Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Handmade Christmas Gifts 2017

At almost a month on from Christmas (already?!) I though it was high time I showed you the handmade gifts I sewed up this year. I was lucky to have a fairly quiet run up to the festive season at work so was fairly ambitious with my unselfish sewing but have learnt from giving myself to much to do in previous years! I started early, tried to choose projects I knew wouldn't be too problematic and limited myself to only making for people when I thought of something I could make that they would REALLY like and use. As a result I thoroughly enjoyed the whole process of making each of these things. I think the most fun part of sewing for others is getting to make items and use fabrics that you wouldn't necessarily choose for yourself and the idea started with the fabric for nearly all of these projects.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Jacquard Named Lourdes Cropped Jacket

First up a special tote bag for my Dad who is an avid vinyl record collector. I have a few second hand vinyl stores in the area I live in so whenever he comes to visit we always stop by for a rummage and he normally comes away with a handful. To combat the need for plastic bags I'd spotted these vinyl collector totes online for an extortionate amount of money...but luckily could make my own! As well as being the exact size for 12" vinyl records the key feature of the tote is being super strong and durable as those records can really get heavy once you get a few in a pile. I had a nice think piece of selvedge denim which seemed perfect for the task. For extra strength the webbing straps run right down the sides and under the base of the bag. I got my webbing from my local fabric shop, Rolls & Rems in Lewisham. It was a pretty straightforward project. I decided that a bag without a base would be fine for the quantity of records Dad buys at once, although you can buy totes with a solid base and sides for more room. I cut two squares the size of a 12" vinyl record in sleeve, plus seam allowance and 1/2" extra on all four sides to allow some ease and room for more than one disc (I reckon this could hold about 5 at a time). I then cut two facing pieces at 4" deep plus seam allowance on top and bottom. I hemmed the bottom edges before attaching each facing to a square. I then sewed the two squares together along the base so the four pieces formed one long strip. Before sewing up the sides I attached the webbing straps; pinning carefully in place at an equal distance from the sides and using a tote bag of mine as a guide to strap length. After stitching down both sides of the straps along the body of the bag I sewed up the side seams, turned in the facing and finished with a 'Handmade by Fiona' label! If anyone is interested in making their own and would like clearer instructions let me know and I could do a quick tutorial with pictures.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Denim Vinyl Record Collector Tote

Next I made a table runner for a well-traveled friend of mine who hosts a book club brunch or dinner at least once a month and also has me round on a fairly regular basis to feed me wonderful feasts! I took a little trip to the Cloth House and picked out a couple of Japanese hand-printed cottons which I knew she would appreciate both the design and origination of. Again it was quite a straightforward project once I had thought through how to put it together and as the cotton is so beautiful to work with it came out beautifully. If you're going to work with a hand printed fabric like this for a gift make sure to pre-wash it using the retailers instructions and include washing instructions with the gift. You wouldn't want your hard work getting ruined in the first wash!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Japanese Cotton Table Runner

To make it I only needed three quarters of a metre of the main fabric and half a metre of the trim (and still have an amount left over which I've just used a bit of on a facing for another project!). The amount you need will depend on how wide and long you want your runner though. Also if you didn't want a centre seam you'd need the length of your runner in one piece. I cut two rectangles of the main fabric and sewed the centre seam, finishing on the overlocker and pressing to one side. Then I cut two long strips of the contrast fabric twice as wide as I wanted them plus seam allowance. To achieve a clean finish I sewed one long edge to the central piece and pressed in the seam allowance down the other long side. Then folded the piece back on itself wrong sides together concealing the raw edge of the central piece between the two layers and topstitched to secure in a matching indigo thread. This achieved a nice clean finish similar to how you would attach a waistband. All that was then left to do was hem the two short ends. I was really happy with this gift idea and would definitely think about doing this again, perhaps with the addition of matching placemats. Its not a particularly time consuming project but you can make it really personal with the choice of fabric and as it doesn't take a huge amount can use something special too.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Japanese Cotton Table Runner

