Thursday, 17 December 2009

Homemade Gifts with Tags

Tell me three things you got for Christmas last year or the year before. For that matter, tell me what you bought for three people last year or the year before. Maybe you can, but I can’t (and I am in no way complaining about the quality of my gifts, they’ve been wonderful and I enjoyed them at the time).

When you step back and look at this annual business of rushing around amidst hoards of other rushing people, everyone frantically throwing down or, worse, borrowing money for gifts that are largely forgettable, it strikes me as being really pretty silly. If one wishes to show regard for others surely there are better ways. I am working on making homemade gifts one of our holiday traditions. I’m hoping that by setting an example I may open the door for others.

Last year I knitted scarves for everyone on my Christmas list. They were fun to make and each took only a few hours. I thought the design made them useful for enclosing the neck and keeping warm. In previous years I have given covered hangers, jewelry pouches, spice cakes, cookies, bean soup mix in a jar, embroidered or cross-stitched pictures and spiced tea mixes. Also, hotpads, either crocheted or gold stitched denim. The latter pattern came from my trusty Tightwad Gazette newsletters (Does anyone have a copy of number 51? I loaned mine to someone and never got it back…).

I also copied her idea for a gift tag, with a few alterations to fit in the occupation of the then spouse, to the gist of:

The Blue Jean Pot Holder

Our products are made of naturally seasoned denim treated with an unpatented multistep process. First, sew into pants and worn by actual human beings, the material is exposed to sweat, grime, sunlight and hundreds of washes to achieve an authentic fade and uniquely comfortable feel. Our new deluxe line employs the use of abrasion and harsh chemicals involved in concrete finishing, producing an extra faded and threadbare effect. Then using only select portions of un-patched, seamless and pocket-free we hand craft our original potholder design.

The BLUEJEAN POTHOLDER, a product already withstanding the test of time.

The mother-in-law found it all very amusing. I borrowed this wording idea again 20-some years later, albeit more long-winded, to go with some jewelry pouches:

Our products are made using an unpatented multi-step process. First the outer fabric is made into a scarf and sold with a coat in Salt Lake City in the early 90’s. This scarf is put away, unused for many years, folded and re-folded with each move from house to house, state to state and country to country. At last it is selected for its soft texture and rich colours, the seams are un-picked, the fabric is ironed and individually cut to a hand made pattern from a 1990’s Tightwad Gazette and following the original model, purchased in Atlanta in 1989.

The lining material is made into a curtain, hung for many years in a home in the North East of England, exposed to coal smoke, kipper smells and salt air from the North Sea in preparation for its acquisition from the Tynemouth Flea Market. After some storage similar to the outer fabric, the curtains are dismantled and the lining washed and cut to line the jewelry purse.

The fine, colour-coordinated cords are braided or crocheted from embroidery threads sourced from Oklahoma City and Salt Lake City department stores and from the musty Harbour Market in North Shields in England.

Our jewelry purses are hand crafted by a seamstress of limited experience and modest talent, thus each has its own unique and interesting flaws, ultimately part of their individual charm and insuring that home spun look.

Jewelry purses from the Tynemouth Tightwad: demonstrating principles of recycling and pack-ratting and providing the woman of substance with an attractive and practical means of securing her jewels whilst traveling.

Amy demonstrates that a clever tag can dress up an otherwise ordinary present. Her ideas seem to follow along three approaches, though no doubt many others are possible. As above, she outlines how something is made in florid marketing language.

Another idea is to tell a story about another part of the process. Her writing style is very turn of the last century:

The “Jim’s Homemade Wild Grape Jelly” Story

In September of 1986, while visiting the estate of his parents in Montague, Mass., James Dacyczyn noted the pungent aroma of wild grapes in the wind. He remarked of it to his wife of nearly four years. Amy, a woman of enterprising character (and slightly pregnant condition) proposed a quest to harvest the fruit.

After careful preparation they entered the wood with bucket in hand. The terrain had grown fierce since his youth. Brambles, briars, swamps and swarms of mosquitoes lay between the couple and their goal. Scratched, bitten and muddied they finally came upon the grapes growing high atop slender saplings on an embankment that dropped sharply to the raging waters of the Sawmill River. (1 foot deep and 10 feet wide)

Having come so far and braved such dangers James’ determination was not lessened as he climbed the sapling to the upper branches to where the vines grew. Hanging far over the river he filled his bucket with the wild and illusive fruit. With each movement the sound of wild grapes could be heard plunking in the water thirty feel below.

To insure maximum flavor the grapes were rushed to the kitchen of James’ mother where they were transformed into the first jars of “Jim’s Homemade Wild Grape Jelly.”

A professional graphic artist, Amy had a distinct advantage; so much so that people often didn’t realize her labels were homemade. With time, patience and computer graphics and clip art, however, an ordinary person should be able to come up with something functional. She recommended black and white images for ease in photocopying. Colour printers are common enough that this might not be necessary, though the black and white idea adds to the olde-fashioned homespun theme.

The candy label again shows her recognition of the marketing ploys in talking up the product, something about which we would all do well to be more cognizant.

Christmas Gift Tags, using humour and thoughtfulness to embellish homemade presents.


Anonymous said...

My niece made cute package tags last year on the computer. They had a picture of her they 2-year old son. They were made large enough for bookmarks so they could be used continuously (by those of us who read constantly)throughout the year.

Shelley said...

That is clever - label the gift, show off your kid, make it reusable. Great idea!