Christmas Crafts

comments: 29

Xmasprojects2I know we're supposed to be thinking about Thanksgiving and all, and I am trying. But I'll really start thinking about it on Wednesday, when I go shopping along with every other person in the United States for groceries. I don't mind that. Every year since I've lived in Portland I've made a special trip to Zupan's the day before Thanksgiving and sauntered willingly through the whole list — it's part of the holiday for me, that grocery-getting trip. This year Andy and I will do it together, my favorite way.

Xmasprojects5_1 Last night I was going through some of my vintage Christmas things to bring to the antique booth and I stopped to look through a magazine just to make sure I didn't want to keep it. Well, turns out, I do want to keep it. Amazingly, it is the same one that my mom had in 1970 and from which she made this little Santa out of paper-towel tubing, painted with enamel. There is also an angel and a snowman and a bird. I have a couple of them packed away with my ornaments. I can't wait to get them out now, this weekend. That little funnel angel — wow. Perhaps my Lucias will have gelatin-mold capelets?

Xmasprojects3The magazine is called McCall's Christmas: Make-It Ideas Volume XIII, and contains 301 knitted, crocheted, sewn, baked, and other crafty things to make. It's really cute. There is something about Christmas crafts that are so sweet and appealing. I think it's because the season brings out crafty-ness in everyone, even those folks who don't pick up a needle or paintbrush or gluestick all year. There is a craft for all of us at Christmastime, and our favorite old items tend to hold much more emotion and nostalgia than technique. It is enough that they exist, that someone took the time to do it, once. Some of my favorite afternoons as a kid were spent making things for Christmas: bread-dough ornaments, pom-pom snowmen, marshmallow trees (you dip a toothpick in food coloring, decorate large marshmallows, and then poke them into a styrofoam tree with toothpicks — the things last for years). When they come out again, dozens of years later, I dare you not to let loose at least one memory-soaked sob.

Xmasprojects6My mom was incredibly crafty and still is — she is a full-time professional crafter, too, and has been so for over twenty years. My dad was a graphic designer and a professional musician, so we were steeped in art supplies and '70s-rock by default. When we were kids, my mom went through probably every craft phase that came along, and she would do it in a major way: macrame, candy making, bread-dough baskets, needlepoint, crewel, fimo clay, always sewing. With almost every one of those phases came some sort of order-taking; for years she sold amazing cakes around River Forest just by word of mouth. My father always, for as long as I can remember, had a classified ad for one of his inventions running in a magazine somewhere; my favorite was the light attached to the CB antenna that lit whenever you were talking. We all had handles: He was Gorilla, my mom Gypsy Moth. I was Dopey. I wanted to be Golden Sparrow, which was my name in Indian Princesses.

Xmasprojects4So being talented with the craft supplies, or even entrepreneurial about it is not remarkable in our family. It's just what we do. At Christmastime, we did a lot. My mom did a lot. My mom was only 24 when I was born, but it seems that she always had time for crafting. We weren't encouraged to make things, we weren't discouraged. My parents always let us do whatever we wanted, whether it was sports or ballet or horseback-riding (though they didn't love that one) or drawing or sewing, we had classes and supplies if we wanted them. I get the feeling that if we didn't want them, that would've probably been okay too. My parents were always pursuing their own creative activities; they'd stop and look over at us occasionally if we asked. I'm very grateful now that I had that freedom. Sometimes I wonder what would've happened if I'd been encouraged. I probably would've quit. That is my special way — the minute anyone showed the slightest interest in me, I would twitch, then move on, not wanting, apparently, the expectations that come with interest. I was pretty good at lots of different things, but you'd better not tell me that, or I'd quit, lest you'd expect me to get better.

Xmasprojects7_1Christmas crafts are still my favorite. Last year when I made this wreath, I did it with the intention that it would be kept. Who really knows what will get kept, or lost. There is so much to say about the doing, especially at Christmas, when the atmosphere is as much a part of the thing as the thing itself. And my little dream of knitting a sock on a chair-and-a-half: I think I was going for not just the experience but was actually planning for the memory of the experience, for when I wear that sock years from now, and remember the chair, and the music, this year. You know what I mean. It's a self-consciousness I don't normally bring to crafting, thank goodness. But every once in a while, especially at Christmas, I can't help but think.


Oh my gosh, these are great! Thanks so much for sharing them.

Something about those Christmas mice just brings back so many wonderful memories. Christmas crafts are definitely my favorite too.

Adorable book! Love the b/w reindeer photos. Thanks for posting them!

Wow you were in Indian Princesses also! My name was Morning Flower. My Dad was Morning Cloud.

Thanks so much for sharing your memories, which you create each time you share something new with us here. No twitching, now.

Wow, thank you for the walk down memory lane.. but my parents were the kind to hover, which , just like you, if you show an interest in me doing something.. I quit.. for the very same reason. The expectations you will have of me. I think Em is quite the opposite. I went to her dance class last week and she seemed to shine and be way more interested just because I was there (and I filmed the whole thing.. so now I know what dances they are doing and we can do them at home... AH HA... that'll teach

I am kind of glad she is different in that perspective because it place so much more stress on you.