Last on the list of homeware gifts was a pair of oven gloves for my brother to go along with some other home related things I had bought him. Most of my family have had a pair of handmade oven gloves from me now, my brother is one of the last on the list to get some! They're a really enjoyable project and you can have a lot of fun choosing novelty fabrics you wouldn't usually make clothes with. My brother and I both really like Star Wars and it has become a yearly Christmas tradition to go and see the new movie together so I was hoping to find something along that or the Game of Thrones theme. I was delighted when I discovered this Star Wars print in the new fabric and craft shop in Greenwich Market at the end of November. Miss Ginger's mainly stocks quilting cottons but has a number of other crafty items including a small selection of Indie patterns; I'm really excited to have a little sewing shop so close by!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Star Wars Oven Gloves

The oven gloves I've made have improved in quality over the years and these are definitely my best pair to date. I buy a special thermal batting to help protect the hands from the heat of a hot tray, using a single layer in both sides of the mitt. I've learnt that using a walking foot on the machine and sewing all lines of stitching in the same direction when quilting is the best way to keep things flat and prevent any twisting or shifting out of shape. I use quite wide strips for my binding to enable good coverage around the thick corners of the mitts. My quilting lines are 1" apart and I use a chalk pen to mark them as I know for sure that will come off!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Striped Hacci Knit MIY Collection Longley Waterfall Cardigan

I made two items of clothing this Christmas. The first of which was finished way back at the start of November! I was at the Great British Sewing Bee Live with my Mum when she spotted this beautiful hacci knit made up into a cardigan on the Girl Charlee stand and said she thought my Nan would love something like that. I'd never worked with a hacci knit before but have always been taken by their gorgeous slinky drape and fine hand so took the plunge and picked up a metre and a half. I knew within about 30 seconds which pattern I would use...my trusty MIY Collection Longley! This is a great choice for a gift as it doesn't require much in the way of fitting and you can take a good guess at the size as there are only four generous ones to choose from and the stretch fabric is forgiving. I've made this pattern twice for myself now and love how it comes together and sits on the body. Drapey knits are ideal for it and I thought it would be really interesting to make up in something as fine as a hacci; it certainly works just as well as the merino. I put the cardigan on for a while and the fabric is so lovely against the skin. The cool, smooth feeling will be a lovely fine layer in the spring and summer.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Striped Hacci Knit MIY Collection Longley Waterfall Cardigan

I've always found slinky knits quite tricky to work with and this was certainly no exception. I have no trouble with silks, even as fine and shifty of a chiffon but I think slippery knits are my personal nemesis! The sewing of this was pretty straightforward and the fabric presses really beautifully but it was the cutting I had trouble with. I find it so trick to get a knit like this laid out on grain and without stretching it out of shape. As I was trying to pattern match stripes I should have remembered that I found it tricky and cut all the pieces on a single layer but I thought the stripes would actually help with getting everything straight. Of course cutting on the fold led to things not lining up well at all and the stripes match perfectly down one side and sleeve seam but the colours alternate down the other! Ah well, at least looking at one side at a time it looks intentional and it is mainly hidden in the drapes and folds anyway. I do love how the vertical stripes of the front band cut through the horizontal stripes on the body. The finishing with wide bands is my favourite thing about this design as it gives the waterfall some weight which I miss in other designs in this style which leave the edges raw. I won't say a huge amount about sewing the pattern up as I've covered it pretty thoroughly previously but I did have some trouble with getting the sleeve length right again. I had to cut off 4" in total on my original version which is a huge amount but I am fairly short so I played it safe and kept the length for my Nan. They were crazy long on her too (3" this time) but luckily it is an easy thing to fix and at least I could measure it on her and make them the perfect wrist length she wanted.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Jacquard Named Lourdes Cropped Jacket

The most complex project I worked on was this Lourdes Cropped Jacket from Named for my Mum. I've had the idea for this kicking around for ages and it solidified when I spotted her eyeing up this beautiful jacquard on the Fabrics Galore stand at the Great British Sewing Bee Live in the autumn. I thought this would be a great match for the pattern and luckily they had it on their website at the time so I snapped it up during their Black Friday discount sale! I've not ordered from them before online but was so impressed with the customer service. I ordered it Friday morning and a beautiful parcel turned up on the Saturday! I used a fairly weighty but slinky poly satin in a dark navy from Rolls & Rems for lining and a lightweight fusible interfacing and slim shoulder pads both from MacCulloch & Wallis. Once I had the pattern pieces cut out and interfaced it dawned on me that this was actually quite a big project but it came together surprisingly quickly and smoothly and was a lot of fun.

