Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Hooky and Stitchy Christmas Preparations

It's got to that happy time of year again when I begin to think about making Christmas presents for friends and family. Near enough to Christmas to feel a little fabric-purchasing and pencilling in of plans is in order but not near enough to feel under too much pressure from the limited amount of time available to execute any of said projects. I love making things to give at Christmas - just so much nicer than buying stuff and although making gifts is not free, you don't have to spend vast sums of money to get the raw materials from which to conjure up some really nice things. The trick is always to try and find something to make that is not only nice but will also be useful. (No apple or spud cosies, Mrs T!) I try not to give things that are in the totally useless category because if the recipient isn't as into homemade stuff as me, it can fall rather flat. So the annual challenge is to find things that are relatively simple and quick to make, attractive and also useful.

What to make? My ideas, so far, include the following:

Some patchwork blank book covers, made out of Liberty fabric scraps, like one I made back in the summer. I've done the patchwork - it just needs sewing into book covers.

A crochet purse or two, lined in pretty fabric, using the pattern in Nicki Trench's book "Cute And Easy Crochet" as a starting point. The pattern, as given, seemed to come out rather small - big enough for a lipstick or a few coins but not much more - so I've adapted it and made a couple of prototype, bigger ones which I think would be more versatile for the user - lipstick and coins! Or for crochet hooks or sewing things perhaps, or even pens and pencils.

Nicki Trench's book also has a pattern for making soft, crocheted balls. I adapted the pattern (again!) - do you ever just follow instructions as they are given, Mrs T?! - and made a trio of these in bright colours and different sizes for a friend's new baby.

The pattern could easily convert from baby playthings to Christmas tree decorations, methinks!

Some pyjama trousers for H (and may be his cousins of similar age, if I crack on with it) in wild and wacky fabrics - not my own idea this one, Angela's daughter made these last Christmas for her older brothers and Angela posted about them here back in January. I think it's a brilliant idea and I've kept it at the back of my mind ever since. It's no longer easy to make anything that is acceptable to H, now that he's a teenager but pyjama trousers offer a less restricted canvas of limitation than any other garment.

Thanks to Angela's expert advice, they will have pockets, even though the pattern did not originally allow for pockets. They are needed however, for the stowage of usual teenage loot - headphones, coins, chocolate and that note that was supposed to go into school three months ago and H swore blind I'd never given him! And as pyjamas seem to be the garment of choice over anything else at home, at least they will be worn!

I'm intending to dye some plain white T-shirts to go with them. The fabrics I've chosen are certainly eye-catching and, as I said to Angela, not the kind of thing you want to confront first thing in the morning, if you are feeling fragile!

You see what I mean?! Lucky perhaps that H tends not to rise much before midday in the holidays! They were purchased for next to nothing, from an unassuming fabric shop, that turned out to be a real Aladdin's cave of goodies. I discovered it unexpectedly, in a slightly seedy back street, behind the main shopping centre in Reading and I will be going back. I could hardly believe these fabrics cost only £3.95 per metre so the cost of each pair is under £10 - pretty nifty purchasing, for a change, Mrs T!

The pyjamas are already in production, although not finished. They have not been totally straightforward. Sewing trousers of any kind is a perilous business, in my book. To begin with, identifying a suitable pattern was not easy and leaving on one side the pocket issue, once cut, they were heading to come out very baggy. I know one wants pyjamas to be loose, but there's loose and then there's enough fabric to hoist sail for the Bahamas! H is that age when children's patterns / sizes are inadequate but adult men's sizing is a little on the large side, especially breadth-wise. I've made the Small size from the unisex pattern and altered the legs to make them, not just narrower, but longer, as H is now easily pushing 6' and I don't want the Simple Simon look with the trousers finishing half way down his calf!

(It's safe to post my plans, by the way, this week because H is safely away in Greece on a week's school Classics trip of which I am frankly envious! He's in Athens today exploring the Agora and Acropolis in temperatures of around 26-27℃, lucky thing!)

But I digress. What else? A couple of Christmas / winter aprons. A quandrary here re fabric choice. While people are happy to potter round the kitchen in December or early January, decked out in a pinnie covered with snowmen, reindeer, holly or what-have-you, I wonder whether these motifs may be a bit limiting and not work so well, come the later days of February? On the other hand, it's nice to do Christmas cooking in a specifically Christmassy apron. What do you think?

Crocheted fingerless gloves - although these can be tricky if you don't know the correct hand size I've found.

A bit of patchwork, made from my fabric scrap stash, to be turned into something useful such as a bag or cushion cover.

Or even a Christmas stocking if I can think of a suitable recipient who doesn't already have one. I've already made a stocking for most of my nearest and dearest.

I also love the idea of a patchwork Christmassy / wintry lap quilt but this may be a bit ambitious as my patchwork tends to be very simple and my sewing machine does not have the requisite "walking foot" for proper quilting. If anyone has a patent, simple pattern they can point me to I'd love to look it up and see whether I could manage it - I discovered in my fabric stash lots of little bits and pieces of Christmassy fabric left over from various projects that I've squirrelled away over the years which it would be nice (and frugal to boot) to use up in something like this.

