A stitch in time


I Quiltf there is ever a time to think about giving, for so many of us it is as Christmas grows ever nearer. But one of the biggest worries for an increasing number of people, is how to afford what we would like to give. The pleasure we feel when we know we have found the perfect gift for a loved one used to be enough for me to justify that empty purse feeling in January, but I’m not so sure that’s a wise route to take any more.

I have always encouraged my children to make something for their relatives – my Mum and Dad particularly have always enjoyed a handmade gift from their grandchildren, rather than something I gave them the money to buy. The time and effort invested in making something yourself, plus the fact that you were thinking of the person it’s intended for as you create it, make the offering so much more personal.

BedspreadMum still has the tissue box cover that Charlie crafted for her at least 12 years ago in her downstairs loo, and Rebecca made a delightful papier mache trinket dish, painted in beautiful shades of blue, silver and purple.

Billy, now that he is older, uses technology to make the best ever cards – he takes a photo of the recipient from Facebook and incorporates it into a humorous design of his own, guaranteed to raise a smile – or several.

Mum herself has always been talented with fabric and a sewing machine, particularly using patchwork techniques. She has made some stunning Christmas decorations over the years, but most impressive are her patchwork quilts.

 Each of her four offspring and their partners, and her nine grandchildren, are proud owners of quilts to mark special events in their life. Whether it’s a birth or birthday, marriage or gap year – Mum finds a way to put special meaning into a work of textile art. Olley and I celebrated our 25th Wedding Anniversary a couple of months ago, and Mum presented us with the most incredible quilt.

It contains hundreds of pieces of fabric all joined together and then Mum handquilted it – thousands of individual stitches to create the textured pattern that makes it unique – it will become a family heirloom. Large enough to drape across our superking size bed, Mum had to make it in two halves and then join them at the end as it was too huge and heavy to handle. It obviously took many, many hours to make, and means so much more to me than anything she could have bought us.

Something of that scale needs too much time and preparation to undertake for someone this Christmas, (not to mention the cost of buying the fabric) but there are lots of ways to make a special gift for someone and save money at the same time. Last year I thoroughly enjoyed myself making salted caramel sweets to give to friends and family.

I had to spend a few pounds on a sugar thermometer but then it was mainly sugar and butter (and a little salt!) so it didn’t exactly break the bank. I found the recipe on the internet. A couple of years earlier, I bought some garden containers and planted them up with spring bulbs, so the initial present looked like a pot with soil in it, but soon the green shoots and then gorgeous blooms appeared.

Another idea I was particularly pleased with was giving flavoured vodka to my 20-something niece. I experimented with small volumes first, steeping anything from fresh lemon and limes, chilli peppers, Skittles (the sweets!) or nutmeg and cinnamon in the spirit for a couple of weeks, then straining the flavoured vodka into pretty bottles. She (and her university friends) were very appreciative, although I suppose Aunty Katharine shouldn’t really be encouraging them to drink!! You could use the same idea to make tasty oils and vinegars for a keen chef.

If you feel less than creative, a good idea is to make your own hampers. Last week Pipa and I both bought a ‘try me’ sample of seven individual Cartmel puddings (item number 801389) – which could be spread between a number of gift boxes with, perhaps, a Yankee candle and something from a collection of mini sizes from Liz Earle, for example. Cover a shoe box in wrapping paper to put everything in, rather than buying a traditional wicker hamper.

There must be so many ideas for giving a gift that doesn’t cost the earth, and with still enough time to get organised, I’d love some of yours. Have you found a way to tick off some of your present list without having to dig too deeply into your wallet? Maybe it's an offer of your time or expertise – whether it's babysitting for a 'run off her feet' mum, knocking up a pair of curtains for your 'two left handed' relative or tidying the garden to save your poor old uncle's knees!


Share your inspirations here, and maybe help someone else who is feeling the pressure – we want to put smiles on the faces of our loved ones this Christmas, but not at the cost of putting tea on the table come the New Year!

Take care – and have fun!

