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Homemade Holiday Gifts + How to Sew a Button

Learn to give homemade gifts, barter your skills and make gravy like the best old-school grandma you know. These and other keys to modern life below.

How to Sew a Button Erin Bried 780 | Umami Girl

Homemade holiday gift deep thoughts

A lot goes through a girl’s head while she’s pouring eight-plus pounds of homemade granola into a legion of tiny cellophane gift bags. There are optimistic thoughts, like Happy Holidays and The Joy of Giving and If One More Dried Cranberry Hits the Floor, I Won’t Have to Feed the Toddler or the Cat Breakfast Tomorrow.

There are pessimistic thoughts, like Another Year Gone? and Dwindling Numbers at the Family Holiday Table and Why is There No Cheese in Granola.

There are practical thoughts, like The Inappropriateness of Scratching Certain Itches While Handling Foodstuffs.

And as the bags appear to multiply before her bleary, wondering eyes, there are the inevitable deep thoughts, like At What Point Tonight Will I Have Birthed Enough Granola to Qualify as a Grandmother?

How to Sew a Button by Erin Bried

I’m still working on an answer to that last question. But in the meantime, the charming new book How to Sew a Button by Erin Bried goes a long way toward imparting the wisdom of the world’s grandmothers to those of us younger folks making an earnest attempt to fit homemade granola (and maybe a homegrown tomato and a real live neighbor or two) into our modern lives.

I received a review copy of this little gem when my friend Daphne and I were already busy scheming our homemade holiday gifts for this year: a breakfast basket of granola, lemon curd and hot cocoa mix and a cocktail medley of ginger-infused vodka, spiced nuts and little pots of cheese spread. On top of that, we Umamis have now done several seasons worth of canning and even have a semi-legit compost pile of our very own. In other words, I am already a crazy-ass grandma in training, so I wondered whether the book would have much to add to my old lady savvy. It totally does, my dearies. It totally does, in the most accessible and entertaining of ways.

Looking to make gravy? Step one: pour yourself a glass of wine while you wait for the fat to rise to the top of the meat drippings. This is the kind of project I could really see you getting into. Want to barter your old crap or your services instead of spending money on the things you want? Step one: open your pie hole. Making introductions? Let new friends know what they have in common, but keep it flattering. “Jo, have you met Blair? I think you both have hemorrhoids,” is less good than “You both went to the same boarding school.” See? You can do this. And with How to Sew in hand, you’ll want to.



  1. […] an extra layer of awesomeness, use the leftover egg yolks from the meringue to make lemon curd and spread it between the meringue and the whipped […]

  2. […] a delicious bed for a wide variety of sweet fillings, from bittersweet chocolate custard to lemon curd to fresh berries with a dollop of whipped […]

  3. […] to be a more gracious houseguest in the future — maybe bring frozen cookie dough balls or lemon curd that I’ve already made. But. One goal at a time. I never claimed to be made of solid gold. I […]

  4. […] it to you today in a giveaway. What can I say? I’m a little obsessed with it. You may remember Erin Bried from her lovely book How to Sew a Button and Other Nifty Things Your Grandmother Knew. […]

  5. […] Hunter, Henna’s Place, Well Preserved, To The Max, Magpie Housekeeping, Shore Chic and Umami Girl. […]

  6. […] Aside from the Washington Post, other great reviews came in, too. How to Sew a Button was reviewed in The Boston Globe, The Detroit Free Press and Library Journal and on a few blogs, too, including My Sister’s Farmhouse, Gladys Tells All, Green LA Girl, Outblush, Non-Toxic Kids, Granny Su, Atlanta Bargain Hunter, Henna’s Place, Well Preserved, To The Max, Magpie Housekeeping, Shore Chic and Umami Girl. […]

  7. Diane

    If I didn’t need this book I wouldn’t be at this site.

