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My Favorite Hostess Gift Was Pickup Sticks

Updated on November 10, 2013

She invited me for Thanksgiving dinner so I took pickup sticks as a hostess gift

and golden spicy sweet potatoes, spiced for the host family's Mediterranean homeland tastes. But my heart was in the gift,

Since I cook for one I filled my largest baking dish with the bright yellow cubes and their fixings. In my kitchen it looked like a huge serving, but when I placed it on the hostess' kitchen island it was dwarfed by restaurant-sized trays of all sorts of delicacies. Well, at least I had also brought a gift.

They were beautifully crafted multicolored wood sticks.

These were not your run of the mill child's toy sticks. They are finely milled pieces that remind me of knitting needles, but pointed at both ends. Actually, one could knit socks or tube sweaters using the sticks.

Pickup sitcks came out for all holidays back home

and I hoped to help recreate some of those moments for the host family. They weren't relegated strictly for the children back in the 50s, but everyone got into the play right around the dinner table, after it was cleared..

Since my childhood memories of playing this game are full and rich, and since my friend's family is a blend of Western and Eastern ancestry and marriage I guessed that the latest generation in their line had missed this game.

To enhance the gift I created an elegant bag

to contain the sticks and replace gift wrap. My hostess and all her family are world travelers, highly educated and fluent in multiple languages and traditions.

I drew from my old sewing hobby and my artistic heart for my selection. From my fabric storage drawers I picked a variety of small pieces of luscious fabrics. I chose them not only for their good looks, but also for the feel.

Love can be both seen and felt through the senses

and my goal was to delight both players and those who caught sight of the full bag on a library shelf. Here's how I made it; I:

  1. added 4" to the length of the stick measurement, and cut the main bag piece 7" wide (for circumference of the bag) X the first measurement.
  2. cut small pieces of gorgeous fabric and/or trims
  3. used iron on fabric glue sheets placed between the trim and the bag fabrics and press, using manufacturer's instructions to make the join.
  4. finished edges of fancy trims, and use zig-zag stitch to run around the edges to join to main bag piece
  5. pressed a hem into the top end by turning under 1/4" at the end; then folding under another 3" and pressing it
  6. stitched a wide fancy trim around the flat bag about 2" down from top edge, securing the bottom of the folded hem edge under the top of the fancy trim. (prior to stitching I folded the short ends of the trim back under itself so the casing would have a nice pretty opening from which the ribbon ties would extend. (This means leaving a good 3/4-1" gap between the folded over end of the trim and the side edge of the bag, because it's important not to catch the side ends of the trim in the side seam of the bag.
  7. stitched the bottom edge of the trim, or left the bottom edge to ruffle out, and stitched 3/4-1" down from the top edge of the trim stitching, in step 6.
  8. folded bag wrong sides together, with cut edges in center. I sewed center seam using a tight straight stitch (serge edges if the fabric easily runs).
  9. turned bag wrong-side-out, finger pressed center seam and resewed same seam (in a French Seam) for sturdiness over the years of play. I didn't want the bag to fray with use.
  10. repeated the French Seam process for the bottom seam, beginning by first sewing the seam with the wrong sides together, repeating with the right sides together.
  11. inserted a ribbon (or cord tie) into the channel under the trim in steps 6 & 7 above.
  12. placed opened set of sticks into gift bag.
  13. tied the ribbon or cord and took it to the party.

The gift was a hit and made a beautiful decoration too!

See the photographs below and adapt your bag to suit your fabrics and trims

  • The pickup sticks by FlagandBanner shown above are the very ones I bought. I kept the canvas bag since it's not festive, and it could hold crochet hooks in my drawer.

Plain Table Mat: 400 X 300 X 3 MM Thick, Rectangle
Plain Table Mat: 400 X 300 X 3 MM Thick, Rectangle

Pickup Sticks need a table cover with a little bit of grip to it.

Cork is a perfect surface for play. A smooth table will thwart the fun of strategically moving the sticks, while cork will hold them "just slightly."

4 Mats come in a set, and I would use two mats for this table setup.


Photo Gallery

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Care to share your pickup sticks playing fun, or your favorite hostess gift to give?

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    • smine27 profile image

      Shinichi Mine 

      4 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      This was one of my most favorite games although it would sometimes put me over the edge with stress. haha.

    • Susan Zutautas profile image

      Susan Zutautas 

      4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I loved playing with pickup sticks.

    • sousababy profile image


      4 years ago

      It can be an intense game - I can barely remember playing it. Gorgeous bag you made for them.


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