Victorian & Edwardian Christmas Gifts – Part 1

Victorian Christmas Gift Ideas - Victorian Shopping
Sleighing in New York, 1855

‘Christmas is coming. […] Such a capering and hiding; stitching, knitting, clipping, cutting, and pasting; red paper and blue paper; spangles of gold and silver; purses, cuffs, lamp-rugs, slippers, and neck-ties; gewgaws, and filigree, and gimcracks; green trees, hung all over with colored balls, little angels, and candy horsemen; wax tapers and bits of looking-glass; such surprises hid in fancy boxes and bags, on the tops of the wardrobes, behind the bureaus, and under the sofas, for Tom, Dick, and Harry; mysterious whisperings, secret conferences, knowing looks, nods, and winks, and sudden hidings away of articles in progress of manufacture but not yet to be seen […]

‘Day after day the dry-good stores and toy-shops of Frankfort have been crowded. The streets have presented a most singular spectacle of trees with legs under them walking about from house to house, and whole curiosity-shops running hither and thither on the tops of men’s backs. St. Nicholas has gone the rounds, and the school-boys have scourged their masters in satisfaction of all debts. Elderly gentlemen have skipped around the Anlage in stronger force than ever, with their little poodle-dogs and blue ribbons; and elderly ladies have been uncommonly gorgeous in fine dresses and stupendous head-works.

Victorian Children Snow - Godey's Lady's Book 1860s Fashionplate
Godey’s Lady’s Book, 1861

Herr Winter, with his mantle of snow, came along about two weeks since, and spread his skirts over the earth for boys and girls to slide upon with their jingling sledges, and rosy-cheeked house-maids are continually trying to sweep him off the pavements; but he comes again every night, and seems as lively as ever when morning dawns.

Butcher-boys have been in great demand, with choice assortments of sausages for Christmas puddings. The ladies, young and old, have been quite overwhelmed and buried in masses of yarn-stockings, hoods, mittens, pin-cushions, night-caps, comforts, and other specimen of female handicraft for general distribution among the widows and orphans.

The servant-girls have been more than ordinarily attentive – opening the front doors as if by instinct, and anticipating the most trivial caprices of their employers; the postman has bowed more politely than ever during the past two weeks; the old milk-woman has never paid her morning visit without showering blessings upon the little ones, and wishing health and happiness and many pleasant days to the big ones; the old apple-woman never misses an occasion of presenting a few extra apples to the rising generation; the poor washer-woman, not a week ago, sent a thrill of joy through the whole household by unexpectedly presenting a delicious plateful of domestic sausages, warranted to be manufactured out of the Christmas pig; in short, the genial spirit of Kris Kringle has animated the hearts of the rich and poor alike, and spread a mantle of charity over the frailties of human nature.

As the sun set on Christmas-eve the great bells of the town set up a deafening peal of rejoicing. Crowds of citizens hurried to and fro, making their last purchases; lights glimmered in the windows of every house, and every parlor was decorated with evergreens and Christmas-trees, spangled all over with toys and candles. The jingling of sleigh-bells, the merry voices of childres, the moving multitudes of carriages, the lights, the music, the glitter of tinsel, the perfect abandonment of all to the enjoyment of the occasion were […] highly pleasing.’ (An American Family In Germany, 1866, p. 180ff)

Homemade Victorian & Edwardian Christmas Gifts

Edwardian Homemade Christmas Presents
Edwardian neckwear, corset cover & apron (San Francisco Call, 1903)


‘Pretty lingerie is always an acceptable gift, especially when it is made every stitch by hand. While the good old days of hand work have almost entirely passed away, it makes the few pieces the more sought after, but if you are rushed, for time don’t run away with the idea that a corset cover or chemise is the easiest thing on earth to fashion. They are so dainty and sheer. Colored corset covers are more of a fad than anything else and are only worn under a thin frock, but the other pieces are always made of white linen or of a soft dimity.’ (San Francisco Call, 1903)

Combing Jacket, Victorian Christmas Gift
Combing jacket (School Sewing Based On Home Problem, 1916)

‘To make a combing towel take a towel and slash so the end will fall to the front. On the straight side cut out the neck opening. Embroider the initials at both ends of the towel. The slashed ends can be hemmed or the whole may be trimmed in narrow lace or buttonholed in scallops all around.

