Easiest Handmade Hostess Gifts

Is it too early to be talking about the holidays? Actually, yes, it is. But us hand-maker-y types need to get an early start on presents! The best part of the holiday season (Mid-November through January 1st here, but your location may vary) is seeing family, but the second best is going to lots of holiday parties, from friendsgiving potlucks to glitzy New Year's Eve bashes. My usual go-to hostess gift is a bottle of wine but it's also nice to add a little handmade touch to your gifting, especially when people know you made your dress and want to get in on the action a little bit. Enter the perfect combination: hand-hemmed Spoonflower tea towel + literally whatever. I have had mixed results with Spoonflower fabric (I love their sport lycra but wasn't pleased with their cotton sateen, although that was also years and years ago) but I really love browsing the very large (64 pages) collection of tea towel designs. They  are all designed to fit on a fat quarter of the linen/cotton canvas so 1 towel is $14, about the same as you'd pay at anthropologie. (They occasionally have 2 for 1 fat quarter sales, so I have learned to stock up then!)

Once your towels arrive, you just wash and hem them--easiest "handmade" present ever. (I suggest serging/zig-zagging the edges, then washing them, then finishing the hemming, since I threw 12 towels in the laundry unhemmed and ended up with a huge damp clump of towels tangled together on the frayed edges!) Then get something to wrap it around--a handmade tea towel will elevate even a grocery store bottle of wine but you could pair a potted kitchen herb with a thematic towel (this one's cute) or even wrap up a box of pasta and a fancy jar of sauce for a house-warming party. My favorite combination is towel and candle--this might be weird but I love lighting a candle in a clean, kitchen-y scent (lemon in the summer, pine in the winter) when I have to do the dishes or scrub the counters. The one I have in my kitchen now is the Lemon Lavender scent from Diamond Elm Candles (c/o) on etsy--it's handmade, 100% soy and a much nicer scent than my old lemon lavender candle from the mall! The wood wicks in their candles make a cozy crackling sound and I think one of their fall scents would be perfect for a Thanksgiving hostess gift. They smell nice, look cute wrapped in a useful and unique handmade towel, and last longer than the wine you were planning on bringing!

Do you make your holiday gifts or buy them? I generally don't do handmade gifts, but these are so easy that even I, lazy, selfish seamstress that I am, can whip up a few by the time November rolls around...


ps: spoonflower also have a competition each year in which designers create calendar tea towels. my mom has a collection of well-loved calendar tea towels dating back years and years, some of which belonged to my grandparents, so it's nice to have some of my own as well. you can see this year's calendar design winners here--i think i like this one the best of all of them--and allll the 2018 calendar tea towels here

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Lounge Separates (Hey June Santa Fe)

 Thank you to Indiesew for providing the fabric and pattern for this top!

I may have said last time that that was the last time I'd be making pajamas for a while, but what I really meant was that this time is the last. I'm just addicted to loungewear apparently! It helps that now that I have a serger, sewing up this type of project takes mere minutes...

Since I've been wearing my Sloane sweatshirt a ton lately, I wanted to make a little pair of matching lounge shorts, and then I decided that since the sweatshirt is too hot to wear as pajamas (at least in October in North Carolina!) I should really have a lighter-weight matching top to swap out... right? (Is this how your sewing decisions are made? Just me?) Allie had this lovely super-lightweight heather-grey knit in the Indiesew shop that I knew would be perfect as an oversized Santa Fe top--I'm on a Hey June kick after my successful bell-sleeved Charleston! I sized up and love the result; this is officially the most comfortable top I own and it is getting a lot of wear in the evenings after work.

One word of warning--pay attention to the care requirements for this fabric! I washed it on medium heat and threw it in the dryer, instead of washing on cold and line drying as instructed, and it developed a bad case of tiny pinpoint holes. Oh no! Since I'll be wearing this in my house, it doesn't matter, but be aware that anything made with this fabric really should be line-dried.

