Gift Ideas for the Giving Challenge!

November is starting soon, and with it our Giving Challenge! For this theme month we are inviting you to use your sewing superpowers to benefit others – either making projects as gifts, or creating things you can donate to charity!

Today I’m going to share some of my own favourite projects to make as gifts, and hopefully get your creative juices flowing. I hope that you’ll share your own favourite gift ideas in the comments!

1. Small Thank-You Gifts

These are the kind of projects you can make quickly, or have on hand any time you want to say thanks! My criteria for this category is that they must be quick, easy, and use stash fabric or scraps.

On the left, woven fabric stars. On the right, zippered pouches in coordinating fabrics.

My two favourite fabric gifts are the Scandinavian fabric stars on the left, and zipper pouches on the right! The stars are something I learned how to make years ago following a Danish tutorial, and ended up creating my own tutorial in English. Somehow it’s still the most popular post on my blog, so you can go check it out, including a link to the original inspiration. You can give them as Christmas tree ornaments or make them into a garland any time of the year!

The zipper pouches take me about 30-60 minutes, with practice. My favorite pattern is Elizabeth Hartman’s Perfect Zip Bag pattern, which creates an elegantly lined pouch in three sizes, and has really excellent tips and tricks. There are also plenty of free patterns out there. I’ve given these empty, or stuffed with goodies for teachers, expectant mothers, or just yummy snacks. This is my go-to when I need a gift for the next day and the stores are shut!

2. Knit T-Shirts

Sewing knit clothes can be surprisingly quick, and the fit is forgiving. I can make a t-shirt in the same time it takes to make a zippered pouch, so for close friends and family this is my go-to. The key is to pick forgiving silhouettes so they are always successful!

On the left, Gillian wears a Grainline Hemlock tee in a striped jersey. On the right, she wears a Maria Denmark Kristen tee, in black jersey with white hearts on it.

Funnily enough, I have very few pictures of gifts I’ve made over the years, so you are stuck with pictures of things I’ve made myself!

On the left is the Grainline Hemlock Tee, which was just re-released in sizes 0-30. It’s free when you sign up for the newsletter, and because it’s a boxy fit, it is very forgiving on different figures. I just tried out the extended size range with a D-cup draft, and it’s great! On the right is another pattern that is free when you sign up for a newsletter: the Maria Denmark Kristen tee! It’s a loose dolman-style t-shirt that sews up very quickly.

(In a pinch, I’ve also been known to give someone fabric with an IOU that I will sew them something custom when I get their measurements! Which leads us to the next category…)

3. Custom Gifts

I love sharing the magic of well-fitting custom clothing, and I’m lucky that my friends and family appreciate all the work that goes into it! I think planning is part of the joy, so gifts like this are a collaborative process, not a surprise.

On the left, Gillian's father poses in a red windproof zippered hoodie made for a hiking trip. In the centre, Gillian's husband poses in a bright blue Fantastic Four themed hoodie, with his coordinating tattoo on his arm. On the right, Gillian's sister poses in a blue and white chevron Charlie Caftan, against a spectacular historic Spanish town in the background.

On the left, a windproof/water-resistant hoodie that I sewed for my Dad when he was going on a 6 week hike. We ordered swatches of different technical fabrics, and had so much fun picking the right one and doing fittings, plus adding little details he wanted. This jacket is probably his most worn item of clothing, and it’s going strong many years later. What a joy for us both!

In the middle, my comic-book-fan husband. A few years back he ordered this Fantastic Four patch online, and we dreamed up a hoodie to put it on. If you have a nerd in your life, custom sewing is the perfect way to give them the geeky stuff they just can’t buy!

On the right, my beautiful sister who also happens to be the copy-editor-in-chief for the Sewcialists! We went to a family wedding in Spain this summer, and we created her dream dress together. This one isn’t exactly a gift, as she ordered the fabric herself, but lots of love went into making her a dream dress.

What are your favourite handmade gifts to give? Please share your trusty patterns and ideas in the comments, so we can inspire each other to take part in November’s Giving Challenge!