Gifts from the Heart

I love to give gifts--not just any gift, but gifts that touch the heart.  Finding the perfect gift for someone is not always easy.  Often it requires a little more effort on the part of the giver.  Making a gift is a guaranteed way to give someone a one-of-a-kind present.  When we give someone something we’ve made, we not only give them the tangible treasure, but also the gift of our time that we gave to create the precious gift. I come from a long line of women who were incredibly gifted at creating things with their hands.  I have a lace doily that was made by my great-grandmother; both of my grandmothers made beautiful quilts to give their grandchildren for weddings or graduations.  My mom passed down the value of creating things for others.  She sewed the tiny clothes she took to baby showers and crocheted clothes for my doll for Christmas.  Deep in our hearts I believe we want to make things with our hands—even if we consider ourselves challenged in skill or in time available!  Unfortunately my skill level and available time have been in short supply for many years, so for years I have searched for the simple, the quick, and of course the relatively inexpensive gifts that would be special to my family.  Here are some gift ideas for Christmas or any time of the year.

Cradle and Blanket When Victoria was two, her Christmas present was a homemade doll cradle.  It is a treasure that has found its way to Victoria’s corner of the attic, saved for the next generation of Moore’s.

1.        Purchase an unfinished wooden cradle from a craft store and paint suitable for wood.  You could spray a coat of polyurethane, which would make it last longer.

2.       Sand the cradle, especially the edges.  Then paint the cradle with two coats of paint.  You can get fancy and paint flowers or even get rub on transfers.  Victoria’s cradle had a heart cut out on the headboard portion, which was decoration enough for me.

3.       Purchase two different coordinating cotton fabrics.  I chose one fabric that had lines so I had help in sewing straight lines on the quilt.  (Look in the quilting area or remnants for an even lower price.)

4.       To make the mattress, cut two pieces of fabric.  Each one should be the measurement of the bed area of the cradle plus 1 ¼ inches extra in width (the narrow side) and 1 ½ inches extra in length (the long side) which allows for the batting and for a half-inch seam allowance.  With wrong sides together, sew around three sides.  When you turn the fabric inside out to show the right side of the fabric, it will look like a bag.

5.       Insert a piece of batting the same measurement as the bed area of the cradle.  Take the remaining unsewn edge at the top of the “bag” and fold it down twice, so the raw edge is not showing.  Pin the folded edge and sew the bag closed.  You’ve finished the mattress!

6.       Next, make a “quilt” by sewing two pieces of fabric together with the same process as above, except without the batting.   These fabric pieces should be the same length as above (cradle area + 1 ¼ inches extra) but the width should be 2 times the width of the cradle area, plus 1 inch extra for seam allowance.  Before you sew the “bag” closed, iron the seams to make it lay flat.   Stitch “stripes” across in both directions, making it look like a checkered board, which gives it a quilted look.  (If your fabric doesn’t have lines, you may want to make your own lines with chalk.)  You have finished your quilt!  Congratulations!

Fleece Blanket Directions at:

This is so great because you don’t need to know how to sew, only how to cut a relatively straight line.  The basic idea is that you have two pieces of fabric, cut fringes around the edges, and tie the fringes together.  I used prints for each girl based on their interests.  I even found fabric that coordinated with the comforter in one girl’s room.  Be sure to watch for sales at your local fabric center.  They often run fleece for 50% off.

Fleece Poncho Directions at:

A few years back, ponchos were all the rage.  My friend Theresa and I got together to make these ponchos for our girls, who were then 7-10 years old.  I then used the extra pieces of fabric to make ponchos for their dolls and my little niece.  I ended up knotting the fringes, simply because I liked the way it looked.

Red Colonial Cape Directions at:  click here

I’ve made capes for our two younger girls, but I’ve also made this cape and given it as a gift.  In fact, as I’m writing this, we are returning from celebrating our friend Brianna’s 12th birthday in Williamsburg.  She was thrilled with the cape.  The pattern requires very little sewing, only connecting the hood to the cape and sewing on the ties.  (I suppose you could pin the ties on, if you had to.)  The fabric I use is red felt instead of wool and I take two small tucks near the center of the back.  You don’t have to take the tucks, but I found I liked the look better.  I use 1 yard of 1 inch red grosgrain ribbon for the ties (cut in half) and a ton of zigzag stitch to attach them since there is a lot of stress on the ties to hold the cape up.  The hood is a little pointy at the crown, but most of the time the girls keep it down anyway.  The capes have been a big hit at our house!

Pearl and Heart Necklace Directions at:

I saw a picture of this necklace in a magazine and it caught my eye.  This is a simple project for those who are already beading or who are interested in starting a new hobby.  (The pliers are a minimal investment of about $8.)  Choose glass beads or other beads to create the look you want.

1.       Purchase, crimping pliers, pearls, 2 or 3 mm silver beads, one clasp (I used a lobster claw),  one “o” ring, 2 crimp tubes, 2 crimp covers, a heart pendant, a length of wire four inches longer than you want the necklace.

