Shop Etsy

The Stories Behind What You Give

Dec 1, 2010

by Juliet Gorman

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.


jahje-75.jpgEvery 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


swanslough-75.jpgI’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


ChrisRockerLR-web.jpgThe 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


sammysgrammy_75.jpgAlmost 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

hr.gifmiranda-gabrielle-200.jpgKnitting 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.


  • BluLima

    BluLima said 5 years ago

    Great stories...loved reading about the rocking chair!

  • myvintagecrush

    myvintagecrush said 5 years ago

    Great stories! It's cliche, but it really is more fun to give :)

  • AZCreativeStudio

    AZCreativeStudio said 5 years ago

    Great stories!

  • TheSweetPeaShoppe

    TheSweetPeaShoppe said 5 years ago

    Cute stories! I enjoy giving handmade gifts to my family members too. :D

  • scarletbegonia11

    scarletbegonia11 said 5 years ago

    I <3 this article and all the beautiful stories in it! The little wooden oven sounds so special. My grandparents made me a wooden doll house for my 8th or 9 th christmas. It was as tall as me and had so much care and love put into it. People remember handmade, well thought out gifts, not toxic toys from china :-)

  • LittleMissDressUp

    LittleMissDressUp said 5 years ago

    80% of the items I give for Christmas or hostess gifts are handmade by me- yes, just like mentiones above they really are infused with love. The most treasured items I have received have been handmade as well, just like that rocking chair. I loved reading these stories!!

  • LittleMissDressUp

    LittleMissDressUp said 5 years ago

    good movie!!!

  • Parachute425

    Parachute425 said 5 years ago

    Great stories. Thanks.

  • SimplyByBex

    SimplyByBex said 5 years ago

    Thanks for sharing your stories! I give handmade gifts whenever I can. I find that it adds a special layer to the meaning of gifting when the gifts are handmade.

  • babeecrafts

    babeecrafts said 5 years ago

    Great stories! I especially connected with SusanFaye's story. There is something so heartwarming about passing on the tradition of handmade gifts to the next generation. I hope my sons will pass on their stories and gifts just as my mother passed hers to my sister and me.

  • nowonder

    nowonder said 5 years ago

    A gift becomes meaningful to me if the giver put some taught into it and actually took the time to think about what the other person would like or want.It can be small, but if it shows that he was thinking about it, it means a lot!

  • StitchSenseDesigns

    StitchSenseDesigns said 5 years ago

    Love these stories! So sweet.

  • omuse

    omuse said 5 years ago

    I lack people in my life that actually like to receive homemade gifts. Most people I know want the "Made In China" crap or electronics/video games and thats the one this that I have yet to figure out how to craft! But I have been blessed with a daughter who is now 3 and marvels at me sitting at my craft table. She will be the one of the only ones getting a handmade gift this year, because she has immense apreciation. I love my little mini-me so much! (Btw: I have designed a logo of her, which I have appliqued onto her own superhero costume. Now she can properly save the toy animals and baby's!)

  • MegansMenagerie

    MegansMenagerie said 5 years ago

    Awesome stories! Thanks!!!

  • damenandroscoe

    damenandroscoe said 5 years ago

    I really liked Natanya's story. I went shopping for my gifts early this year and got to spend a lot of time thinking about what would make the perfect gift rather than whatever you can get your hands on. It's also great to shop early because if you buy from Etsy, you don't have to worry the item arriving on time, paying extra for shipping, etc.

  • IcingOnTheCupcake

    IcingOnTheCupcake said 5 years ago

    Love this, wonderful stories!

  • ShopMarigold

    ShopMarigold said 5 years ago

    Loved these stories. Gift giving is more about the giver than the receiver. I love handmade anything. It says someone loved me enough to take the time out to make something, create something, just for me. *love that*.

  • TeamRuster

    TeamRuster said 5 years ago

    We should do these quarterly! I loved these =))

  • TCaponePhoto

    TCaponePhoto said 5 years ago

    Great stories! Thank you for sharing!

  • pileofstones

    pileofstones said 5 years ago

    Thanks for sharing these great stories! Handmade is heart-made, which for me is the best kind of gift to give, as well as to receive.

  • celticsteam

    celticsteam said 5 years ago

    I like to give the things I make too. I usually make things with a certain person in mind. The best gifts I get are hand made too.

