A hands-on Christmas

2011-12-02 00:00

FOR some people the Christmas spirit lasts all year round. The Gray family starts early in the new year making hand-made stock items for their Christmas Market which opens unseasonably early in October.

They specialise in making unique items with a Christmas theme and the joy of Santa and snowy white snowmen are in evidence around the home as Sylvia Gray and her three daughters gather to knit, sew, crochet and plan their new ideas for the year ahead.

Gray has five daughters and she has taught all of them to craft and sew. Her theory is that idle hands cannot make mischief, so her daughters learnt her love of making things from a young age and they became very good at creating gifts for friends.

A friend saw their lovely handiwork and suggested that they sell their work at a flea market in Pinetown and so that was the beginning of their commercial enterprise. Their work was always well received and they managed to make a tidy profit from it.

They were invited to do some crafts for a Christmas market at Warner Beach, and their goods were sold out. When the organiser saw Sylvia’s beautifully restored old house in Mayor’s Walk where she lives with two of her daughters it was decided that it would be the perfect venue for the next Christmas market.

The wooden floors and stained-glass window in the front door create the perfect ambience for the market where a loving spirit of giving resides all year long. Gray’s home is full to the brim with five cats, two Labrador dogs and a sense of enterprise.

Hands are always busy sewing, knitting and cutting out patterns, even in front of the television. The results are adorable. In shops and superstores where Christmas has become commercialised and branded, the images of Christmas have become predictable.

But with the home-made touch, these figures are not cheesy but lovable. A fat knitted Santa with a fluffy white beard made by loving hands is a far cry from a plastic Santa made in Taiwan. Gray believes that Christmas is a special time of year because it is a time when you remember to put aside the petty bickering and come together.

“It is a time of year when we remember to behave ourselves and act like better people. The act of giving should be about making others happy. We show them that we love them and that we acknowledge that they have a special place in our lives.”

Gray says that during the three days her house is open for the Christmas market they experience a lot of love. “People feel the spirit of Christmas, they are friendly and warm. The only fighting we see is when they argue about who is going to pay for what and who likes which item more.”

Gray has invited other crafters into her home to display their crafts which complement the Christmas theme. Some sell gift bags, others sell home-made biscuits and treats, knitted animals and home-made soaps.

For some fans of the Christmas market it has become a yearly tradition. A group of elderly women travels from Estcourt to buy gifts every year and this year they stayed at a B&B so they could attend all three days.

Gray says the market is at the end of October because many clients buy gifts to post overseas. “I only make 10 of each item and I price them reasonably because I know everyone battles to make ends meet.”

When Sylvia Gray is not making new Christmas goodies for her market, she is knitting baby beanies for the premature babies at a local hospital.

The Christmas market on Mayors Walk may be over, but the Christmas lights twinkle at night and the Christmas wreath is on the door … when there is a felt reindeer sitting on the doorstop there are always a few curious children who peer inside the Christmas house wondering if perhaps this is where Santa really lives.

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