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Conversational Threads

Good Simple Gifts?

jatman | Posted in General Discussion on

Does anyone out there have any good simple home made gifts that you like to make to give for holidays?



  1. User avater
    user-221153 | | #1

    I like to make sachets and "Dream Pillows". This is a great way to use up scrap fabric. I go to the local healthfood store and buy loose herbs by the ounce. My special sleep inducing mix that I use in Dream Pillows is made of Hops, Lavendar, Chamomile, Eucalyptus, Mint, Lemon Balm and Valerian. These all help aid in sleep and keeping nasal passages clear.

    Here is a sample of the pillows I make: http://sinnersandsaints.biz/pillows.html

    These have a removable sachet inside because the herbs will lose potency over time.

    Drawer sachets are just tiny pillows filled with whatever herb you prefer. Use a dense fabric or use two layers, or you will get herb dust all over your socks and undies (found that out the hard way!).

    I also make little catnip pillows for the feline friends, and you can make buckwheat pillows that can be warmed in the microwave to wrap around a sore neck. Loose buckwheat is also available at the healthfood store.

    My favorite thing about these gifts is that they help deplete the Scrap Pile. I seem to be unable to throw anything under a 5" square away.



    1. jatman | | #5

      Very cool website - thank you for sharing your trade secrets!


  2. user-51823 | | #2

    dream pillows is a good gift. i'm another fan of using up scraps if possible.
    homemade cloth napkins, placemats, table runners.sometimes to make an inexpensive gift seem nicer, i use fancy scraps (chiffon, velvet, etc) to make a really pretty gift bag/wrapper to hold simple votives or fancy teas.

  3. mygaley | | #3

    A christmas pillowcase with their name on it is a good gift for children. Let them open it Christmas eve or before. Galey

  4. jatman | | #4

    Thank you all for the ideas!  I do appreciate them!


  5. Pansy | | #6

    I like to make cat toys and catnip bags.

  6. Josefly | | #7

    I'm making Christmas placemats and napkins for gifts this year. Simple rectangles and squares, with the placemats filled only with a flannel-like interlining. These've been received well as wedding shower gifts, when I couldn't find store-bought to match the bride's china, so I'm hoping DD and DDIL will appreciate them as holiday gifts.I'm glad you asked this question, because I'd like more ideas, too.

  7. sewfar | | #8

    I read somewhere that sleeping on a pillowcase of the finest, highest thread count fabric does wonders for your complexion.  So much less abrasive to our delicate skin especially when one considers the hours our cheeks are in contact with the pillow.  I hope to be able to find some  soft and silky cottons to make some pillowcases and add some lace or a little emboidery to the edge.  Wish I could crochet.    I may have to resort to using high thread count  sheet as local sources for good fabrics are more and more limited. 

  8. Teaf5 | | #9

    Our family tradition has always meant good simple gifts, so here's a list of some I remember:
    fleece scarves, fleece or scrap-quilt lap blankets, tote bags, grocery bags (of deco fabric or canvas), stadium cushions, picnic or tablecloth, embellished (applique, stitched) guest towels, kitchen towels, fabric caddy for plastic bags, embellished coasters, draft stoppers, wine bottle cozies, fleece or fabric hats, accessories: scarves, belts, pins, cell phone & ipod caddies.The most popular gifts were 1) Chef's hat & apron made of decorator fabric to match each family's kitchen (even the guys loved that one!) and 2) a bag of fabric scraps torn into strips for my gardener father to tie plants with, and 3) a small picnic cloth with waterproof nylon on one side and soft, warm fabric on the other.As you can tell, our family tradition heavily favors practical items, but we also have exchanged decorative items as well: fabric ornaments, tree skirts, banners, and wall hangings. The new patterns for fabric bowls look interesting this year.... Have fun!

    1. user-51823 | | #11

      wait-- fabric bowls?

      1. jatman | | #12

        Again - thank you to everyone!  Great ideas.  I also just discovered that a few of the pattern websites (McCalls, Simplicity, Butterick) have some free downloads for things like journal covers, belts and small purses.

        I also wondered what the fabric bowls were like?  Are they a braided/sewn bowl?  How do you make them?

        Thank you again for all of the ideas!



        1. Susan -homedecsewing | | #13

          when I had time I liked to make earring holders from white lacy fabric usually sold to make kitchen curtains, cut into about 14 inch segments hem sides , make a rod pocket at top,put wooden dowl thru, tie a ribbon at each end to hang on wall. I'd glue dried or silk flowers and a pretty bow center top. The perfect gift for someone with lots of earrings. It looks pretty on the wall filled with all the dangles.I also made nosegays of lace . sew a shape like a witches hat, stiffen with fabric stiffener, and when dry fill with a tiny bouquet of dried flowers. it can hang on the wall .Susan

        2. Josefly | | #14

          Some of the pattern companies are showing these fabric bowls. You might find a couple of pictures on the patternreview.com site - seems I saw one there the other day.

