Christmas giving made with stitches, buttons and silk florals; shop owners display homemade, Muscatine-themed Christmas gifts and seasonal items
Beth Van Zandt/Muscaitne Journal Penny Brauns designs an artificial Christmas centerpiece arrangement at Penny Lane Flowers and Gifts in Muscatine Monday afternoon. Brauns said bold colors and sparkles are this season’s hits.

MUSCATINE, Iowa — The constant purr of embroidery machines is one sign that the gift-giving season is in full swing at Phoenix Products.

The store at 1136 E. Ninth St. specializes in engraving and embroidery incorporated with traditional Muscatine logos.

Muscatine-themed products and seasonal items are good sellers as Christmastime approaches, store owners say. And those who love to buy locally made gifts will find it is easy to do this holiday season.

The embroidery machine at Phoenix Products can put out a logo at 1,200 stitches per minute, and the most popular designs for gift giving are the watermelon, clam, and Muscatine or Muskie logos.

“We try to keep it unique — something we’ve never seen before and something you can’t get many other places,” co-owner Mary Harper said of the designs chosen to represent the Pearl City. She and her husband Tom, both of Muscatine, started Phoenix Products  in 1977.

Among the most popular sellers are the Muscatine High School Muskie Indian head logo and the spear. Harper said the traditional Indian head is something people look for but can’t find in many other places because of the idea that the use of an American Indian figure for mascots has become politically incorrect.

“It’s still a Muscatine tradition so we keep it,” she added.

Pearl buttons

A historical Muscatine classic is the pearl button, and Ann Moody has used her creativity to put a twist on the pearly white cutouts. Muscatine’s pearl button industry boomed from the late 1800s to the mid 1900s when people moved to live near the muddy Mississippi’s edge in hopes of finding fortune in the piles of mussel shells pulled from her bed.

“I add a button to just about everything,” said Moody, as she peered over eyeglasses attached to a string decorated with buttons and shell. Moody is a local artist who paints, embroiders and makes jewelry to sell at her store, Annsarts in the Pearl Plaza in downtown Muscatine.

Moody believes that using the buttons is the ultimate representation of Muscatine’s history because the buttons she creates art with were produced  here during the boom. In the 1980s, Moody bought two van loads of boxes full of pearl buttons from the basement of the late Muriel Hines, who had held on to them in a collection. The buttons were produced at the former Muscatine Pearl Works factory and come in all shapes and sizes.

Forever floral

Penny Lane Flowers and Gifts, 2300 Park Ave., offers a wide variety of holiday items, from snow globes to candy cane-striped planters full of poinsettias to glimmering wreaths. Owner, Penny Brauns of Muscatine said the hit of the season is artificial floral arrangements in bold, trendy colors and styles.

“Everything is glitzy this year, covered with glitter and sparkles. I go home looking like Tinker Bell,” she said, laughing as she poked a piece of tree branch painted red into a Styrofoam block that would be a base for her latest design.

Brauns said most florists start with the greenery and then add flowers to an arrangement, but she starts with the focal point and works backwards, adding little pieces of evergreen, a pine cone or two and a twig of berries as final touches.

Brauns designs bouquets in her own creations or for special requests, and the prices can range from $15 to $150. The arrangements can last for seasons to come when kept stored in a plastic bag, she said, with only a little fluffing up when they’re brought out for the holidays.

For the person who might not be into the trendy colors of bright lime green or aqua, there are always  more traditional centerpiece arrangements.

Reporter contact information

Melissa Regennitter: 563-262-0526

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