Christmas Tree Turtlenecks

Christmas Tree Turtlenecks

Its finally autumn in New York City. The temperature dropped this past week and people broke out their jackets and sweaters and knit caps. The kids are back to school and if you’re out and about around three or four in the afternoon, you’ll likely encounter gaggles of uniform clad youngsters walking home from school and stopping into the corner bodegas for gum, nail polish, or comic books.

I was one of those super nerdy kids who always liked going back to school. I especially enjoyed getting new clothes for the occasion. When I was of elementary school age, my mom still made a lot of my clothing (and that of my three brothers). We were those kids who had matching plaid pants and skirts because Mom would buy a couple or three yards of a fabric and use it to make something for each of us. I didn’t mind so much. I thought my two little brothers were super annoying but, my big brother, who is 18 months older than me; well, I thought he was the best. I didn’t care that my red and white plaid skirt was made from the same fabric as his pants. It showed we were related and I was ok with that.

matching shorts and jumper for my birthday

matching shorts and jumper for my birthday

Mother knows best

Mom also went through this phase of embroidering designs on the fronts of plain cotton long sleeve turtlenecks for me. I have no idea where she found the time to do this. I remember having a red one with a Christmas tree on it and a brown one with flowers. I was a true child of the 70s and my Mom, always hip, dressed me like one, even when she couldn’t afford to buy me brand new clothes.

Mom made long skirt and plaid pants for Santa visit. My brother and I were very stylish.

Mom made long skirt and plaid pants for Santa visit. My brother and I were very stylish.

I also remember the huge JC Penny, Sears, and Montgomery Ward fall and Christmas catalogues. I would spend hours going through them, turning down the corners of the pages with items I hoped maybe Mom could buy for me. My parents were pretty good budget makers and keepers and somehow managed, even with four kids on a high school principal’s salary, to still be able to buy all of us some new clothes for the every year for back to school.

To Black Friday or to not Black Friday

We never actually ordered from the catalogues. I’d pick out what I wanted and then we’d all pile into Mom’s van and head to the mall where the JC Penny store was. Then, I’d spend hours searching the store for the pieces I’d ear marked in the catalogue. I thought that whole thing incredibly fun – which is rather ironic because nowadays I abhor shopping in actual stores for clothes and, on the rare occasions that I purchase new wardrobe items, buy most everything online.

Somehow, in my old(er) age, I’ve grown to dislike mass produced apparel of any kind, and shopping in general.

Unless, that is, I’m buying something cycling related. I go hang out in my preferred local bike shop even when I don’t necessarily need something. I’ve spent time thinking about the why of this and have come to the (fairly obvious) conclusion that the reason I’ll go to the bike shop in person and am completely fine with paying a bit more for things I could get at a slightly discounted rate at an online super store, is for the free, excellent cycling (and local food and bar) advice and recommendations from the bike shop owner and employees.

No flavor to savor

Everything in the stores these days looks the same to me and nothing looks like me anymore. Perhaps this is just a common occurrence, or realization, that manifests as you get older. I never wanted to look like everyone else, not even way back when I picked outfits from the JC Penny catalogue. Before everyone could buy anything they wanted from anywhere online, I used to beg Mom to take us to the mall the next county over because the stores carried different things than the stores in our local county mall. Then I was able to get things that no one else at school would have.

I think that’s probably why I loved those embroidered turtlenecks my Mom used to make me so much. Nobody else at school had a shirt just like mine. And I could even claim to have helped pick out the design. Guess I was indeed destined to end up sewing and creating for a living.

The Christmas Tree Turtleneck. Not a great photo of it but the only one I could find. Note that my brother (sitting across from me) is wearing a turtleneck in the same color.

The Christmas Tree Turtleneck. Not a great photo of it but the only one I could find. Note that my brother (sitting across from me) is wearing a turtleneck in the same color.