        3. ctirish | | #18

          There is also a book called easy fabric boxes, you can make them in different sizes and shapes.

          I have made for Christmas - Pillow covers - wool scarves, monogrammed handerkerchiefs for men. Wine bottle covers, and cosmetic bags. The cosmetic bags are easy and if you make them a little bigger than you see in the stores, they are great, especially if you put a little pocket on the inside for little things.  I make three out of the same two fabrics. 

           You can make shoe bags for people who travel. These let them put each shoe in a different bag and then they can pack them anywhere in their luggage without worrying about dirt or polish getting on the clothes. You can use the little cord stoppers for jackets for the closers on the bag. If you use a heavier fabric like home dec with the little cord stopper they look really good. 

          We had for the kids a big denim circular cloth with grommets around the outside edge. You feed cording through the grommets and it makes a great carrier for their Legos or any type of building blocks.


          1. User avater
            blondie2sew | | #23

            I like the shoe bag idea!!Is there an actual pattern for this or did you just fold a piece of fabric in half then sewed up the sides and made a casing at the top?What would you suggest for the dimensions of the fabric I am assuming rectangle shape. Thanks for this great Idea. I didn't even think about it Us girls are going to meet the man in our lives next week for a family vacation and this would be great for us to pack with!! Connie

            Edited 11/14/2006 8:30 pm ET by blondie2sew

          2. User avater
            Becky-book | | #24

            Shoe bags... I have made several out of scraps.

            Sturdy fabric works best, size can vary depending on who's shoes go in that bag (large ones for Hubby's, small ones for my flip-flops)  Draw string is not necessary if the bag is long enough to fold the top down over the shoes by about 3 inches.  I just put my tape measure around a pair of shoes and used whatever scrap was at least that large! Or make one bag per shoe.

            If you really want sizes... I have bags ...12x11   15x11.5    17x11  19x12... these were measured flat so one of the sides would need to be doubled.

            I also made a laundry bag out of 'ugly cloth' so the suitcases close easy on the return trip (we travel by car, laundry gets stuffed in a corner of the trunk)

            Hope this helps,


          3. kayrosie | | #25

            I am making purses out of placemats.  They are really handy.  You can actually have a purse for every outfit if you want.  Easy too. 

          4. pinkit | | #27

            I too am making purses from placemats.  This, I think will be appealing to the early and older teens.  I used the directions in THREADS magazine September 2005 #120 on page 50-51.  My youngest granddaughter had a glimpse of the bags and thought they were great.  She will be getting one for Christmas but does not realize that.  I plan to put gift certificates inside.  I picked up the place mats at places like TJ Max, Wal-Mart.  Give it a try because it is fun

          5. User avater
            Becky-book | | #29

            If you have leftover cloth (who doesn't) you can cut placemat sized pieces, place wrong sides together, and proceed as if it were a placemat (I pink the edges). Even cheaper and quicker (no trip to Wal-mart).

            My Grands already got one so I need some new ideas for Christmas!


          6. kayrosie | | #30

            In the Newsletter this week from threads shows some other cute purses. You might want to look at them.  Dressy ones clutch and drawstring. I relly liked them. I might try some of those.  Make up bags also. I am going to try and make some cute bags to hold like shower stuff so somebody could carry it to the shower when you go to motel, or work out at the gym and you have to go work afterwards.  My brain is not working I can't think right now but if I come up with anything will let you know.


          7. User avater
            Becky-book | | #31

            Thanks, the newsletter is in my inbox but son is clammoring for the computer (to do school work, HA) so I'll have to read it later.


          8. kayrosie | | #32

            I actually thought the newsletter was very good this week.


          9. zuwena | | #35


            What's this "newsletter" you mentioned?  Sounds like it has good stuff. Z

          10. User avater
            Becky-book | | #36

            We were referring to the THREADS E-newsletter. You can sign-up from the THREADS home-page.  Be patient, after you sign-up it still takes a few weeks to process even after you receive confirmation that they got your request.


          11. zuwena | | #37

            Thanks, will do.  I seem to have passed right on by that when I am on the homepage.  How long has it been around?  Have you found it to be worthwhile?  Z

          12. User avater
            Becky-book | | #42

            Some of the articles are stuff I already know and do, some of it is new. It is free so I don't fret if an issue is not 'inspiring'.


