Sunday, November 23, 2014

Guidelines for Sewing Handmade Gifts

The holidays are quickly approaching, and as sewists, it's a great idea to create some handmade gifts for those you love. It can be a wonderfully fulfilling experience to create something special, but here are some guidelines to make sure your time is well spent.

1. Start Early 
If you haven't started yet, it's not too late. There are plenty of quick and easy projects out there you can still complete without straining your schedule. For bigger projects, make sure you give yourself enough time. You don't want to rush through a project and then realize it wasn't your best work. And you don't want to add too much stress to your already hectic schedule. It's never too early to start

2. Sewing for Adults and Older Children
For adults and older children, opt for accessories over clothing. Everyone has a different shape and size, not to mention different taste in clothing. And clothing can be a lot of work to create. You don't want to make something wonderful, only to discover that it doesn't fit or isn't appreciated. Unless someone has specifically requested an item of clothing from you and you have exact measurements for them, I would avoid it. 

Here are some of my favorite accessories to make:

Fleece Ear Warmer - my FREE tutorial here

Fleece Trapper Hat - Free pattern from here

Infinity Scarf


3. Sewing for a little one
If you have a little one to sew for, lucky you! There are so many great things you can sew for babies and young children. And they will love just about anything you make! But, make sure you consider growth and season. Little ones grow fast and even toys and blankets can be outgrown quickly. I like to make things slightly larger so that the little one can grow into it. That way they will get the most out of it. Better for it to be too large than too small! At least they will grow into it. Also, consider the season. Remember, too, if you are making something for them to grow into, you will want to think about what season it might be when your recipient is ready for that size. Warm quilts and long sleeves are great for cold weather, while lightweight blankets and short sleeves are better suited for warm weather. Here are some of my favorites projects to make for kids. 

Blankets or quilts of any kind. I love this self-bound blanket tutorial at Missouri Star Quilt Co.


Toys or softies - Check out all of these patterns at Go To Patterns


Superhero cape - free pattern at Peekaboo Patterns (affiliate link)

4. Keep it fun!

You like sewing, right? So make what you enjoy. If you love making blankets, but hate making clothes, then by all means, make blankets. Think twice before deciding to make things you don't normally enjoy making. If you know the recipient will absolutely love it, you may decide it's worth doing anyway. But, if it adds stress to your already full schedule, it may not be worth it. It's totally okay to buy store bought gifts sometimes. I promise. :)

Do you have any other guidelines for sewing gifts? I would love to hear?

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Comfy Cozy Robe

The latest project I finished was this Comfy Cozy Robe*, which will be another Christmas present for my son. So, no modeled pics again. (There will be lots after Christmas.) It's another Peekaboo pattern*.

It took me a little longer than I hoped because I struggled unexpectedly with those pockets. The directions had you sew them in a way that was not what my brain was expecting, so it took me a while to get my head around it. And I was in a hurry and not wanting to read the directions - so it took me even longer. Also, I think the pocket placement was off. I didn't like where the pattern had you place the pockets, so I moved them over horizontally, but now I wish I had moved them vertically also. I think moving them down would have kept them out of the way of the sash more. But still, I love how it turned out and I know he will love it. It's so cozy! I made these out of terry cloth for post-bath, but I have seen many made of fleece for lounging. 

My favorite detail of this robe is the neckline. I finished it with a petersham ribbon along the seam. (I love petersham.) It makes it nice and soft. And there is a loop for hanging. Doesn't that look nice?


Pattern: Comfy Cozy Robe* by Peekaboo Patterns. I made a size 8/10 for my six year old. It will probably be a little big, but will fit for a long time. 
  •  Comes in sizes 6 mo - 12 yrs plus a doll size
  • Can be made with or without hood
  • Optional pockets and cuffs
  • Made to fit growing children with additional length and cuffs that can be folded up and then back down as child grows.
  • Also included directions for finishing seams with bias tape - optional
  • Detailed instructions with full color photos.

