Homemade Gifts are Where the Heart Is

Sophia Chang | Staff Photographer

Instead of going home to play after school every Thursday like the other elementary school kids did, I went to sewing class. It definitely wasn’t the “cool” thing to do. Though I loved learning how to make my own skirts and pillows, a part of me always felt a little left out and jealous of my friends who were free from school at 3 p.m. while I was still sitting in class.

It wasn’t until years later that I realized what a unique opportunity I had been given, and how useful and relevant the skills that I had acquired came to be. I suddenly appreciated those childhood sewing classes, because more so than just being able to hem my own pants or alter a friend’s dress, I could create something new and uniquely my own.

Last Christmas season, my roommates and I decided that instead of buying elaborate things for each other, we would exchange $10 handmade gifts. Perhaps it’s too superlative to say that it was the most exciting Christmas ever, but there’s something to be said of that dreaded sense of gift-finding suddenly being replaced by pure excitement: the thrill of creativity I decided that sewing my gifts would be my best expression of “handmade,” because it was something that I had become increasingly passionate about and interested in developing further.

Maybe it’s cliché to say that handmade gifts are desirable because they’re more cost-efficient and “heartfelt,” but as a college student, these sentiments become understandably more relevant. However, I think these reasons are somewhat unyielding, because I wouldn’t agree that some purchased gifts are any less from the heart than something self-created. Handmade gifts are special because, even more so than the, “I put a lot of time and effort into this” reason, they provide a gateway for creativity — the ever-reaching extension of innovation. Making something for a friend instead of buying them a present not only shows that they mean enough to you that you would sacrifice time for them, but that they are an inspiration for your own creative outlet, a muse for how your own skills can be utilized and challenged. Creative thought goes beyond discerning what your friend or family member might like and reaches into exploring how you can materially represent your relationship and what it means to you.

The day that my roommates and I had planned to meet up to exchange gifts was definitely a highlight of last year’s Christmas season. To explain what joy feels like would ruin its magical quality, but I think “joy” describes the night perfectly — part of the Christmas spirit is that gift-giving is just as exciting and satisfying as gift-receiving (if not more so). Because handmade gifts have the unique ability to not only bless the receiver but express the creator, I was able to see a little bit of each of my roommates’ creative selves in their gifts. Similarly, they were able to see my own self-expression through what I had made and how integral sewing had become to my creativity.

I am so grateful for all of the sewing classes that I took when I was younger. Without them, I would never have tapped into the growing sense of excitement in self-exploration that sewing is for me today — and the possibilities are endless.

As I sit here brainstorming what new things I can make for this upcoming season, I wanted to share with you a really easy, simple gift idea that you can try out!

Fabric star ornament:
1. Two 5-inch fabric squares
2. One 5-inch square of batting
3. 5-inch piece of silk ribbon
4. Needle and thread
5. Scissors
6. Pins

1. Trace a 4-inch star (hand-drawn or printed from the Internet) onto the wrong side of one of the fabric pieces.
2. Layer the traced star piece on top of the other fabric square (right sides together) and then place the two pieces on top of the batting. Pin the three layers to secure them together.
3. Sew on the drawn line, leaving a 1-inch gap along one of the star sides.
4. Cut out around the star, leaving a 1/4-inch seam allowance.
5. Sticking your finger inside the gap you’ve left, separate the two fabric layers and flip them right-side out. Use the point of a pen to push out the star corners. The batting should now be in between the two right-sided fabric pieces.
6. Fold the ribbon in half and, placing the loose ends inside the gap, stitch the opening closed.
7. Hang on your tree!