Handmade Giving – Tips to get you in the sewing mood!

If you’re like me the realization that it is in fact November has forced you to kick your Christmas project sewing into high gear. We can’t wait for the weather to give us all the Christmas feels people – it’s coming whether we admit it or not!

Since I’ve already gone through the process of freaking out about how there is only 7 weeks until Christmas, I thought I would share some helpful tips for getting productive. You’ve all read this crazy crap from a sewing guide written in 1949 right? Well, I feel like it needs a little update. Here are my guidelines for productive sewing that I hope will help you accomplish all your Holiday gift making goals.

What to Make:

First things first, you need to decide what you’re going to make. Time to make a giant list. Personally I think handmade gifts should be reserved for kids and those who will truly appreciate them. Gift cards for the rest of them! (Just kidding, sort of.)

When I’m planning out my gift strategy I like to pick a theme project and stick with it so there are better opportunities to mass produce. Here are some ideas:

  • Bucket Totes for everyone, just mix up the sizes. Stop in the shop for this free pattern.
  • Every kid gets a tent (whether their parents like it or not and YES, tent kits are BACK!) and the grownups get flannel throws (free pattern in the shop).
  • Aprons for everyone that is old enough to reach the kitchen counter. There are a couple great aprons in this book.
  • Zipper pouches are always a go to.
  • Pajama Pants and Pillowcases! *We have a simple new pajama pants pattern in the shop! Watch for a blog sew-along coming soon!!

You get the idea – simplify! It’s much easier to mass produce gifts than it is to make one at a time. This is not the time to be figuring out 12 new patterns! It is the time to perfect one or two new patterns. Still stumped? Stop in the shop. We are working on a ton of new samples that will be perfect for the people on your list.

Organize your supplies and think through your project list so you have everything you’ll need on hand. Of course we think this include a trip to Modern Textiles to collect all of your supplies! Be sure to tell us about all of the presents you are planning to make. We love to hear all of your creative ideas and a little accountability never hurts, right?

Setting up:

If you don’t have a designated sewing room, I suggest you pick the room in your house with the best light. Natural is great, but let’s be real, we can’t get done during daylight hours. Think about what room has great overhead light too. For me that’s my kitchen. This is the one time my island gets completely cleaned off. While I’m at it, I clean the kitchen too. Just enough so my fabric doesn’t get dirty and the pile of dishes doesn’t haunt me. Move all other crap out of sight. Bonus on the kitchen location – beverage availability is super convenient, keep the coffee coming, please! Also, please note: Even if you do have a designated sewing space you can still take over another room in your house. Your sewing space is probably a wreck from planning out all of your projects anyway, right? Who needs the pressure of tidying while you sew? Not us. Don’t feel bad. You are making gifts people! Spreading Christmas joy and such. It’s not your fault if your scraps are left under the kitchen table or a few pins fall on the floor. It’s Christmas time.

If you can get the rest of your family to leave the house that might be helpful. If you have space to invite some friends over to join you even better. If none of these things are possible we can help! Our classroom is available during store hours for just $5 an hour. Spread out to cut and mass produce! If you have a few friends that want to join you consider renting the whole room. Email Katie at marketing@moderntextiles.net for more details and to get your day on our calendar.

Okay, back to it.

Doing laundry is only allowed if you have to prewash your fabric.

Light a Christmassy smelling candle or diffuse some oils that get you in the holiday mood. (Our favorite holiday essential oil mix is rosemary, peppermint and orange mixed together.) If you really need to feel the wintertime push, turn your thermostat down a few degrees, throw on your favorite sweater and visit this site for some blustery wind white noise. It will feel like a good Midwestern blizzard at your house in no time.

