Non-Commercial Gift Giving: The Art of Sharing

Non-Commercial Gift Giving: The Art of Sharing

Craft fairs and open studios happen across the region during the holiday season. [Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield]

During the holiday season, gift-giving is considered a traditional aspect of our seasonal celebrations.  Instead of purchasing a gift, gift givers can also look to the domestic arts, crafts, and visual arts for inspiration in making handmade gifts that encourage originality and thought. This week in Learning Ahead we are featuring ways to give gifts that are value-base (non-commerical & creative-free play), support learning and accessible through community-based events, resources and opportunities!

Excerpt from Learning Ahead: Cultural Itinerary for Western Massachusetts (Seasons: Nov/Dec), a downloadable bimonthly publication produced by Hilltown Families that sheds light on embedded learning opportunities found in cultural resources that exist within the geography, history, and cultural traditions of Western Massachusetts.


Traditional Crafts & Artisan Skills: Handmade Holiday Gift Idea

Shop Local: Craft Fairs & Open Studios

Take the challenge this year by shopping local and non-commercial during the holiday season. The abundance of craft fairs and open studios happening in the area featuring handmade products by local artists and artisans make it easy to find that special something when looking for a gift of any kind. Handmade wood or glass ornaments, hand-knitted scarves, upcycled accessories, one-of-a-kind prints and stationery… our region is filled with a strong creative economy filled with amazing artisans!

While browsing an artisans studio or booth, take the time to stop and talk with them. Be curious and ask them questions. Discover how they learned their craft skill, what the history is behind their craft, how long they have been making their art, and where they find their inspiration. A purchase not only supports the artist and artisan, but your gift now comes with a story to share with the person with you will give your gift.  Read the rest of this entry »

Language Arts & Creativity: Handmade Holiday Gift Idea

Handmade: Write a Zine or Make a Journal

Zines (short for magazine or fanzine) are self-published books that include different media forms: collage, illustrations, comic strips, and words.  A zine can be a book of poetry or a story, it can be a guide book or a collection of fairy tales – the sky’s the limit!  Zines can also be photocopied and bound so that you can produce multiple copies.  Here’s a short documentary on Zines…

Making a zine is a rewarding, creative process and can certainly be a part of your gift giving plans for the holidays. Need some inspiration for your zine-making adventures? Check out the Flywheel Arts Collective in Easthampton, MA.  The Flywheel Arts Collective has a community Zine library and cafe with over 3,000 zines, featuring many from Western Massachusetts!  Flywheel is a collective of art and poetry that allows people to share their work with others in their local community.  It’s a great community resource for those looking to feel inspired through grassroots art and literature that aims to inspire, provoke thought and engage the community.  Read the rest of this entry »

Science & Art: Handmade Holiday Gift Idea

Go to a Makerspace!

Makerspaces inspire creativity!  These community places provide the space to combine science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM!) in order to make and create.  They are like an artist’s studio but also include digital making as well as physical making.  Activities include woodworking, electronics, computers, 3D printing, knitting, screen printing, sewing, and more!  Western Massachusetts has a number of community maker spaces to start brainstorming your do-it-yourself gift giving ideas.  Read the rest of this entry »

Fiber Arts, Math & Mindfulness: Handmade Holiday Gift Idea

Knit Something!

Remember the knitted items you saw during the Agricultural Fairs towards the end of the summer? Get ready for next September’s aggie fairs while working on gifts for others this season! At, you to search for free knitting patterns that can help you come up with your next project gift idea.  Perhaps a one-skein hat? A pair of mittens?  Or a hand-knitted cowl?  Knitting is not only a fun activity and great way to hand-make a gift, but it’s also a wonderful way to get together with fellow knitters of all ages and knit together!  Who knows what new stitches you’ll learn and the new friends you’ll meet!  Read the rest of this entry »

Culinary and Pastry Arts: Handmade Holiday Gift Idea

The Gift of Food!

Bûche de Noël from Bread Euphoria in Haydenville, MA. [Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield]

Tis the season to pay special attention to spreading kindness to those around us! Families can spread kindness by sharing homemade foods with neighbors, and can expand this activity to include studies of world cultures by baking foods enjoyed internationally!

We explored food preservation earlier this month – now it’s time to put those skills to use!  Pumpkin or apple butter make great holiday gifts and are something the recipient can enjoy for the entire season! Jams and jellies are also a nice gift idea! Want to help the gift recipient get ready for sugaring season in the late winter?  How about preparing a ready to go pancake mix in a jar? Finally, freshly baked cookies and pies are always a great gift idea. Read the rest of this entry »

Giveaway: 5 Gifts Locally Handmade by Hilltown Mompreneurs

Celebrating 5 Years with 5 Fabulous Gifts from Hilltown Mompreneurs

At the turn of the year, Hilltown Families will be turning five years old … and we will be celebrating all year long! To start the celebration, we have invited five Hilltown mompreneurs to partner with us. These five crafty businesses, located here in the Hilltowns of Western MA, create handmade products that kids will enjoy receiving — and we have one of each to giveaway to one lucky family!  It’s our birthday, but we’re giving you the presents … just in time for the holiday season!

Read more about these local businesses below, surf over to their web sites to discover what other neat products they’re making, and find out how you can enter to win all five to give as gifts this holiday season below.  Deadline to enter to win: December 13th, 2010 by 7pm (EST).


Kerri Simonelli and Niki Lankowski of Haydenville, MA started Jar of Wonder in 2009.  Their line of felt play food has been a fast success, selling at local venues like Twist and A Childs Garden in Northampton, MA, and as far away as Aspen, CO.  Their etsy shop features several felt play food sets, including breakfast, sushi, pasta dinner and lunch.  Their latest sets soon to be featured include Sushi and a new and improved Tea Party, along with play kitchens and aprons for the holiday season. All of their felt food sets are all hand sewn right here in Western MA, using ecofi felt which is made from recycled plastics. Each set comes packaged in a corn plastic compostable package.

