Making Family Heirlooms One Project at a Time

Homemade Birdhouse

My brother Rusty made this birdhouse when he was in high school in the 70s. We lost Rusty in 2003 to cancer.  This has become a family heirloom for me.
My brother Rusty made this birdhouse when he was in high school in the 70s. We lost Rusty in 2003 to cancer. This has become a family heirloom for me. | Source

Gifts Made With Love

Homemade gifts are often the most welcome ones. The thoughtfulness and the time taken to make them bring a certain kind of joy to the receiver. These gifts need not be made with perfection. The caring act of a gift made with love far outweighs any flaws it could possibly have. I know because I have given many homemade gifts over the years. I have never had one complaint.

The idea relates back from those days I received homemade gifts from my family members. These gifts are the ones I have kept and cherished all of my life. They mean more to me than anything money could buy. I have a baby quilt my grandmother made me and crochet projects and paintings she did. I have a rug and doll quilt my other grandmother made. I have the dress my mom made me for my sixth grade graduation. The older I get the more I appreciate such treasures to hold on to. From the drawings my grandchildren have given me to the wooden rocking chairs an uncle made. My heirlooms begin at home keeping them for the next generation. No need to be a pack rat to keep a few precious gifts. Plastic storage units serve well for things not easily displayed.

Wedding Gift

This is a wedding album I covered for my nephew and his new bride.
This is a wedding album I covered for my nephew and his new bride. | Source

Heirlooms Begin With Us

About ten years ago my Aunt Eloise gave me a stash of vintage fabric which her mother (my grandmother) left her in 1972. Most fabric pieces were small, meant for assembling quilts or rugs which grandma often spent her days doing. In the mix were several big pieces for larger projects.

When you are dealing with forty year old fabric, it is not certain if it will withstand a washing, but I had to try as the musty smell from storage was overwhelming. I chose a cold water wash and amazingly loss was at a minimum. I pieced some small baby quilts with some of the pieces and covered picture albums for family members as an heirloom. They became welcome gifts.

Most of the vintage fabric my grandmother left us is gone now, but I am still covering photo albums to give as unique gifts with other materials I have found. My mom left me a stash of ribbons, lace and fancy buttons I soon found use for. I buy such things at yard sales and flea markets. Sometimes I even buy new assortments of fabric and embellishments when at a store which sells sewing supplies. Recycling old stuff from our dearly departed puts more of a sentimental value on the created design. If grandma leaves behind a favorite dress or housecoat, many photo albums can be covered with just this one garment. The rest of your family will be touched by the gesture when you share your creation.

Cover Special Photo Albums as Gifts

I hope these instructions help.
I hope these instructions help. | Source

Cover Special Photo Albums

Photo albums are easy to cover. First if you have the type of photo album made to add pages to, it may be wise to remove them otherwise you will have to work around the pages. You will not be able to fold the fabric to cover the inside cover in the same fashion. You will see what I mean after you have done a few of these.

Secondly use a little white all purpose glue to secure some fiber or cotton balls to the front cover before applying the fabric. I use to add stuffing of this kind to both sides, but recently discovered it is less bulky if only the front cover is padded. I have left the padding out entirely. So this step is optional.

Step three will require cutting a piece of fabric large enough to cover your photo album. Open the album and lay it on fabric, allow a few inches of fabric to each side of the open edges. Then allow enough fabric to the inside cover to be folded down from the top and up from the bottom. If you are covering an album without removable pages the bulk would be in the opposite direction folding the fabric to the center near the page binding. You may want to pin everything together before actually using any glue to see how it fits.

Step four and five is when the fabric is secured with a hot glue gun. Remember this is hot. Do not use your fingers to press fabric in place. A pencil or metal utensil will work better. This process can also be done with white glue, but you will need pins or clips to hold it until the glue dries completely. I have used clothes pins for this task or safety pins. You will need to cut out around the rings which hold the pages before completely securing the fabric if using an album with removable pages. This album has to be still functional.