Be true to yourself

In this world of factory mass-produced disposable goods, individual style is truly a wondrous thing to have. So cultivate yours and that of others as much as you can. Make something for a child in your life, even if its as simple as embroidering a cheesy design on a cotton turtleneck.

You can find some great embroidery designs right here at Sewing Machines Plus to get you started:

Gifts for Grads Who Love to Sew

Gifts for Grads Who Love to Sew

Getting through school requires determination, persistence and intelligence.

Getting through school requires determination, persistence and intelligence.

Getting through school requires determination, persistence and intelligence. Graduating seniors have earned the recognition and gifts their family bestows. We’d like to throw our hat in the ring and congratulate all graduates this year too! To help them celebrate, we have some great gift suggestions for grads who love to sew.

Sewing Totes

As your graduate heads out into the world for the next phase of their life, they’ll want to have their sewing machine and supplies with them. Sewing totes are the perfect way for them to pack up all their sewing gear safely and transport it to this next step on their life and for all the subsequent moves to come. The variety of colors, styles and sizes means you’ll find the perfect sewing tote for your graduate.

Embroidery Hoops

Not all of this year’s grads will embroider, but those who do will love getting a gift of embroidery hoops. Try getting them a variety of shapes and sizes so they’ll have plenty on hand for future projects. And know that any time they use one of the hoops you gave them, they’ll think of you while working on their embroidery project. Those warm memories will work their way into the project, making it that much more special.

Sewing Furniture

Many new graduates begin by moving into a place of their own – with or without roommates. Help them get set up and make their place comfortable with sewing furniture. Whether they’ll have a separate sewing room or a small space in the corner of a shared apartment, the right sewing furniture will help them feel more comfortable and settle into their new living arrangements.

Garment Care

With luck, the graduate in your life has a job lined up. Whether they do or not, they’ll need to look their professional best on the on the job hunt and in the workplace. Garment care items will help them do just that. They work well on both store-bought and handmade items, so your graduate who loves to sew may wind up sharing these gifts with their roommates and coworkers.

Graduates who love to sew may also appreciate gift certificates to fabric stores or to our website. What will you buy your grad this year?

Printed Fabric Project Panels and Ideas

Printed Fabric Project Panels and Ideas

Have you looked into the world of printed fabric panels yet? If you are someone who wants to sew, but doesn’t want to take the time to do detailed, intricate work, a printed fabric project might be more your speed. With pre-printed fabric you can easily sew up gifts for babies and new mothers, teacher and holiday gifts, and so much more.

Kids and New Moms

Making a gift for an expectant mother or little kid in your life? Now you can piece together quiet books, soft books, plushies, play cubes, and toys by buying fabric panels, cutting out the patterns, stuffing, and sewing. Here are a few darling examples.

Tara Lilly’s Whimsical Storybook, Sea Urchin Studio’s Forest Fellows 2, Ed Emberley’s Happy Drawing, and Dr. Seuss Enterprises’ What Pet Should I Get?

Tara Lilly’s Whimsical Storybook, Sea Urchin Studio’s Forest Fellows 2, Ed Emberley’s Happy Drawing, and Dr. Seuss Enterprises’ What Pet Should I Get?

Housewarming and Hostess Gifts

The next time I sew an apron, I’m going to buy a pre-printed fabric panel and just cut and sew. Likewise, there are fabric panels available out there for every type of friend and host or hostess gift you may need. I especially like the two highlighted below for beer lovers and DIYers.

Carly Griffith’s Merry Matryoshka, Robert Kaufman’s Cheers, Maia Ferrell’s Home Grown, Hawthorn Thread’s Bengal Panel.

Carly Griffith’s Merry Matryoshka, Robert Kaufman’s Cheers, Maia Ferrell’s Home Grown, Hawthorn Thread’s Bengal Panel.

Make Your Own Pillows

Never buy store bought decorative pillows again. Now you can cut out and sew any size panel with an endless array of patterns, designs, and quotes by inspirational people. I’ve got the John Muir quote one in my shopping cart.

