Popular 1884 Christmas Gifts

This list of popular 1884 Christmas gifts begin with an item praised by Cousin Dora. You may not have known her, but once you have read about the item she describes, I’m sure you will agree with her.


Christmas Gifts

Published 1884, Harper's Bazaar
Edited for use on this site


Quaint Work Basket

Cousin Dora, coming northward with the birds and blossoms from her winter in Florida, enthusiastically declared that nothing gave her greater comfort than the quaint work-basket Madge made for her the Christmas before; for it lay perfectly limp and flat in her trunk when traveling, and could be drawn up into the stiffest and firmest of baskets when wanted.

Hers was a soft-finish French cretonne delicate gray in color of groundwork, powdered all over with lovely pink roses, and it is lining was light blue satteen. A darker material could be made effective by using Turkey red, or both the inside and outside can be cut from the same material. Each piece must be a circle of eighteen inches in diameter, and a hexagon of stout pasteboard, each of its sides accurately measuring four and a half inches, with its centre corresponding to the centers of both outside and lining, must be well basted into place. This forms the bottom of the basket, and must have a row of stitching as close to the pasteboard as the machine will allow.

The easiest way to obtain a true hexagon is to cut in stiff paper a perfect square, having each side twice the size of the required figure. Place a pencil mark directly in the centre of each of two opposite sides, thus dividing them; the other two sides, in the same way, divide each into four; draw an oblique line from the centre mark on each side to the outer ones on the two adjacent sides; there will have been then drawn four oblique lines, which, with the inner parts of the two sides that were divided into four, will form the sides of a hexagon.

The loose part of the circle lying outside the row of stitching must have fitted into it six pieces of the stiff pasteboard that will form backs for as many compartments, to serve for the needle-book, pin-cushion, scissors, buttons, etc., etc.

Cut each of these pieces a trifle less at the base than that of the hexagon, sloping outward until each one will measure four and three-eighth inches at base, three and three-quarters the depth of each side, and five and three-quarter inches in a straight line across the top; this is only the measure that serves as a guide for the slope of the sides, as in cutting the top it must follow the curve of the circle.

Slip these pieces in between the outside and lining, so the bottom of each one shall come down to the sides of the hexagon, and baste the two lines as guides for the stitching that will form the case for each piece: you will find the top of every one will be nearly four inches from the top of the one adjacent, and also five-eighths of an inch from the outer edge of the circle; when finished you will see the reason of it.

When the stitching is done, the pasteboard pieces slipped in, the case for the drawing-string that gives shape to the whole affair is to be made. The outer row of stitching is just three-eighths of an inch from the edge of the material, and the inner one the same distance nearer the centre: this gives ample room for the narrow heavy ribbon, that can be tied, after the basket is pulled into shape, in loops long enough to serve as handles.

Small eyelets must be worked, so that when undrawn and laid flat the ribbon comes out and lies over the lining in the narrow sections between the stiffened cases; thisis to prevent the puffed-out effect the necessary fullness would have, instead of the decidedly ornamental one it naturally takes. Bind the outer edge with the same color and width of ribbon used for the handles. Then the pockets: some should be plain, others full and of fancy shape, and may be plainly stitched into position or fastened by ribbon bows.


Laundry Bag

Once you use a “laundry bag” when away for the summer, and only one room in which to keep the thousand and one articles so necessary to one’s comfort, and you will never again be without one.

The bright fancy cretonne of which you will wish to make it does not come wide enough, and as both sides must be alike, it will take five yards of material, which should be cut into four lengths Sew two and two together, trimming off until there are two squares.

Cut from Turkey red linings for these, and a third piece to serve as the division for the two compartments; after each piece of cretonne is well basted on its lining cut a perpendicular slit in it that shall be twelve inches long and nearer the top line than the lower one; bind it neatly, but close and firm, with the best quality of skirt braid, for it bears no little strain in the pulling in and out of the different articles.

