holiday lessons DIY

5 Meaningful Lessons this Holiday Gifted

Each December I write about my annual Trim Alchemy Maker Party. In a way, it wraps the year up nicely in a bow.  Sarah Petchell, my gal Friday/studio manager, co-hosted the eve as an expert maker.  We sat in the studio this morning, which looked like an explosion of party dregs (scattered trimmings, yarns, beads, opened bottles of wine and crumbled sweets), recounting the evening like giddy sorority sisters.  Our conversation turned a little more serious as we dissected our post-party high.  Making stuff is meaningful.  I’d like to share some of the holiday lessons that this holiday has gifted me.

1. We need to recharge.

As women, and especially mothers, we get depleted this time of year taking care of all the gift giving, not only for family, but also for our kids’ teachers, coaches, bus drivers, the news paper deliverer…the list goes on.  (No offense guys, but MOST men are not thinking about all this.) It’s hectic and we exhaust ourselves.  Taking this party time-out to be with other women and craft was a break we all needed to recharge our batteries.



2. We yearn to connect and share.

As Sarah puts it, “We no longer are leaning over the back fence chatting with our neighbor.” Facebook isn’t the same as earnestly connecting with our friends.  We need to make space for these encounters and get them on the calendar.  The book club has replaced the bygone sewing circle.  I love books but I prefer to make things, and maybe these maker parties and the new “stitch and bitch”? LOL!  Although we don’t do a lot of bemoaning at my parties, we do find camaraderie in the frustrations we share.  We also get to celebrate our latest accomplishments. With our hands engaged crafting, talking about our latest achievement is conversation, not bragging. It’s different from having cocktails or a dinner party. Conversation isn’t the main focus, it’s secondary, and as such, it’s less intimidating for personal sharing.

3. Making is therapeutic.

I learned the power of making decades ago when I started sewing: how calming it is to get lost in a project, how rewarding it is to create something unique with my own design and hands.  Having done many Trim Alchemy workshops at the Country Living Fairs, the participants ALWAYS tell me how good they feel making something.  The creative act of making is very empowering and when we allow design a project, we feel positive, uplifted and our point of view is validated by something physical.


4. Limitations spark creativity.

I had an emergency early December that took me away from my usual holiday breakneck pace.  This was a gift to slow down and simplify, I changed my expectations and that was a huge shift for me.  I ran across the quote above, by the Arthur Ashe  “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” and I adopted it as my  motto for the season.

I send Italian panettone as gifts to clients, and instead of racing out to buy “perfect” embellishments of vintage ribbon and gold cording, I took a breath, re-read my quote, and used what I had in the studio.  It was actually an exhilarating challenge, playful, and I like the results. I hope my clients do too. Making is like cooking: if the ingredients are good, delicious things emerge.  Without a strict recipe, the pressure for perfection is off and you can relax and enjoy the process more.  In the book on competitive tennis Relaxed Intensityauthor Happy Bhalla asserts that we perform at optimum level when relaxed. I think this is true on the court and in life. (can you tell I’m a tennis fanatic?)

holiday lessons
Panettone decorating, tassel making, velvet ribbon and hug snug. The wrapping paper from World Market inspired the color story.

5. Creating is a form of self expression.

It was fascinating that each ornament made was indicative of the maker’s personality.  Refined, bold, meticulous, reserved, fearless, delicate, fun….whether it was in the colors chosen, or the layering of materials, each finished product held true to its maker. We put our voice into making things and when finished, we feel “heard.”

I am so grateful to my friends who shared their time, themselves, their insights and skills over laughter, noshes, and our Fringe Fizz cocktail! This annual party defines the beauty of the season for me, slowing down to create and connect.

Cheers to a joyful holiday, full of creativity and magic that this season uniquely brings.


  • Deborah

    Thank you Jana,
    I so enjoyed the comradery and creating together. You have a wonderful group of friends / creatives. The many variations and beautiful results were delicious. Relaxing and creating together. My ornament hangs on our tree as a testimonial to handmade creations and friendships. Thank you so very much for this.

    1. [email protected]

      Deborah, you are one amazing lady and filled the room with great energy, so gregarious. I am thrilled you hoofed it to Peekskill and thank you so much for adding panache to the eve! xoxox

  • Claire Hilbert

    Such a lovely, heartfelt &thought-provoking write-up… may I share it?

    1. [email protected]

      Claire, I am so thrilled you came! I hope I didn’t blow your cover about the book, it is such wonderful news. Lang would LOVE to read btw, me too. I will intro you to Ginger this week. Thanks for creating with us!

  • CH

    PS this struck a chord as a friend who saw pictures said that’s exactly something she would love to do too…a universal yearning perhaps?!

    1. [email protected]

      Yes! I think it is a universal yearning! The create, connect and recharge! Thanks for reading!

  • [email protected]

    It was a wonderful evening. Jana, you inspired us to be creative and HAVE FUN! Being with so many fabulous and artistic women may be the highlight of this season for me.
    Lynda Karanikolas

    1. [email protected]

      Lynda, I am so glad we connected through UU, you are so talented and I am thrilled to join your committee of creatives, I look up to you. Much love!

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