My Mum and I are very similar in size, particularly in height and through the shoulder so I felt really confident making this up in the usual size I'd make for myself from Named. It fit me well when I finished and fits her beautifully! The jacket is fully lined with a facing and has two piece sleeves. The finishing of the lining is well thought through so it all sits in place well. The instructions are really thorough and give you a beautiful finish. I followed their guidance to the letter including where and how to interface and where to hand stitch. I don't think there was any point in the construction process where I was confused or had to figure out an alternative method. I really could not be happier with how this turned out and was almost reluctant to hand it over!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Jacquard Named Lourdes Cropped Jacket

There are a tonne of lovely little details in this pattern that make it unique from a lot of other cropped jackets I've seen whilst still remaining in 'classic style' territory. My favourite things are the deep box pleat at the centre back which gives it a slight sixties swing coat vibe coupled with the stunning curved vent finish at the cuffs of the three quarter length sleeves. The sleeves also have a facing which means a nice crisp and clean curved edge is easy to achieve. The faux welt pockets being set into the darts on the front are also a really interesting feature that is fun to put together.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Jacquard Named Lourdes Cropped Jacket

The jacquard, whilst textured, has a soft and smooth hand thanks to the inclusion of some viscose in the fibre content. It is the perfect match for this style as it hangs well but still has the body to hold a structure and moulded well under a steamy iron. I am REALLY delighted with how the pattern matching turned out on this, especially across the shoulders which I spent some time thinking through. The pocket welts not matching was intentional as I didn't want to loose them into the patterned fabric. This is the only thing that I'm not quite sure about my decision on. I don't dislike the way it looks but do wonder if I would have preferred a cleaner line running across the front. I loved sewing up this this pattern. I'm not sure if the jacket is quite my style but I'm trying to find some sort of excuse to make myself one as I enjoyed sewing it up so much! I think it would definitely come in useful for weddings and that kind of special occasion outfit.

14 comments:

  1. They all look very nice indeed, particularly love the jacket for your Mum. When did you get started on these?

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    1. Hi Sarah, thanks very much. I'm especially pleased with the jacket!
      I started way back at the start of November as I knew from previous experience that it makes for a stressful Christmas starting too late! Some of the projects were pretty quick although the jacket did take a couple of days

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    1. Thanks Kathy, I hope they were liked as much as I enjoyed making them!

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  3. Beautiful gifts. I love the jacket. I've been eyeing this jacket for years.... :)

    Is it cropped on your mum?

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    1. Thanks Kathy, I love the jacket too. It was quite hard to hand it over and now it's on my own sewing list!
      It is quite a cropped style yes, though both my Mum and I are about 5ft 3" and quite short in the body so perfect on us. If you are making it I would recommend checking the finished length against yourself

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  4. What amazing thoughtful gifts! They all look so beautifully made too.

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    1. Thanks Kathryn, I was really pleased with all of them!

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  5. Such gorgeous gifts! Lucky family ;o) My Dad could use one of those record totes, he's always at record fairs....

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    1. Thank you! I was really happy with the tote and have been trying to think of more people I could give one to! I couldn't believe the price of the ones online for something so simple

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  6. LOve the oven gloves......I made Christmas gifts fo the first time this year as well......I had remnants of 440 thread count Egyptian cotton , spliced together and added an appropriate patterned side trim...( Rose and Hubble Zebras for my brother following his Africa travels) to make very high end pillow cases at a fraction of the ready made cost and much prettier .....all courtesy of Youtube

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    1. O what a lovely gift idea! I love making things that you can really personalise to the person with fabric choice

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  7. Such gorgeous gifts, Fiona! How nice and thoughtful of you to make these for family & friends!

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    1. Thank you! Any excuse to make something I haven't tried before!

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I love hearing from readers of my blog so please feel free to leave a comment letting me know what you thought about this post/make! Any hints or tips to improve my sewing are always much appreciated too!