A simple nightcap can be made of batiste or a very thin India linen. This is done in the shadow embroidery. Many use the colored floss and have the ties to match. These caps protect the hair and are quite cool.’ (Sacramento Union, 1909)

Garters. These are presents to be made only by little girls who can knit; but, if any little girl wishes to learn, a pair of garters is good to practise on, and makes a very nice present. They are prettiest knit of some bright color.

In their simplest form they are knit in one long strip, which is wound round and round the leg, and the end tucked in. But an improvement is to make a loop in the strip, through which the end of the garter may pass before it is tightened. And this is the way to do it: set up twenty stitches, and knit plain till the garter is twelve inches long. Take off ten stitches on a third needle, and keep on knitting with the remaining ten for twenty rows; then go back to the stitches left behind, and knit twenty rows on them ; take all the stitches on one needle again, and you will see that a loop has been made. Knit twenty rows, and bind off.’ (The American Girl’s Home Book of Work And Play, 1890)

‘Monogram embroidery is very popular this season, and a monogram handkerchief is a gift that cannot go amiss.’ (San Francisco Call, 1902) ‘The woman does not live who would not joyfully welcome at Christmas time a set of large embroidered initials in a frame, all ready to sew on to her household linen; or a set of tiny ones to applique to the corners of her handkerchiefs. Nor is any one proof against a fine handkerchief with the initial in the corner und a border of honiton braid wrought with lace stitches by hand.’ (Los Angeles Herald, 1904)


‘It is a double pleasure in receiving a gift to know that it has been made by the one who has sent it […] For those who can embroider, little jabots and rabats are among the favorite smaller articles used for the purpose. They are always acceptable, for no woman can possibly have too many of them. A few embroidery designs in working size are given in the illustration as a convenience for those who wish to make some of these little gifts. The lawn or linen can be placed over the paper, and the design, which will show through plainly, can be traced with a hard lead pencil; or a sheet of transfer paper can be placed face down on the material and the design laid on top of this and traced with a pencil. […]

Embroidery Design - Victorian Homemade Christmas Presents
Edwardian broderie anglaise pattern & lace jabot (San Francisco Call, 1909)

The materials for one of these will cost about 50 cents, and the value of the finished jabot will be several times that. Quarter of a yard of wide lace and half a yard of the narrow will be needed for each jabot, and possibly these materials, or others that will answer, may be found among the odds and ends at home. A great many of the most attractive jabots have an upper embroidered portion, and an under portion made of net and lace which comes down two or three inches below it […] A quarter of a yard of linen, half a yard of net and a few yards of valenciennes, cluny or Irish lace will be sufficient for four or five jabots, and exceedingly pretty ones, too’. (San Francisco Call, 1909)

‘The handkerchief collar is a thing that will please any member of the fair sex and is as inexpensive as it is easily made. Any handkerchief with a gay border serves the purpose and is all the material necessary. The white center of the handkerchief is used for the plain part of the stock, the foundation of it. Bands of the gay border are cut off and made into turn-overs for the top of the neck. Two corners must be saved intact; these are pleated upon the foundation and brought to the front, crossing so that their points form a fly away at the throat in front.’ (San Francisco Call, 1902)

‘For Christmas gifts there’s nothing in the world more appreciated than hand work. It can’t be got up in a hurry – a careless last minute gift. The broderie anglaise collar illustrated is a charming gift easily made at home. Such a collar is a dainty and becoming finish to a bodice, but is too expensive when purchased for most of us to indulge in. Yet the design which makes it beautiful is readily worked, and the material only a bit of handkerchief linen exquisite in quality, but too small to be an item of much expense. The collar may be made for $1, and your true needlewoman revels in placing each perfect stitch. The design is a French one carried out in broderie anglaise and all over embroidery. It is cut in three sections. A design of morning glories is drawn in each section and worked with mercerized white cotton in satin stitch. Between this flower pattern are bunches of berries done in eyelet work. The entire collar is buttonholed around.

