The past few times I've headed to my in-laws cottage, panic has set in when I've realized that I failed to bring any creative projects with me. Luckily there is a Barnes & Noble about half way there, so I have stopped for some reading material that at least gets me thinking creatively. This time I went in fully intending to buy Sew U, the new Built by Wendy book, or In Stitches- the new Amy Butler book. Although they each looked like great books-- complete with patterns-- I found my heart wasn't really into purchasing either of them. Because I am pregnant, I figure now may not be the time to tackle custom clothing. I would prefer to make something that I could wear for a really long time when I finally get around to learning how to sew clothes. As for the Amy Butler book, although I greatly admire her as a designer and business person, I don't really share her aesthetic, and I already own the pattern for her Chelsea Bags, which I haven't gotten around to making yet. Just as I was about to give up, I happened upon a book that I haven't heard anything about-- Last Minute Fabric Gifts by Cynthia Treen.
As I flipped the pages of this book, I didn't find it at all surprising that the author has done work for Martha Stewart Omnimedia. She has a spare, clean aesthetic, and the projects are stunning. The book is divided into a few categories, including gifts that can be made in less than one hour, gifts that take around two hours, and gifts that require three hours or more. In the introduction Treen immediately grabbed me by describing the immediate satisfaction that she gets from sewing, the feeling of starting with simple materials and having the ability to transform it into something even better than you could buy in a store. This is the exact feeling that I try to convey to non-sewers all of the time. It is magic. Once you've had that feeling, you're hooked.
This book has so many great projects that I am going to have a hard time picking favorites. There is a great variety of gifts in the book, something for everyone. I'll start with a few of the quick projects. The coat sleeve bag and tie pouch shown in the picture above would make a nice gift for a favorite teacher or babysitter. A lot of us are trying to re-purpose these days, and these projects are made simply using a coat sleeve and a men's tie (as if that wasn't obvious from the names). The author suggests that you can handsew these, particulary if the coat you are using has a belt for the purse strap, but personally I'd machine stitch at least the purse.
I love the red cross pillow shown here which falls in the one to two hour category. The author suggests this for a sick friend, but I think it would be adorable on a little boy's bed. In fact, I need to hunt down some red linen to make this for Elliot's "big boy" room. I think the classic symbol adds a sophisticated touch to a bedroom.
This wool playmat is included in the projects that take three or more hours, but would you just die if someone gave you this as a gift? The pattern for the little bunnies is also in the book, and takes less than one hour to make. The bunny would also work well as a skittle pattern if it was enlarged and you weighted the body. I Iove the simplicity of this, such a sharp contrast to so many store-bought baby products.
I'm going to save my favorite project for a while longer, since I'm really hoping to find the motivation to make it sometime soon. I highly recommend this book as you start to plan your upcoming holiday season. I think you will find gift ideas for many of those on your list. It includes templates or detailed measurements for all projects. There is also a book by the same publisher called Last Minute Knitted Gifts, but I will be sticking with this one since I don't knit.