Hawthorne Thread’s Calypso in Aegean, Redwood Panel with John Muir quote, Autumn Fawn with Henry David Thoreau quote, and their Brave Panel in Valor.

Hawthorne Thread’s Calypso in Aegean, Redwood Panel with John Muir quote, Autumn Fawn with Henry David Thoreau quote, and their Brave Panel in Valor.

Full-sized Quilt Panels

That’s right. Now you can buy an entire fabric panel ready to quilt. You don’t have to piece these beauties together. Just add batting and a backing and start quilting. For my Star Wars and Outlander fan friends, yes, you can now get your favorite heroines in full-sized quilts!

Camelot Cotton’s Rey and BB8, Hawthorne Thread’s Bengal Quilt Panel, and their Fawn Quilt Panel in Aspen, and Kathy Hall’s Outlander Panel.

Camelot Cotton’s Rey and BB8, Hawthorne Thread’s Bengal Quilt Panel, and their Fawn Quilt Panel in Aspen, and Kathy Hall’s Outlander Panel.

Season’s Greetings

Holiday decorating and seasonal teacher and co-worker gifts are much easier now that fabric comes in these printed panel projects. Make a stocking for everyone in your kids’ class or just make them all for you and deck the walls at home.

Makower UK’s Wrap it Up Hanging Panel, Ann Kelle’s Jingle 4 Stockings, and Hawthorne Thread’s Oh What Fun Stockings cut outs, and Hawthorne Thread’s Fairisle Panel in Multi.

Makower UK’s Wrap it Up Hanging Panel, Ann Kelle’s Jingle 4 Stockings, and Hawthorne Thread’s Oh What Fun Stockings cut outs, and Hawthorne Thread’s Fairisle Panel in Multi.

This is Halloween

I had to spotlight Halloween printed fabric panels because I know a lot of my friends struggle to find Halloween crafts. No more! Make your own trick or treat or gift bags and spooky buntings and pillows.

Hawthorne Thread’s Nocturne Trick or Treat Bag panel, Halloween Pillows, Halloween Bunting, and Halloween Treat Bags by Heidi Kennedy on Spoonflower.

Hawthorne Thread’s Nocturne Trick or Treat Bag panel, Halloween Pillows, Halloween Bunting, and Halloween Treat Bags by Heidi Kennedy on Spoonflower.

What a Doll

Full fabric quilt panels and doll patterns are where I think preprinted fabric panels really shine. Both categories are a lot of work when you make everything from scratch. These cut-out-and-sew doll patterns will have you finished in no time, and the gift recipients are guaranteed to love what you make.

Daphne by stacyiesthsu, Cute Dia de Los Muertos Doll by elladorine, Frenche by ewa_brzozowska, Ruth Bader Ginsburg by nicoleporter, Angelina Cut N Sew Doll by tiffanyhoward, Cut and Sew Doll Pattern Steampunk Princess by selinafenech, Margo by stacyiesthsu, Frida Kahlo by nicoleporter, and Cut N Sew Bunka Dolls by heidikennedy.

Daphne by stacyiesthsu, Cute Dia de Los Muertos Doll by elladorine, Frenche by ewa_brzozowska, Ruth Bader Ginsburg by nicoleporter, Angelina Cut N Sew Doll by tiffanyhoward, Cut and Sew Doll Pattern Steampunk Princess by selinafenech, Margo by stacyiesthsu, Frida Kahlo by nicoleporter, and Cut N Sew Bunka Dolls by heidikennedy.

Do you use preprinted fabric panels? What are your favorite projects to make from them?

———————————————————————————–
Charlotte Kaufman is a writer and sewist in Mammoth Lakes, California. She specializes in marine and home interiors and continues to fall more and more in love with quilting. You can follow her at charlottekaufman.com.
Handmade Quilts – the Gift that Keeps Giving

Handmade Quilts – the Gift that Keeps Giving

I love to make clothes, but quilting isn’t really my thing. From afar, I admire and drool over gorgeous handmade quilts and ponder the patience involved in creating such intricate designs. In high school, my love of fabric crafts had me relegated to one of the unpopular groups – not that I fit in with any of them either. In college, I was lucky enough to have a roommate who discovered a passion for quilting her senior (my sophomore) year.