Chemisettes and collar and cuff sets with cuffs deeper than ever, are being made now for Christmas giving. Richelieu work, which is just buttonholing and cutting out for a design with the too open spaces held firm by buttonholed threads, is very popular for ornamenting these sets.’ (Marin Journal, 1905)

Edwardian Woman Sewing A Handkerchief Collar
Handkerchief collar (San Francisco Call, 1902)

‘Neckwear is always appropriate and nice, and while it comes under the head of wearing apparel that has always been more or less religiously tabooed, it is one of the few articles that one never seems to have quite enough of and never the right one at the right time. The latest in the simple ones are made of gentlemen’s handkerchief and they are not only pretty but are very serviceable as well, which counts for a great deal these days. Buy a kerchief that has a border of some color, for instance a bright red or a pink, and by a little maneuvering you will find that the middle part can be cut out and that there are exactly four small seams to be sewed up and the tie is complete. It takes at the longest probably three quarters of an hour to make, and as the material costs about 23 cent or 18 cents you can easily make a set of three and call it square.’ (San Francisco Call, 1903)

‘The new art collars and cuffs are well worth a place in the Christmas workers’ work basket They are made out of canvas, or denim, scrim or coarse linen. The coarser the material the better the result. […] The collar and cuffs can be drawn with open work, if desired. But if open work is too difficult or too trying to the eyes, there are other ways of managing. […] A heavy white, canvas turn-over collar was embroidered with a band of china blue embroidery at least three inches deep and the embroidery was of the coarse kind with long running stitches. The collar was a beauty and now lies in a sachet casket, to come out perfumed on the day of Christmas giving.’ (San Francisco Call, 1903)

‘Shoulder scarfs are so popular that a handsome one might be made as a Christmas gift by cutting one out of chiffon and sewing two rows of honiton lace braid around the border and then embroidering a cluster of flowers in satin stitch in each corner.’ (Los Angeles Herald, 1904)


Corset Bag - Victorian Homemade Christmas Presents
Edwardian corset bag (Marin Journal, 1905)

‘Corset bags are a great protection to that best pair of corsets. They are long, slim affairs, just big enough to snugly cover up the corsets when they’re rolled from each side toward the tapes. Six inches wide, sixteen inches long, is the best length to make them. Some are of thin nainsook simply made up over pink lawn and with a narrow casing made by two rows of brier stitching with embroidery cotton. Dotted swiss over a color is equally pretty, while the most elaborate are of white satin, painted with roses in delicate colors, or of brocaded silks. But the simple ones are the prettiest of all and a little more in keeping with the piles of snowy under clothes, delicate lingerie or sturdier things that share a drawer with it.’ (Marin Journal, 1905)

‘For a collar and cuff case, buttonhole in scallops around a piece of linen 22 by 24 inches from the edge. These eyelets are for drawing the ribbons through. Work a scallop on the wrong side of the goods so when gathered, it will fall back, thus showing the right side of the scallop. Use the lower side of a round pasteboard box to put in the case. It will keep its shape very well when placed on a dressing table.’ (Sacramento Union, 1909)

Edwardian Handkerchief Case
Edwardian handkerchief case (Marin Journal, 1906)

‘Glove box. The material of this box may be very stiff cardboard; but a better way is to get a tinman to cut for you six strips of tin, of the dimensions given below, punched with rows of holes an inch and a half apart. If cardboard is used, you can make the holes yourself, measuring them with a rule. The strips are to be cut as follows: Two strips one foot long and five inches wide, two strips one foot long and three inches wide, and two strips five inches long by three inches wide. These make respectively the top and bottom, the sides and the ends, of the box. Each piece is to be lined with cotton-wadding scented with sachet-powder, over which is placed the silk or satin lining you have selected. This soft lining is then quilted down by putting the needle through each of the holes in turn, taking-long stitches on the wrong side, and fine ones on the right side. Tiny buttons sewed in each depression make a pretty finish. Put the box together, and cover the outside with satin, cloth, or plush, sewing a small silk cord around the edges to finish them neatly. Square handkerchief-boxes may be made in the same way.’ (The American Girl’s Home Book of Work And Play, 1890)


‘A set of six lingerie sachet bags to be used in the bureau drawers would be a gift which most women would appreciate. The bags can be made with any outline, round, square or heart shaped, about four inches in diameter. Sheer lawn or linen is the most suitable material for the purpose, and the little wreath No. 2 can be worked in the center of each. They may either be made with scalloped edges and fastened together with narrow ribbon run through eyelets, or the edges may be buttonholed together or hemstitched, except at the top, where the bag can be fastened together with a tiny button and buttonhole or a bow of ribbon run through eyelets. The sachet itself should be encased in a bag of silk in pink or blue or some other light color and when this is slipped into the lingerie cover it will show through the sheer linen and the embroidery.’ (San Francisco Call, 1909)