Kerri & Niki are offering a Felt Food Tea Party Set ($22 value). The Tea Party Set includes 2 cookies, 2 tea bags and 1 tea sandwich. Deliciously fun play food for your little chef made even more tasty with recycled eco felt. This tea party set is sure to inspire your child’s imagination and plant the seed for hours of open-ended play. You will be surprised with what your little ones will come up with, when given this type of inspirational tool.


Jen Smith of Ashfield, MA is photographer and artist who first created a collection of photo jewelry in 1995, and more recently photo pillows, that both incorporate her original photography into handmade items for the home and body. Jen’s pillows are created with her original photography printed directly onto 100% cotton fabric using the cyanotype photo process. Cyanotype is a photographic printing process invented in the 1800’s. A permanent photographic image is achieved when a negative or object is placed on fabric or paper coated with light sensitive salts, then exposed to sunlight. Unexposed areas dissolve away when fabric is washed in water leaving what is often referred to as a “blueprint.” Jen Smith’s work can be found at Pinch in Northampton and her online etsy shop.

Jen is offering a Mini Lavender Photo Handmade Pillow ($22 value).  This 8″x8″ pillow is printed with a cyanotype image of a gorgeous moth with a solid blue backing.  The pillow is made of 100% cotton and filled with hypo-allergenic polyfil and lavender buds. Spot clean only.


SmartyPants are eco-funky children’s pants made from a combination of recycled, vintage, and new fabrics.  Lisa Ganci of Shelburne Falls, MA started SmartyPants when her daughter was 21 months old and she was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Cancer turned her world upside-down as well as inspired her to launch this dual-purpose mission which includes a portion of the proceeds to be donated to Rays of Hope, a Western MA organization that supports families coping with breast cancer.  By using mostly repurposed fabrics, and employing local folks, this project is turning a little piece of the garment industry up-side-down by creating one-of-a-kind, beautiful children’s clothing that are practical, affordable, sustainable and locally produced.

Lisa is offering a gift certificate for SmartyPants to be redeemed for a pair of one-of-a-kind pair of pants ($22-$30 value).  With all of the amazing fabric designs to choose from, it will be hard to select! Her baby/toddler pants, 6m to 2T, have a “butt-panel” that provides extra room for a diaper.  Sizes 2/3 to 5/6 lose the butt-panel, but gain a contrasting rear pocket.  Waist bands are simple elastic and all seams are serged for durability.


Erin Kelly-Dill of Plainfield, MA invented snackTAXI back in 2003 as an alternative to the tide of plastic ziplock bags that flowed from her house to the landfill when their 3 kids started school. Her family pack over 500 lunches every year, and had definitely fallen prey to the easy appeal of the ziplock bag. SnackTAXIs was her answer.  Made in our home-based workshop by local sewers, she is committed to keeping her business local, and will never outsource labor.  The exterior of a snackTAXI is comprised of 100% cotton and the interior is lined with polyurethane coated nylon, confirmed to be lead, phthalate and BPA free.  SnackTAXIs are lined with coated nylon, and can be machine washed and dried, or simply wiped clean with a damp sponge.

Erin is offering both a Snack Sack and Sandwich Snack from her line of snackTaxis ($16 value).  With nearly 50 different fabric designs to choose from, picking one can be difficult.  Her Night Owls Espresso design are being offered for our giveaway.  The snack-sack neatly fits rice cakes, pretzels or corn chips, and is equally good for carrot or celery sticks, and the sandwich-sack is the perfect fit for a generous sandwich, bagel or wrap, or a hearty snack.


Tony(a) Lemos of Ashfield, MA has been making Peace Travelers Global Garlands since 2009. The tradition of hanging flags began more than 2,000 years ago. Inspired by the Prayer Flags of Tibet, Tony(a)’s garlands offer a special way to express some of the most important wishes of your heart.  The pockets on the flags are intended to carry burdens, hopes, worries, releasing them into the world as the flags blow in the breeze. Families participate together in the visual creation of wishes of peace and unity by tucking poetry, verse, quotes, pictures, paintings, etc. into the pockets on the flags. The garland help to spin a common thread of unity between this and other communities.  The garlands are available at Elmer’s in Ashfield and her online etsy store.

Tony(a) is offering a Peace Travelers Global Garland ($25 value).  Each garland has seven flags, many with designs from different world cultures.  This garland set is a gentle reminder to pause, notice, and honor your world …  a prayer for the environment.  The garland comes with a handout and book list, Ways You Can use the Peace Travelers Global Garland to Learn about World Cultures.


Your chance to win a Felt Food Tea Party Set from Jar of Wonder, Mini Lavender Photo Handmade Pillow from SmithPhoto Works, gift certificate from SmartyPants, Sandwich and Snack Sacks (Night Owls Espresso design) from snackTaxi, and a Peace Travelers Global Garland, is as easy as 1-2-3 (4-5)! To win simply

  2. SHARE THIS PAGE ON FACEBOOK BY SELECTING “LIKE” BELOW and be sure to tell us your
  3. FULL NAME and where you
  4. LIVE (TOWN/STATE) Must include your town and state to be eligible. We’ll randomly draw a winner from those who participate and contact the winner via email.  So be sure to leave an
  5. ACCURATE EMAIL in the email field of the comment box (we never share your email address).

IT’S THAT SIMPLE! — Deadline to enter to win is Tuesday, December 13th, 2010 by 7pm (EST).  All five gifts will be shipped together to one address.  If you have any questions, please contact us before entering to win at

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