The shorts are another pair of Lexi Chick Boxers--a really dreadful name, but a nice, easy pattern that you can crank out several versions of in just a few minutes! This time I added a drawstring as well as elastic in the waistband, and turned the waistband and hems to the wrong side to coordinate with my Sloane, since I used the wrong side of the fabric for the hem, cuffs, and neck band of that pattern. I wish they were a little bit slimmer through the leg since the thicker fabric makes them pretty voluminous, but honestly, figure-flattery was not topmost in my mind while making elastic waist french terry shorts? Paired with this tee, I have created the world's most comfortable outfit, and if it isn't also the most attractive thing I've ever worn, well, I'm okay with that.

I've been sewing with all these knits recently because I love that it stretches my skill set--I feel pretty confident with all different types of woven fabrics at this point but knits are a little out of my comfort zone. I also have a special project coming up (it's all planned and ready, I just have to sew it!) that is in a knit, and I really want to get it perfectly right. I can see how addicting sewing knits can be since it only takes a few seams and a lot of fitting can be eliminated by using stretch fabric! Plus, there are so many knit patterns I've never explored...


ps: i also recently made alex a matching sweatshirt (seamwork paxton) and sweatpants (true bias men's hudsons) for his birthday and he hasn't taken them off since, so we're like all heather grey all the time now in our house! send help! :)

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Inspiration: 70s // Modern (Vogue 1558)

70s style has been trendy for the past couple of years, but I've been a little reluctant to sew much in that style since it just... so 70s! I'm a die hard 60s girl, y'all know me. I have made and loved a few things that are 70s-ish--this dress is even a 70s repro pattern--but when I finally caved and bought a real 70s vintage dress pattern after seeing The Love Witch I couldn't figure out how to sew and style it to not look costumey.

When I saw the Fall Vogue patterns though, V1558 jumped out as the perfect 70s-ish look for me--it's a Rachel Comey design, not a vintage reprint or anything, but it has that lovely high collar, long statement cuffed sleeves, and pretty below-the-knee hem of a 70s dress, not to mention some gorgeous pleats!! In a drapey knit, it's totally Halston-ish, right? Since 70s style is alll over stores (well, websites) I wanted to style this dress two sliiightly different ways: a retro look and a more modern look with a slight seventies influence.

I have all the supplies for this pattern, and I'm excited to get sewing--I picked out a coral jersey that I think will be perfect for late summer/early fall. The cover image is made in a red and blue printed silk jersey, but sadly you can't see the pleats at the waist and on the sleeves. In a solid jersey, I'm hoping the pleats will stand out more; I think it will be really nice. Wish me luck!

Does this dress seem 70s glam to you, or is it just me? Any tips on sewing Vogue patterns? I always admire them from afar but I haven't made many at all!


ps: happy friday the 13th, y'all! seems perfect for a love-witch inspired project to start on october 13, don't you think?

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Last Summer Look (Sewaholic Rae)

After doing some complicated sewing, a simple "true beginner" project is a wonderful treat--I purchased the materials for this project, went for a run, took some blog photos, even traced the pattern, and still had this project done by dinner. That's a nice feeling, don't you think? Bonus: I love the result!

I got both the pattern and fabric for this little spur-of-the-moment project from Downtown Knits in Apex, NC. It's a little out of the way for me, but was over nearby to take these photos and stopped in to say hello after Nikki invited me via instagram. Honestly, I was so surprised I hadn't heard of them before considering they specialize in my two favorite things: sewing and tea! The majority of the store is dedicated to knitting, but they also have a little tea shop, a sewing classroom, and a small but very well-curated selection of fabric--including lots of Cotton + Steel! I picked up a yard and a half of the light blue colorway of the Rifle Paper floral on quilting-weight cotton, and the Sewaholic Rae skirt. I have a long history of putting this pattern into, then taking it out of, my Sewaholic shopping cart, but supporting a local business is a good excuse for pattern purchases, right? Right.