Now it is time to design your cover. Scrapbook supplies, greeting cards, stick on embellishments, lace, ribbons, buttons, beads, cut up artificial flowers or plants, pictures from most anywhere and even your own written words can serve as a decoration to make this a piece of art and fine design that is unique and original. I often cut out pieces of an invitation to a wedding or baby shower and use it as part of the decoration on my album to make it even more personal.

Attaching your decorations can be done with either hot glue or white glue. Double sided tape also works. If you are to use text you printed from your computer or part of a greeting card or other paper material you will find it best to cover it with a piece of clear contact paper or plastic to make your finished project more durable. We all know how well paper keeps unprotected from the elements. It would be ashamed not to preserve our hard work.

Baby Shower Gift

I became a great grandma July 12, 2013. I left room on this album to add the baby's name.
I became a great grandma July 12, 2013. I left room on this album to add the baby's name. | Source

There is no rules when it comes to being creative.

When your project is complete be sure to cover it with a clear plastic bag to protect it. The zipper bags work best. I save the ones new sheet sets come in or buy extra big storage bags. You can put a personal note in the album to express your special best wishes to the people you give this gift to. If you lay it on the back of the album before you place it in plastic. The recipient’s guest can read your greeting as well. The one I made recently for my nephew’s wedding was not wrapped. I simply laid it on the gift table with only the clear plastic bag to cover it. I added a note I put against the back cover on a heart shape card. In one of the photo sleeves on the inside I left a new storage card for a digital camera with yet another personal message. There is no rules when it comes to being creative and making your own family heirlooms.

Bird Feeder my Uncle Raymond Made

This is a bird feeder my Uncle Raymond made my husband and I years ago. It has been repainted several times and is still in use today.
This is a bird feeder my Uncle Raymond made my husband and I years ago. It has been repainted several times and is still in use today. | Source

One of Grandma's Painting

This a picture of my Uncle Ervin's sugar shanty that my grandmother painted back in 1984. It's one of my treasures I hold dear.
This a picture of my Uncle Ervin's sugar shanty that my grandmother painted back in 1984. It's one of my treasures I hold dear. | Source

A Gift for a Five Year Old

I covered this album for my granddaughter Leah's fifth birthday. I filled it with pictures of her from the time she was baby until recent day. She loves it.
I covered this album for my granddaughter Leah's fifth birthday. I filled it with pictures of her from the time she was baby until recent day. She loves it. | Source

Create Something Extraordinary

Covering a photo album with love and fabric that has been passed down through many generations not only expresses a special greeting, but it also brings with it a piece of history only the receiver can relate to. Fabric meant to be put into a quilt or rug by my grandmother has taken on another purpose. Vintage material may not stand the stress of time for use in sewing project, but glued to the cover of a photo album, it may be admired for decades to come. I’m so glad it was not discarded.

With each new adventure in the lives of family members, pictures are the best way to preserve them. Digital prints need not be locked into a small storage unit. Hard copy never got easier than it is right now. Why not create something extraordinary? They will love it.

Using More of Grandma's Fabric From the Seventies

This is an album I covered for my neice's new baby. I added part of her birth announcement as decoration.
This is an album I covered for my neice's new baby. I added part of her birth announcement as decoration. | Source
My husband, Bill made this feeder a few years ago. He's gone now, but his memory lives on in the little things he left behind.
My husband, Bill made this feeder a few years ago. He's gone now, but his memory lives on in the little things he left behind. | Source

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2 comments

Vickiw 3 years ago

Well, you know how to get to my heart! I love and treasure bird feeders and houses too! Home made gifts are so special. As you point out they can be important as legacies too, living on as family heirlooms. Even cards can be so special to their recipients - don't have to be fancy - just made by a caring person for someone they care about. I love your album ideas too. Great Hub


Diana Lee profile image

Diana Lee 3 years ago from Potter County, Pa. Author

Thank you, Vickiw. I've always been a bit sentimental. I like to give a special gift to be remembered. Homemade is the only way I can do that.

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