Handmade gifts, a retrospective

I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving and that you are enjoying your holiday weekend. All this talk of shopping got me thinking about holidays past, and I thought it might be fun to share some of the gifts I made and gave to friends and family over the years. In most cases, the patterns I used are old and discontinued, but many can be found through eBay, or similar patterns can be found and substituted. I’ll suggest alternatives where I can. I almost always made the gifts I gave, finding what I could use in my fabric stash, sometimes adding something new.

Doll dresses, like the one above adapted from Vogue 9641 and designed by Linda Carr, are always great fun to make for little girls. Linda Carr designed many wonderful doll and toy patterns for Vogue Patterns. She also had a book, Classic Cloth Dolls, that had an 18 inch doll pattern and clothing. It can still be found on eBay too. The clothes fit the popular American Girl series of dolls as well.

Vogue still has a couple of similar doll dress styles in their Vogue 7564, 18″ (46cm) Doll Prairie Clothing Package . I also would highly recommend Brown House Dolls both for doll dress patterns of all types and sizes, and for cloth doll patterns. Bev Brown does a fantastic job making her patterns, and there are so many designs to choose from. The doll patterns in her international cloth doll series, which can be found under “Cloth Doll Patterns” on her site, come in an 18 inch size. They are a good alternative for anyone wishing to make a cloth doll like the Vogue dolls shown here.

I made this doll back in 1996 from Vogue 8336, also a Linda Carr design. Vogue’s currently available 7418, 18″ (46cm) Rag Doll & Clothes could easily be substituted for the pattern I used.

I hand painted this doll’s face with acrylic paint, using my own drawing. I believe I made her dress from a skirt I once had! I attached fabric flowers to her bonnet.

And I made lots and lots of teddy bears over the years. I made the baby bears below in 2001 from Vogue 9643, another Linda Carr design. Simplicity currently has two similar patterns for clothed teddy bears that are very cute. Check out Simplicity 5247, Vintage 15 and 18 Inch Stuffed Bears, and Simplicity 5461, Classic 18 and 22 Inch Stuffed Bears with Clothes.

I made these cuddly guys from baby blue chenille and white flannel. Boy did that gunk up my machine! Be sure to clean out the lint, from your bobbin case area especially, when you are sewing with chenille and other fuzzy fabrics. Fake fur does the same thing. I used Velcro to close their diapers. I hand embroidered their recipients’ names on their bibs using a chain stitch and some pearl cotton floss.

This ma and pa bear set below was huge! I don’t think I realized just how big they were going to be when I read the pattern envelope. I made them back in 1989 from Vogue 640 and they were 32 and 40 inches tall! Yikes.

I made them from fake fur which I had trimmed, using a pair of scissors, around their muzzles, paw pads, and inner ears. The Simplicity patterns I mentioned above could be made up in fake fur, or, if you’d like a more classic teddy, Vogue currently has another Linda Carr bear design, Vogue 7534, Teddy Bears With Anniversary Medallion Package.

I used plastic safety eyes which are actually very easy to attach. Again, I used pearl cotton for their noses and mouths.

There are just so many teddy bear patterns out there, it’s hard to pick just one or two to show you. Any one of them can be made from a variety of materials for a totally different look. I can easily see the Simplicity bears I mentioned above in the random calicos I combined for these bears below, back in 1993.

These bears were made from McCall’s 6814. This is probably the pattern from which I learned to machine sew. I made every animal on it, the bears, the dog, the cat, the seals, as far back as the seventh grade at least. Before that I had experimented with Barbie and other doll clothes, but I think this was the pattern where I learned accuracy on the sewing machine.

These were made from scraps of calico cottons I had in my stash. It amazed me how many parts I could fit on my tiny scraps. They were a great deal of fun. I just love that feeling of “making something from nothing”, just like scrap quilting.

I made covered buttons for their eyes and noses.

I gave them lace collars.

Below, you can catch a glimpse of the famous Red Bear, made from this same pattern back in 1984. Babies are intrigued by bright colors, as you can see. Red Bear was kindly donated by this little boy to his baby sister when he had grown up a bit and it seemed she would appreciate him more.

This sweet bunny was made from Simplicity 7718, back in 1993. McCall’s currently available M5078, Country Rabbits would easily do as a substitute. I made my bunny from wool I had left over from a pair of pants. Her eyes are black plastic safety eyes, and her nose is appliqu├ęd on by hand. I made her entirely from scraps from my stash.

As you can see, there is no end to what you can make, often just using what you have already. Sometimes it is a very satisfying challenge to make something using what you already have. It sparks your creativity.

Other gifts I used to enjoy making were handmade holiday cards. I went overboard in high school, trying to give all my friends cards that I printed and then hand colored with colored pencils. I didn’t want to leave anyone out, and it got out of control. I couldn’t get them all done, and mailed some out uncolored. It led to a few awkward moments, especially when a couple of the boys thought maybe I made a card only for them and mailed it out special. Oh dear. Well, what fun is it if you don’t get in over your head once in a while?

One more gift that may not be handmade, but always makes a hit is a pot of catnip for kitties! Not all cats respond to it, but as you can see, many do!

Enjoy the rest of your weekend and happy crafting!

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