I know, I know, it's too early to be thinking about the holidays. Let's enjoy Halloween and Thanksgiving first! I completely agree. BUT...when you would like to make some gifts to give, you have to start early. Consider this a friendly nudge to get started.
One of my favorite sewing blogs, SewMamaSew, has an annual Handmade Holiday series throughout the month of November. They post multiple tutorials per day (usually thematically organized like gifts for tech lovers, gifts for teachers, gifts for teens...), plus a recipe and a free printable (gift tags, thank you notes, place cards, etc.). Every single day in November, there will be a fresh batch of ideas complete with instructions from sewing and crafty bloggers all around the globe. It's a treasure that you can refer back to anytime throughout the year.
The great part is that this is the eighth annual series, which means there are seven more years' worth of handmade ideas in their search engine! Here is last year's list to get you started.
The series starts November 1, this Saturday. I'll be checking every day. It's so worth it for inspiration and tutorials. You can start now and have a whole basketful of handmade gifts ready once the holidays are here! I don't recommend trying to make a dozen gifts starting on December 20. You'll go crazy.
If you don't have the time or inclination to make gifts this year, support handmade artisans who have been planning for this season since June. You can start with this year's Cornucopia sale where I will have a booth next weekend, Nov 7-8 in Portsmouth!!
Unable to find something non-toxic that also does not come in a plastic container, I have opted for making my own laundry detergent. All the raw ingredients come in recycled and recyclable paper packaging, and the process is really quite simple and quick. The hardest part is grating a bar of soap. Recipes abound on the internet and Pinterest in particular, though mine came from the magazine Taproot. I'm not publishing the recipe here, as I do not have permission from the lovely Taproot peeps, but you can easily spend 30 seconds online and find pretty much the same recipe that I use.
Simple and inexpensive ingredients. The castile soap is from Trader Joe's.
So how does my laundry fare? It's CLEAN. And doesn't smell like much of anything. Which is exactly what a chemical-free laundry detergent is supposed to do! You might not get out some troublesome stains, but honestly, that hasn't been a priority for me in years. I don't have uniforms to maintain, I don't wear fancy clothes to an office for work, so stains have not been much of an issue for us. If it is, I'm sure there are some great non-toxic stain removers out there. If you have one to recommend, please tell me about it in the comments!
Do your children ever complain about the size tag inside the neckline of their clothing "feeling scratchy?" If you cut it with scissors, it will just feel scratchier, so the best bet is to remove it at the source. There are many ways that the tag may be attached, but if you are dealing with a jersey knit tee or stretchy leotard, here's how you can remove it completely. Have these things handy:
The pesky tag in question. (BTW--this does not look or feel the least bit scratchy to me, but the complaints have been epic.)
Tough to see with the black, but unpick the seam where the tag is attached. 2-3 stitches before and after will suffice. Be careful not to snap any garment threads.
Attach a twin needle, following the instructions in the manual for your sewing machine. Most machines come with twin needles. If not, they can be found for a couple of dollars in any fabric store.
You will need two spools of thread for working with a twin needle. Consult your manual as to where the second spool should be seated. Every machine is different, even from the same manufacturer. If you no longer have your manual, most of them can be found online by starting at your manufacturer's website such as Singer, Janome, Brother, etc. You should be able to download a PDF for free.
Once you have two spools of thread in place, grab both strands and thread your machine as if you only had one thread. In other words, treat the two as one strand and thread your machine normally.
Once you get to the needles, put one thread through the left, one through the right. It does not matter if the strands have gotten a bit twisted while threading the machine. Double check that your presser foot is a zigzag-friendly foot. Turn your hand wheel once to make sure that the double needles will fit easily through the hole in your presser foot. It is very important to do that, otherwise you could be looking at a nasty crash!
Fold the hem back in place as if the tag was still attached. On the outside of the garment (facing up when sewing), stitch the hem closed. Backstitch a few stitches at the beginning and end of your seam to secure the new hem. The double seam will be facing you as you sew. The underside of the garment will be a crazy zigzag stitch that should look a lot like the rest of the seam on your garment. Practice the stitch on a scrap piece of fabric before sewing your garment to see what it will look like.
Congratulations! Your children will think you are a rock star. Or they may not acknowledge what you did whatsoever. At least you don't have to hear any more complaining about an itchy tag.
A few weeks back, my daughter needed some gifts for birthday parties. Sewing with kids can take many different forms, and this one was a handmade gift collaboration.
