Handmade touches make Christmas special

Love surrounds gifts created by giver

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Christmas so readily skews toward the commercial that Allen Roper decided to take at least one thing into her own hands.

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A needlepoint Christmas Nativity sits on a mantel in the Ropers' home. Allen Roper said it took her "a couple of years to do it."  SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
A needlepoint Christmas Nativity sits on a mantel in the Ropers' home. Allen Roper said it took her "a couple of years to do it."

The trimmings on her mantel and the stockings for her kids are handmade.

A Christmas crèche, started 30 years ago, features 15 needlepoint figurines. There’s nothing like it in the stores.

“It look a couple of years to do it,” she said. “I made it for my children. Now my grandchildren enjoy it.”

That’s the thing about handmade Christmas décor, she said: You are not only creating decorations, you are making heirlooms that stay in the family for generations.

“A gift created with love has become a tradition in the Roper household,” she said.

At Christmas, Patricia Fabisiak turns personalized Christmas ornaments into gifts for her family and friends.

“It started out as an inexpensive way to give gifts to our family and friends the year I was laid off from work, and it has literally exploded from there,” she said. “The first year we made about 50 ornaments. Each year the number has increased.”

This year, she’s making 141 personalized ornaments for family and friends, but also more than 100 Chrismon ornaments for the tree at her church, Capers Chapel United Methodist Church in Beech Island.

Each ornament is created with a mix of flour, salt and water. They’re hand-cut with cookie cutters, painted in acrylic and left to dry. The process, Fabisiak said, takes “a lot of love and patience.”

“The ornaments are our way of showing our love each year, and the recipients really enjoy them. We are thinking about making even more next year and selling them at the Barnyard,” she said.

Mandy Flanders’ creations became so popular with family and friends that she, too, created a business to showcase her handicrafts: Flandy’s Fancy Creations.

In addition to things for her own home, she’ll whip up banners and wreaths for others, along with personalized soap dispensers and coffee tumblers to give as gifts.

At Christmas, she’ll hand-make cards.

“It’s a one-of-a-kind thing,” she said. “No one else has the same one.”

She often keeps her creations year after year, even as she makes new decorations or ornaments.

“I can look back over the years and see things I’ve made,” she said.

For those trying their hand at Christmas crafts for the first time, Flanders suggests looking for patterns and ideas for things you’ll like seeing “year after year.”

Consider making a handful of items on your list at home.

“Handmade things mean more than store-bought because they take time. They take forethought,” she said.

“It makes a gift that much more special.”

Shop Goodwill or Salvation Army for materials or scrap fabric. Use coupons at larger arts and crafts stores.

“Remember: You can create almost anything if you put your mind to it,” Flanders said. “And there’s a tutorial for almost everything on YouTube.”

Roper said she reminds herself that handmade crafts are often a work in progress. Even after 30 years of work, her crèche isn’t quite finished.

“I’ve still got one more figure to do – a ram,” she said. “Then it will be complete.”


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