I love Christmas. Some people I know moan about the tyranny of writing Christmas cards, and certainly it can get a bit tedious – but once they’re posted out, and the reciprocal ones start coming in, it all becomes worthwhile. And presents – I collect them all year round, whenever I see something I think would be perfect for a particular recipient. Spreads the cost, spreads the labour, and means I can start the wrapping early on.
I wrote about re-reading recently, and since then I’ve revisited all seven of the ‘Little House on the Prairie’ stories, which I loved as a child and read over and over again. Goodness me, how Laura loved Christmas, and remembered every one of them, the good and the bad. Some years they had special gifts; I particularly remember the rubber headbands with coloured ribbon showing through a cut-out star – proof that the memory of the right gift will stay with you for always. In ‘The Long Winter’, Christmas was a poor shadow of its former self, but I can never forget the arrival of the missionary barrel in the spring, and Laura’s joy over the threads and card she was sent. Her fingers, rough from a winter of twisting hay to burn, caught on the coloured silks; a sensation familiar to anyone who stitches. And the joy she felt, and the plans she made over what she would do with them when her hands were healed, is just as familiar to me.
Years ago, I used to make all my presents – I particularly remember a felt nose-warmer, cobbled together with large and wobbly stitches, which my grandfather gamely wore when he visited. But now, time slips away, and if I can manage to make one present for Christmas, I’m lucky. This year, I made a school uniform for a much-loved dolly, to match the one worn by her small owner. The doll was the same size as an American Girl doll, and the internet, fortunately, has plenty of patterns, so the cardigan was easy to knit. The pinafore just required a dress pattern, minus sleeves but with a bias-cut binding at the armholes.
But the shirt! Laura found work with a dressmaker when she was fifteen or sixteen, and stitched all day at men’s shirts. She found the buttonholes the hardest, as they had to be exactly spaced. Mine would have failed her test; not least because I managed to mess up, cutting two buttonholes where the buttons were supposed to be stitched. No wonder they ended up lopsided. The collar was a nightmare too – I forgot that there should be a revere either side, and stitched it from edge to edge of the neckline, so the only way it will sit properly is to leave the top button undone. Very sloppy! Still, it’s done, although in dire need of an iron, and here are the pictures to prove it.
I hope you all have a Happy Christmas, and that 2016 is good to you.