          13. User avater
            Becky-book | | #28

            I made some of those purses and found the thickness to be difficult so I changed the idea a little.  I took coordinating fabric and cut a placemat sized rectangle of each, placed them wrong side together (basted together) pinked edges and then treated this new thing like a placemat! Cheaper than placemats (I have lots of leftovers!) and not so thick around the edges.


          14. thimbles1260 | | #45

            I would love to make the purses out of placemats.  Is there another source for the directions other than Threads 2005....that seems to be unavailable to me.  Our library doesn't have it and my own issues don't go back that far.  :(

          15. User avater
            Becky-book | | #46

            The basic idea for the placemat purse is to:

            fold it in half the long way (if it is laying on the table as for supper, fold the top edge down to the bottom edge) and stitch these edges together.

            now fold up about a third of this tube, put a ribbon or cord for a handle between the edges and stitch both sides. The 'flap' is left open at the edge and forms the long pocket.  You should have 3 small pockets and one long.

            You can add Velcro to close or use a ribbon loop and a button, just be careful not to stitch the flap closed.

            Hope this enough info!

            If you don't want to buy placemats, use complementary fabrics (cut 15x20 inches approx.) placed WS together, stitch and pink the edges then treat like a placemat. My DGDs love theirs!


          16. thimbles1260 | | #51

            Thank you Becky-book for the directions. With yours and kayrosie's, I should be on my way!

          17. kayrosie | | #52

            I have not made the other ones but my sister did and they are real nice if you are just going out for an evening and need a little bag.  They are so compact.  My daughter has one that she takes to the concerts that she goes to as she can put it over her shoulder and not worry about a purse.   I am going to try and make some of them also.


          18. kayrosie | | #47

            That way is one way to do them.  I make them the other way instead of length ways I do them width wise. 

            First I put the handles on.  I use about 18 inches of ribbon the crossgrain ribbon, measure the middle of the placemat and put your handles where you would want them, then I put velcro on each side  to hold them shut.  If you want to put bead work or some kind of decoration you can do it now or when you get the purse almost done.  Turn the purse right sides together and sew the sides up, and then on the bottom diaganol  to make the bottom.  That is it.  Did you look at the pictures I sent of mine.  I will attach them again here for you. If you have any questions just email me. 

          19. jatman | | #48

            Very cool, Kayrosie!  Thank you for sharing your pics!


          20. kayrosie | | #49

            They are very easy to make and fun too.  I like having a different one for every outfit.   You can have several and not expensive either.  I made a black brocade one for a dressy party I went to a couple weeks ago.  You can get some really cute-pretty placemats right now. Xmas looking.   Have fun.  Any questions just give me an email.



          21. thimbles1260 | | #50

            Thank you kayrosie, for the pictures as well as the fine instructions I think I can make them now!!

          22. User avater
            Becky-book | | #53


            I should have written:  fold at least one third of the tube up, now you have 3 pockets total 2 small and 1 long.


          23. thimbles1260 | | #54

            Thank you for the correction. I'll try making these purses this weekend.....I hope. I'd like to think that life will slow down for a little while on Saturday morning! LOL

          24. pinkit | | #55

            Hi thimbles 1260:  I have just finished making 6 of the placemat pocket books.  I don't know what the other people who have made these pocket books have used for decorations on the outside flap but the Threads Mag. suggested buttons, tassels or other embellishments of your own choice.  I wondered what to do about securing the flap.  I eventually read about velcro products that bond by heat and need no stitching. I have just completed useing this product for closures on the bags and it seems to work well.  How long it holds I do not know.  I will tell my granddaughters that if it fails simply return it to me and I will replace the closure.  Meanwhile I am considering some type of decorations for the outside of the flap.  I did find working with some of the purchased placemats to be tough going but by adjusting the machine and working slowly I have been able to complete the 6 bags.  GOOD LUCK! Hope your enjoy this project as much as I have.

          25. thimbles1260 | | #56

            Thank you for the great idea for using the velcro closure. I've never tried this product and have been looking for an excuse. I recently did a simple little pocketbook. I embellished it with yoyos as flowers and a leaf shape that I just sewed, turned and stitched down the middle. I used a wider size hook and eye closure. It's okay but pokey when I was anxious to get on to other things. There never enough time!!LOL

          26. User avater
            blondie2sew | | #26

            Thanks Becky,Yes this will most definitely help now I am hoping I will find time to whip some of these up before we leave. If not next trip.Thanks againConnie

          27. ctirish | | #43

            Connie, I am sorry I didn't get back to you. I realized logging on during the day kept me from getting anything work done around here.  Thanks to Becky for getting some good sizes for the shoe bags. I use flannel for them. I hope maybe the soft material will help shine them during the ups and downs of the trip. lol  There are great ideas here, I never thought of felting some wool to make the bowl.  I think that might make a nice bowl for a man or a box. The ones in my family would like the idea of a bowl or box but not in most of the fabrics I tend to purchase.  Wool would give some substance as well as the wide range of colors and textures to use.  I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving and is looking forward to more restful holidays. Well, time to sew, jane

          28. User avater
            blondie2sew | | #44

            Hey Jane,


            No problem I totally understand that one!!