Friends and benefits

Handmade Quilts – the Gift that Keeps Giving

Her passion for quilting became a gift to me! One that keeps on giving, even though we’ve since lost touch. In college, it meant I finally had someone to geek out with me over awesome fabrics and different sewing machine options. I admit, I’m not the easiest person to live with, so the commonality of fabric crafts is what probably saved our roommate relationship.

After she graduated, she made me a quilt for my bed using my favorite colors: purple and teal. I still use it today. I’ve got it draped over my lap right now, in fact because in my part of the country, it’s cold and rainy. The quilt she gifted me has served me well in the nearly 15 years since I graduated college. Not only is it warm and pretty, it consistently matches the décor in my home, no matter how many times I move. And it reminds me of my first fabric craft friend.

Practice makes perfect

At some point, for practice, she also made me a smaller, square quilt with a variety of black and white fabrics. It’s not large enough to cover me and keep me warm, but I love it and the thought she put into. I’m not sure how’d she feel about this, but I used it to make a cat bed under one of the window sills. It’s great because I can easily wash it and the cats love the softness and cushioning it provides to what would otherwise be a wooden bench.

Just like the clothes I make are made with love, so too are homemade quilts. That love combined with the utilitarian factor of quilts make them the gift that keeps on giving. Whether they’re given for big life events like wedding or births or simply as a way to say “I care,” homemade quilts are a gift that the receiver may carry throughout their lives.

Gifts to Sew for Mom

Gifts to Sew for Mom

Are you looking for ideas to sew for Mom?

Moms come in all types. But most appreciate handmade gifts, especially the ones you make. Whether your mom is glitzy or sporty, a homebody or a world traveler, we’ve got you covered.

For Mother’s Day, her birthday, holiday gifts, or just because you love her, here are lots of fun project ideas you can sew for mom.

Zip bags

There are so many uses for these that zippered cases are always a good gift idea. She can use one for a cosmetics bag for her purse or travel, to hold pencils or art supplies, or anything else. I once made a matching set of these in several sizes for a gift for my mom.

She can use these to hold anything.

She can use these to hold anything.

Quilt

Whether she likes to get comfy in her favorite chair or she babysits grand-babies, a lap quilt is a perfect choice to sew for mom. Make one in her favorite colors, to match her décor, or choose a special pattern.

The blocks in these quilts were pieced by my mother's and my husband's grandmothers. I found them in their sewing boxes & put them together with borders to make these lap quilts for our moms to share with their grand babies.

The blocks in these quilts were pieced by my mother’s and my husband’s grandmothers. I found them in their sewing boxes & put them together with borders to make these lap quilts for our moms to share with their grand babies.

And speaking of grand kids and special quilt patterns, you could get the kids involved and make a handprint quilt for their grandmother.  You can make a handprint quilt using washable fabric paint and the kids’ hands as stamps. Or you can have them trace and then cut out their hands and use these as appliqué patterns.

Handbag

Most ladies will appreciate a beautiful new handbag. Depending on your mom’s style, you could make her a clutch, a wristlet, a structured bag, or a casual cross-body purse or messenger bag.

The possibilities are endless here. Choose suede, an elegant stamped faux leather or other fancy fabric, a distinctive or wildly patterned print, or build her a bag based on a small piece of patchwork created just for her.

Totes

She can’t have too many tote bags since these are endlessly useful.

She can’t have too many tote bags since these are endlessly useful.

She can’t have too many tote bags since these are endlessly useful. Make her a stylish and sturdy tote bag for her library books, groceries, or other shopping and she will appreciate it endlessly.

