An Heirloom Christmas
The women in my family love to create things. So much of my grandmothers, mom's, and sister's creativity has influenced me throughout my life that I can't take full credit for my craft journey without recognizing them. In their own ways, they each have lent their hand in the creation of a very special Christmas heirloom for my nephew. (Note: I created the bag in 2020 and am documenting the process here now!)
My Mémère was a talented oil painter. Her paintings are treasured family heirlooms and I hope to have one in my home one day. The painting of the Victorian woman in her garden with her baby and dog is one of my favorites that she did. According to my mom, "Mémère liked Victorian ladies and their babies. She saw a picture of this painting in an artist's book and copied the painting. She added the dog and many of the flowers that [my dad] grew in our garden from seed. [My dad] loved to garden but didn’t usually weed it. I weeded the garden a lot!"
My Nana is a skilled painter and artist as well. Whenever we went to her house as kids, she always had her acrylic paints out and was always willing to teach us how to paint flowers. I know I used so much of her paints but she never complained and always encouraged me. My sister's and my (very messy) bedroom featured some of her popular floral motifs around our window. She was also probably the first person to introduce me to sewing. My sister and I had a pillow-making sleepover at her house when I was about six years old. I know she put up a lot with us while trying to show us how to sew.
My mom is especially skilled at repainting old furniture but also is a talented crafter. We always had craft supplies in the house growing up. She encouraged us to draw, paint, scrapbook, or just create. Our Halloween costumes were often handmade and truly some of the best I've seen. Her decor sense is also something I really admire. Holiday decorations, even when they were simple, were always tasteful and creative.
My sister, Leslie, is a big DIY-er and crafter. She is always ahead of the trends and the person I ask for Christmas decor predictions. I still am not over the one-year birthday party decor she made all herself! She definitely gets her love of decorating from my mom.
As for me, I've always dabbled in drawing, painting, and crafting. It wasn't until college that I taught myself how to sew. After college, I got interested in quilting when I worked at a fabric store. I never thought much of quilts but I realized that I had a connection to quilting when I looked back at some childhood photos. My dad had a quilt made by his Grandma Hazel that we used for outdoor picnics. She gave it to him when he graduated high school in 1979. It was a well-loved blanket in our house, one that was always used on the couch or for sitting on while someone pulled you across the house on the tile floor. As you can see in these photos, it is torn up! It is currently retired, sitting in a closet at my parent's house. There are only a few front pieces left. From what I can tell, it was a quilt made in the classic House pattern with green and peach sashing.
When I started making quilts, I truly fell in love with the idea of making heirlooms that would be passed down to generations. I really don't think there are more heartwarming gifts than something hand-crafted.
When my sister had her first child (and the first grandchild to my parents), I knew I would have fun making lots of little things for my nephew. For his first Christmas, my sister approached me about making a custom Christmas gift sack. I love the idea of making a large bag that could be used time and time again to wrap presents.
My sister is a fan of non-traditional Christmas colors, so we decided on a lovely mix of textured peaches, ochres, blush, and blues. We opted for this bundle from Fabric Bubb, plus we added in ecru cotton and a couple of prints.
We decided to design the bag after the Expanding Stars pattern by Quilty Love. The pattern itself doesn't offer that size, but I replicated the pattern by doing the math myself.
In order to sew everything in the correct orientation, I laid out all my pieces on my sewing table. There were a lot of HST to line up correctly!
Making the front design was a very time intensive ordeal, so instead of making front and back the same, I decided to create a scrappy checkerboard pattern for the back. Both the front and back patchwork were then quilted with batting but no backing.
After the front and back patchwork were quilted, I sewed them right sides together and gave the bag a square bottom. Then I lined the bag with a cotton canvas in order to hide the seams and batting inside the bag.
The bag features a drawstring closure. I had never done a drawstring before, but I'm pretty thrilled with how it turned out.I used a cotton canvas to create an enclosure for the drawstring. I added in a label to the inside of the bag with my nephews name, the year it was made, and my initials.
Since there were some scraps left over from the bag, I made some coordinating monogram ornaments for nephew, my sister, and brother-in-law.
I received some the the cutest pictures back from my sister. They had a white Christmas and took Simon for a little joy ride on his new red wagon. I think Santa would be jealous of his quilted toy sack!
This Christmas sack is one of my favorite things I've made to date, and I'm sure it will be a new tradition every time a new baby is welcomed into our family.