Tag Archives: #themonthlystitch

Selfless? Selfish? Self-agnostic? Sewing: Gift Bags for Xmas

In our house, there are two types of Christmas wrapping: presents from Santa, which come wrapped in paper with store bought tags, and presents from Mom, which comes in handmade fabric gift bags. When Frances was younger and sold on Santa, this was a great bit of holiday magic: *obviously* Santa was real, because otherwise where did the paper wrapping come from? Mom would *never* use paper wrapping. Now it’s just tradition (also I still have two rolls of pretty xmas wrapping to use up).

Everyone else gets a gift either in a previously received paper gift bag still in good condition, or a handmade fabric gift bag. There’s a hierarchy, I won’t lie: a fabric gift bag is a mark of trust. It’s saying, I know you will appreciate the time and effort that went into making this bag and keep it in circulation for the rest of time to displace the use of more wasteful wrapping types. It’s saying, if you leave this sitting in a heap in your basement storage area or god forbid *throw it out* I will come back from beyond the grave and haunt you with my fabric scissors and needlebook. And if you use this bag for trapping snakes, as happened to one friend’s handmade gift bags, you will spend eternity in a hell full of rusty fabric scissor blades with bent pins all over the floor. It’s saying, but I know you would never ever do such a thing.

But it is also kind of selfish sewing, because every year I sew four or five new bags, and half I use for gifts for friends, but the other half I use for Frances. Which makes clean-up on xmas morning super easy. Yes there’s paper to tidy up from the Santa gifts … but most of it is just fabric bags, and all I need to do is pick them up, stuff them all inside the largest bag, and put it in the closet. Hey presto, tidy floor. No recycling or garbage. Next year, the wrapping is basically taken care of, and there’s little easier than stuffing something in a drawstring bag and pulling it closed. I even reuse the tags; since they’re handmade they tend to be pretty robust.

This year’s new drawstring bags.

Most of the bags are simple drawstring bags: french seams, to keep the insides tidy and thread-free; occasionally serged if I’m running out of time; double fold at the top to make a channel for the ribbon, which doubles as a draw-string and as gift decoration (I make the ribbon quite long so that there’s lots to tie around the gift). It takes about an hour. There’s no pattern; I improvise the size I need for the gifts I’m wrapping that year. If the print is directional, as some of the ones above are, I cut the fabric in half lengthwise and sometimes add a matching width of a non-directional print at the bottom.

This year I decided to drastically complicate my gift bag sewing experience by turning some holiday cross stitch projects into quilted patchwork gift bags with handles. It took a lot more than an hour.

The cross stitch owls came from the November 2013 issue of Cross Stitcher magazine, which I think I’ve mentioned before is my favourite cross stitch magazine and I wish it were more easily available here. These owls are freaking adorable, and I cross stitched two of them, but had no idea what to do with the finished pieces until I got what seemed like a brilliant idea: gift bags!

The patchwork is an improvised sort of log cabin pattern; the fabrics came from Needlework, and the one bag is mostly leftover from this season’s other overly-ambitious holiday project: a new tree skirt. The insides are lined with leftovers from Fabricland. One bag has twill tape handles, and the other matching cotton handles.

The first bag is quilted. I know, what was I thinking? The process was:

1. Assemble the patchwork front and cut a back in a matching size.
2. Baste batting to the reverse of each with a 1/2″ seam allowance, and trim away the batting within that seam allowance.
3. Sew the front and back together; press seams open.
4. Trim a 2″ wedge from the bottom corners, and sew together to make a boxy shape.
5. Cut, sew, and trim a lining in a matching size, omitting the batting.
6. Baste handles to the bag exterior.
7. Sew lining to exterior, right side to right side, leaving a gap on the back bag to pull them through.
8. Pull through, press lining to the inside of the bag.
9. Edgestitch all around the bag top to close the opening in the bag back.
10. Insert a small cutting board into the bag, and safety pin the front quilt sandwich, being careful to make sure there are no folds or puckers in the lining and that both layers are flat and smooth.
11. Stitch in the ditch along the patchwork lines in the front to quilt.

