Being able to sew is a skill that means you are never short of something to give as a gift. Hand made fabric items always show that you care about a person enough to spend the time making the gift. As your skills increase, so your gifts will become more decorative or adventurous, but simple fabric gifts can form the basis of your range.
Mini patchwork pin cushion
For a friend who also sews, a mini patchwork pincushion makes a sweet gift. It will also help to use up some small scraps of fabric that all sewers accumulate. You will need some sewing thread, pins and a sewing needle, a length of elastic, , stuffing fibre, scissors and paper templates.
Hexagons are a good shape to use when creating patchwork. For a pincushion, you will need 14 hexagon pieces of scrap fabric for the top and bottom of the pincushion and another 6 hexagons for the edge. In addition you will need 12 diamond shaped pieces to fill the gaps between the hexagons.
Assemble the first 7 hexagons into a rosette. Do the same with the next 7 hexagons. Next attach 6 diamonds to the top rosette. The centre of the diamonds will fold over to form part of the side of the pincushion. Do the same with the rest of the diamond shaped pieces for the bottom rosette.
Now take the length of elastic and cut a piece a little more than half the circumference of your own wrist. Pin the ends to opposite sides of the bottom rosette so that the ends will be enclosed inside the pincushion when it is completely assembled and the bulk of the elastic will be on the outside.
Attach the remaining hexagons to the top rosette to form the sides of the pincushion. Turn the pincushion inside out, and attach the bottom rosette, taking care to catch the elastic ends as you sew, and leaving a small gap that you can turn the pincushion the right way out again through.
Turn the pincushion the right way, stuff firmly with the fibre or old stockings, but try to keep the shape overall like a cake rather than a ball. Finally, sew up the gap neatly and work in the end of thread.
Most fabric items are either worn or used as furnishings. However, previous generations also hung their best examples of needlework on their walls as decoration. A great way to create a lasting gift from fabric is to make an applique picture.
For inspiration, you can use an image of your recipient's home, their pet, or a picture that they already like from the world of art or photography. You will need an image to copy, some backing fabric (plain cotton is best) and scraps if coloured and textured fabrics, sewing thread, scissors, a sewing needle and pins.
Choose an image with strong lines, so a house or landscape is ideal but a portrait makes an interesting applique project. Trace the image onto some baking paper or tracing paper, paying attention to the main lines where colours and textures change. The details can be filled in with embroidery later.
Transfer the tracing of the original image onto your plain backing fabric, remembering to keep it the same way round as the image you are working from and not its mirror. You may also want to make a second tracing onto plain paper, to help you tick off the shapes as you add them to the backing fabric.
Cut out each shape from fabric scraps that are similar to the colour and texture of the original image. You can mix types of fabrics easily to create strong effects. Corduroy is ideal for suggesting wood, metallic fabric for metal or water, etc.
Attach each fabric shape to your backing fabric with one or two sewing pins. You can either try to keep the shapes just touching each other, or you can overlay them slightly by allowing for an extra millimetre or two when cutting each one out. When all of your shapes are in place, you can either hand sew, or use a sewing machine zigzag setting to fix the shapes in place, removing the pins as you go.
Next you can add the details to your picture. These could be embroidered flowers or a door number, eyes and a name tag for a pet, or eyelashes for a portrait. All of these should be hand sewn, but do not worry too much about neatness. Hand sewn items have most of their charm from being imperfect in some way.
Once your picture is finished, you can either frame it yourself by stretching the fabric over a frame and mounting it, or you can get it professionally framed. Adding a glass front will protect the fabrics from dust, but you should advice the recipient to hang the picture away from direct sunlight so that they colours do not fade.
Simple hand made fabric gifts do not have to appear child-like. Personalising the gift will give it that extra meaning and will surely captivate whoever is lucky enough to receive it.