Kathy xx


  1. Shirley Evans November 29, 2012 at 9:23 pm -  Reply

    Kathy, your bedspread is glorious. What a marvellous gift with all that love in it. You will be warmed inside and out when you sleep under that.
    Merry Christmas,
    Shirley xx

  2. Zoe December 4, 2012 at 10:24 am -  Reply

    Hello Kathy, it was lovely to hear you talking about how much you love your quilt from your mum, how special, my mum makes knitted toys and I have been a lucky recipient there for sure!
    I felt very keen to see the quilt on your blog and I am sure your mum is loving how much you are raving about how lovely it is, and it is very clever, she is super talanted at that, how on earch does she find all the material and how long would that have taken!
    Hope it fits in your machine!
    So happy for you, and tell your mum i think she is very clever.
    As for gift shopping, a bit late to say for this year but I am a firm believer in not leaving things late and looking out all year for birthday and christmas gifts, you can often get more for your money that way and don’t have the panic of december.
    I once made chocolate biscuits for a small gift, presented nicely and they were very well recieved!
    On a different note, saw you talking about the quilt on a northern nights show and wondered with the feather bed, do you have to buy bigger fitted sheets to get over it, I dont have any N Nights bedding as yet.
    Happy Christmas

  3. Lorraine December 4, 2012 at 4:59 pm -  Reply

    Another lovely blog with some meaning and purpose to it. Many thanks.Wishing you and your family a wonderful Christmas and a happy and healthy 2013 x

  4. Christine Jones December 4, 2012 at 10:02 pm -  Reply

    Hi Kathy
    I just thought i d blog to let you know that our little grandaughter was born 11 days ago… Isabella Ruby arrived safely and she is a truly wonderful gift to us. I got in touch a few months ago to congratulate you on your silver wedding and mentioned then that were going to be granparents and also we toasted Billy on the 15th September (our 39 th Anniversary) With regard to handmade gifts, I remember my mum making a very simple knitted blanket for a friends baby , every stitch done with love and as she couldnt grip the needles to well it was all the more of a labour of love.. But she finished and added a little pocket and put a small teddy in the pocket.. That blanket was so well received and it gave her so much joy and confidence to make more as new babies came along in the family.. They are still going strong even though mum is no longer sadly with us… I have made a little red coat with strawberry buttons and bootees (which look like little scandinavian boots!)and a little hat.. These for Christmas, but my knitted efforts for her arrival were also gratefully received… and I ve made scarves for friends too.. Easy made but with the lovely yarns that are available now they look very special … Your quilt is truly stunning Kathy and how precious that your mum has made it for you with all her love in every stitch like you say…
    I have written a letter for Isabella before she arrived but during the time that she was on her way to us on her journey, I ve sent that to her so she will read it one day when she s old enough, she will teach us as we teach her I m sure.. Love and Peace and Hope are all gifts we can give to those we love for Christmas and every day arent they Kathy.. It looks like we ve all had an eventful year one way or another and we ve come through it with the help of all those gifts .. Lasting and treasured gifts… a special photo in a frame is always well received too, a small christmas cake enough for one person is lovely too.
    Well Kathy, thank you for sharing your lovely gift with us, love to you and your family and all have a blessed Chrismas together..

  5. zoe December 7, 2012 at 10:05 am -  Reply

    My last message didn’t get through so I will say again how nice the quilt is Kathy, tell your mum she is very clever, sure you will treasure it.

  6. Susan December 9, 2012 at 10:45 pm -  Reply

    Hi Kathy,
    What a very welcome blog! I adore hearing about homemade gifts. I am planning to make truffles this year. And shortbread is always a winner! Anything foodie I find is welcome from grandparents. A nice tea and coffee and condiment basket goes down well. Mum loves a nice card so even when pennies are few and far between a card can put the biggest smile on the face. Another thing we like to do is put a price limit of £3 on a gift! £3 I hear you say! Well yes, it brings out the creative side and the humourous side I can tell you! Followed by a hilarious game of charades!
    Have a wonderful Christmas. You’re a gem.
    Susan x

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