In my hope chest at home I have five dresses that my aunt hand-made for my daughter when she was little. Even though my daughter is now a grown woman, I will keep these dresses from her childhood as keepsakes — with the hope that they will eventually be passed down to her daughter one day.
I thought again of these dresses when I was interviewing Barbara Cameron of the Turlock Quilt Guild about the doll sets that were made and given to needy children in the county earlier this month. It struck me that not only will dozens of little girls get a beautiful doll, complete with outfits and doll-sized quilt, but these gifts may be the only hand-made items the children will ever receive.
There’s just something special about a gift that was made by hand. Not only is it unique, but you can almost feel the care that is put into making the item. That is why so many churches and faith-based organizations have some kind of blanket, quilt or shawl ministry — including my church.
There are different groups of women in my church who spend hours every week talking and praying while creating dozens of shawls. Then, about once every three months, the shawls are brought in front of the entire congregation to be prayed over before being distributed to those who are sick, injured, home-bound or lonely.
These hand-made shawls were specifically created in love, with the hope that a piece of that caring could be felt by the recipient.
It’s not just quilting groups or churches that are giving back to the community through hand-made gifts. Students in Anne Cornell’s fashion class at Pitman High have been making dresses for girls who attend the Salvation Army community Christmas dinner for nine years. This year, 20 girls will get new holiday dresses that were especially made for them.
I have been lucky enough in my life to have received quite a few hand-made items, and it is my hope that everyone gets to experience that kind of special gift at least once.
Despite the Pitman class’ efforts, I fear that the knowledge of sewing, quilting, crocheting, and crafting is being lost these days. When I was in junior high and high school, it was still cool for girls to take a home economics class. Many of my classmates, including me, didn’t take these classes because we were seriously preparing for the day when we had our own households to care for. No, we were mainly there for the food. Chocolate chip cookies fresh out of the oven are as precious as gold to hungry teenagers.
Despite my motivation for taking the class, I learned valuable lessons about budgeting, party planning and 101 reasons why you should wait to have children until you are fully prepared for parenthood. I also learned how to sew, knit and quilt.
I have to admit, though, that I haven’t picked up a needle in at least 10 years.
I think I will make sewing one of my New Year’s resolutions. Hopefully, by the 2012 holiday season, I too will be able to brighten the day of a child or lonely senior with a hand-crafted gift.
To contact Kristina Hacker, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 634-9141 ext. 2004.