Victorian Lavender Sachet Bag
Edwardian lavender sachet bag (Every Woman’s Encyclopaedia, 1910-2)

‘Another very dainty little novelty which can be made quite inexpensively is a lavender case, to be used among the linen or handkerchiefs. The whole, complete, will only cost a few pence. Buy a tiny glove handkerchief as small as you can get. It should have an embroidered or lace edge, and if it is too large it can have a tuck run in it. Sew a little piece of muslin or linen to match the handkerchief across the lower half, and fold the other half over it to form a flap like that on a nightdress case. On the upper half, or flap, embroider some little sprays of lavender. Use a single thread of brown filoselle for the stalks. This is necessary to form a contrast with the green leaves and lavender flowers. Each flower is made of a single chain-stitch, caught down at the tip, forming what is called a bird’s-eye or daisy stitch. To fit inside this case a small, flat bag of fine net is made, which is filled with lavender; both stalk and flower can be used.’ (Every Woman’s Encyclopaedia, 1910-2)

‘Pretty scent cases. Buy an ounce of sachet-powder, violet or what scent you please, and sprinkle it between two layers of cotton-wadding cut in strips five inches long and two inches wide. Make a little bag of silk or satin of any color (three inches long, two inches wide), and fringe the top. Roll up the strip of wadding, and place it in the bag, which must then be tied just below the fringe with narrow ribbon of the same color. […]

Scent-cases for trunks. These are useful gifts for a friend who travels often. Clothing packed away in trunks is apt to contract a smell of leather; and a large case of silk or muslin, scented with delicate powder, and made to fit the top of the trunk, will be sure to be appreciated.’ (The American Girl’s Home Book of Work And Play, 1890)


‘Everybody uses the dainty little crochet doyleys for afternoon tea in these days, so a case to hold and keep them flat makes a useful gift. It consists of two circles of stiff cardboard covered with white linen or satin jean, and caught together at the top with two little bows of ribbon, which form hinges, and tied with ribbons at the lower edge.

Edwardian Handkerchief Case
Handkerchief case (School Sewing Based On Home Problems, 1916)

Cut the two cards 12 1/2 inches in diameter, and four pieces of white linen rather larger. Across one of these latter write the word “Doyleys” in large letters, and outline them with any quick, effective stitch. A chain-stitch, in which the needle is returned just under instead of into the previous stitch, is a good one to choose. Add any little decorative design. The work should be done in thick mercerised thread in some pretty pale shade.

When it is finished cover the cards with the linen and oversew the edges; sew each ribbon at the top on to the edges of the case, about half an inch apart, to allow the covers of the case to separate sufficiently to hold the doyleys.’ (Every Woman’s Encyclopaedia, 1910-2)


‘Homemade Victorian & Edwardian Christmas Gifts’ was Day 18 of my Advent Calendar 2017. I’ll post part 2 of the ‘Homemade Victorian & Edwardian Christmas Gifts’ in the next days.

21 thoughts on “Victorian & Edwardian Christmas Gifts – Part 1

  1. Found you on Shelbee’s linkup. Really enjoyed reading about all the Victorian and Edwardian gifts. Wish people did more hand made these days. I’ve got some embroidered vintage lingerie bags and they are so pretty. I also love the idea of handkerchief collars. Might have to try that one of these days!

    Great post and Merry Christmas 🙂


  2. Found you on A Morning Cup of Joe. Such a delightful article. I am tempted to try some of these projects. I love antique crochet, lace work, clothing , furniture etc.

  3. I love handmade items like this! The hours that were spent in creating them. I’ve often thought that I would have loved to have lived in either era. I know things were not easy, but I’ve never been afraid of hard work. : ) Thanks for sharing with SYC.

  4. I never thought of a doily case for your doilies for afternoon tea! What a great post on the history of things! Thanks for sharing at Home Sweet Home! Merry Christmas!

  5. Oh what a fun post! These are my favorite eras in literature so, of course, I am absolutely intrigued by these homemade gifts. Thank you so much for sharing this walk through Christmases past! And thank you for joining my link up as well.


  6. I love the Victorian era. I think I will have an old fashioned Victorian Christmas this year with hand made gifts. Thank you so much for sharing and God bless.

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