She made drawings for each of the birthday girls, and I turned them into embroidered library book tote bags.
(If anyone is interested in how to transfer your child's drawing into an embroidery template, let me know and I can put together a tutorial.)
This is what we came up with:
Here's some detail from the girl tote.
I tried very hard not to alter, but to stay true to her original drawing. I couldn't include all of the detail (I'm not that good with embroidery--see exhibits A and B, the mouth and nose!), but I think the essence of the drawing came through in the stitches.
Both bags had the same lining.
The owls. I love the crooked skirt!
Hopefully each birthday girl enjoyed her gift!
We recently hosted a superhero birthday party. Not to be confused with the Batman party we had a few years ago. This one was Marvel Comics only. How does a 6 year old come up with this stuff? In what is now my usual party-throwing style, I limited the plastic as much as humanly possible and embraced the current season. Take a look.
Everyone seemed to have fun, especially the birthday boy! Bonus that I had very little to throw away at the end of the day. Extra bonus that I did not send any child home with any plastic that would be thrown away! Who says you have to have a goodie bag? If you want one, try a fabric one instead. A little advanced planning combined with not that much extra work will give you a really fun little-to-no-waste birthday party.
When you cut fabric for a project, it is important to pay attention to the direction of what's printed on it. A solid fabric like this one has no up/down or right/left other than the weave of the threads of the fabric.
Some fabrics have a print/design that also has no direction. The flowers would look great whether cut up/down or left/right.
But then you have what are called directional prints. There is a right side up to the print. Here's a straightforward example.
Here's something more subtle, but that also has a very distinct up/down to the print on the fabric.
When having fabric cut at the store, it's important to determine the direction of the print on the fabric and then see how the pattern you are using instructs you to cut your pieces. You may need more yardage for the project to ensure you are cutting your pieces with the direction of the print. Many patterns will give you two fabric measurements, one accounting for additional yardage to allow for a directional print (mine do!).
The same rules apply for working with grain-line, something with a nap like corduroy or velvet, and even silk.
Pay attention to what direction your print runs when you look at the bolt before having your yardage cut. It doesn't hurt to bring a measuring tape with you to the fabric store to measure twice, cut once!
There are oodles of new things coming from my sewing machine this week. Below is a peek at upcoming products, most great for the gift giving season.
As for WIP (work in progress), or UFO (unfinished object), I like Cheryl Arkinson's take on having a lot of projects in various states of completion. She doesn't see it as a negative at all, but rather as an opportunity to multitask as a creative artistan. Or work on something in the tiny 15 minute window you have rightthisveryminute. She wrote the post for Sew Mama Sew, a website I highly recommend reading regularly. Check out the hundreds of free sewing tutorials they offer in a searchable database. Brilliant!
Grab your favorite mug of tea, coffee or cocoa and spend a few minutes with these lovely ideas I've stumbled upon around the web recently.
It's time to plant garlic. This is a great, simple description of how to make it happen. I'm planting mine before the end of this weekend.
Here's a fun Halloween tutorial you can stitch up in no time, either by hand or with a machine.
Quilting doesn't have to be only for the Amish or for grandmas. It can be a whole lot of snarky fun too!
California has banned plastic bags--we should be doing this all across the nation! Here is a good article with things you may not have thought about before. My favorite is the part about recycling plastic bags--many are never actually recycled, so it's best to not use them at all. Period. End of story.
There's a superhero party in our future and this picture cracked me up when I was "researching" on Pinterest. The homepage made me a bit uncomfortable, so I'm just gonna say it came from Pinterest and call it a day.
What do you have planned for the long fall weekend? Enjoy!
What I'm working on this week:
Gift bags are making a comeback in my shop and fair booth. Right now I have some fall-themed ones in the works that will be great for Halloween goodie bags and Thanksgiving hostess gifts.
Increasing the sustainability of my production process. Any crafter will admit that there is a LOT that tends to be thrown away. I'm working on minimizing that with a few new ideas I'll talk about more in detail soon.
A new product: Dopp kits. So far I have just one in my shop, but have several more planned. It can be really tough sometimes to come up with gift ideas for the men in our lives. Am I right???
New product ideas are always kicking around in my head. Not sure that I want to say too much about this one because I was ready to chuck it out the window earlier this week. I think I'll give it another chance, but maybe not until after the New Year. I need to sit and let it stew a while longer.
What are you working on this week?
As co-owner of Stitchery in Portsmouth, RI, I teach sewing classes to children and adults. Welcome to my blog Dancing Threads RI.