of the elders and sisters of the Wellington Zone, New Zealand Wellington Mission, are receiving when they’re tracting because of a musical approach to missionary work.

It started when the Wellington Zone decided to share their talents by preaching the gospel by singing. “I Am a Child of God” was their theme song, and it was enthusiastically sung along with other Church songs at a mall in the city of Wellington. Other missionaries were standing off to the side of the singers, talking to people who were curious about why the group was singing and what the Church is about.

“It was a successful way to contact people and tell them about the gospel,” said Elder Scott Latimer of the New Zealand Wellington Mission. “It also helped create fine public relations.”

The season to be jolly often finds us with Christmas spirit high, but funds low. If you’re in this predicament, you may wish to try your talents at writing your presents—jotting down your thoughts or feelings for those you care about. A few idea suggestions may get your imagination manufacturing Christmas presents that will be long treasured, because they’re gifts of yourself.

—Write your favorite scriptures and why you like them in a notebook for your mom or dad.

—Write a letter to each of your family members, letting each know what it is about him or her that you love and admire.

—Make a “John Q. Smith Scrapbook” (using your own name, of course) by writing your favorite quotations and inspirational sayings (or excerpts from conference talks) in a notebook or “empty book” (a bound book with blank pages), dedicating it in the front to the family member you’re giving it to.

—Tickle your brains a little by writing a poem for each family member.

—Make a “missionary book” for a brother or sister. Include missionary experiences that have happened to family members (you may wish to interview your grandparents or parents), collect articles about missions from Church magazines, include a page for keeping track of money being saved for a mission, and copy scriptures about missionary work.

You may even wish to come up with some nifty ideas that suit your family members better than these. Happy writing!

[Mr. Krueger’s Christmas]

Jimmy Stewart stars in “Mr. Krueger’s Christmas” this Christmas season, a television special produced by the Church and featuring the Tabernacle Choir. The half-hour program is directed by Kieth Merrill, the Mormon movie director who won an Oscar for “The Great American Cowboy.” Jimmy Stewart plays Mr. Kreuger, a widowed custodian preparing to spend a lonely Christmas by himself until he’s interrupted by Yuletide carolers.

“What made it impossible for me not to do this program was that I would have the privilege of directing the Mormon Tabernacle Choir,” said Mr. Stewart. “I’ve been an absolutely devoted fan of the Tabernacle Choir for many, many years. This is one of the greatest honors I’ve ever had.” To find out how Mr. Kreuger’s Christmas turns out, check your local television listings for December.

Choosing to Be a Winner

Arlen Olsen is a champ. The 165-pound wrestler from the Helena First Ward, Helena Montana Stake, won the state wrestling title in Montana, came in first in the Northwest Regional Wrestling Tournament, and was chosen from the top high school wrestlers in the country to represent the United States in Europe as a member of the Cultural Exchange Team. Active in seminary, Arlen chose to attend a seminary convention (and convinced two friends to attend, too) instead of competing in a regional AAU tournament held at the same time. Typically, he came home with five blue ribbons from the convention, and his team there took first place in many of the events. An honor student and Eagle Scout with his Duty to God Award, he is also state judo champion, guard on the Helena High varsity football team, “chess king” of the school, and plays trumpet in the high school band.

Making Life a Song

To Helen Eckman of the Wasilla Ward, Anchorage Alaska North Stake, obstacles are just stepping stones to a happy life. Blind from birth, Helen has excelled in drama, music, and speech—and she’s a champ at scripture chases! (She walked away from a regional scripture chase competition with perfect scores, a feat no one else could match.) She has been chorister and pianist for Primary, and competed in the Miss Alaska National Teenager Pageant, where she won the Community Service Award. Helen will also be singing on TV for the third time for the annual Christmas variety benefit show for the National Federation of the Blind. Though legally blind, she has acquired a little sight since her birth. “Being blind is only a frame of mind—usually other people’s minds,” said Helen.