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Gifts from the heart, not the shelf

November 30, 2006|by CANDICE BOSELY

It can be a daunting task, standing amid the pink toys and electronic gizmos while trying to decide what to buy a grandchild for Christmas.

A toy store employee, the child's parents or the child can help with suggestions, but some area residents suggest supplementing the latest toy with something that could have more meaning years from now.

"The handmade things become the heirloom things," said Barbara Diefenderfer, of Hagerstown, who made a stocking for her grandson, Grant, last year and a sweater for him this year.

Handmade stockings and other original creations are a tradition for her family.

"It's a way of sharing love," she said. "When you put something of yourself into it it's a little more valuable than if you pass over your credit card and take something off the shelf."

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Diefenderfer said she'll likely make Grant, who is 17 months old, a quilt, more clothing and a sock monkey.

Although a blanket, clothing, items made from wood, or other handcrafted items might now be superseded in interest by a video game, doll or iPod accessory, the same might not be true when the child is old enough to appreciate the time and effort involved in creating the item.

Cheryl Smith made a handmade ornament every year for each of her three children as they were growing up. When they went off to college or started a family, they had a collection of special ornaments to use to decorate their first Christmas tree, she said.

"They have their own little box of ornaments as a starter," Smith said, adding that the ornaments could spark memories of different Christmases.

It's a tradition she plans to continue with her granddaughter, Ashley, who is 22 months old.

Smith, of Halfway, last year made a blanket for her granddaughter that featured a colorful Noah's Ark scene. This year, along with the ornament, Smith plans to make a doll for Ashley.

It's not just for grandchildren that handmade items can be given as gifts, she said.

Even men who might not consider themselves capable of making something homemade could surprise themselves.

A family matter

One year Smith's large family decided that all gifts exchanged had to be homemade. Daunted at first, the men came through with baked goods and other food creations. One, a welder, made a CD rack, Smith said.

"It was really nice. And I think they enjoyed doing it," Smith said. "It was a nice accomplishment for them too."

Smith has made table runners for nieces in the past.

"Most people appreciate the time that you put into something to make it special for them," she said.

"Homemade is something you've thought about - what is someone like, what do they need, what goes with their house."

Judy Williamson, of Boonsboro, said she makes clothing, including monogrammed items, for her 15-month-old grandson, Cameron.

"I always make something," she said, adding that in the past when she worked at a university she made handmade gifts for secretaries.

"I find that the people seemed to appreciate it better" than a store-bought item, she said. "If you make it yourself you put more thought into it."

She said it's fun to make items for her grandson and see him wearing them and such items are more likely to be kept.

"They have more meaning to them," she said.

Although homemade items are not always less expensive than a store-bought purchase - especially when taking into consideration the time involved in making them - they are unique and special.

"The quality is far better than things you will buy, if you have good skills," Williamson said.

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