If I had more time I'd consider knitting another very simple scarf like the one I made earlier in the year but I know my limitations so this may be a tad ambitious, given the time available.

Not  a bad start but if anyone has got any additional / alternative suggestions to add, I'd love to hear them, if you're willing to share. Of course, if inspiration fails, there's always the mug cosy!


  1. Dear E
    What a huge number of lovely projects you have on the go - I am full of admiration. I make some things for Christmas presents, but they mainly tend to be of the edible variety. I really like all the fabric you have used, yes, even the pyjama fabric! I think it is a lovely idea to have a Christmassy apron even if you don't use it at other times of the year. You could always go for more of a winter theme, rather than Christmas - although that wouldn't be as much fun! Have a marvellous time creating all these wonderful presents.
    Best wishes

  2. I am sat here sniggering at the thought of you frequenting seedy back streets! I love those wintry fabrics at the top of your post - I have a pair of pj bottoms very similar to the pale blue one. Blissful. Fab idea to make pj bottoms for your boy btw, as you say, much more forgiving as they will be largely unseen by judgmental eyes! There is a blog I used to dip into - Retro Mummy, an Australian chick who ran up a load of pjs for her littlies once - they looked great if you could 'size them up'. Sorry if this is a crap idea - I don't sew (sadly) and have little idea on patterns etc.

    Lucky, lucky H being in Greece - fab experience!

    I would love to offer you loads of hints and tips on makes for Christmas, but I am a bit frozen with panic at the mo - I will have to start thinking about these things very soon if I am to be a-making this year. Lets get Halloween out of the way first though...

  3. Such lovely ideas for Christmas gifts. I'm always full of intentions, but rarely seem to bring them to fruition.
    Patchwork coasters, table mats or runners might be a good way to use your scraps?
    Given a choice I'd say go for all-year-round aprons, but that's just me

    1. Patchwork place mats indeed or coasters or table runners - what a good idea! And not too big to complete either! Thank you! E x

  4. Lovely (and useful) Christmas ideas ! I love your Liberty book covers ...I think I could make one for my literary daughter...I have a Christmas apron printed with gingermen cookies. Last year, I wore it for a Christmas workshop at my little (7 years old) daughter's school ...I had a huge success among the pupils !

  5. Hello E - you are soooo organised! I'm jealous. I'm still busy with the 3 year olds in my class rehearsing their nativity, making Xmas cards and pressies for mums and dads and generally just doing the whole Xmas teaching thing!!! My family's pressies won't get a thought until at least Dec 1st but you've inspired me with the pj trousers and the aprons .... now I just need to find fabric! Please keep posting to keep me inspired!!!! lol xxx

  6. Goodness me you've been busy! I feel faint, and slightly in awe of your skills and you productivity!

    I am sewing and stitching like crazy for craft stalls and starting some mild panic that I may have over-stretched myself. x

    1. Please don't feel in awe - they are very simple things and I didn't conjure them all up in one afternoon or anything! I have to plan (and make) ahead or I run out of time as December is hugely busy work-wise but there isn't anything I'm up to that you couldn't improve on yourself! I am impressed at your craft stall makes - I never get that far! E x

  7. I love all your christmas gift ideas, on the christmas apron maybe make it reversible........one side christmas fabric and the other a fabric that would be suitable for all year use.

    Enjoy your christmas crafting and planning.

    1. Good thinking! Might well try that as it gets round the whole issue. Thank you so much. E x

  8. I struggle a little bit with making handmade presents, because it is so hurtful if they don't go down as well as I'd hoped. PJs though - there's a thought. My younger one's jammies are looking decidedly half mast.

  9. Last year I made all of my sons, nephews, fathers/brothers in law and husband beanie hats - very quick, simple and frugal - you can use up scraps by making stripey ones - they were a big success - basic beanie hat patterns are abundant on Ravelry. By the way - PJ bottoms for boys - what a brilliant idea - why have I never thought of that before? Thanks for the inspiration. Judy.

  10. You are always one or more steps ahead and I am always several steps behind:) I must confess I haven't even begun Christmas thinking yet. I never finished all of my summer ideas and am having to make myself put them aside to get some winter things going. Love the pj fabrics you chose!

  11. Goodness, you are going to be busy. I am always at a loss for what to give the men folk so I'm very much liking the pyjama trouser idea. Re. the crochet mitts, if you're worried about the sizing in crochet you could try my Runrig knitting pattern, the standard fingerless mitts fit most folk as they have so much give.

    Loving the coach and horses fabric :)

  12. Thank you so much for the suggestion Annie. If my knitting is up to it I'll give it a go! And you're so right making things for men is much more difficult than for us lot! E x

  13. All of your projects are lovely. The patchwork certainly caught my eye. And, like you say, the pajamas are a brilliant gift for a young man.

    Your crochet lipstick and coin holders look like they might also hold a credit card.

    Some some bodies are going to be mighty happy when they open up these gifts!


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