Possibly the best Christmas ever (and I mean in The History Of Christmas) was when I was about 6 or 7.  We had opened all the presents and were settling down contentedly amidst the wrappings and new toys, when my father said, “You know, when I was a little boy, my grandfather would hide an envelope full of money on the Christmas tree and whoever found it got to keep the money.”  My sister and I gasped and jumped up to look at the tree (my brother was still very small).  Imagine my crushing disappointment when my sister cried, “I found it!” and snatched it up.

But when she opened the envelope, there was no money, just a slip of paper with a rhyme on it. 

“A riddle!”

That riddle led us to a hiding spot, where we found another riddle, and then another, and another!  After solving each clue in the treasure hunt, we were finally led to the basement and when we walked downstairs, we saw…a dollhouse!

Not just any old, teeny little prefab dollhouse, but a huge three-story dollhouse that came up to my chest, built by my father.  The red roof folded back and the white walls opened up to reveal a little doll family and their little doll furniture with their little doll curtains (made by my mother) on their little doll windows.

Can you imagine the ecstasy? the joy? the bliss?

It wasn’t just the dollhouse, sublime though it was, but the way we had been led to it.  Riddles & rhymes & clues all leading up to the most fantastic and amazing gift ever!  Words can’t express how wonderful that day was.

My sister and I are just past forty, but this year we will still have a treasure hunt.  It’s a tradition we’ve maintained all these years — now with brother, in-laws, and niece joining in the fun — often with much hilarity along the way.  Nothing of course can match that first hunt for its sheer inventiveness and the wonder of something unexpected on Christmas morning but it has become a much-loved tradition.

When my niece came along, I wanted to recreate something of that magic for her, so even though she always participates in the treasure hunt with the rest of us, whenever we celebrate Christmas at my parents’ house, I also write a special one just for her.  Last year, we spent Christmas at my brother’s house, so no treasure hunt, but she still received a special gift from me.

Christmas prezzies for my niece 2007

Christmas prezzies for my niece 2007

My niece is not what you’d call a girly-girl, but she loves her some glam.  I made her a “night and day” combo, using Japanese-style fabric in her favorite color that I picked up at Flying Geese Fabric in Albany.  The “day” tote bag has flower appliques in that sort of mod Japanese style and a little stripe along the handles.

"Day"

"Day"

“Night” was a little clutch purse with a beaded wristlet:

Clutch with beaded wristlet

"Night"

I used a little jewelry loop to attach the beaded wristlet, which I attached to the bag with a loop of fabric.  (I cautioned her that it’s not a load-bearing bracelet, so she shouldn’t be swinging it around too much.)  There’s a bit of piping along the zipper and I think I was able to make it work here because it’s very thin. 

Whenever I’m making something for my niece and I start to worry that it’s geting too glitzy, I remind myself who I’m making it for and add more sparkle.  I finished her 2008 gift the other night and am pretty excited about it.  It’s got a little Joan Jett thing going on, which I hope will go over well.

I can’t remember the last time I purchased a gift for my little niece.  (Who’s not so little anymore — she’ll be FIFTEEN in less than two months!  I had a major freakout about this the other day.)  She’s always been a big fan of my work and in fact, I think she’s the one who inspired me to really take up sewing to begin with.  I think the first quilt I ever made was for her, just a simple patchwork with appliqued stars that she still uses.  Since then, I’ve made her a second larger quilt out of denim, a couple of skirts, and loads of purses and bags.  She loves purses and bags (as do I).  I long dreaded the moment that she became a teenager and swore off homemade gifts but it hasn’t happened.  I hope it never does, because I love to make things for her. 

This year we celebrate Christmas at my parents’ house so that means a treasure hunt is on the horizon.  In our family, you never outgrow the treasure hunt.

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