Fabric: I made mine from this terry cloth fabric. I knew my kids wanted robes for post bath, not so much for lounging, so I wanted terry cloth. Turns out it was quite hard to find. I needed something that was not too thin and was nice and soft. I actually ordered a different fabric and had to return it (Thanks to for easy returns.) But this fabric was perfect. Also beware, though, terry cloth sheds a lot. It's sort of a mess to work with. Make sure you prewash and clean the lint trap when you are done. Also, because terry cloth tends to shed and fray, you really need to finish the ends well. A serger works great. If you don't have a serger, the bias tape directions in the pattern is another great way to give those ends a really nice finish.

Verdict: Great pattern. Only thing I would change next time around is the pocket placement. I plan on making more. I'm going to try to finish another for my daughter before Christmas, but I ran out of fabric for hers. Plus, I tried on this one and it was so comfy I think I want one for me. I think I can size up a little and add some length and make it work for me, :)

*Affiliate links

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Free Tutorial - Fleece Ear Warmer with Bonus Ponytail Hole

Just in time for Christmas gifting! I'm going to show you how to make these great ear warmers. They are great for any type of cold weather and especially great for active pursuits. They are easy to make and take very little fabric! And as a bonus for those ponytail wearing girls (or guys, that's cool, too) in your life, I'll show you how to make an extra hole to hold that ponytail. For those without a ponytail, you can skip that step.

Make one for everyone on your list this Christmas. Ear warmer for you, ear warmer for you - everyone gets an ear warmer!

Here's how you do it. Be sure to read through all the directions before you start.


First, you need to gather your supplies. You will need:

       1. Fleece fabric. My favorite fabric for these is microfleece. It is a little lighter weight and stretchier than other fleece, which is particularly nice for workouts and such. This is the fabric I am using here. Any fleece should work, though. You don't need more than a quarter of a yard and you can probably even get two or three of these out of that. Scraps work great if you have some!

        2. Scissors or rotary cutter

        3. Matching thread

        4. Marking pen (optional)

        5.  Pins (optional)

        6. Glue stick (optional) - just a regular old school glue stick. (Keep reading to see my super special trick!)

        7.  Sewing machine

  • Don't use an iron on fleece. It can melt. (Did you get that? That means you don't even have to iron this project! Yay!)
  • Fleece doesn't fray, so you don't have to finish the seams if you don't want to. Yay again!
  • Be sure to cut in the right direction. The cross grain of the fabric will have more stretch than the straight grain. We want this ear warmer to stretch around the head.
  • Since it stretches, we want to use a stitch that will stretch when sewing with the cross grain.
  • Usually there is a right and wrong side, but sometimes it is hard to tell which is which, so check carefully.


1.    Cut a rectangle of fleece 5 inches by 20 inches.  Remember to cut your rectangle so that the        stretch is across the width of the fabric. Try stretching the fabric in both directions and you should be able to tell which is the cross grain. We want the stretch to go around the head.         (This is a "one size fits most." Remember, it will have some stretch. If your head or your recipient's head is very large or very small, you may want to adjust the width. You can wrap the fabric around your head to check.)

2.  Fold your fabric in half along the long side. Be sure that the right sides are together.

3. Mark the ponytail hole. (Skip this step if omitting).  Using pins or marking pin, mark the short edge of your fabric 1.5 inches from each edge.

4. Sew short ends of your fabric together with a 1/2" seam allowance. Begin at the marks you made in step 3 (or from the middle if you skipped that step) and sew towards edges (This helps prevent the fabric from getting stuck).  Be sure to backstitch and the beginning and end of your seam. You can use a straight stitch for this part, since the fabric does not need to stretch in this direction. If you are omitting the ponytail hole, just sew straight across. Fingerpress the seam allowances to either side.