Staying Focused:

Once you start to really get into the groove of sewing your mind might start to wander. It can be really hard to focus and enjoy the process of making when you are thinking about all the other things you need to get done (holiday or otherwise). I have found the best way to combat that is with a good Netflix binge while you sew. It keeps the voice in the back of your head busy! Do some work ahead of time to find a show to dive into. I would suggest something that’s not too complicated so you don’t have to pay too much attention to follow the show. This might include something you’ve seen before or just something a little slow moving. Here’s our suggestions:

Gilmore Girls, The West Wing, Friends: Tons of seasons and you’ve seen them all before so you only have to half listen, but it’s still so good. If you haven’t seen them, well then add it to your watch list and move on.

Hallmark/Lifetime Christmas movies: These aren’t my personal thing, but I get it. Warm fuzzies, a little drama, it all works out in the end and they make it home just in time for the carols. Love it.

Elf: duh.

Project Runway: A little inspiration to “make it work” while you keep sewing along! Watch the current and past seasons on Lifetime’s website.

My personal favorite: Super old murder mystery shows, bonus points if they’re British. They move so slow I promise you won’t miss a clue! Embarrassing confession: I watched about 5 seasons of Murder, She Wrote while I wrote and tested the Patchwork Plaid Quilt Pattern. Luckily, they made 12 seasons of that classic gem! J I also like Midsomer Murders and Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. Equally slow and slightly humorous, all available on Netflix.

A quick note (mostly for myself): don’t be lazy. Get the cord for your laptop or whatever device you stream from, plug it in right away and get it all set up in a nice location. Don’t wait for your computer to die in an hour and get frustrated because you have to go find the cord. The more you stay in one place, the better your chances of avoiding distractions.

Not into Netflix or watching TV while you sew? I get it, we can still be friends. How about a nice podcast? There are some great crafty podcasts these days. Here are a few of our favorites:

Crafty Planner

While She Naps

Seamwork Radio (from Colette Patterns)

American Patchwork and Quilting Radio with Pat Sloan

Also, my new favorite pre-holiday gift to myself was a pair of Bluetooth headphones. I can’t always hear my laptop when my sewing machine is going and you’re going to strangle yourself trying to plug your headphones into your phone/laptop/tablet, etc. Best $30 I’ve spent (but you can spend WAY more than that if you are into that sort of thing. I don’t care that much). I can go 10 meters away from my device and still be connected! I bought these in case you’re wondering.

Make sure you’re wearing something comfy. Shower if it makes you feel like you’re ready to attack the day, but whatever. Feel presentable enough in case you run out of thread or fabric and have to run to Modern Textiles – but trust us, we don’t judge. We get it! Sew on!! BUT, remember to wear shoes! Oh how many sewing days have been cut short because you stood barefoot all day and your aches and pains got the best of you. No more! We’ve got projects to finish people.

At some point the caffeine will make you shaky and you’ll need to make a switch. No doubt it will be 5 o’clock somewhere by then. Personally we like to mix it up with our beverages of choice, but a nice white wine is easy to clean up just in case you spill a few drops on your fabric. No one wants to stop sewing to clean up red wine! Need something more festive? A shot of cinnamon whiskey in your hard cider will make you think you hear Santa’s reindeer on the roof! Mix in a big glass of water every once in awhile to make you feel healthy and keep you sewing straight. Don’t forget the snacks. But you certainly cannot be responsible for actual meals. Not for yourself, not for your family. Plan ahead or get delivery.

We hope you have a blast creating your Christmas projects this year. Seriously though, don’t let it stress you out! Take some time to enjoy the process. Think about how lucky we are to have the skills and resources to make stuff! Some poor folks just have to stand in line at the mall. Think about the people you love that are going to receive these gifts. My hope for my family is that having something around them that is handmade, with my hands, will bring some simplicity to an ever more chaotic world. Handmade helps me appreciate the little things in life. Tiny stitches on an embroidered dish towel. A fresh pillowcase made out of quality fabric with a print that makes you smile. Watching the people you love wrap up in a blanket or quilt you made them. That’s what it’s all about. Enjoy the moments, savor those little things, and spread joy as you create.

Happy Sewing!


P.S. Tips or tricks we missed? Netflix shows we need to know about? Got an awesome go-to project that everyone loves? Share it all in the comments!

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