Gifts of Love

By Karen R. Smith


With the holidays behind us and temperatures keeping us in sweaters and Polar Fleece, the best way to enjoy these cold days is to get ready for Valentines Day! We can all use a little more love in our lives, and finding a way to share it with a stylish gift will add sunshine to your day!

Warmth from animals

It’s cold, and if you’re a native Tucsonan it feels even colder! Give someone you love a gift that will keep them toasty!

Animal fibers include alpaca (llama too), angora (from rabbit or goat), camel hair (usually combined with wool), cashmere (from goat), emu (from the Australian bird), mohair (from goat), wool (from sheep) and vicuna (a member of the camel family).

All of these animal fibers are woven into sweaters and socks and hats and mittens and just about everything else! They are warm, lightweight and very durable. There are different grades and weaves and they range in price as a result. An investment in a good quality animal fiber garment can last for years and years. My favorite black cashmere vee-neck sweater turned 20 this winter, and looks exactly the same as it did when I purchased it in 1998.

Some people are allergic to animal fibers, but that is less common today thanks to more efficient manufacturing processes. Your grandmother can probably recall the smell of lanolin on the wool sweaters she wore as a child; there is no lanolin content in modern wool garments.

Owning a fine animal fiber garment used to mean dry cleaning and blocking when it got soiled, but today most animal fiber garments can be machine washed and dried with the same ease as a tee shirt.

Although most of think of silk for our summer clothes, silk (secreted from the salivary glands of silkworm larva) can be densely woven to provide warmth and has been used for winter clothes in China for centuries. Silk thermal-weave undergarments can be an excellent choice for layering, since they are lightweight and flexible. I bought long sleeved tops and bottoms for my skiing sons on Amazon for under $100 (enter silk thermal underwear in the search window and you’ll have lots of choices!).

Warmth from plants

Most of the clothing made from plant fibers is lightweight and perfect for our Sonoran summers, but don’t forget that cotton can be made into bulky sweaters and socks and undies that provide both comfort and warmth. Some of the nicest cotton sweaters I’ve seen come from where they are available in every size from kids to XXL adults.

Synthetic fibers

Manmade fibers are much cheaper, but they don’t have the same wearable longevity. This is obviously not an issue for kids -- they are going to outgrow their clothing no matter it’s made of
-- but it might be an issue for adults who are size-stable.

Acrylic is used for sweaters because it is springy, comfortable and warm. In fact, it resembles fine quality wool, but it’s hypoallergenic and moths can’t eat it! Acrylic is a manmade polymer, meaning it is made of long chains of molecules. It’s full name is acrylonitrile.

Microfiber fabrics might be made of polyester, nylon, rayon or acrylic -- the term actually refers to the thinness of each strand of fiber, not the content. Soft, hypoallergenic and easy to care for, microfibers can provide warmth and easy care.

Got pictures?

If you’ve got a picture, you can use it to create a lasting treasure for your loved ones. How about putting their favorite pet on a mug? Go to and upload the photo… right now, they will make it into a mug for 99 cents!

Want something bigger? At, you can upload a photo onto a tee shirt, sweatshirt, jacket or even a pair of sneakers! does the same thing….and they can put your favorite image onto a shower curtain and lots of other items for the home. Most orders on both of these sites take 10-14 days, so you’ve got the time to go through your photos (or take a new one!) and have the gift before Valentines Day.

Seeking an original?

Tucson artists all have unique and original ways of portraying our beautiful city, and you can see how a dozen of them do it at Chris Bubany and Friends Gallery (6538 E Tanque Verde Road). There’s everything from jewelry to photography to paintings and sculptures at just about every price point. You’ll definitely find the right gift for the one who holds the key to your heart!

About the Author:
Karen R. Smith is an award-winning journalist and publicist. Her book, "Stylishly Sexy" is available online and she takes private style clients throughout Arizona and across the country. Visit her at