5. If you left a hole for the ponytail, topstitch a rectangle around the hole to secure seam allowances. 

6. Fold the raw edges on each long side 3/4" towards the wrong side. Secure with pins if desired. Or, use my super special basting tool - your school glue stick! Fold the edges over and secure with glue. (If it won't stay you can use a pin to hold in place until glue dries.) Hem  the edges using a zig-zag stitch (or whatever stitch you prefer that has some stretch). The glue will wash out in the washing machine, leaving you with a perfectly hemmed edge.

7. Try it on and admire your creation. Then go and make some more!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Happy Feet Pajamas

This week's project was the Happy Feet Pajamas from Peek a Boo Patterns. There is a pajama sew along going on this week, so this is my contribution (affiliate links).

Sorry, no modeled picks again because these are also going to be a Christmas gift. So there will be lots of pics coming later when all the gifts are opened. For now, this is all we get.

I love these pjs because they are so warm and cozy. And I made them entirely out of scraps of various fleece I had laying around. The only thing I had to buy was the gripper fabric for the bottom of the feet.

My kids love their old zip up pajamas, but they are getting older and the zippers are just a pain. These are so much better. Makes pottying so much easier. And you can mix and match to match the weather if need be. Plus, those tops could totally pass for a regular sweatshirt. The feet are still covered for those who don't like to wear socks or who have trouble keeping socks on. Elastic in the ankles keep the feet in place. Sizes range from newborn all the way through size 12. And there is even directions for adding snaps to hold the top and bottom together to keep little tummies warm. 

I have a feeling that once they get these jammies on, they won't want to take them off!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Girl's Dress - Knit top with Woven Skirt

My daughter needs some new dresses to wear to church now that it's getting cooler out. So, the other day I had to whip up a new dress. I chose this simple one that I knew I could make quickly. It's a basic t-shirt on top ( I made this one from my trusty Jalie pattern, but you could just as easily use a store bought shirt.) with a woven skirt gathered and sewn to the bottom.

I made this one about two sizes two big so that it will fit for a long time. So you can see that the fit is a little roomy, but it looks nice and comfy. There are several inches that can be let out from the hem and the sleeves are rolled up about two inches.

Someday if I have readers who are interested, I can do a tutorial on how I made this simple dress. Make sure to leave a comment if you are interested.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Sewing for Men - Finlayson Sweater

So this week I have been doing something a little different - sewing things for adults. Sewing for adults is definitely different. It takes a little more time than sewing for kids. (And of course, a little more material.) For adults, the fit is more important, and can be quite a bit trickier. And I also think the details become more important when sewing for adults. I want to make something that will fit and be worn for many years, not just a few seasons.

After seeing all of the lovely things I have made for the kids, my husband wanted me to sew something for him. :) It took a lot of looking around because there are just not that many good patterns out there for men. I finally came across Thread Theory, an indie sewing company out of Canada that specializes in sewing patterns for men. 

Now, the other problem is that my husband tends to be picky about his clothing. I think most men are, when it comes down to it. He likes t-shirts and jeans at home and polos and khakis at work. That's about all he wears. So I had to find a pattern that he would like, but also something he didn't already have a ton of in his closet. I think this is a real challenge when sewing for men. So, I showed him the pictures of the Finlayson Sweater. At first he wasn't too sure. I mean, that cowl neck was a little outside of his normal wear. Ha! But, after he saw the cowl neck sweater I made for my son, he decided he wanted one. Awesome. So I bought the pattern and sewed it up. 

And here is the finished product! I don't have any modeled pictures yet because he is going to get this for Christmas. Shh.. don't tell him. 

I kinda love it. The pattern is great. Directions were good and I love some of the details they included, like the topstitching and the twill tape in the neckline. They also show you how to stabilize the seams in the shoulders and also in the cuffs. It might just be one of the nicest sweaters in his closet. 

I used this fabric in the facing to show off his favorite team. :) I love that it is fun and personal. And doesn't that neckline tape make it look really professional?

Here are some details of the back:

I would love to hear what you think. Do you ever sew for men? Have you found any good men's patterns? What challenges do you face when sewing for men?