I’ll let you in on a little secret. While I love to be crafty, make books and go nuts with my sewing machine on my scrapbooks/journals – I’m not much of a sewer. I come from quite a talented seamstress/quilter of a mother – it’s true, she even made my brothers and I homemade underwear while on a stretch sewing spree, and birthday gifts always included a special something to wear made with love from mother (think lavender sweatsuit with hand-sewn crystal buttons).
My daughter’s wardrobe consists of bought underwear, hand-me-down clothes and the odd t-shirt i have appliqued something cool onto! Not exactly living out my mothers legacy now, am I?
But – with 2 little girl birthday parties to attend in one day, and a limited budget – I decided it was time to cast my sewing inadequacies aside and bust out the machine to create 2 easy gifts from fabric I had in my stash (and stash there is – did I mention I buy fabric like I actually know what I’m doing with it?).
First off – I made a simple crown and cape for a dress-up box. Boys and girls of all ages love to dress up – and this is a great gift idea that you and your child can both be involved in the execution of! Have a hunt around thrift stores for interesting hats or other funny old items that can be altered to suit the child in mind. Tablecloths and sheets are also nice, cheap fabric to make all sorts of things out of (think capes, curtains for a puppet show, drawstring bags, doll blankets), and you might also find a cool old suitcase, basket or box to house your dress up finds as part of the gift.
Crown and cape…
The crown was made by layering 2 pieces of fabric together and tracing/cutting from a rough pattern I made out of cardstock (measure your own child’s head for an idea of size), then stitching the 2 together, leaving the edges raw. If you want to get fancy you could layer them facing inwards and stitch, then flip out the right way and sew up the open piece. A small piece of elastic hold the 2 ends together and allows for a snug fit. Have your child help embellish the crown by choosing buttons, flowers, beads, patches, charms etc to sew onto the peaks. No crown is complete without a cape (or perhaps just a simple piece of fabric that can be turned into a cape by tying, or worn on the head under the crown). I had an old white net curtain in the cupboard that was perfect for a billowy cape or bridal veil! I trimmed the curtain down to size and added a ribbon through the already sewn hem at the top – voila! A great handmade gift in no time at all (apart from the extra 1/2 hour I spent making identical cape and crown for my jealous daughter!).
Now for a sweet girly skirt in about an hour (double that if jealous daughter also requires such a skirt). I approached my skirt design as I do my scrapbooks – no measuring, no rules! Go with the flow – yeah! You can do it – all you need to know is how to sew in a straight semi-straight line. Here are the steps I followed to make the skirt:
- Start with 2 squares of fabric a few inches longer than your desired length of the skirt.
- Layer the 2 squares one on top of the other and fold in half.
- Cut a diagonal line from the bottom corner (the unfolded side) to the top – allowing the piece to be wide enough for the waist, creating a ‘triangle’ with a flat top.
- Cut a semi-circle from a contrasting piece of fabric. Fold and hem. Stitch crochet trim along the top.
- Sew the semi-circle piece to one of your fabric ‘triangles’ – leaving the top open to form a pocket.
- Lay the 2 ‘triangles’ face to face – right side of the fabric facing inwards. Stitch down both sides, first with a straight stitch, and then a zig zag along the edge to prevent fraying.
- Fold up a small hem along the bottom and sew. Repeat (fold up a 2nd hem and sew) for a clean edge – no fraying!
- At the top, fold over a skinny hem and stitch, then repeat – folding over at least 1/2″ to thread elastic through. Leave a space about 1-2″ wide as an opening for threading the elastic.
- Use willing model to measure elastic for waist. Cut 1″ longer than waist measurement.
- Thread safety pin through one end of elastic and thread through opening in skirt top. Bring it all the way around until you have the beginning and the end hanging out.
- Sew 2 ends of elastic together to secure. Close opening in skirt hem.
- Flip skirt right way out and sew crochet trim to bottom. Iron out any crinkles and pat yourself on the back for being so clever.
- Notice leftover triangle of fabric from original cut. Think to self – wasting this would be a crime!
- Trim to resemble shape of headscarf (triangle with extra long pointy bits at side)
- Fold each edge (iron them flat if needs be) and stitch.
- Pat self on back again for being clever and resourceful.
I’m quite proud of my sewing efforts as I’m sure my mother will be too (I can see her fainting with shock actually!). My daughter was most impressed, and it was a lovely experience to plan and make the gifts for her friends together (she was my little shadow and helper as I cut and sewed), much nicer than racing to Target and stressing over which cheap and nasty ‘made in china’ toy to get.
I’m almost embarrassed to share this with you as I’m sure many of you are seasoned seamstresses – but to those who are not, I hope this goes to show that pretty much anyone can sew! (perhaps I should have asked my husband to follow my jumbly instructions first before unleashing them to an unsuspecting audience such as yourself) – and that with a little bit of creative thinking, and a 5 year old cheering you on, you too can be the queen of the sewing machine!