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Stitched with Love

Thoughtful gift ideas to sew for someone special

Written by
Victoria Caldwell
Published on
November 10, 2021 at 8:43:00 AM PST November 10, 2021 at 8:43:00 AM PSTth, November 10, 2021 at 8:43:00 AM PST

Christmas is coming! Part of me is excited to start decorating and for all of the holiday celebrations, and the other part of me is wondering how I’ll manage to finish everything in time. I keep meaning to start working on gifts earlier, but it seems like every year I’m up late on Christmas Eve trying to finish a gift for the next morning. One of last year’s presents was a queen-size quilt that didn’t get finished until this July!

A significant issue this year will be shipping. While holiday shipping is always a little slower, this year has already been a challenge for delivery companies. If you’re not sliding your gift under the Christmas tree early in the morning or hand-delivering your gift, you should probably be planning to get packages shipped a lot earlier. While Black Friday kicks off holiday shopping for many people, this year it might be best to consider that Friday after Thanksgiving as the END of ordering or shipping anything that needs to arrive by December 24th.

Santa at an antique sewing machine

If you celebrate other holidays this winter, those dates may be even earlier. Hanukkah starts on November 28th this year (we have Star of David fabrics!). Kwanzaa begins on December 26th, so you get a slight extension. Many people exchange gifts this time of year, regardless of religious or cultural affiliation. I know a few folks who like to celebrate Festivus on December 23rd. Don’t forget birthdays, weddings, retirements, or other special events happening at the end of the year. There’s nothing wrong with getting a head start on that graduation gift that’s still several months away, or even planning for next year’s Christmas.

When I’m sewing a gift for someone (any time of the year, not just Christmas) I like to find the perfect fabric and try to work it into the project. Pokémon fabric, fishing fabric, wine fabric, fabric with bees, fabric with cute little hedgehogs, fabric with math equations... each one makes me think of a friend or family member who would love that fabric. Personalizing a gift like that really makes it special. We have some great sewing-related fabrics too, if you’re making a gift for a fellow quilter or sewist. I love making gifts for friends who also make things by hand, since they know and appreciate how much work it takes to make!

I think most of us wish that everyone who receives a hand-made gift understood how much time and energy goes into its creation. “Stitched with love” is absolutely true, you better really like someone to make a gift for them! We should all cherish those unique gifts and the thought that went into making them. Someone recently told me that his grandma made him a quilt every year for Christmas, and I told him that she must have really loved him. Years later, he still has those quilts and appreciates them more and more. A gift that’s made specifically for you, whether it’s big or small, is very meaningful. It’s also worth noting that a thoughtful gift that’s made by hand often isn’t cheaper, especially when you factor in the value of your labor.

There’s nothing wrong with making a gift for yourself! I also knit and I enjoy when someone asks who I am making a hat or sweater or whatever for, and I respond “Me!” I make quilts for myself and I certainly enjoy using them. Even smaller projects like a zipper bag or placemat are going to be used and make me smile because I chose that fabric for myself.

When you’re planning to sew a gift... how much time do you have?

Red Robin quilt (designed by Sheryl Johnson, using Repro Reds fabric collection from Marcus Fabrics) on a garden bench outside. A quilt like this would make a great heirloom quilt for a wedding gift or anniversary.

Lots of time:

What “lots” means is going to vary from person to person, depending on how fast you sew and how much time you have available. Generally speaking, you should be looking at having your gift finished in terms of “months”... so probably no less than three months away, and preferably at least six months ahead.

Big gifts generally mean quilts around here. We have lots of patterns and quilt kits if you’re looking to make a quilt for a special occasion. This is not the time to skimp on materials! Be sure to use quality fabrics that are going to hold up for years. I think most of us would prefer that our gifts be used. Good fabrics, batting, and thread will help with the longevity of a quilt. I also like to wash any quilt I’m giving away (I love that crinkly look!) with several color-catchers so that it’s ready for use.

Planning far ahead is great if you’re going to make a bed-size quilt, especially if you’re piecing and quilting by hand. If you’re sending your quilt top to a long armer, be sure to check with them on their turn-around time as well. Consider shipping times if you’re sending a quilt or ordering materials.

Sew some love with these heart patterns:

[1. Exploding Heart Quilt pattern by Slice of Pi Laura Piland, 72 by 72 inches

2. Free Spirit Linework Tula Pink Retro Hearts Quilt Pattern, 77 by 77 inches

3. Marcus Fabrics Aunt Grace Sew Charming Twin Size Hearts Quilt Pattern, 66 by 75 inches

4. Robert Kaufman Fabrics Wishwell Cheery Blossom Stars and Hearts Quilt Pattern, 59 by 70 inches

Click on the image to visit the pattern's product page.]