I gave myself a break on the second bag and didn’t use batting or quilt it; it’s just lined patchwork. And it took forever, but it’s so pretty I have a hard time convincing myself not to make another one. Maybe a cushion cover next time?

The current gift bag stash

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Of course, people who regularly sew gifts or decorations etc. for Christmas know that you don’t start in December, because if you do, you won’t finish in time. So there’s a pile of holiday sewing that doesn’t count, including the tree skirt:

A couple of tree ornaments made with scraps, which is a great scrappy project if you’re looking for something–and I don’t think it needs to be holiday fabric. This pattern is M3777:

Gifts in progress for Jenn
A finished bird–that we kept

Some of these were even made up completely during December. I traced the pieces out onto oak tag so I could reuse them endlessly without them falling apart.

A few new cross-stitch tree ornaments, Because:

And some cross-stitch gift tags, also Because:

A pair of ponte leggings for Frances, and a pair of cotton jersey leggings and a couple of t-shirts, and her annual Christmas Eve Pajamas:

Bought the tags at Needlework. They are, objectively, the best.

The leggings are modified from an Ottobre pattern to get the front-leg seam and waistband, and match some Old Navy leggings Frances wears to death. The pajamas are B5572; bottoms are Robert Kaufman flannel and the top is a bamboo jersey, so it’s extremely soft and comfortable. I ventured into fabric painting for the reindeer that Frances specifically requested for her xmas pjs this year. That was an interesting process.

Also made her holiday dress from red and white striped bamboo jersey, OOP pattern M7160. I didn’t want her to look like a candy cane, and what I like about this pattern is it gives options for juxtaposing stripes in different directions, which has a side benefit of reducing the need for stripe matching–though the bodice was a bit finicky.

Also! Cushion covers.

One with flannel scraps from Frances’s xmas pjs, in a simple star pattern, because this fabric is too delicious for the scraps to go to waste and it seemed perfect for snuggling up in bed with while making art or writing stories. It’s quilted, because, apparently, I have a seasonal incapacity to correctly assess available time. It wasn’t quite ready for Christmas, but I’m still counting it.

And this rainbow chenille pillow, backed also with flannel scraps. My favourite gay teenager is all about rainbows these days, and this is a particularly fuzzy rainbow, which is even better.

Welp. I feel like that’s enough.

Sewing Pants in Spanish Part I: Patrones 370 Pants #3

The saddest thing about this whole post, Dear Readers, is that I finished these pants weeks ago and have been wearing them regularly but have not had a spare moment to take a picture of them. I had the best intentions this past weekend to find an hour on Saturday afternoon–and then what with holiday shopping, two birthday parties for me, one for Frances, and two other social outings, plus groceries laundry etc.–it didn’t happen. Sunday afternoon found both Frances and I napping. But I’m determined not to be the one who always posts on Amnesty Day, so! midweek evening inside pictures with messy backgrounds it is.

The last time I bought pants for work was at least five years ago. If you haven’t yet blocked it out of your memory, at the time even nice wool pants for office work, even in pantsuits, were so low-cut as to graze the hipbone.

I’ve never, ever been a fan of the low-cut look, particularly at work, but when you don’t sew you’re at the mercy of the manufacturers, so I have a few pairs of pants like this. Then I started sewing, and made pants which reliably covered my underwear when sitting down. Then I lost weight, and none of them fit. Now the only pants I have in my wardrobe which stay up are the ones that don’t reliably cover my underwear. Yet the patterns I have–mostly from StyleArc, which only sells one size per envelope–are too big.

(I did make myself another pair of Jasmines as I’d adjusted them a bunch for shorts previously, but you don’t really need to see another pair of Jasmines from me.)

