Children have been hanging stockings on Christmas Eve for more than two centuries, anticipating the next morning when they will be filled with goodies left by Santa Claus.
It's a charming custom, and one that many parents of young children happily perpetuate into this new century.
This year, rather than hanging assembly-line, store-bought stockings over the fireplace, give your children stockings they will treasure for their entire childhoods. They might even pass the stockings down to their own children.
Make Your Own
Craft stores, knitting and needlework shops, and similar outlets have kits and patterns for creating your own stockings. If you have the time, this is a rewarding activity.
You can buy stockings to needlepoint in a variety of patterns. Some are very detailed but if you are a first-timer, don't let ambition overrule common sense. Choose an easy pattern.
This is true, too, of knitted stockings. Although not much more difficult than knitting a sock, a handmade wool holiday stocking is somewhat larger and more flamboyantly decorated. Make them from 100 percent wool or a sturdy, colorful blend. Use fine-gauge needles for close stitching.
If you are a confident seamstress, make a stocking from scratch. Buy felt or another sturdy fabric and cut and sew a stocking. These can quick to make on a sewing machine. If you create your own pattern, be sure to reinforce the toe and the heel.
Whether sewing or knitting the stocking, always remember to attach some sort of strong loop at the top to facilitate hanging by the chimney with care!
It's usually a little easier and just as much fun to customize a store-bought stocking. Sew on or use fabric glue to attach festive decorations. Embroider or paint the children's names on the stockings.
Consider making appliqués from scrap fabric. Better yet, if you have an old but beloved quilt or spread, cut pieces of it into recognizable Christmas shapes. Your kids might be pleased to see the remains of a favorite but discarded blanket; you might like using Grandma's worn out quilt this way.
Attach bells, small glittery balls, or other seasonal objects to the stockings. Buy these at discount stores or craft outlets - or harvest them from broken or discarded tree ornaments. Use your imagination!
Let Everyone Participate
It might be fun to let the kids decorate their own or each other's stockings. Assemble the materials and spend an afternoon or evening together working on the project.
Your kids might get a kick out of decorating stockings for the family dog or cat. Gather appropriate decorations and let them have a grand time!
Encourage kids to decorate stockings as gifts for teachers, neighbors, and friends. These can be simple affairs that you fill with some small gifts -- the stockings act as gift bag but are far more appreciated.
Making a stocking that might become an heirloom is rewarding -- no question about it. Plan ahead and if you don't get it finished in time for this year, there's always next year! Happy holidays.