Posted in sewing by tchemgrrl on October 26, 2012

Husband saw yesterday’s post and thinks I should seek out some naughty cowboy fabric for gift bags to spice up the family holidays.

(Why do I tell him things.)


The C word (or the Ch word)

Posted in planning, sewing by tchemgrrl on October 25, 2012

I know, I know. You hate when the holidays show up before their time. “It’s not even Halloween yet and I heard Jingle Bells at the mall yesterday!” I don’t particularly want to see any jolly old elves before the leaves are off the trees, either.

But! But.

That doesn’t mean I’m not already getting stuff ready. There is gift knitting, there is wish list checking, there are General Preparations Happening. Most of that stuff I won’t show you until January, but I figured I would show you the wrappings I’m working on.

One of the ways I’m trying to reduce waste is by making fabric wraps for gifts vs. using paper that gets tossed.

The Japanese have a long history of doing this. The furoshiki–large squares of beautifully-printed fabric–that were traditionally used can be folded in a huge variety of ways to accomodate various package shapes*. And my understanding from my readings is that the cloth itself was considered part of the gift, but a regiftable one, so that the wrapping could be reused for another present. It’s a nice way of being environmentally conscious without having too much dirty-hippie about it.

*Note to self: Write more about furoshiki some time, because even having some basic abilities is one of those handy life-hacky skills that I think everyone should have.

I do occasionally wrap a gift in a single square cloth, but it seems a little….harder to interpret? By which I mean that people aren’t sure how to unwrap it, and if they should give the cloth back, because they’re not sure how to use it if they do keep it. I did have success last year wrapping a gift basket for my mom in a large vintage tablecloth (it looked like Santa’s sack, it was perfect), but that worked because she likes vintage tablecloths and it was clearly part of the present.

Usually, I make fabric gift bags. I’ll admit that my interpretation is Westernizing it a bit, but a gift bag is a form factor that we regularly see in the States, and we know how how they interface with the social contract. And the fabric gift bags hold up to more regiving than paper ones do.

For fabric, I rarely buy new. Most often, I go to Sew Green, which is my amazing local sewing supply resale shop. They’ve always got stacks of fat quarters and other squared-off remnants for a song. I just pick a few in cheerful colors, or with amusing prints, when I stop by there. Thrift shops often have a little craft area too, though the selection is usually less. Sometimes I’ll get a fat quarter or remnant from the local fabric shop, too, because they’re really nice and I want them to stay in business even though I’m not much of a seamstress. (And that $2 square of fabric is totally going to do that.)

My sewing skills are slovenly at best. I’ve been using a sewing machine since I was pretty small–longer than I’ve been doing any other craft–but I hate ironing, and I like flying by the seat of my pants. My finished products barely reach the “rough draft” level compared to my family members’ work. Gift bags, though? Little mostly-square things in fun fabrics that won’t see much wear? They’re right at my level. Churning out a bunch of different little gift bags is pretty much the perfect project for me. Instant gratification, very little piecing or worrying about seam perfection. I sewed all the bags below during one toddler nap. I didn’t use a single pin. Boo-yah.

Christmas bags

The two largest have drawstring tops, the rest don’t. For those without, I’ll just tie a ribbon around the top to close it off, or fold the top over and wrap a ribbon around the whole thing. I tacked the corners down on a few of them to make the bags sit flat on the ground, and to more easily accommodate a boxy object. Depending on what goes into them, I may sew handles on later if seems necessary. None of these have specific gifts in mind, but the four small ones are the perfect size for a mass-market paperback, and we’re a book giving family.

The fabrics are all cotton calicos; the largest one has flowers and their latin names, the second-largest has a small vegetable print on it, and the bright yellow fabric is this adorable vintage-looking fabric with a “Laundry Day” theme–soap and bubbles and washboards and things. I think I need some more kid-friendly fabrics, and will keep that in mind the next time I’m out looking.