Unlike most people, who just now are taking up their needles to make Christmas gifts, the Hand-Made Committee of the Washington Junior League began filling chairman Kay Fausset's attic and study a few days after Christmas 1977. For 10 months, they gathered at Fausset's Bethesda home once a week to make ornaments, decorations and gifts for the three-day Christmas sale at the Madison Hotel beginning Wednesday.
For laggards who are just now starting - or who, to put the best face on it, are starting now for Christmas 1979, the League has published "Think Christmas," a book describing the best of several years of home-made Christmas gifts.
The other chairman of the Hand-Made Committee, Becky Weeks, gave these directions for easy-to-make Christmas crafts.
Gingham and calico strips of fabric, 12 inches by 1 inch, are dipped in starch and ironed. The material is tied into a bow. The knot of the bow is held together by a piece of wire that has been hidden by a ring of cloth. The bows keep their shape and can be used to decorate the tree. Other easy-to-make tree ornaments are shellacked ice cream cones filled with popcorn, which is glued in a mound to look like a scoop of ice cream, and Styrofoam lollipops wrapped in brightly colored fabric. Each ornament is attached to the tree by a piece of gold thread.
A 24-day Advent calendar is a green-felt tree with 24 snaps on it. A child can count each day till Christmas by snapping on another of the 24 different 2-inch stuffed felt animals, toys of candies. The shapes are patterned onto a piece of paper and transferred to the felt. Each shape (pigs, lions with hemp-string tails, gingerbread men, toy soldiers, candy canes, drums) is cut out twice. Then the edges are slipstitched together with embroidery thread, leaving only a small hole to put the the stuffing. The stuffed shapes are then decorated with bits of lace, beads or embroidery.
Fausset's 8-year-old son Richard offered a suggestion: patchwork bags made of black and white octagons (to resemble a soccer ball) that Richard uses to carry his soccer ball to practice. Richard's sister has a terra cotta plant saucer, painted white and decorated with strips of lace and ribbon, that she uses for a barrette holder.
For the kitchen, a small Styrofoam wreath has been bound with florist tape and stuck with whole cloves. Groups of colored beans have been glued to the top of the wreath and painted with shellac.
Gingham crib quilts are cut out in the shape of a teddy bear with red heart cheeks. Small trunks are filled with tiny calico quilts and stuffed animals and a garland of stuffed gingham teddy bears and hearts strung together. A small Christmas tree center piece is decorated with tiny candles made from straws and presents (Styrofoam squares) wrapped in calico and gingham and tied with god string. One of the presents has a lollipop on the top made from a drop of white glue dyed with red food coloring and left to dry on wax paper. And there are wee candy canes made from twisted red and white thread stiffened with glue. Other gifts scattered around the tree are doll house miniatures. (All of the supplies for the ornaments mentioned can be found at Bruce's dimestore in Bethesda and similar shops areound the area.)
The Mexican Embassy provided the instructions for making a traditional pinata."The basic pinata is a clay pot covered with colored paper and filled with candy, toys, confetti or whatever is appropriate. The size can vary from that of a plum (for individual party favors) to something approaching infinity. The shapes vary, too, from the traditional star to Santa Claus or an elephant. In Spain and Mexico children and adults take turns blindfolded swinging with a baseball bat at the suspended pinata in hopes of breaking the pot and sharing the spilled goodies.
"Start with any clay pot or container that resembles the shape of the figures you wish to construct. Cut newspaper into strips about 3/4 inches by 5 inches. Make a thin papier-mache mixture of flour and water or of diluted white glue.
"Cover the container with newspaper strips dipped in the flour or glue mixture. Be sure to leave an opening in the top for filling the pinata. Wind the strips around the form in overlapping layers. Legs and arms can be made of rolled newspaper or cardboard. The head can be constructed of newspaper rolled into a ball. Use papier-mache strips to attach these appendages to the body.
"Cut strips of colored tissue paper 3 inches wide and the length of the roll and fold strips lengthwise in half. Then make small half-inch cuts on the foled edge (about 1/3 inch apart) along the entire lenght of the strip. Many strips can be cut simultaneously simply by folding a number of them together. Open the folded, cut strips and fold them the opposite way to separate and curl them.
"When you have a suitable number of curled strips, begin gluing them to the head, appendages and torso. Think of the figure as something you are bandaging and glue the strips of tissue paper around and around it. When you come to the end of a strip, paste another one onto it and continue. Be sure that only the curls show when you overlap each strip. The hair, eyes, mouth and all uncurled portions of the figure can be cut from colored matallic paper. Crepe paper is ordinarily used for clothing."
"Think Christmas" - decorations, gifts and recipes from the best Junior League Christmas ideas - is available by sending $6.75 to Think Christmas, P.O Box 9626, Washington, D.C. 20016. According to Ann Page, the public relations manager, the League is no longer a club for "young marrieds." Admission has been opened to working women. Funds raised from the Christmas Bazaar and Junior League Shop are being channeled into such organizations as the Women's Legal Defense Fund Task Force on Abused Women, Planned Parenthood, International Visitors Information Service and Recording for the Blind.