            I am here on vacation so I will have to do my shoe bags for another trip!

            I totally agree there has been some great ideas on this thread!



        4. jatman | | #20

          Wow - a lot of ideas and information.  Thank you!


        5. msmagoo | | #38

          I too wondered about fabric bowls.  I've seen felted woolen bowls which were very attractive but I have never personally done felting.  A knit/yarn shop could tell you how, however, or might have printed instructions.

          1. jatman | | #39

            Hi MsMagoo!

            I have a book (or two?) on felting and it looks fascinating.  I would love to give it a try, however, it does look like it requires some specific tools and generates a bit of a mess so I've been putting that off for now.  Still, the fabric bowls have me intrigued. 

            I did make one of the sashes that was featured in Threads #126 as a gift.  It may have turned out so well that I need to make another one for myself.  That was a surprise - I didn't think I'd like it so much but I have to say that the time estimate was a little low - I think it took me an hour just to cut the material on the bias.  It was really nice material so I had to psych myself up before cutting into it!


      2. Kathleen | | #15

        There are a couple books called Fast, Fun and Easy Fabric Bowls, and Fast Fun and Easy Irresista-bowls  that I found intersting - I made one for my sister and she loved it. Check out Amazon - you can get one of the used books very inexpensively :)

      3. fabricholic | | #17

        Check out this website. http://www.secretsof.com/content/1734 They have pictures.Marcy

      4. Teaf5 | | #19

        Others have posted websites; I've seen them in one of the major pattern company books (can't remember which).  Most are trapezoidal pieces of stiffened fabric laced together.

        1. Teaf5 | | #22

          I just saw a fabric bowl pattern from Simplicity on sale at Joann's for $1 today; the sale goes through this holiday weekend.

      5. ctirish | | #21

        The book Fast, Fun and Easy Fabric Boxes is on sale at Clotilde's site for around $10.00, it is usually $16.95.

  9. ctirish | | #10

    I have made ornaments with software from Criswell. They have  a beautiful angel I made in different sizes and styles for gifts a couple of years ago. I used a very white cotton embroidery thread in a couple of different weights. Each weight made the texture and density different. They really came out nice, I took a class and then came home and spent two entire days making them. It was fun too. Criswell has sampler CD's with about 4 different designs on them so you don't have to buy a lot of them to get the look.



  10. Gloriasews | | #16

    I make djellabas (caftans) for my guys (& gals) from a patterns that was in Family Circle magazine in 1976, I think, (I've been making them for that long a time!).  The guys really like them, as their bathrobes were always too short & not wide enough that, when they sit down & cross their legs or spread their legs (like men sit), they give a "view" to everyone.  These robes are just 7 plain straight-cut pieces (no curves, except at the neckline, if you wish, or make them V or squared) that you measure with a yardstick & cut - can be made in about 3 hours, unless you embellish them around the neck & sleeves with embroidery stitches, ribbon, etc.  (They don't have hoods & are ankle-length).  I also make potholders (either appliqued or Crayola-ed, then quilted), sheer ponchos, & crocheted slippers. 

    About the fabric bowls that everyone mentioned, how do you wash them?

  11. sherryv | | #33

    I love the scented coils you can make in a coaster size for hot mugs, or in a larger size as a trivet.  They are filled with spices or rice & fragrant oils and can also be used as drawer sachets or even put one under a jar candle to help protect the surface below.   Here's a link. [This pattern uses hot glue, but I've also seen them slip-stitched together.]


    1. jatman | | #34

      Another great idea!  Thank you very much!


  12. lcac | | #40

    I'm making mittens for everyone from fleece, using up leftovers and personalizing, IE animal skin print for my niece who is mad for them, embroidered initials for little ones, matching scarf and hat for mom etc. The mittens are simple mitt shape, cut 4 per side, front and back of fashion fabric fleece, front and back in plain coordinate color for lining. Sew up outside edge to curved top, add some elastic, 3/4 of inside measurement, stretched over width on palm side then finish sewing perimeter. Clip and trim seams, turn fashion fabric set and place lining inside. Turn a mutual seam at the the cuff and top stitch to finish . Easy and warm, can be embellished in a hundred ways.

    1. jatman | | #41


      That's a great idea.  This board has been wonderful - I would never have thought of any of these things on my own.  Thank you!


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