  • CarryTheWord

    CarryTheWord said 5 years ago

    Wonderful stories!

  • bedouin

    bedouin said 5 years ago

    sharing is caring ~*~

  • WhisperingOak

    WhisperingOak said 5 years ago

    This is a wonderful article. Things handmade, shared at Christmas show the friend or relative the careful thought you have given when choosing the present. If you made it yourself, shows how much time you have given to your loved one.

  • theartofobservation

    theartofobservation said 5 years ago

    I love stories! Thank you putting this together. Best to everybody this holiday season.

  • ikabags

    ikabags said 5 years ago

    Great and beautiful stories. Thanks.

  • LittleWrenPottery

    LittleWrenPottery said 5 years ago

    Beautiful stories, its amazing how the memories of handmade linger!

  • FeltShmelt

    FeltShmelt said 5 years ago

    I love these stories, thanks so much for sharing! My fiance and I had what we called "A Very Etsy Christmas" last year, where almost everything we gave to others was from sellers on Etsy. The reactions from those receiving the gifts was so heartwarming and special! Giving handmade is where it's at!

  • swanslough

    swanslough said 5 years ago

    Thank you for featuring my little gifting story. Phil the honeyman will certainly be pleased when I tell him about this. I enjoyed reading the other little stories on here..especially the one about the little wooden kitchen and the wooden chair. I love handmade furniture...especially since it can so easily become an heirloom. Thanks again and happy holidays to all!

  • HomemadeZen

    HomemadeZen said 5 years ago

    Lovely story, although I have to admit I do enjoy black friday shopping for things we typically can't get handmade, like the HDTV that my dad wants. Whatever that brings joy to the recipent is what I buy :)

  • marysworkshop

    marysworkshop said 5 years ago

    You have captured the heart of handmade by sharing these stories!

  • tropicsandtradewinds

    tropicsandtradewinds said 5 years ago

    What lovely stories!!! Thank you for sharing these with us...and for featuring these sellers, too! Lovely shops, everyone.

  • DevineCollectible

    DevineCollectible said 5 years ago

    Real nice, put thought into what you give,,, as it is better to give than get! peace out!

  • mazedasastoat

    mazedasastoat said 5 years ago

    Of course you have to buy what the people want, but thwere are often hand made options that you can go for. Several years ago, when my better half was a big, tough construction worker, I made him a Valentine's card & when he opened it he cried... not, I have to admit, for the sheer beauty of it, but for the loving sentiment behind it. THAT'S the extra you get from giving (and receiving) hand made items, & why Etsy's such a fabulous place to shop.

  • CynthiaCreations

    CynthiaCreations said 5 years ago

    Great stories =)

  • SusanFaye

    SusanFaye said 5 years ago

    Thank you SO MUCH for including my story about my dad's handcrafted gifts to 4-year-old me and to my son so many years later. Growing up in a house where handmade objects were celebrated and revered has led me on a path to the wonderful world of Etsy and sharing my creations with people all over the world!

  • gardenjewels

    gardenjewels said 5 years ago

    This was the sweetest idea Etsy ~ wonderful stories everyone :)

  • inspirationsbyd

    inspirationsbyd said 5 years ago

    There are so many wonderful stories here. I have to say that the bests gifts I ever received while growing up, were all handmade and the gift of being taught how to make things on my own from my mother, grandmother, and dad have been the best gifts during my childhood. I believe I get my craftiness from my grandmother and mother, those are two talented women! I love making things on my own, my greatest creation is my son. He is a beautiful creation from above because I was not able to conceive and yet here he is. He is the reason I started crafting again, it seems that we (grandma, mom, me) have passed along the creativity to him and that includes his dad. His dad has a talent for art. My son inspires me everyday. I can't wait to see more of his lovely creations as he grows up.

  • howlindoggie

    howlindoggie said 5 years ago

    I always try to give what I make... In the event that I have run out of items or time to make gifts, i buy handmade, which makes me feel as happy about giving, because then i am also supporting another maker.

  • redemptionart

    redemptionart said 5 years ago

    ..awww, the bee man, I have one of those here in Hawaii too, jolly and sweet, maybe because they are around honey all the time? great stories...this is what life and relationships are all about!

