Friday, November 28, 2008

I Thought That I Might Bring a Basket

Summer Cottages by Gary Shepard

I was amused at the response of the intended recipient of the basket that Margaret Hale, a young lady living at home with her parents, offered to bring. "What would we do with a basket?" she laughed. "We have little enough to put in it!" It might be hard to imagine, but it was actually not so very long ago when women did take food and gifts in baskets when they went out on their regular calls. In Jane Austen's fiction, characters like Emma and Ann were depicted carrying baskets of food and preserves when they made a call.

"Calling" was a normal social event in the past. This was a time when a woman did her rounds of social calls, checking up on widows and mothers with young children, to see if they needed help. Stories of the 19th century often depict young ladies being sent with a basket to someones house. It would be lovely if some of the older girls at home would develop an interest in providing gifts like this. If young ladies would renew an interest in this lovely and worthy custom, we should all be delighted.

Woven wicker baskets are not expensive, and can be purchased at second-hand stores and yard sales. They can then be painted, lined with a towel, and stuffed with a batch of fresh scones and jam.

In a pinch, a basket can actually be made from a heavy brown paper grocery bag. These bags hold up to 30 pounds of groceries, and sometimes more, so they must be useful for other things. I have been enjoying finding different uses for these sturdy bags, and have come up with a makeshift basket, just by cutting along one of the creases on the folded up bag. It will not have to be returned, and it can be made quite quickly when there is a sudden need to make a call on someone, or if someone drops in for a brief visit. Sending something home with a visitor is a real treat for them.

The handle is a wide strip of the brown paper, folded over several times and glued together. There is a strip of paper doily, and the markings are made with the puff paint that has been shown on other craft posts here. This basket is lined with tissue paper for padding, and will hold a few lightweight items. Any number of colors and designs could be used on a paper bag basket like this.

If the paper bags you normally get are not as sturdy as the ones I am using, you can cut a cereal box, cracker box, or any other kind of cardboard box in half and use as a basket. Here is one decorated with little bits of things that you can make yourself. The handle and bow are wired ribbon from the dollar store, threaded through punched holes, but any kind of rope or ribbon will work. It also might be possible to make a handle out of some of the cardboard. The other half of the box can be taped shut at the end, and used for another basket. Fill it with home made baked goods. If your paper bags are too thin, you may find a sturdier type of bag in your kitchen, such as one that holds flour. This can be covered with decorative papers and scraps and made to be quite a stunning gift bag.

These are things in the brown bag basket: an old tea cup, a loaf of scone bread wrapped in a hand made towel, and a box of homemade tea made from fresh spearmint.
A small wicker basket (about a dollar at any yard sale or used store) painted, is just the right size for a loaf of nut bread or a few of your own jams. A gift basket does not have to be food. I have received delightful baskets from people who simply went to the dollar store and got four votive candles for a dollar, added a candle holder, a card (cards are 50c there), a doily, and a few other things, in a gift bag purchased at the dollar store. The ideas presented here are ways to use up what you have, when there is no time to shop, or gas is high and the funds are low.

This is one of those very strong cardboard boxes that Satsuma oranges are packed in. It seems like such a shame just to toss them out. They can be used one more time as suitcase baskets, and they hold far more weight than the paper bag basket.

This one is painted with a craft paint. There are plenty of holes in these boxes to thread wide wired ribbon through them to make a handle. I did not have time to really embellish this box, but someone with a great imagination could pull out all the stops and make one of the mandarin orange boxes look like a suitcase. Try the shabby chic technique of painting it with white folk-art craft paint or similar paint, add some glitter and scraps, and see what you can come up with. These boxes are so durable, made of corrugated card board, that it seems like we could get more uses out of them before they are thrown out.

These examples are just the primitive ideas. I am sure if someone had the time, they could think of all kinds of spectacular ideas for using these kinds of bags and boxes. There are some absolutely beautiful art gift bags at the dollar stores these days. I do not see any point in paying more than a dollar for a gift bag. What if, for some reason, you did not have the money to even shop at the dollar store? It is good to know how to use what you have when you cannot buy something, or when you have nothing on hand to give.

Dollar Tree has beautiful bags.