I think I am going to have to dig out my old Christmas craft mags. And I to have toilet paper roll people. My mother puts them on the mantle every year at Christmas.

One of the main points in parenting books like "How to Listen so Kids Will Talk, and How to Talk so Kids Will Listen" is how to give praise.

They stress (and I think they are entirely correct) that when we hear "You are so good at X" nearly everyone's automatic reaction is "No, I'm not!"

But if we hear "I love your little funnel angel! I love her capelet, and I love her blue skirt with the pink flowers! I love her pipe-cleaner hair -- what a great idea!" we will probably think "Yeah, she is pretty cute!" and feel good about the angel and about the comment....

THere is a whole series of books by Faber and Mazlisch, and I think their advice on how to give praise is spot-on.

i would just like to save this particular post and read it over and over every day. you have no idea how much this has touched my heart of hearts and memories of the craft books in this post. i was raised in the sixties and both my great grandmother, grandmother and mother have taught me more about crafts and just the essence of crafting that most folks will ever know. thank you for really touching my's brought me back to a place where i needed to be...thank you for reminding me of my roots...

Thanks for the memories! My personal favorite was the santas, angels, and snowmen made of folded Reader's Digest magazines.

This was lovely. My daughter, at 4, is the same way, and I'm learning to just back off instead of indulging my usual, anxious need to hover. Of course, when she asks, "I'm a great artist, aren't I?" I agree heartily.

Oh and made me laugh. I was reading this and thinking of the magazine Santa made by my aunt that sat on the coffee table every year.

Those boxes of Christmas decorations will always bring back such memories of family and Christmas past.

Such a fun book! This year my son is almost three and getting pretty interested in the things I putter around with, so I am enjoying the upcoming (and ongoing) crafting all the more knowing he wants to "help". We were always making things growing up as well, but being the only girl with three brothers much of our "building" (wouldn't dare call it crafting)centered around moodels and RC stuff. And yet I am such a girly-girl!

Chris Howard says: November 20, 2006 at 05:39 PM

I don't remember too many Christmas crafts myself. I can remember making a clothespin nativity (in public school!!) and other little kid stuff like that. My Mom made this wonderfully tacky Santa out of a clorox bleach bottle and wadded up colored plastic. It comes out every year and perches happily on her hearth, waiting for the real santa to come!

Making memories like that are the best. I remember making santa claus's with my sister with tons of glitter and cotton balls, it was the best! It is a good feeling. Thanks for sending me back.

Thanksgiving is just a stepping stone to Christmas. ANd turkey. It's lots of turkey and good stuff too, but mainly a gateway.

Oh, I"m so on the same page as you. As a veeery slow crafter, I *have* to get a headstart on the Christmas crafts if I'm going to be even partly done by New Years. I'll be grocery shopping Wednesday and am just praying that getting off work early will give me a bit of an edge over the crowds.

Oh yeah, we had, and still have, that book.

I love Christmas crafts, too. And Christmas cookies. It started with those sequin-and-bead-studded styrofoam ball ornaments you could make with kits from Lee Wards (pre-historic Michaels). I love pulling out the binders holding years of cookie recipes torn from Family Circle and Good Housekeeping (pre-Martha). And here is a 1959 issue of Woman's Day magazine found recently while thrifting, with instructions for 75 Christmas gifts. Joy!

Interesting comment about letting kids do their thing - I think it really is a generational thing, meaning our parents' generation... I often think that, as parents, our generation is planning way too much of our children's every moment and not giving them enough time to explore things on their own.

oooh, so beautiful. My mom is coming out from MA today. We always had lots of crafty things going on--especially at the holidays. We're going to the JoAnne (world headquarters!) store to stock up on supplies for a major Christmas crafting day. Will add mini-marshmallow trees to the list. Now, the food coloring? Just make little dots and stripes all over the marshmallows? Is that the idea?

Sigh. Now I want to cut out of work and get out my straw to make cut straw stars again. Love those.

Such a cute book, yes, keep it!

I'm the same way in that, when people start noticing too much, I get all hermit-y feeling, like I just want to go work in the corner! I think I don't want to hear anything critical during the process.

that magazine looks very very familiar to me. i think my mom still has a copy as well!

"not wanting the expectations that came with interest" That's it exactly! I know just what you mean. Can't wait to see the results of your Christmas crafting. Might it include some of those darling little mice?

I think that my aunt had that magazine. I recognize the mice ornaments as the ones that she made for all of the kids in our family. Mine was the mouse in the stocking!

Accckkk!!! I had that magazine myself! I would have been 12, and I made about half the stuff in that magazine, including the mice that you show a picture of. Talk about memory lane - I had completely forgotten about that time in my life.

Sally Dawson says: November 30, 2006 at 08:43 PM

I googled this McCall's Christmas Make-It magazine and came up with your website. I'm probably your mother's age as I made the mice (still have them) and other things from this issue. I also made each of my three children knitted stockings from this magazine. Now I have children-in-law and grandchildren and would like to knit the same stockings for them. Does anyone know where I might find a copy of this magazine? (I lent my copy to a friend and it was never returned.) Thank you.

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About Alicia Paulson


My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at




Since August of 2011 I've been using a Canon EOS 60D with an EF 18-200mm kit lens and an EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens.