Sew, What's New?

Curating sewing and quilting talent, techniques, and tutorials, since 1997.

By Martha E Bishop

In the summer of 1967, Sophie Lahner, my immigrant Hungarian neighbor, taught me how to sew. My father had recently died, and the money that had always been tight raising four kids on a teacher's salary, became nonexistent. Mrs. Lahner thought that knowing how to sew could be a wonderful contribution to the family. I could make my own clothes, patch the knees of my brothers' school trousers, let down hems, take up hems, replace zippers and sew on buttons.

Over the years, I've sewn everything from wedding and brides maid dresses, prom dresses, school clothes, costumes, quilts, dolls, uniforms, just about everything you can imagine. But my favorite is sewing for Christmas.

Sewing for Christmas requires planning and time management. You do not want to spend every last minute, the week before Christmas holed up with a sewing machine, because you invested all your money in fabric and notions and you're forced to finish your projects because there's nothing else to give.

Here are some tips for success:

Sewing for Christmas - Tip #1:
Pick projects that can be completed in one of two evenings.

Sewing for Christmas - Tip #2:
Unless you are 100% positive of the gift recipient's size, sew things that don't require fitting. Scarves, hats, pajama bottoms, vests, ties, purses, place mats, napkins, pillows , totes, belts and lap quilts work up fast, are popular with all ages and usually one size fits all.

Sewing for Christmas - Tip #3:
To save time, mass produce. Every year I make about 15 flannel pajama bottoms, in five different sizes.

Every one gets a different flannel, so that when I'm sewing, nothing gets mixed up, but there will be three or four blue prints, two or three red prints and so on. That way, one large spool of thread can complete two or three different bottoms and I do not constantly have to change thread spools and wind bobbins.

When it's time to sew, I spend one or two evenings cutting out and marking the fabric. Then I thread up the machine and sew all blue bottoms with the same color thread. I sew one color group from start to finish, including the waistband treatment. However, I save all the knot tying and thread snipping on all the bottoms to do at one time.

Sewing for Christmas - Tip #4:
Sewing is a great way to stretch your Christmas budget. The trick is to shop year round. Buy on sale. Use store coupons. You can find great savings on fabric at Ebay and other online stores, but remember to figure in the shipping charges.
Sewing for Christmas - Tip #5:
Sewing that special outfit for your office Christmas party is another way to help stretch that Christmas budget. But instead of going for a whole new outfit, take some time to exam one of your old party outfits. Can you take it in? Let it out? Shorten it? Add some sparkles? Freshen up some tired accessories? Add a flounce or beaded fringe? Even if you're the Queen of Sheba, you'll feel better about reusing things from the back of the closet. And if you are the Queen of Sheba? You can donate the money you would have spent on a dress to a soup kitchen or other charity.

Sewing for Christmas - Tip #6:
Think about sewing for others. It seems that around Christmas time, hearts soften and people want to do something for those who are less fortunate. Here's an opportunity to let your needle shine. You can turn lengths of polar fleece - which you got on sale - into warm blankets, or scarves or hats. You can make a baby quilt for the Linus project. You can make cancer hats. You can make dolls.

Sewing for Christmas - Tip #7:
Start a tradition. Sew with a bunch of friends. Projects go fast when there are many machines and many hands to help.

An old friend of mine would spend the month of October making her two darling daughters the sweetest, over the top Christmas frocks you could imagine. In November the three of them would make a day of taking the family Christmas portrait and then going out for high tea. This continued until the girls were in college. She has the best Christmas portrait collection I've ever seen.

Sewing for Christmas - Tip #8:
Christmas ornaments are a great gift idea for teachers, coaches and people you work with. You can find patterns at the big fabric stores, quilt shops, and even some free ones online. Usually they are fast and relatively inexpensive to make.
Hancock Fabrics Holiday Center - Up to 40% OffSewing for Christmas - Tip #9:
Do you decorate your house for Christmas? If you make a special doll, pillows or ornaments, remember not to stuff them with beans or rice. They could attract bugs and vermin while in storage the other 11 months of the year.

Remember, people love to get homemade gifts. It sends the message that you cared enough to spend your valuable time making them something. Most of the gifts you make will be made better than the things that you find in stores and made with better quality materials.

Now, if you're in the mood to get started sewing for Christmas, go to for a super cute pattern that could start a sewing tradition in your family.

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Replies to This Post

wonderful ideas, so obvious when someone else puts it on paper!
I always start Christmas in September and carry on until November. I find that December is too hectic to start new projects, so many unexpected events happen and so much cooking to think about! You have inspired me! Thank you.
A real pleasure to read, and so nice too, at a time when it's more usual to hear that you should BUY from the most trendy shops or boutiques to be "in". I'm pleased to see using what you have at hand and saving money is no longer outdated!
Thanks for this lovely contribution.
thank you susan
Good tips. Once in a great while, you might find bargain fabric on ebay but people are wising up and by the time you pay shipping, you pretty well could have gotten the fabric cheaper elsewhere. Try to Google fabric and you'll come up with tons of links. Every so often, Hancocks out of Paducah will have fabric sales on all varieties like Hoffmans, etc...
Be careful of the ebay bargain fabrics. I've been taken on a couple where it stated 100% cotton and it was a very cheap cotton or it was a poly blend and totally unusable. (Was also non-returnable) I didn't pay much for it and will probably use it to make new ironing board covers or just chuck it in the garbage.
I like to start my "Christmas in July". It's great when it's too hot to go outside and I get an early start on Xmas gifts!
Some really great tips....THANKX!!
thank you for the wonderful ideas. Bur wish I could be that motivated earlier in the year. Never need and excuse to buy fabric that is on special or not.


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