Make a gorgeous XL tote in a special fabric and she will be thrilled to use it as a stylish everyday bag. Especially if you add in ample pockets and/or smaller zip bags for organizing contents.

You can make a reversible tote bag in any size and give her two bags in one.  Make a canvas tote with ample pockets inside and out to create a custom beach bag she will love. Or make her a few of these cute shopping bags that collapse into their own pocket.

And consider smaller totes, too. Here is one as pretty as a purse meant for toting her tablet.

Pillowcases

You can’t buy pillowcases as pretty as the ones you can sew. Make her a luxe pair trimmed in vintage lace. Choose a colorful patterned fabric to dress up her bed or a special motif she adores. Whether she loves owls,  Star Trek, or her favorite sports team, you can make her a pillowcase from a yard of any novelty print.

You could make a pillowcase covered in hearts to remind her how much she is loved.

You could make a pillowcase covered in hearts to remind her how much she is loved.

Sew a bouquet

A bouquet of flowers is a standard Mother’s day gift. You can sew her a bouquet of flowers that will never wilt and fade away.

Here are a lot of different ways to make fabric flowers.

Rice Pack

Whether she suffers from pains in the neck, back, tummy, or general monthly pains, an oversized microwavable rice pack heating pad will be a welcomed gift of comfort.

Slippers

There are lots of ways to sew slippers, here are some slipper sewing tutorials to choose from.

Pajamas

You can sew cozy pajamas from silk, cotton, flannel, or fleece. Make them ultra feminine with batiste and lace, or pure fun in a funky print. Start with an easy pattern from Simplicity, McCall’s, or Butterick, or use one of these tutorials.

Easy robe

Like pajamas, you can sew a robe from a lightweight or dressy fabric or from something heavier and more cozy. Robes are easy to sew. You can buy an easy robe sewing pattern or here’s a great tutorial showing how to make your own pattern using rectangles.

Apron

There are so many ways to sew aprons.  You can make her a pretty half apron from just a fat quarter of fabric plus trim, a full coverage bbq style apron from a yard, a reversible apron, or a garden or craft apron.

  • Oven mitts/ pot holders
  • Table runner
  • Placemats
  • Napkins

Travel bags

If your mom travels a lot, there are a lot of great gifts you could sew to help her

Project link at Positively Splendid.

Project link at Positively Splendid.

Pareu

I got this idea from the book Travel Gear and Gifts to Make, by Mary Mulari. She says that a pareu (pa-ray’-oo) is actually a colorful Polynesian wrap skirt. But it can also be used as a shawl, head cover, scarf, swimsuit cover up, light blanket, picnic blanket, or even a knapsack for carrying stuff.

This is probably the most used and loved gift I have ever made for my mom, and it is also the simplest. She travels a lot as a car passenger, and she likes to nap with a light blanket while riding.

A pretty pareau works perfectly for that plus more.

To make one, you just hem a square or rectangle. You can make one from a 44″ or a 60″ square. Since I knew she would use it as a blanket, I made my mom’s in the larger size. And I sewed a small matching tote with a strap, for storing the pareau rolled up while not in use. I bet it has been over ten years since I made it for her, and she still raves about and uses this gift all the time.

Needlebook

If your mom sews a lot or even just a little, she will certainly treasure a needle book you make with love just for her. You can make a simple one from felt or create a patchwork cover and include a zippered “page” for holding small scissors and other supplies.

I like to make needle books with a zippered page inside.

I like to make needle books with a zippered page inside.

Fabric necklace or bracelets

Jewelry is another go-to gift for moms, but have you ever sewn jewelry? Here are some ideas you could try:

I hope this list gave you some good ideas. What will you sew for mom?

Seeking Inspiration

Seeking Inspiration

You ever have one of those moments when you want to sew something, but you’re not sure what to make? You don’t have anything on your “to make” list and there’s no upcoming events that inspire you to make something special for the occasion? Despite the lack of need, though, your fingers are tingling with desire to sew something. Here’s some suggestions to find some inspiration and fill your need to sew.

