Stress-Free Holiday Sewing

Tips for Stress-Free Holiday Sewing

Monogrammed Fabric Gift Tags
by Marlene Blessing

Sewing gifts for loved ones is my favorite activity leading up to the holidays. I look forward to selecting the fabric and embellishments, sewing each gift, and imagining how the recipient will enjoy what I've made. However, I've found that even if I think I've started planning my gift projects early enough, my time still gets eaten up by holiday parties, travel, and various other preparations and responsibilities. Not to mention my holiday gift-giving plans tend to be a little overly ambitious. And as the days until the holidays tick by, and time for working on projects dwindles, I'll be the first to admit that I get a little stressed.

So I was thrilled to read the premier issue of Stitch Gifts and discover not only a bounty of fresh, fun projects to sew for the holidays, but also an article by Marlene Blessing on her strategies for a stress-free handsewn holiday. Marlene uses lists as a way to simplify gift giving, focusing on easy ways to plan sewing projects to maximize efficiency, prioritize projects, and achieve better results. Best of all, her tricks for creating—and finishing—all those holiday projects mean you'll still have plenty of time to enjoy the season and relax.

This year, armed with Marlene's lists as a guide, I plan on sewing some favorite projects from Stitch Gifts—in plenty of time for gift giving. I can't wait to try Carol Zentgraf's colorful Weekend Travel Ensemble, the perfect gift for my sister, and who knows, this year I may even have time to squeeze in a little holiday décor sewing for my home.

Here are Marlene's lists to help make your handsewn holidays stress-free:

Carol Zentgraf's Weekend Travel Garment Bag

List 1: Giftees & Gift Options

This is your most important list because it lays the groundwork for all the moving parts of your plan.

1. Decide how many of your favorite people you want to include as gift recipients. The easiest way to do this is to first make a no-holds-barred list; then, go back through the list several times to cook it down to the people you think will most appreciate your handsewn gifts. Next, prioritize your list in order of importance to ensure that you take care of your closest friends and family first.

2. Write one gift option (or more) next to each name. When you've completed this step, review all the ideas so you can see if there are any "maybes" you need to rethink (whether gift ideas or giftees).

3. Add an S, M, or L next to each project as you size up the materials needed. This designation helps you get the whole picture of the required material resources.

4. Finally, add a "+" after the S, M, or L labels to designate projects that are more complex and will take more time to sew. Again, you may want to reconsider some of your choices once you see at a glance the number of particularly time-consuming projects.

List 2: Timing & Schedule

1. After your gift ideas for each person have been selected, make a projects-only list. Next to each item, record your best guesstimates of the time each one will require. Here's where you want to be especially realistic, because time will be your most critical resource. It's the one thing you can't make up for once it has slipped away.

2. Next, total the hours you've guesstimated and increase that number by 10 percent. Now, you can see the whole pie, and it's time to start slicing.

3. Estimate how many hours you'll really be able to devote each week (taking into account other engagements). See if that jibes with your total hours guesstimate. If not, you can cut projects and/or simplify them. On your calendar, note your specific sewing-time appointments, then write them in next to each project (date/hours).

List 3: Inventory of Your Fabric & Notions Stash

1. List top picks from your stash of remnants, scraps, and whole cloth and indicate approximate size or yardage.

2. Once this list is complete, see how many of your projects can be made from what you have (remember, you can make simple patchwork fabric with scraps and remnants) and write in your choices.

3. Use your inventory list to create a shopping list of thread, notions, and fabric you need to purchase to supplement your stash. Now that you're super-organized, challenge yourself to a one-time shopping expedition.

There are many more tips and ideas in the premier issue of Stitch Gifts. With over fifty projects for all sewing skill levels, you're sure to find an inspiring project to make for every person on your holiday list.

Happy sewing!


*Ellen Seeburger is the Assistant Editor of Quilting Arts Magazine, Quilting Arts Gifts, International Quilt Festival: Quilt Scene, and 101 Patchwork Projects.

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2 thoughts on “Stress-Free Holiday Sewing

  1. Thanks for the stress-free tips from Marlene Blessing. I’m always in a stressed-out lather as Christmas approaches, in large part because I can’t seem to get motivated early enough to start making gifts. But even with the limited time left for making gifts, these tips helped me assess what I wanted-vs-needed to get done and how to look at strategizing the process. Thank you so much!