Colleagues, friends, creative collaborators: The people who dreamed up the handmade gifts on the following pages are all of those things (in no particular order). They are also all members of the Martha Stewart Living extended family -- current and past contributors to this magazine.
This year, they paired up to make presents. Some are one-of-a-kind treasures, while others are easy assembly-line items you can make in multiples. So borrow these ideas -- or just the notion of crafting with someone you care about. During this busy season, a few hours spent together on a winter afternoon may be the best gift you can give yourself -- and your favorite co-conspirator.
Lifelong crafter Jodi and food editor turned blogger-photographer Amy met at MSL in the 1990s, but their friendship really blossomed when they were both expecting their first children. These days, parenthood is their passion -- both personally and professionally. When Jodi started working on a book about crafting with supermarket candies, she asked Amy to team up with her.
Their recently published collaboration, Candy Aisle Crafts (Potter Craft), is full of ideas with a playful spirit similar to that of these cookie “snow globes.” They decorated homemade gingerbread cookies with royal icing and candies, and produced luminous trees by melting hard candies into triangle shapes. Everything is anchored in more icing and sealed in glass jars with painted tops. The contents are edible -- but more likely to be admired than eaten. More ideas from Jodi and Amy can be found on supermakeit.com.
Erin and Steph brought their love of color and modern design to many stories for the magazine -- and became friends in the process. Later, once they were self-employed -- Erin is a graphic designer, illustrator, and blogger at theindigobunting.com; Steph is a craft stylist -- they worked together on a book. Make and Give (Roost Books, 2014) is filled with ideas in their signature style. “We like small gestures, easy gifts that are considered and thoughtful,” says Erin.
Sewing is Steph’s area of expertise, and it didn’t take her long to turn out these bags in multiples -- felt doesn’t fray, so no hemming is required. “We came up with this bag for our friends, who are always reading on the go,” she says. From largest to smallest, the pockets on the gray bag are sized to hold a newspaper, tablet, smartphone, and New York City subway card. They make the smaller one, with pockets for small toys, for kids. Erin also designed two versions of calendars; either can be given with a bag or on its own, and will brighten anyone’s desk all year long.
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Ellen, the magazine’s editor, and Jennifer, the design director, don’t just see each other at work; they spend a lot of time together with their husbands and children (five between them) outside the office. When they decided to spend an afternoon making gifts for teachers, easy assembly-line production was key. Everyone pitched in. Ellen made a big batch of granola, which is simple to customize with different add-ins (get the recipe). Jennifer found the jars of raw honey and planned the packaging: handsome, compostable wooden boxes lined with tissue. Then the kids took over, filling and sealing the bags of granola, packing the boxes, and making labels to tie on with waxed twine. Those few hours proved a perfect antidote to the frenzy of the holiday season.
After working together to create more than 15 years of holiday content, editor-in-chief Eric and crafts director Marcie know a few things about gift-giving -- and they know each other really well. So these two friends don’t have a hard time coming up with presents to exchange.
This year, Marcie made a set of bespoke drawstring bags for Eric, to corral items in his tote or luggage; she planned the fabrics and colors around his gray wool blazer with a bright lining. “I love gifts that you can easily personalize,” says Marcie.
For her, Eric made butterfly ornaments that evoke an antique spun-glass German pair he’d given her for a previous Christmas. The supplies for making them are not as elusive as the originals: He purchased spun-glass wings from a specialty craft shop and combined them with clay bodies -- adding painted details in red and white to match the palette of Marcie’s tree.
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The first conversation that Heidi and Michael ever had was in the office kitchen at Martha Stewart Living -- a discussion about which tea to choose, mint or English breakfast. Several years later, they brought their expertise (she was a food editor and he was a product designer) to Bellocq, a tea company they launched in 2010 featuring beautifully packaged full-leaf teas. For a special gift, they assembled a luxurious teatime in a box.
“The concept can be as simple or as decadent as you wish,” says Heidi. They chose antique gold-rimmed teacups and vintage silver spoons from the flea market, a tin of tea and a silver strainer from Bellocq, rose-scented sugar and teaspiced fruitcake made by Heidi (get these two recipes), and storebought candies.
Luggage tags and stationery are natural gift choices for these two, who have gone far -- literally! -- since working at MSL. Former home editor Melañio is now a prop stylist based in Brussels, and former crafts editor Sophie is a set designer and author (her book of activities for kids will be published in English in 2016) who lives in Paris. They both travel frequently, so Melañio thought of luggage tags for Sophie and her family.
“I could never find ones for myself that are both stylish and functional,” he says. So he made them -- and achieved a timeless look by cutting out leather and embossing it. Having received New Year’s greetings from Melañio in the past, Sophie suspected a package of cards would be appreciated; she printed them herself. “I would be happy to receive New Year’s cards as a present,” she says. “You know you have a good gift if it’s something you would like to have.”
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Though they create content in a wide range of looks for MSL, Tanya, a prop stylist from London, and Silke, a crafts editor originally from Germany, share a similar pared-down, European aesthetic when it comes to their personal styles. “We like things that are clean, minimal, and functional,” says Tanya. “Whatever the opposite of fussy is,” agrees Silke.
So that’s the effect they gravitated toward when teaming up to develop gifts for their colleagues and friends: a simple pot holder embellished with ribbon stripes, inspired by French natural-linen tea towels, along with wooden kitchen utensils. “If you can knit and purl, you can make these,” says Silke of the rectangles she made from cotton and cotton-linen yarns. Twill-tape stripes can be stitched on in any color. Tanya sought out tools with interesting forms -- and modest price tags -- for gifts that are clean, minimal, and functional indeed.