The reason I had decided against this pattern in the past is because it is so simple--an elastic waist skirt in two fullnesses and two lengths. This pattern was actually designed for a beginner sewing class setting--that's how easy it is! However, I knew that I would like the pattern and knew that even the simplest pattern would be worth it because I absolutely love Sewaholic. Sewaholic patterns are drafted for pears (oh hiii) and while obviously that doesn't matter so much for an elastic-waist a-line skirt, for other patterns it makes a huge difference, so I always feel confident sewing up a Sewaholic pattern as-is without making a muslin.

The shape of this skirt is so much more flattering than a regular gathered-waist skirt made with a rectangle, and it is SO easy to make. This is view B, the fuller of the two shorter skirts. From Sewaholic: "View A is an above the knee skirt with a slightly full silhouette. View B is the same length as A but with more fullness, and View C is a knee-length version of view B." I love this length--it's flirty but not too mini (I'm 5'7")--but I want to try the longer one too! I also have lots of hack possibilities in mind--I've already used this as the skirt on a my Helmi shirtdress and I think for my next Rae, I want to add pockets, and I'll try and give it a flat front waistband and keep the gathers in the back for a slightly more polished look but still super easy afternoon of sewing.

Do you prefer the challenge of a long, complicated project like a coat, or do you gravitate more towards projects you can get done in a few hours? I know some of y'all have little kids... they tend to make that decision for you!


ps: this pattern is great for quilting cotton too--see? perfect perfect perfect for beginners and the waist goes down to 24" if you know any tweens interested in learning to sew!

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Girl Detective (Named Helmi Trench Dress)

Thank you to Indiesew for providing this pattern and thank you to y'all for supporting this blog's sponsors!

I think I mentioned before that I am super interested in outerwear this fall... and it appears this obsession has even extended to my non-outerwear sewing. I'd never really looked at the Named Helmi Trench Blouse and Dress on Indiesew because I don't love the samples--the tunic view is a little plain for me and the cute trench details are hidden by the print on the blouse--but this year it totally clicked! I made a hybrid of views 1 and 2--the tunic bodice but all the details from the blouse. Who can resist that trench-style overlay, sweet collar (that I made in white for a little contrast) and unique cuff details? Not me!

Although I went for a blush shirting for year-round wear, this dress would be super gorgeous for fall in an olive green tencel or rayon--something drapey--or done up like a proper trench in khaki. (Also in a leopard print? Shut up.) I wanted more of a shirt dress look, and I think the waist definition (I added some elastic to the waist seam allowance and popped a self-fabric belt over top) and contrasting white collar achieve that look. A note: the tunic length fabric allowances does not include the trench flaps or long sleeves, so order extra if you want to combine the two looks like I did here! I also made a few other changes to the pattern: I rotated the bust dart into the waistline, added a gathered skirt (the Sewaholic Rae, actually), and cinched it all in with some elastic (zigzagged to the seam allowance, my favorite way to do an elastic waist) and a tie belt! Finally, I decided last-minute (I cut them out and sewed them and everything) that I didn't want to mess around with the D-rings and sleeve cuffs that are written, so I added some simple removable ties for a similar look. (This is a trendy look right now, so #yearofthesleeve I guess!)

In the midst of sewing, I was worried that the cute Peter Pan collar and pink fabric, paired with the girly pattern modifications I was making (adding a gathered skirt and cinching the waist) would make it a bit too girly. I was really tempted to make sleeve ties and waist tie out of some Rifle Paper floral that I had on had and which match perfectly, but I didn't want to go too far.  I also didn't take into consideration that the tunic buttons all the way down the front, while my alterations meant that I couldn't open it up and would have to shimmy into the dress. Since I had rotated the bust darts into the waistline, I can get the dress on and off with ease, but it's something to keep in mind--if you want to make similar alterations, you may also want to add a side zipper or continue the buttons down the skirt front in addition to or instead of rotating the bust darts.