The two outer pieces and the centre one are next to be smoothly and evenly basted together just inside the outer edge, which must be trimmed before the braid that keeps them in place is stitched on; then the upper side; and having cut two pieces of braid each three-quarters of a yard in length, form a long loop as it is sewed on, trying the rest just below the stitches. These loops may be hung on two separate nails, or both placed on one.


An Attractive Paper Rack

Five large odd-looking Japanese fans, the sort that open and shut, formed the base for a very attractive paper rack that one noticed first on entering the room in which it hung. They had done duty all summer, with careful handling, of course; but the little wires that pass through the sticks and keep them in place had grown loose, and so were easily pulled out, leaving them in a perfectly manageable condition. Just before the holidays dealers will often sell them at a merely nominal sum, so fresh ones can be bought for the front and sides, where the best color and decoration are needed. Some lovely ones had a blue ground with a band of gilt across the top, and clouded effect in dashes of the same at one side, from which came a large tree branch bearing red and white blossoms.

Pulled out the front one its entire length, and run through the opening in the sticks either ribbon or the silver or brass wire that is used in hanging pictures; the twisted in prettier than the plain. Do not draw up the wire; it only serves to keep the sticks in position and the papers from tumbling through.

Partly close the two used for the sides, leaving them only opened wide enough for the depth of the rack, and wire that sticks firmly at the bottom continuing the same pieces that was used across the front if it can be securely fastened and will not slip out of place. With a sharp instrument punch holes at the front corners, pass ribbon through, and tie about an inch below the top; this is not only for the strength needed right there, but for the added finish. The back should be fashioned of pasteboard or thin board, and should correspond with the open fan that forms the front in size.

Let the sticks of the two remaining ones meet in the centre of a circle, of which the paper portion will form the outside part; wire and fasten to the board so that it shall come half its depth above the front, and carry up a piece of wide ribbon sufficiently long to form loops and ends above the rack, and from which it shall be suspended. Any pretty sticks of turned wood, or even a section of bamboo fishing-rod, will make suitable corner pieces for the back part against the wall, and should be cut long enough to extend a few inches above.

Another way of arranging the two fans in the back, and which rest on the wall, is to turn the stick part outward, and put the paper in the middle. They then correspond to the outstretched ones of the fan in front.




Dainty Cabinet or Book Shelf

Could any one imagine how pretty and dainty a cabinet or book-shelves can be made from tow starch boxes? Soap boxes answer just as well, but need thorough airing to remove the odor, that is not always of the most delicate kind.

Measure accurately, tat when placed one over the other there will be no inequalities at the sides or back. A difference in width would not be at all objectionable, for the upper compartment, smaller than the lower, would more readily accommodate the many trifles that accumulate from year to year.

Turning the larger box over on its side, and the smaller one directly over it in the same position, screw pieces of lath or any thin wood you may happen to have into both boxes at the back. You will find the thicker wood is in the ends, so work there to avoid the points of the screws that will be sadly out of place if they come through the cabinet.

Stain the whole outside a rich mahogany, and make it afterward as near an oil-finish affair as you can. There were some recipes given in the Bazar for staining, some time back, that were very good.

There will now be two shelves inside the cabinet and one on top, that will make more room than you would imagine. Line in the neatest manner the inside of each box, concealing where you can the brads and tacks necessary. When the work must show, use brass or copper nails, preferring the latter if no brass is added in the way of rods and rings. Felt answers very nicely for the lining; so also does plush of inferior quality, and velveteen; but if you are adopting the strictly economical plan, let me whisper to you that velvet paper, though much harder to work up, has a very fine, rich effect.

Simple brackets, merely cut from the wood and stained, with no effort at ornamentation, are a great addition, and a shelf or two on the side gives yet more room. The large upholstery shops will often let their small samples go out for a trifle, and with poles and rings a pretty curtain can be fashioned that will be valuable as much for use as ornament.