    I do have a tip though. Always carry a garbage bag in you car. If it rains you have a poncho. If you need to put on car chains you have something to lay on. Duct tape also… many uses.
    Thank you,

  8. Daphne

    ok – start the violins – I had nearly 0 contact with either of my grandmothers. I have only two memories: Of Leah, my russian/israeli/trotskyte gm – making chicken soup in my mom’s kitchen. But I was under 3 so I don’t remember the ingredients. Of my father’s mother – well…..All I remember is seeing the bottoms of her feet sticking out at the edge of a hotel room bed…..so I really need this book – I am sure there are huge chunks of missing how to get through life information, without which ….well I wouldn’t know what would happen, would I? Maybe you would, if you had the right sort of gm – or read the book. Oh, and by the way I can’t sew, knit, crochet or do anything beyond a crossstich.

  9. Jessica

    I definitely need this book! I know very little about sewing.

  10. […] giftees who might not know from lemon curd, there’s always […]

  11. Hear Erin Bried talk with my celebrigeek crush Brian Lehrer on wnyc.org here.

  12. My favorite tip from my Grannie was to start every evening with cocktail hour. Especially if cocktail hour involves bourbon. Best tip ever!

  13. Funnily enough, I made up granola as Christmas gifts too.

    And I didn’t know you could freeze lemon curd – thanks for the tip!

  14. Nanners

    Best granma tips: ALWAYS begin every sortie into the kitchen with a glass of something you really want to drink and loud-as-you-can-stand-it music. I like something i can sing to. If your homemade gifts scream “Look mom, I made it myself” wrap it using French wired ribbon; it’s still less expensive than a bought gift and demonstrates that you are not totally lacking in taste. If you’re very worried about your success the first time out, make something edible, so it won’t be there the next time you visit the giftee.

  15. Sharon A

    Enjoyed the rant and sounds like I’d enjoy the book.

  16. Jennifer M

    Always keep tissues, bandaids, and safety pins in your purse!

  17. susan

    This book looks great! I can do some of the basics.. but this would help me loads!

  18. Illona

    One grandma used to say “Marry a man who loves you more than you love him”. The other grandma used to say “When cooking, add a little salt to everything”. Perhaps she meant a little salt in our daily lives too…

  19. Mia J.

    Great post! I am in desperate need of this book. I have a lot to learn.

  20. Stephanie

    I think I have the soul of a grandmother but not the practicality of one. I’ve wanted to start canning, start knitting, and learn how to make really good pierogi! One day!

  21. Amy

    My grandma wasn’t much of a sewer, but she was a damn fine cook and a very smart lady. My favorite bits of grandma wisdom:

    1) Any thing you can learn to do will, someday, come in handy. This was often followed by a war-time story in which my grandmother or someone else in the family saved the day by knowing how to speak a few words of another language, sew a warm blanket out of old stockings, or exchange an earring for a loaf of bread.
    2) If you have your health, you have everything.

  22. Jessica

    I tried ginger tea + lemon + cayenne pepper to clear a stuffy head the other day and it worked. Not really “granny’s wisdom” (unless your gran is Indian) _ I think it’s an ayurvedic (yogi) thing actually.

    I could use this book _ ia can make gravy but that’s it. I can’t sew to save my life! I’m sure there are a lot of useful, DIY, money saving tips in the book!

  23. Elaine

    My granny advice is that most worthwhile sauces start with equal amounts of fat and flour, and that fear must be ignored when making a good gumbo roux–that puppy needs to get dark as heck!

  24. This post cracked me up. My granny trick is this: when you scrape all the stringy bits out of a pumpkin, use them to make pumpkin butter. Everyone loves getting my home-canned pumpkin butter each year, and the majority of the pumpkin used to make it comes from the stringy bits you take the seeds out of after scraping to get to the flesh.