(Woops, you got to see them anyway.)

This is a problem. I hate going back to the drawing board with pants because the fitting is so finicky, but you know, I need pants!

The ones in my Burda magazines are either too casual, don’t have pockets (which I need for my insulin pump) or have large and dramatic front pleats, which I’m not a real fan of. But there are two patterns in one of the Patrones issues I bought that look fantastic: one with cool pockets and interesting seamlines, and one swishy without pleats and a nice high waist. The one with cool seamlines was too low-cut for my taste, and the high-waisted one had slash pockets that I’m not really a fan of, but either seemed like doable fixes.

(They don’t appear to have a website and they certainly don’t offer individual patterns for sale, so my apologies for the lack of links in this post. You can buy individual issues through this website in different langauges–but alas, not english.)

I traced them both out in the summer and they sat, languishing, in the back of the magazine. Once again The Monthly Stitch provided the kick in the butt I needed to get working on a project I’d already planned–and this time, actually needed.

First up: cool seamlines. Which I was delighted to learn, while translating the instructions, is meant to be made out of stretch cotton. I happened to have this stretch cotton sateen in my stash, destined to be pants and waiting for a pattern, for years.

The Front

I traced the size 44 as the best match, then measured key points to make sure it would be in the ballpark. With the multiple seamlines front and back, I figured further fitting would be a piece of cake. I raised the waist 1″ front and back, and added 2″ to the crotch curve. (Note: Patrones skips some sizing in their patterns, so this pattern for example is listed as “size 40-48,” but the pattern sheets include sizes 40, 44 and 48. You’ll need to grade between the sizing lines if you fall between.)

Pocket linings and waistband facings are a very bright floral scrap quilting cotton. I can’t have the whole thing be neutral. They just wouldn’t be my pants. But also, using a non-stretch woven for the waistband facing means that the waistband stays the original size all day.

Also note the inside button in addition to the hook-and-eye closure.

OK, and look: these are a 44.

The Back. Fitting perhaps a shade too well.

AND THEY FIT.

No mountains of excess ease.

I know the photos show some wrinkling at the seams but that’s a factor of a) contrast settings on the photo editing program and b) sewing each seam with a serge and with a regular sewing machine stitch to make sure they are good and strong. They are good strong seams, but they are also seams with some introduced wobbliness.

I did make some alterations:

  1. snugging the waist a bit, where I fall between sizes.
  2. taking most of the 2″ I put into the crotch curve back out again–I’m thinking Patrones may be drafted for someone a bit closer to my shape, because it seemed mostly unnecessary. I figured this out after I adjusted the fit on the back princess seams so it’s now a bit too snug back there, but still wearable.
  3. using the back princess seams to take excess out of the thighs below the butt
  4. adding a 2″ cuff to the bottom because I forgot to measure and add to the inseam before cutting it out
  5. I took a very small amount out of the side seams–maybe 1/8″. I might put it back into the next one.
  6. about 1″ out of the centre back waist to keep the waistband snugger (it was gaping quite a bit), which is why it dips a bit.

Surely if Patrones can do it, other pattern companies that shall remain nameless can also do it.

The Side.

The tissue has been adjusted and I’m ready to make more; a teal stretch denim is all washed up and ready to go.  Next time I might raise the centre back maybe another 3/4″ but otherwise I’m happy with them. They’re comfortable, they don’t need lining, you can make them out of twill or sateen and because of the seamlines and the pocket shape they don’t look like blue jeans. They’re easy to fit because of the princess seams. The only downside is that by the end of the day they do bag out a little bit in the butt. I’m not sure if there would be a stretch fabric with good enough recovery to guarantee this not happening if you have a job where you are sitting and standing all day long, but it’s something to keep in mind.

Sizing Note

According to the Patrones sizing chart, I am just under a size 44. These pants are a size 44 as traced, with personal fit modifications and a higher rise.