My makes

Sewing Christmas gifts

Hello! How’s everything going in your world?

Christmas was quite hectic here, including a visit to an emergency GP at 9am on Christmas Day with our poorly 3 year old (less than ideal!), but all in all it was good.  The last couple of days have been particularly chilled, involving a lot of playing with Lego (I love that my kids aren’t too little for Lego any more!) and a little worrying about flooding.  Particularly after turning on Sky News and realising they were filming from my mother in law’s drive in Ribchester!

So whilst I’m waiting for any decent Christmas TV to appear (seriously, who is still watching Morecambe & Wise and Dad’s Army??) I thought I’d do a quick (for me!) blog post about the Christmas presents I managed to make this year.

The big deal make for me was for my Dad.  His main present from us was a hand made sweatshirt.  I really, really wanted this to go well: I don’t often sew for other people, I couldn’t measure him beforehand as we have a tradition of his gift being a surprise and I haven’t sewn that many knit garments.  No pressure!

The pattern was the Seamwork Paxon which was one of the two patterns in the October issue.  I’ve subscribed to this online magazine since day one and, more recently, have paid to get the two monthly patterns as there have been a few that appealed to me.  But this is the first one I’ve got as far as actually making, instead of just printing out!

I then spent A LOT of time online trying to find sweatshirting.  Really not easy at all and I was starting to despair when I won a pair of tickets to the Knitting and Stitching show in Harrogate.  Part of the spoils from there was some very, very luscious feeling fabric in a slightly offputting oaty brown colour.  The inside though was a beautiful cream fleece which felt amazing so I went for it.

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I also used some free fabric from the front of Simply Sewing magazine which was a faux suede.  I’d laughed at the idea of putting elbox patches on a sweatshirt for my 72 year old Dad (proper old man clothes!) but Mum said they were a great idea as he wears the elbows out on everything! So on they went.

Sewing wise, once I’d stuck the pdf together (HATE doing that!), this was simple.  I used a ball point needle and the lightening bolt stitch on my machine (still scared of the serger and haven’t yet worked out how you use pins without breaking them / the machine / your face! will get round to that Craftsy course soon) and it took me about an hour to put together.  I gave up on trying to press the fabric as suggested in the instructions, absolutely no point on something this soft and fluffy, but it still looked not too bad.  I would have liked the finish around the inside neck to be better, but this was Christmas week so I decided to live with it!

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Then I asked my husband to try it on for rough size, and spent the rest of the week panicking as it barely touched his waist and he’s not that much taller than Dad (say 4″ these days). But apparently he’s differently proportioned than Dad, because this fit and he was either delighted or better at acting than I thought!

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His only complaint was it was a little warm over his Christmas Day shirt! (oh, and that I photographed him clutching Katie’s new baby doll 🙂 )

Having finished the important gift, I moved on to my Christmas Day dress, which I’ll blog about another time as it gave me a chance to use my bodice block to adjust a pattern.

By then, it was Sunday evening and I got a bit over confident! I decided that I had plenty of time to finally use the sparkly Frozen fabric I’d bought a few months ago for the girls and then not put to the top of the to sew pile.  I forgot all about the other things we had booked that week and the fact that speed sewing inevitably leads to mistakes!

So I decided to use the Flo dress pattern from the latest issue of Love Sewing magazine. This is a very classic looking bodice with a gathered skirt.

I found the pattern a little annoying, as I do many of the magazine patterns, because it didn’t contain what I’d think of as a full set of instructions.  This could be my lack of experience talking, but it says things like “sew together” without any mention of little things like what the assumed seam allowance is.  It also has you forming the skirt pieces from the remaining fabric, which again I find annoying – yes, I can go check against one of their existing dresses, but if you were making for a child who you don’t live with, or, as in this case, wanted the dress to be a surprise, you probably don’t know quite what length you want and an indicative measurement wouldn’t hurt.  It also wouldn’t hurt in terms of getting the right length of fabric; this just advises that you need a metre for any child aged from 1 to 6 years, which is quiet some size range!

Anyway, niggles aside, I am very happy with the outcome (don’t I sound happy?!) I guessed at a 3/8″ seam allowance for my skinny girls and cut the size 3 and size 6 for my 3 and (very tall) 5 year olds.  I used some offcuts from a lining fabric I used earlier in the year for the bodice linings and then the aforementioned Frozen fabric.