  25. I’m a quilter, a canner, a baker, a cook – at the tender age of 32 i woudl say I’m definitely a granny in training. Hard to follow the comment by Zuri above, but I would say that my fav granny tip is to shake grated mozzarella cheese with a bit of flour so it doesn’t stick together when freezing . .this way you can avoid buying the pre-shredded stuff, buy bricks when on sale, and always have it on hand for pizzas, lasagna what have you. I read this in one my mom’s cooking magazines ages ago and it’s served me well! Thanks for the chance to win and add to my granny repertoire.

  26. Teresa

    My grandmother – a wonderful cook – was particularly known for her chicken salad. Her secret? White pepper.

  27. For post-nasal drip, mix 1 tsp of salt with 1/2 a cup of warm water. Stir to dissolve. Take a spoonful of the salt mix, plug one of your nostrils by pressing down on your nose with your finger, then snort as much of the salt water as you can through the open nostril. Repeat on the other side. Repeat the whole process two more times, then blow! Do this once a day over three days or until you feel clear-throated and cough-free! It’s a gross one, but a goody! Good luck to me!! 🙂

  28. anu

    would love to win this book as I need the tips 🙂

  29. Rita

    My grandma bakes potatoes in the same dish with the meat. Vegetarians are known to make exceptios for those taters:)

  30. Claire Anderson

    I’m so “grannie” challenged, that I’ve never made a home-made jam, jelly, or curd in my life! And to be honest, the thought scares me! I think it’s time to throw off my fear of all things “Gran” and just roll up my sleeves and start cookin’! Also, the last time I tried to sew back on a button, it lasted 3 days… help!!

  31. Brooke

    I seriously need this book! I found myself googling the term “top-stitch” this morning because I am hopeless at sewing.

  32. Sirona Beuchler

    My best granny tip is this:
    Get yourself a good old fashioned apron, the kind with big pockets and a nice little floral design. This way whatever you make in your kitchen will taste just like grandma used to make! I have also found that listening to Ella Fitzgerald and mixing yourself a drink while cooking, works as well. And even if the food doesn’t turn out, at least you had fun! 🙂

  33. I really need to be a grandma now, I have two kids , make home made ghee, even puree apple for the little one. But I need to know more 😀 I need it. Happy Holidays

  34. Mia

    I lack any sort of granny-wisdom and feel a bit helpless when it comes to buttons!

  35. What a cute little book! … i love the title. I pay to have someone sew on my buttons! I need it! Happy Holidays!

  36. Sharon H.

    I desparately need the book. LOL 🙂

  37. irene

    they both always wanted [forced] my brother & i to eat more, despite our complaints that we were full. so basically, no matter what: eat MORE! even if it makes you gag!

  38. Van

    This book looks amazing! I don’t even know how to sew the bottom of my pant nor a button when it goes off my coat. I still ask my mom to do it =.=’ (I tried but it went off few days later …)

  39. I definitely need this book haha. I am trying to learn to cook, sew, knit, crochet, etc. Some I doing better at than others. Cooking is going great, but i currently can’t hem my husband’s pants or fix a rip in a seam. This book sounds awesome.

  40. Lauren

    Both of my grannies and my mother are domestically impaired so I get all my good cooking advice (like this delicious curd) from awesome cooking blogs, a la yours. Thanks!


  41. So glad I read this this morning, it made me laugh. Good luck with your giftmaking.

  42. one of the few things I always remember hearing from my grandma when I had a sore/scratchy throat was to gargle with warm salt water. it was terrible, and I rarely made it for longer than 5 seconds without spitting out the tepid nastiness, but by gone it sure does work! great giveaway question!



  43. As you know, I’m a desultory DIYer myself. But some of the best wisdom I got from my actual Grammie is about commercial products: Bisquick, Dromedary gingerbread mix, and Dow Scrubbing Bubbles. They’re awesome.

    Love the Facts of Life allusion.

  44. LOVE the post this week! My fave?! Why is there no CHEESE in granola?! Although I often wonder why there isn’t cheese in a LOT of things! ;o) And… I really want to win that book! LOL! :o)

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