In a previous post about charity from the home ("Charity Begins at Home") I mentioned how easy it is to for young women at home to be distracted by great ministries and neglect their own homes and families. The gift basket would be a wonderful project for young ladies who, like Margaret, the preacher's daughter, want to make a difference in the lives of others. There is always a need for such sweetness, and a girl at home could build friendships by developing a talent for giving, in this way. This kind of generosity brings out her creative abilities and helps her think outside of her self to the needs of others. If a girl put her mind to it, she could think of a long list of things to include in these benevolence baskets.

Dollar Tree bags are high quality works of art, worth framing. This one features a painting by Richard Burns, a contemporary artist. I have featured some of his cottages in past posts.

My daughter stayed home and had many different interests before she was married. Her time was always filled up, and when she was not working in the home, getting meals or cleaning, she found all kinds of projects to get involved with. Young women living with their parents have a great advantage. They can develop a service to others that will never end, by reviving the idea of delivering baskets to others, any time of the year. If girls ever get to wondering "what they are going to do," they would be wise to remember the opportunity to cast a light toward someone who could use a bit of cheerfulness in their day. Just imagine what colorful things could be done with bags and boxes, and what wonderful things could be tucked inside of them---from handmade stationery supplies, to bath products, to tea cups. I have saved old calendars that have marvellous art that I do not want to throw away, so I cut pieces from them and paste them on gift boxes or bags, along with other decorations. It is also possible to make a pattern on poster board, for a bag the size of your own preference, just by tracing another bag. You then can use scrapbook papers or any other kind of paper, to make your own bags. I am certainly not saying that we should be too absorbed in making every single thing by hand, but I believe our sons and daughters should be able to figure out where things come from, how they are made, and how they can make it themselves. This is one way to be resourceful and rise above any financial difficulties.


Lynn said...

Love it!
I am lucky I can afford to buy at the £ shop but I am so aware of the petrol prices to get there, parking fee, and spending at other shops whilst I'm in town - that £1 suddenly becomes £10 plus :) So I am really grateful for your ideas which are far nicer than the £1 bags anyway!
I am finding staying home and making with what is on hand here is saving me a fortune in both money and stresses.
Thank you for taking your time to help us.

Tracy said...

I love this idea, not only of taking a goodie basket to those you are visiting, but making them from things you already have. I especially liked the paper bag.

Unknown said...

I like these ideas. I like to give cinnamon bread as gifts. Last year I made c.brd for our trash guy & contractors we do business for. Not many people do this any more. Giving gifts to people who service some of our basic needs on a daily bases. It doesn't take much to wrap a few cookies & put them in a bag for the postman.

Ace said...

GREAT POST! Why didn't I think of that type of reuse of grocery bags!

You would think that the "green" people (reuse/recycle) would be all over your site with all these great ideas :)

I thinks these ideas can be easily modified for Christmas gift bags and even organizational pockets. Hmmm, much to do, much to do...

Hope you had a lovely holiday Lady Lydia!

Many Blessings :)

Anonymous said...

Nice ideas.
I love it!

Anonymous said...

I will get the spaces taken care of soon,when blogger decides to behave itself.

Anonymous said...

Very cute ideas. I liked the basket line from North and South, too.

-Christine from Arizona

Mimi said...

Great ideas. I do love Dollar Shop bags and gift cards. I have an older friend who always looks for baskets and napkins in inexpensive places -- such as yard sales -- and uses them to prepare gift baskets of food for others.

Aelwyn said...

You've had a lot of great craft ideas lately. Just perfect for the upcoming holiday season.

Nicole said...

I am a very big fan of loading up on baskets at the thrift store before Christmas and giving all of our loved ones goodie baskets for Christmas. Great ideas here!

Barbara Jean said...

Lydia, Thanks for coming into my store today.
I love the pink box on this blog, and can't wait to check out more of your blogs.

Your writing is wonderful.
You have a very "warm" and interesting way of relating the past to us, and inspiring us to put more "home" in our homemaking.

Thank you for shaing yourslef with others.

BArbara Jean

Alexandra said...

I love these bags! Thanks for sharing...I will make one for my sister's Christmas gift this year. :)