The Charm of Making: A Story of the Christmas Stockings

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Illustration from the Golden Book, The Night Before Christmas, with a Victorian family and toys, including a china doll.

My first impression of Christmas stockings came from my Little Golden Book edition of The Night Before Christmas. “The stockings were hung by the chimney with care . . .” I loved the Victorian images in this edition, especially the old toys and the china doll! The tradition of Christmas stockings did not play a big part in my childhood. If there was a stocking, it was an inexpensive mesh one prepackaged with cheap candy, received as a gift from my father’s employer.

I remember my little brother and me buying a plush stocking from the mall the year he and I lived with Mammaw at Christmas-time. We had both of our names written on the cuff with glitter and glue. This stocking was more a symbol of our solidarity (we were still a family, even without our parents there) rather than a Christmas tradition.

Lucile made needlepoint Christmas stockings for all of her grandsons–yes, all seven of her grandchildren were boys–and these very special hand made gifts became a tradition in my family with my children.

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Jonathan & Alex with their Christmas stockings made for them by Grandma ‘Cile. Jonathan’s stocking is hiding behind Alex. Christmas, 1989. Tokyo, Japan.

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Jonathan with his Needlepoint stocking. Christmas, 1990. Tokyo

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Jeremiah with his needlepoint stocking made by Grandma Lucile. Watch out! Big brother Alex is reaching for an enticing gift! Christmas, 1994. Harrah, WA

When my boys’ dad moved out from our home, we decided that the boys’ stockings would go to his house, for them to use there. It was hard for me to give up these beautiful hand-made stockings, with the memories of Christmases we had shared with them. But it is a truth that losing something makes room for something new in your life.

My friend, Ann, had a dream one night. She dreamed that she was making the most beautiful Christmas stockings of velvet and satin, with ribbon and bead trim. When she awoke, she decided that she would make the stockings that she dreamed about. Her family members were the first to benefit from her luxurious creations. But Ann was not ready to stop creating. She made stockings for her friends, and I eventually became the benefactor of a sumptuous purple velvet stocking with a white satin and lace cuff. Next, Ann decided that with my help, we would make stockings for each of the six children who then lived with me: Jonathan, Alex, Jeremiah, my twin stepsons, Isaac and Philip, and baby Brighde.

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Alex with his green velvet stocking, and the contents laid out. Christmas, 1998. Harrah, WA. (Needlepoint ornament to Alex’s left made by Lucile. Wooden stacking tower behind Alex, painted by me for Brighde.)

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Jeremiah with his purple and gold stocking, 1998

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Isaac with his white velvet stocking. 1998.

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Philip with his red velvet stocking. 1998. (The nutcracker ornament to his right is one I cross-stitched.)

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Jonathan with his blue stocking on his lap. Christmas, 1999.

Brighde, Christmas 1999

Brighde reaching into her rose stocking. Christmas, 1999.

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My four children together. January, 2000.

In Arthurian legend, as in the movie, Excalibur, Morgaine tricks Merlin into revealing to her the Charm of Making: “Anaal nathrak, uthbar spathud, dokiel dienvay.” What Morgaine did not learn from Merlin is how to give of her heart through the work of her hands.

While Christmas stockings have become a family tradition for us, more importantly, in my view, making gifts has become a tradition. This is what I call “The Charm of Making.” Sometimes everyone gets the same item, like these stockings, personalized for each one. Sometimes an item is made just especially for that person. How much nicer it is to be at home, moving my fabrics, trims, and found items around until I come across just the right effect for a gift, than to be rushing through the mall to grab that advertised manufactured item before it is all sold out.

The boys are all grown up, and live away now. Brighde and I still hang all the stockings at Yule. Sometimes, the boy who belongs with the stocking comes home to find his treats at Christmas-time. Sometimes, someone new shares Christmas with us, and gets to find treats in one of the beautiful stockings.

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My stocking: Purple Victorian pearls and lace.

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Brighde’s stocking: pearls and roses.

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Jeremiah’s stocking: royal purple with crystals and gold.

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Isaac’s stocking: sumptuous winter white.

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Jonathan’s stocking: blue and silver winter night.

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Alex’s stocking: green renaissance.

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Philip’s stocking: red and plaid with sequin lights.

One stocking was started a year after all the rest. It was started, and interrupted by life. Sometimes, the charm of making takes a while to work it’s spell. This blue stocking for Nana Marilyn was packed away for a move across the country to Connecticut, then came back to Oregon two years later, where it was unpacked again, and lay reverently on the sewing table for another eight years. This is the year that the charm fulfilled its promise for this beautiful handmade gift.

Marilyn's stocking. Early winter morning with melting ice cycles

Marilyn’s stocking. Early winter morning with melting ice cycles

May the charm of making ever visit you and your family during the magic of the winter season.

For my antique doll followers, I promise an article about fancy hair china dolls, and the history of china dolls after the holidays!

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