I knew when I bought it that it wasn’t really meant for dressmaking.  However it’s Frozen, it’s turquoise, and it’s covered in glitter – really, what else do you want when you’re 5?  I can’t say sewing it was a pleasure, it was WAY too stiff, but I persevered.

All was going well til I got to the first skirt.  I did the bodice in fabric and lining, I joined together, I pulled the lining through the shoulders as instructed (which gives such a great finish, love it!) and I guessed at the skirt length required.

And then I got to the gathering.

I really hate gathering.  It always looks less even than I want.  I started off with the method described, sewing two rows of gathering stitches round each section of skirt on the longest stitch length available.  I started gathering and part way through each section, my Guttermann thread broke. I did this twice and then, in a strop, remembered that I’d bought this fancy Clover Fuse and Gather a bit since (after being very unhappy with the gathering on my Liberty Kim dress earlier in the year).

Off I went, ironed it on over my broken gathering threads (because it was already past bedtime and I was stressed and they won’t notice!) and started gathering.  Marvellous, I though, how even, how wonderful…how it’s un fusing itself from the fabric…. aaaargh!

Finally, I ended up hand stitching the fuse and gather to the fabric before gathering, which did work much better.  The Fuse and Gather is like light weight interfacing with two threads through it; it gathered much better than my original efforts, I think because the thread isn’t fighting its way through my massively unsuitable fabric.

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It was a case then of topstitching a piece of ribbon over the seam, fitting the zip, hemming the bottom (used my new rolled hem foot for the first time, LOVE it!) and then a quiet bit of hand stitching to fasten the lining to the inside of the bodice.

And then repeat for child number 2, finishing after midnight on the 23rd of December.  One of these days I’ll learn!! On the plus side, having only discovered Grey’s Anatomy last week (how? where have I been?) I’ve now finished season 2 on Sky Box Sets!

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I do think though that the final result is a pretty great child’s party dress.  Having hit most problems on version one, version two probably took around 2 hours, including the hand sewing – isn’t is amazing how fast you can sew to a deadline?

I’m also hoping that the girls continue to grow largely upwards not outwards; there might then be a fighting chance that these two dresses still fit when we go to Disneyworld in summer! How appropriate would that be?

Speaking of the girls, for anyone who doesn’t follow me on Instagram, it’s safe to say they were very happy with the outcome!

Beth’s reaction

I was also very flattered when Love Sewing regrammed this image 🙂

So, as I am nothing if not a proud Mum, have a couple more pictures of the girls enjoying their dresses.

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The little one’s smiles in particular were worth their weight in gold as she was ill all the previous night and spent the beginning of the day at the emergency doc.  This was the point at which it all got too much!

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Anyway, as usual I’ve waffled on far too much and, as usual, I haven’t time to edit so I’m just going to publish as is! Them’s the brakes around here!

So how about you – how was your Christmas sewing? Did you write it off altogether, were you incredibly organised or, like me, were you sewing at silly o’clock to finish?

Becca xx

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13 thoughts on “Sewing Christmas gifts

  1. Really well done there. The girls looked lovely. I made my son and his GF a quilt. My 1st so made the newbie mistake of making the top. Then I had to buy 2 sizes of batting. Then couldn’t find backing the right width. Started in plenty of time and really finished it close to Xmas but not as close as you. All turned out well in the end and bonus they love it K xXx

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    1. I’m really impressed, I’m not sure I have the patience for a quilt! Although I’m considering a plush blanket as a baby gift, that may be as close as I get. Seems that size would be OK!x

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  2. They turned out quite well! I use fabric not ‘meant’ for apparel all the time. As long as you know the drape/shape you’re going for it’ll work out. I use quilting cotton for simple dresses all the time, I like the lighter stiffness it adds to the skirts. All of your gifts turned out so nicely!

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  3. Your Dad looks chuffed with his jumper, and the girls dresses will be the envy of their friends I’m sure. I was selfish and made nothing this year. It was tins of biscuits all round. But on the plus side my stress levels were much lower.

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    1. I can’t remember where I read about it (there will have been a blog post somewhere I’m sure!) but it was pretty good once I’d got round the glue not being that strong! I think if you were doing a summer weight dress it would be excellent. I’ve a few lengths of Liberty tans lawn I’ve got earmarked for summer wear, may save it for them! Happy New Year to you too!x

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