Do you know the story behind the gifts you’re creating or giving this year? We asked Etsy members on Facebook to share the meaningful inspiration or provenance behind the items they give or receive.
Every year I try to make something special for the people in my life, but this year I have been so busy making stuff for my Etsy shop, Baby Jives, that only my son will get a handmade gift from me. I am making him a hand-sewn set of jungle animals. Everyone else gets handmade gifts from other wonderful Etsy sellers. So my husband is getting a cup from MieKongo, my nephew is getting a boat from Fairy Folk, and I haven’t decided what my parents get yet. I choose handmade because it really is infused with love.
— Jahje Bath Ives, a.k.a. BabyJives
I’ve been a member of the local farmers’ market community in northwestern Washington State since my childhood, when I would come along to market with my mom to help her sell her handmade goat milk soaps, golden and amber honeys, homegrown tomatoes, spicy red garlic, giant cucumbers and the likes. Being raised in the market circle meant that I made many close friends with other farmers and purveyors of fine foods. Phil, the honeyman, is very near and dear to me. He has curly gray hair and a hearty, happy cackle when he laughs and he peddles some of the best honey from the mountains. He also raises beautiful canaries and will give you one if you ask. Since I can remember he has been bringing his plump shepherd mix, Cici, to the markets along with him; she always greets the customers with her scrappy wagging tale as they come by his honey stand. Phil is really like a cheeky ol’ grandpa to me. This year I am knitting him a chunky gray and white cowl (to match his wispy eyebrows), so that he’ll stay warm when he’s out tending his bees.
— Cat Brimhall, a.k.a. swanslough
Does anyone actually like Black Friday? Fighting other shoppers in hot, overcrowded stores (at o’ dark thirty in the morning) for items that have a “Made in China” stamp on the bottom? No? Neither do I. I’m “the careful shopper.” I bookmark special items that I think will mean something to my intended recipients, and when I give away my oh-so-carefully wrapped gifts, I wait for the expression of true joy to shine through my loved ones’ eyes.
I really believe that the sincerity an artist or crafter (aren’t they so often the same thing?) puts into his or her work is what brings forth the joy of gift-giving as we know it. It’s the completion of the illusion, the fulfillment of a fantasy, the comfort we can give to others that someone really was listening all along…
— Natanya Elka, a.k.a. NatanyaElka
The best gift I ever received was on my 4th birthday in 1959. It was a little wooden oven that was just the perfect size for a tiny girl. My dad (a carpenter) had hand-crafted it from wood scraps out of the garage. Its surface was unpainted to show off the beauty of the wood and it had knobs that really turned, burners made out of coffee can lids, and a door that would open and close so I could put Bingo the Cat inside to “cook” him as needed (hey, I was only 4!). It was a thing of beauty and I loved touching the wood — sanded to silken smoothness, with every corner and edge rounded to perfection.
Many years later the tradition would continue when my dad hand-crafted an exquisite Sam Maloof-inspired child-size rocking chair for my son Chris who was 1-1/2 years old at the time (he’s 23 now!). Some of the wood in this chair is from an old Chinese elm tree from our family home that was cut down when I was 11! I have the pleasure of being the keeper of the chair until Chris has a place of his own where he can display it.
Thanks Dad (and Mom, too, for teaching me how to sew on Grandma’s treadle sewing machine and so much more!). Today I am thankful for growing up in a handmade haven and proud to carry on the tradition of making things with my hands for others to enjoy.
— Susan Faye, a.k.a. SusanFaye
Almost all the gifts in my shop have a “story,” a history, a past. I take castoffs, things most people would discard or relegate to the dark corners of the attic or even (God forbid) the landfill. Then I refashion them into something with a future. For instance, one lone earring remaining from a pair will become a beautiful pendant on a necklace. A 1940s linen tablecloth will reincarnate into an apron for today’s savvy hostess. A 1947 rabies vaccine puppy tag will find new life on a necklace. Stories galore!
— Rita, a.k.a. Sammysgrammy
Knitting has been practiced almost since time began by shepherds with their flocks, for years a winter staple, sitting by the fire while the bitter cold discourages outside activities, a social activity to give your hands something to do while gathering with friends and family.
Over the years, this romantic glow started a fire in my heart. I want to be part of this age-old tradition. I want to know that I can be self-sufficient (if needed) and be able to make things. I want to have something productive to work on in the evenings when I watch TV or a movie. I want to knit in public and have other people come up to me with wonder — how can you make that and can I learn how, too? I want to pass on this tradition I love to others.
Now this journey has led to Etsy. What else am I going to do with all of these hand knit items? My friends and family can only use so many scarves, hats, baby booties, blankets, and clothes. If I’m going to continue to knit (and that’s pretty much a given), then I’ll need to find other people who will treasure my hand knit items. Now I’m knitting for Etsy customers. I’m picking yarns that are super soft or have a fun texture or maybe the color stood out to grab me. (Oh, don’t get me started on the yarns! Now that I knit, yarn lust is one of my hidden vices.) I’m knitting up unique items – full of love and wishes for health, happiness, and hope for the eventual wearer.
— Miranda, a.k.a. MirandaGabrielle
What makes a gift meaningful to you? Share your story in the comments.
Juliet Gorman is Etsy's Communications Director.