2.       Watch the video from the above link.  Attach one half of the clasp using the technique from the video.

3.       Divide the pearls and silver beads into two separate piles.  String half the pearls and silver beads on the string, alternating.  Add the heart pendant.  Continue the pattern with the remaining piles of pearls and beads.

4.       Repeat the crimping step from the video above.  This time, weave the extra wire back through several beads and trim the excess with small scissors.

Since I made an identical necklace for each girl, I added a 4mm Swarovski round crystal birthstone bead as the last bead before the clasp so the girls could tell which necklace was theirs.  No one would ever know that these necklaces were homemade!

Keepsake Cookbook Recipe Template: click here

Again, there are no directions because this is so simple—time consuming, but simple.  Several years ago I took our favorite family recipes (from moms, aunts, and grandmas) and decided to turn them into the cookbook I always wanted.

To assemble:

1.       Purchase a large three-ring binder (with a pocket to slide in a cover), plastic dividers with pockets (from an office supply store, plastic sleeve pages, and cardstock.  I coordinated the cardstock with the color of the binder.

2.       Enter the recipes into the computer in a standard form.  I saved each recipe under its own name, but all in one file folder.  If the recipe is short, you could add two on a page.

3.       Choose names for the dividers.  I copied the dividers from my favorite cookbook.  Handwrite the name or print if there is a template included.  I used a Dynamo labelmaker.  (Now there’s a great gift idea!)

4.       Print the recipes on cardstock, one side only.

5.       Slide the recipes in plastic sleeves, back to back, one on each side of the sleeve.  The two layers of cardstock make the pages stiff.  I love the sleeves because if you drop food on the recipe, you can easily wipe it off!

6.       File the sleeves in the notebook according to the divider title.

7.       Add a personalized cover.

It was a ton of work to do the first time, but I love having the recipes.  When someone asks for one, I can easily email it or print it out.  One year I printed some of the recipes and bound them in a small cookbook to give my friends for Christmas.  Best of all, when I wanted to give my second daughter a cookbook, all I had to do was print.  It’s a great heritage to pass on.

Name Frame For a template: click here

Many times in scripture the introduction of a character includes the meaning of their name.  I believe that when we name our children, it is a spiritual act declaring who they are.  Every time we speak our child’s name, we speak who they are.

I was particularly moved when I looked up Victoria’s middle name, LaNelle, her grandmother’s middle name made up by Victoria’s great-grandmother.  From my French studies, I knew “La” means “the”, but I wasn’t sure of Nelle.  I looked it up and found it means “witness.”  Pretty cool for a girl who has a heart for missions!  I stood in the store and cried.  God knew our daughter and put in our hearts the perfect name for her.  She, and each of our girls, have a name frame in their room to remind them of who God says they are.


1.       I bought The Name Book, by Dorothy Astoria, at a local Christian bookstore.  It has meanings of names including the spiritual connotation and coordinating scriptures.

2.       Purchase inexpensive 4x6 or 5x7 frames.  Keep your eyes open for a good deal on frames.  I even found some lovely gold-leaf frames at Dollar Tree—really!

3.       Purchase paper or cardstock in the color of your choice.  This should be based on your recipient.  I often use parchment paper because it looks so nice.  I found a mixed pack of parchment paper (pink, blue, grey, and natural) at Walmart.

4.       Using the template, fill in the blanks for name, language of origin, spiritual connotation and scripture.  I change the font based on the recipient—a fancy script for my dear friends, a more juvenile font for a baby’s room, a contemporary font for a dear friend who likes things a little more simple.  Mostly I use a black font on the parchment, but a colored font on plain white paper/cardstock.

5.       If you aren’t great with computer margins and settings, use the paper in the frame as a guideline for sizing your name page correctly.  Be sure to center the guide paper, trace around the edges, and then trim the name page to the correct size.  Place it in the frame and admire your work!

There are so many ways to customize this gift—frame, paper, font and for whatever style of person you’re giving to—masculine, juvenile, formal, contemporary.  The name frame makes a great gift for a baby shower, if you know the name of the little one.

Small Scrapbook Capturing and documenting life is important to me and there is no better way than through pictures and videos.  About ten years ago, I made my first scrapbook—which was nearly the last!  It was something I really enjoyed, but my busy schedule wouldn’t allow for such a time consuming hobby.  Two years ago, I discovered a great alternative in Walmart’s scrapbook section—a scrapbook kit: a 10x10 scrapbook with  pages, background paper, precut coordinating paper designs, stickers, and detailed instructions for how to create each page, all packaged in keepsake box that matches the finished scrapbook.  The kit lacks only an adhesive and can be purchased in either a red-or blue-colored theme.  In about an hour your scrapbook can be assembled and ready for your pictures.  It’s a perfect gift for grandparents!

Share Your Ideas So now you know some of my gift-giving secrets.  If you are confused by any of the instructions, please post your question to this article and I’ll respond with a post so it will benefit everyone else, too.  I know these aren’t the only great homemade gift ideas out there, so post to this article and share your own homemade gift ideas!  May these ideas inspire you to make some of your own gifts, if not for Christmas this year maybe for celebrations in 2010.