  • Maggiespassion

    Maggiespassion said 5 years ago

    This year my husband and my sonJonah are receiving hand made leather belts made from shops on Etsy, I usually give out my handmade scarves because the winters in Taos are long and cold, but the very best gift this year is the return of my husband's health, he has been battling sugar diabetes, and seems now to be much better, Happy and gracious Holidays everyone, Maggie

  • NatanyaElka

    NatanyaElka said 5 years ago

    Thank you SO much for reading and including my story. I've honestly never been a commercial shopper, so having the opportunity to share my feelings with other like-minded people is truly a *blessing.* No matter what gifts we give (but handmade is always better ~ haha), the best things really do come from our hearts. Happy Hoildays, everyone!

  • frolicnfibers

    frolicnfibers said 5 years ago

    Wonderful stories! My favorite was the one about the wooden oven and the rocking chair. This year I'm making "bedding sets" for my grandgirls, complete with pillows in the shapes of hearts and flowers. I've been doing handmade for my family for three years now and can't think of anything that gives me more pleasure :)

  • doveandflower

    doveandflower said 5 years ago

    Loved the stories. Have been a fan of PearsonMaron for ages. LOL your snuggies:)

  • LunasaDesigns

    LunasaDesigns said 5 years ago

    Love the stories! I actually braved the stores this black Friday with my MIL and SIL. It was very, very interesting... A study in human nature, for sure! I DID figure out the lure of Black Friday by the end of the day - it satiates our very basic instincts to hunt... and fight... Not always pleasant instincts but two that definitely come out at least once a year for some people. haha! I either give meaningful or useful gifts or no gifts at all - I know that it's "the thought that counts" but I would rather not be the cause of more clutter in someone else's life.

  • vivikas

    vivikas said 5 years ago

    Such a cute video and great stories, so fun!

  • olana11

    olana11 said 5 years ago

    I love these stories. Thanks so much for sharing. Gift giving, in my opinion is about love and is so deep and spiritual. As Natanya Elka said, it's way beyond battling it out in the stores. It comes from the heart and from what is inside the giver and is transferred to the receiver. That never depreciates or goes out of styles.

  • Mclovebuddy

    Mclovebuddy said 5 years ago

    great stories!

  • fandanglz

    fandanglz said 5 years ago

    It is so nice to see there are still people who believe a gift is from the heart and not what you spend on it!

  • fandanglz

    fandanglz said 5 years ago

    It is so nice to see that there are actually still people out there who believe the gift should come from the heart and not the pocket!

  • marycaikens1artlady

    marycaikens1artlady said 5 years ago

    I enjoy reading various stories of what people do and give to other people. Making handmade signs is a prime example of what I do and have done as various gifts for people. From this endeavor leads to other endeavors such as taking commissions to do personalized name plaques as well as novelty signs.

  • InspiredDesigns4YOU

    InspiredDesigns4YOU said 5 years ago

    I love to hear stories, for that also give us Estians inspiration!!! Like throwing a pebble on a pond, it has a ripple effect - not knowing here the final circle will end up. My passion is to create that special gift. I had the greatest pleasure of designing a necklace for a lady with visual issues, each bead was a labour of love. I also like to receive gifts from children: a simple drawing or a smile from a little one. A quite moment sharing a hot chocolate amid the rush of the Christmas/Holiday season. Wouldn't it be nice to designated day and time in December for all Estians to come together for a 'COFFEE BREAK'. Perhaps management will pick this idea up. Cheers Everyone...

  • purplecove

    purplecove said 5 years ago

    I loved reading SWANSLOUGH farmer's market story! I hope she writes a book about her memories. Her descriptions and content are so lovely and lively! Thanks for sharing.

  • ZenBeach

    ZenBeach said 5 years ago

    Wonderful stories... thanks for sharing!

  • 41Hawthorne

    41Hawthorne said 5 years ago

    It has always been handmade gifts, ornaments etc. in my life forever...I think originally, in my family, it was out of handmade gifts evolve out of joy in the memories, the process, and the tradition. Even new family members take on making a gift here and there and it is the best feeling for all involved. Highly recommended. Thank you for the subject matter.

  • antiquegrrl

    antiquegrrl said 5 years ago

    So Sweet :)

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