Some time:

If you’re looking to make a gift for someone that’s several weeks away (like Christmas in a little over six weeks), it’s time to look for quicker projects. You can still make a quilt: panel throw quilts come together very quickly and there’s a fabric panel scene for pretty much everyone. We have a LOT of quilt kits (like the Noah's Ark quilt on the right) where there's a central panel surrounded by medallion-style borders of fabric or simple piecing to accent the design. You may need to block the panel first to get it square, but these quilt tops usually come together pretty quickly. To make quilts like these even more cuddly, we carry a variety of digitally printed Minky fabrics. These Minky (or Softie) fabrics are ~60" wide and made from 100% polyester and make great quilt backings. My long-armer was able to use one of the Timeless Treasures Minky fabrics on the back of a recently completed quilt and it looks great, but check with your long-armer first to see if they're comfortable working with this fabric. There are lots of tips online for working with Minky as well for domestic quilting, including several recommendations to use spray basting or fusible batting.

Mini quilts are great when you’re sending a gift to someone far away or who has a small space and want to make something they can use as art. Quilted placemats are essentially a series of simple mini quilts that are going to get used and washed. Placemats or table runners are especially great gifts for someone who loves to entertain. Be sure to use cotton or wool batting if hot dishes might be set on top.

Tote bags are extremely versatile gifts. There are numerous patterns available (click on the gnome tote bag pictured at the right to download this pattern from Wilmington Prints for free). This bag is a great way to show off when you’ve found that perfect fabric for someone, try to picture the gnomes replaced with mermaids, cats, books, music, sports or whatever the recipient loves, and the buffalo plaid trim is in their favorite color. The lining fabric is an opportunity to add another fun fabric. A little ScotchGuard will help protect a sewn gift that is sure to get a lot of use.

Another great gift is throw pillows. So many of the pillows at the store are boring and they can be overpriced. If you don’t want to mess with a zipper, I like a pillow with an overlapping envelope closure. It’s easy to pull the pillow form out and throw the cover in the wash. Making a mini quilt using scraps or orphan blocks and turning it into a one-of-a-kind throw pillow is a great way to use fabric efficiently. Every time I’ve made a throw pillow as a gift, it’s gotten a great response since it’s very personalized (like the one I made using scraps of old Harry Potter fabric someone gave me with yellow fabrics for a self-proclaimed Hufflepuff).

Only a little time:

Are you a last-minute sewist, trying to finish something that’s needed in only a few days? You can still make a very thoughtful gift without a lot of time. These ideas are all still great gifts even if you plan them in advance. Smaller sewing projects like these also make great "thank you" presents for people like teachers and hosts.

Practical gift ideas for include potholders, coasters, aprons, pincushions, ornaments, and even towels.

A pillowcase is a great way to showcase fun fabrics. We have two free patterns that both feature accent fabrics for the cuff. Both patterns offer different instructions, but include a French seam (so there are no loose threads inside) and have you roll up the fabrics "burrito style".

Stuffed Animals using Jungle Paradise from Moda Fabrics

Stuffed animals are a great gift for kids, and these in particular are really easy to make thanks to pre-printed design panels by Moda Fabrics, from the Jungle Paradise collection. This collection also includes a soft book panel to make a washable children's book. Both would be great gifts for baby showers or a very young child's birthday.

I love a zipper bag, and they make a great gift... and great giftwrap! You can make a zipper bag and include some little treats or small gifts inside, and then the bag will continue to be used. I like to keep my current knitting project in a zipper bag. You can also make a drawstring bag to use as a reusable gift bag.

We help support the website "Sew It Yourself", which provides several great free sewing patterns. There are some great gift ideas on here, like this Bottle Gift Bag, Christmas stockings, and Bowl Koozies.

Perhaps the greatest gift is the gift of your time. Teaching someone how to sew, or letting someone help pick out the fabrics for a quilt is a real gift. I remember coming into the Hancock's of Paducah store when I was a child with my grandma and helping her shop. (To be honest, when I was helping her pin-baste quilts or trying to learn to sew even stitches by hand, I never thought I'd end up a quilter and yet here I am). I absolutely love it when I see children and grandchildren who come in the store, or hear stories from folks who remember coming here as kids too.