There is now the joining of the two boxes to be covered. Put either a strip of material across it, studding with brass or copper nails, or leather pinked at the lower edge. It is the sort used for book-shelves, and obtained in narrow strips by the yard. If preferred, the lower case can be used for books, leaving the upper one and shelf above for bric-a-brac.


A Pretty Umbrella Holder

A little bit of decorative needle-work can transform a piece of linen into such a pretty umbrella-holder. Nothing is so continually in the way when not needed as one’s own umbrella. It will not keep its place in the corner of the cupboard and has just outgrown the bureau drawer.

Choose the heaviest either gray or ecru linen you can, and see that it is of even texture. Cut first the back, which should be a straight piece thirty-nine inches long and eight wide. This is now to have two points at both top and bottom, which will make the distance between them, right through the centre vertically, thirty-five inches.

The front comes next, and corresponds in width and lower pointed end, but is not so long as the back, and its upper edge is in two shallow scallops, measuring thirty inches from each point to the lowest parts of the line above. Bind with either black or self-colored worsted braid this scalloped end, and then draw the decoration, which is best some bold, striking design. Three or four cat-tails with their long graceful leaves, or a bunch of seedy grass, the latter a bright red, are suitable. If something more ambitious is desired, try a flight of birds, either in black or colors, and work in with crewels, using the outline stitch or filled in. Keep the work as flat as possible, and by all means avoid drawing and puckering out the shape.

Baste all round evenly and smoothly, trimming off the superfluous material, and stitch right through the centre of the outside from the point where the two scallops meet to the lower edge a piece of doubled braid. Now there will be two compartments in the case, which is now to be bound entirely around. Hang from two nails by concealed loops of braid on the under side of each upper point.


Two Pen-wipers

Two conceits for pen-wipers are such pretty ones that it seems impossible the small outlay of time and money can produce such results.

Cut two circles of cloth, either brown, blue, green, or black, dark in color, but of light weight; with the scissors make very fine sharp points around them, as also around the two similar circles of soft chamois which are to serve for the practical part of it From creamy white cloth cut another circle of the same dimensions; this makes five altogether, two each of chamois and dark cloth, with one of white that is to serve for the upper side, and which must be cut to represent sunflower or daisy petals.

Each one will be an inch deep, and its line of division from the other will come an inch from the centre; there must be twenty-four of these petals in the piece of cloth. Stud this centre space with French knots of four shades of brown crewel, the centre a golden shade, and the outer very dark.

From these knots out on each petal put a quarter-inch-length stitch of bright gold silk, having each side of it a shorter one of lighter gold. Place the chamois between the dark cloth, on top the flower-shaped piece, and with dark sewing silk put in a circle of stitches that will be about the size of the centre, and serve to keep the parts in place.

The other affair was of leather, or at least the most noticeable part was, and represented four tiny pigs at a trough, two and two, with their noses nearly meeting across the common feeding ground.

Shape four oval pieces, each three and a half by two and a half inches, of either cloth or flannel, the centre ones black, to take the ink, and top and bottom red; pink them around with very fine points; across the short diameter put the trough, which is a piece of stout pasteboard an inch and a quarter long and half an inch in width, doubled over and pressed slightly to give it the trough shape; put end bits of the pasteboard a scant half-inch square, and keep them all as you want them by a touch of gum-arabic.

Take soft thin leather for the animals, or they will not shape easily Each one stands a trifle over half an inch in height, and measures exactly one inch from the tip of his snout to then end of his body.

Cut each piece of leather as near the shape of an outstretched animal as can be, fold in at the front for the snout, stuff with finely cut paper, and sew into as good a shape as possible.

Tiny pieces of leather and two black beads will be fastened into place for eyes and earls, gathering the latter a trifle to form the loose thrown-forward effect natural to them. Curl a narrow strip for the tails, and sew each tiny little pig, as fresh and clean as he never is in real life, right through the four thicknesses by blind stitches.



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