Think About Gifts

Is there a holiday, birthday or other occasion coming up? Would any of the people involved in the celebration appreciate and handmade gift? Even if the idea of what you’d like to make them isn’t something you’ve made before, give it a shot. Not only will you fill your urge to sew, you’ll have a unique, special gift to give to someone you care about – and you might learn something in the process.

Ponder Your Wardrobe

Perhaps it’s time to donate some items…

Seeking Inspiration

Seeking Inspiration

When you get dressed in the morning, do you feel like you simply “have nothing to wear?” Perhaps it’s time to donate some items you’re not as in love with as you once were and make yourself some new items? Donating clothing to make room for something you make not only fills your sewing urge, it helps those less fortunate fill out their wardrobes.

Learn a New Skill

Is there a new skill you’ve been wanting to learn? Something you’ve been afraid to take on for a project you can’t afford to mess up? Use this urge to sew without a specific outlet as your opportunity. Whether it’s a specific stitch style, a larger skill like making buttonholes or making something you’ve never attempted before this gap could be a great time to take on that challenge.

Have a Sewing Circle

Oftentimes, being in the presence of other sewers can lead to inspiration. The conversations that occur in a sewing group frequently lead to that “lightbulb” moment for your next project. In other cases, they can inspire you to pick up a project you’d given up on when you wouldn’t otherwise revisit working on it. Also, hosting a sewing circle gives you a chance to connect with like-minded crafters and maybe make some new friends.

Next time you’re struggling to fill a sewing urge, try one or more of these ideas. Then let us know how it went and what you wound up making.

Christmas Sewing Projects

Christmas Sewing Projects

Christmas is fast approaching.

Christmas is fast approaching.

Christmas is fast approaching. Thankfully, there’s still time to sew special Christmas decorations or gifts. With so many Christmas themed fabrics to choose from, it may be hard to decide which one(s) you want for your project, but with so many projects, you won’t have to narrow it down too much.

Christmas Tree Skirt Sewing Project

This 50.5” x 50.5” square Christmas tree skirt is easy to make and uses multiple fabrics to create a look that suits any home. Basic quilting skills are necessary as is a template to use for the center circle. An inverted bowl works well. You can make it from fabric scraps and by using washable materials, it’s easy to clean. The red ties in the back are cute and ensure the skirt isn’t pulled off by pets or kids.

Christmas Tree Ornament Project

If love hand sewing, this cute hot cocoa mug ornament is a perfect way to add some whimsy to your tree. The pattern ensures accurate placement of the faces on the mug and marshmallows. You will need to know how to make a French knot for the eyes. If you’ve got felt scraps, you may be able to use those for the bulk of this adorable Christmas sewing project.

Christmas Stocking Sewing Project

Christmas isn’t complete without “stocking hung by the chimney with care.” With this easy Christmas stocking pattern, you can make individualized stockings for everyone in your family. The large size makes it the ideal stocking for creative stocking stuffer gifts and depending on your choice of fabrics, it’s entirely washable. Choose different colors or patterns for each person in your family to personalize the stockings.

Christmas Tree Angel

There’s something about angels…they belong adorning a Christmas tree. This sweet ribbon angel adds a touch of class to any tree. Use different colored ribbons to make each angel a little different. Sewing is optional with this project, but it’s a great opportunity to use some of the wide ribbon you’ve got sitting around from previous projects.

Christmas Garland Sewing Project

Garland doesn’t have to be tinsel and shine. This adorable garland adds Christmas cheer with rows of fabric Christmas trees. You can either use bits of fabric from your stash or buy remnants from your local fabric shop. This is a great project to do with kids! Their small fingers are great for everting and stuffing the little trees. The number of trees you make will depend on the length you want for the finished garland. A coordinating ribbon completes the project. Use it to decorate your tree or string across a doorway.

What other Christmas sewing projects do you enjoy? If you try any of these, please share the results! I’d love to see them.