Please, no homemade gifts this Christmas
As Christmas approaches, Beverley Turner begs not to be given any homemade gifts.Photo: GETTY
We need to brace ourselves for a strange Christmas. This exercise may help: head to one side, smile (do try to incorporate the eyes), raise your eyebrows and say, “Wow! How lovely – it’s home-made!” I can’t be the only one to sound crushingly sarcastic.
Chillingly, in August, Tesco sold two sewing machines every minute. John Lewis’s customers have suddenly developed a passion for knitting needles. Mini-catalogues selling over-sized letters and heart-shaped coat hooks also display sewing boxes and lick-your-own vintage streamers. Alongside such paraphernalia? The oxymoron “Domestic Bliss”.
This insidious trend is passed off as a reaction to the recession: a stoic, let’s make-do-and-mend spirit that appears particularly noble at Christmas. But let’s not kid ourselves. This is a middle-class indulgence. If you genuinely have no money, you also have no time or energy to sew flowery hearts on to pencil cases, as you’re too busy wondering how to pay the electricity bill. If you’re scraping a living, shabby chic isn’t cool – it’s just shabby.
Happily, “re-gifting” may be about to usurp “homemade” as this Christmas’s giving trend. Coined by American television comedy Seinfeld, to re-gift is to dig out an unwanted present and pass it off as your own purchase. All too often, home-made pressies have a whiff of competition. Re-gifting is the opposite – a triumph of common sense and resourcefulness over the need to show off. And a confessional re-gift must surely be an act of true love – and comic timing.
I would find few things more refreshing, honest and hilarious than a friend handing over something they didn’t want but thought I might like. What better way to prove your bond is based on openness, not simply exchanging expensive things?
The goddess of too many middle-class mothers, Cath Kidston, has a new book out called Sew! (with an exclamation mark like a forced smile). I’ve peered down into the conservatory windows of Cath Kidston’s Thames-side home from a nearby office block and can assure you she didn’t get such a property and multi-million pound empire by sitting on her backside making peg bags.
I can almost be persuaded by jam, but no matter how fashionable its Kilner jar, it will probably develop a green film at the back of the fridge and get chucked out at Easter. Until that day it will act as a reminder that I’m not the sort of woman to boil fruit and sterilise jars. And that will make me feel a little bit unimpressive.
Because it takes a steely resolve not to get swept along in the making-baking, gift-giving National Championships. For all my feminist impetus, I too am a mother, wife, daughter surrounded by this culture – and in spite of myself, you’ll only remind me that I could try harder.
Writing in Psychologies magazine, Sarah Churchwell argues: “Domestic crafts have often been undervalued. Perhaps we should return to an older feminist argument…women’s domestic creativity should be seen…as artwork, self-expression and social glue.”
Nice idea. Historically, women have channelled stifled creativity into crafts – but they were trapped at home. Quilts were born of necessity. And until men respect ceramic pots and peg bags they will remain undervalued.
Make love – not ponchos! Kick leaves with your kids! But please let’s not waste precious minutes on this earth cutting out fabric with jagged edge scissors. I dearly hope (and suspect) that most people (women) who bought knit-your-own-scarf kits in September are now clock-watching, wondering if the kit could be a gift in itself. Much better to spend the next week graciously accepting boxes of luxury chocolates, then popping them in the drawer for your aunt.
One of my closest friends has been planning her homemade presents since August. It’s a good job she is funny and clever or I’d have to reconsider our friendship. Listening to her talk about chutney is like being transported to a different era. To her, the beauty of the gift is in the effort. But I don’t want already harried women making even more effort on my behalf.
In the spirit of recession, we’re keeping family gifts to the minimum this year. For friends, I’ll re-gift or, better still, offer to babysit. Most importantly, they know I’ll find time for them – even if their tea and sympathy doesn’t come with homemade jam.
For Grandma who has everything http://su.pr/6pnDX6 #giftidea