I've seen this pattern loads of times and never thought much of it, but for some reason this year the trench details really popped out at me. Does that ever happen to you, or do you always fall in love with your patterns at first sight? If you're a pattern hacker, do you plan out your hacks in advance, or make them up on the fly? (Usually I'm the former, but not for this project apparently!)


ps: if you are unfamiliar with taylor swift, girl detective, rectify that immediately.

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Sew Your Hart Out (Papercut Adrift Skirt)

Just dropping in to let you know I'm guest posting over on the Hart's Fabric blog today in honor of Sew Your Hart Out September! Hart's is one of my very favorite indie fabric stores and I'm so pleased to be able to share their wonderful business with y'all. 

More posts featuring Hart's Fabric here and here, and take a look at all the the other posts in the blog tour over on Hart's blog here.


ps: recognize the pattern?

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Fall Blush (Deer & Doe Luzerne Trench)

Thank you to Robert Kaufmann for providing the fabric for this project, and thank you for supporting the companies that make this blog possible!

Before I get into this coat--I want to admit right off the bat that I totally copied the Deer and Doe sample. I'm a serial vintage-pattern-illustration-copier, and it appears that my affliction has morphed into practically stealing the clothes off the models. Since Camille and I share similar measurements, it's even worse! This is basically the exact. same. trench.

The fabric I used (as did Deer & Doe, haha) is a Robert Kaufmann Ventana Twill and it is absolutely perfect for this application! Also, they have this twill in 66 different colors, including hot pink, the prettiest pale yellow ("powder lemon"), a beautiful deep green, and even multiple shades of khaki/stone/beige for you traditionalists. (Plus, a prepared for dying white if you can't find what you are looking for, but again, there are 66 colors. 66.) It was easy to work with and lightweight enough that multiple layers were a breeze, while holding it's shape perfectly in this unlined, mostly-uninterfaced coat.

This is a 36 bodice and a 40 skirt, which I cobbled together by deepening the pleats in the skirt. As long as the skirt pleats line up with the princess seams on the bodice, you can swap out whatever size you want! If I make this pattern again, I'll probably size up one in the bodice; the 36 fits but there's no room for a sweater under there, if you truly want a fall/early winter coat! It's also worth noting that this is a very hourglass-shaped pattern: the 36 is designed for a 33" bust, which I do have, and a 25 1/4" waist, which I definitely do not. Although I do already have two other trenches (a neutral burda one and a rtw one in leopard print) I actually do see myself making another version of this in one of those traditional trench colors... it's such a flattering shape (much more so than my burda, which is swingier) and I'd love to draft a gun flap add-on for a extra traditional touch.

Although my year round love of pink is well-documented on this blog, this coat will be equally appropriate in spring. In fact this was really supposed to be a spring project, but I kept putting it off for one reason: I was scared to make the bound buttonholes! As (almost) always happens, that was really silly of me, and the buttonholes ended up being a breeze using the pattern instructions. I've added a new skill to my work box and I could even imagine myself adding bound buttonholes to patterns that don't call for them in the future... maybe. They add such a luxe touch to this project--and no. one. will think you made it yourself!

Honestly, I have nothing but praises for this whole project. If you followed my construction of this coat over on Instagram stories, you'll already know that I absolutely loved loved loved putting this trench together; Deer and Doe's drafting is flawless, the fit is wonderful, the instructions are comprehensive, and the ventana twill was the exact right choice for the project. I'm gushing, I know, but I loved this project--both the process and the result--and this is officially one of my favorite things I've ever made. I think it will get lots and lots of wear, and I can't wait to make another (maybe next spring?) in another color. If you've been waffling on this pattern, totally get it, and if you have it but don't know what fabric you should make it with... now you know!

One last note: my pretty Liberty bias tape was my souvenir from my recent trip to France, purchased at La Droguerie in Strasbourg. Such a pretty little shop, and they have a whole book case full of yards and yards of pretty tape biais and piping! Do you buy fabric or notions or patterns on vacation? Or just me?


ps: i also visit libraries everywhere i go. gotta scope that competition!! 

allie J.

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