Sunday, 2 December 2012

Do It Yourself Christmas - gift ideas for the person that likes to make stuff

Last week I looked at a Christmas gift guide in a mainstream British newspaper. It included ideas for presents to buy for 'crafty people,' but listed just five items, two of which were pieces of clothing. In my opinion, if you are buying something for a crafty person they will like it most if:

a) They can use it to make something
 b) It is something that has been made by someone else who likes to make stuff.

I decided to put together a little list of such things and called upon a number of people to help me. From seamstresses to zinesters, this group of women are creative pioneers, doing their own DIY thing here in London. It has been really exciting to receive so many brilliant suggestions for making-related and independent gifts and I am very happy to share them all here.



I begin with a few of my own suggestions. Firstly, this set of sexy black pins by Merchant & Mills. designed to look like something you would find in an ancient apothecary, these pins are long, strong and sharp. What more could you want.

These pins are also available from Ray Stitch and  John Lewis, which are both very fine places to start looking for gifts for seamstresses.

I love my sleeve ironing board more each time I use it. Mine is quite ugly, but I found this extremely handsome wooden one available online. Receiving this as a gift would make my day.



Another tool I have learned to love as a result of using one whilst teaching at The Thrifty Stitcher is the dressmaker's magnet. When you have crawled around on your knees carefully picking up pins for the third time in one day, you will be crying out for one of these.


Of course, a magnet from the pound shop would do the trick, it doesn't have to come in a fancy box, but it does look nice.

Finally on my short list of practical sewing suggestions would be a selection of threads. There is a company on Ebay selling sets of ten colour-themed threads. This might not sound like a great present, but to one who loves to sew it truly is. 



The girls at The Papered Parlour recommend haberdashery shop Barnett & Lawson. They are situated on on Little Portland Street in central London but you can shop online. 

"Barnett and Lawson feels like a sewing speakeasy — This subterranean shop is crammed from floor to ceiling with trimmings, tassels, buttons, braid and lingerie, millinery and upholstery findings. You are guaranteed to find stuff here you can’t find anywhere else. I challenge anyone not to come out with their wallet feeling decidedly lighter, but having gained about 100lbs worth of every seamstress' essential (and not-so essential) goods."



To start sewing, of course one needs a sewing machine, a present suggested by Barley Massey, who sells machines at her shop Fabrications.

It would be a generous gift-giver who decides to provide someone with this invaluable tool, though a machine doesn't have to be super expensive. Barley says "Brother currently have some great winter offers with a starting price of £99 and free carry bag on their UJW17 model." I also recommend going second-hand for good value. Get down to your local sewing machine shop and have a browse. I got my amazing Toyota for £60.00 at Sew Amazing last year and it is still chugging away, doing everything I could wish it to do.

Sewing can be intimidating, and the gift of confidence would be a great one. Claire-Louise Hardie, the true sewing professional and clothes making guru who runs The Thrifty Stitcher says, "with so much of the media telling us to get crafty, lots of folk may not know where to get started. sewing can seem overwhelming, particularly the use of paper patterns. Cloth kits is an old company (popular in the 70's) that has had a resurrengence. Instead of needing a pattern, the shapes for each project are already printed onto the fabric."

Claire-Louise recommends the kit for making a girl's dress. Having browsed their website, I think this skirt  making kit at £42.00 looks encouragingly simple for a beginner and has a unique city-scape fabric.




Tilly Walness from super sewing blog Tilly and the Buttons is a gung-ho dressmaker, as keen to design her own garments as she is to use a really good pattern. For another un-intimidating way to start sewing, she recommends the Ohhh Lulu sewing pattern called 'The Betty High Waist Panties.' This pattern allows you to make this beautiful vintage pair of mega pants.



Claire-Louise recommends this  knicker making kit (it comes with fabric and trimmings) by FloJo for £15.00. She says "You can either give this kit as a pressie, or make a pair of knickers from it as a pressie, and best of all, once you've bought the kit, you can re-make the knickers over and over with the pattern. try rustling some up from vintage silk scarves."


This Merchant & Mills seamstress mug for £8.50 is also high up on Tilly's Christmas wish list.

Is it me or does it look like it's levitating?


Another beautiful knicker making kit has been created by Charm & Laundry. It allows you to make this pair of elegant pants. Home sewn versions of these pants made to order in the fabric of your choice are also available on their website for £13.00

If you want to give your loved one the gift of clothes-making freedom, you might like to think about introducing them to DIYcouture (what kind of entrepreneur would I be if I didn't recommend my own books!?) The DIYcouture instructions use illustrations and photographs to patiently show pattern-fearing clothes-lovers how to create their own garments from scratch.


I have also written a bumper book of instructions for twelve clothing designs. For a look inside the pages, check out the dedicated page on the Laurence King website.


For those that like to sketch ideas before they dive in to making, this human outline stencil from Paperchase would make a a fun design aid. I can only find a picture of the stencil featuring male outlines, but they must have a female one somewhere.



To help visualise ideas for outfits, the ultimate present has been invented by Fashionary. This is the must-have clothing sketch book that has taken the fashion world by storm. The pages feature barely visible templates that you can trace to create designs, and each book contains a bountiful visual dictionary of design details, such as a double spread with images of seams and stitches.


Fashionary also now sell memo pads with individual templates framed on small post-it like sheets, so you can stick your fashion sketches all over the house/bus/public toilet. 

If you're buying gifts for someone who already loves to make clothes, or is thinking about starting, fabric would be a great gift. Most fabric shops sell vouchers, and I know no gift would make me happier than a token that would allow me to have a mini fabric shopping spree.

For vouchers from online fabric shops look at Sew Box and The Fabric Godmother. For shops in London look at Ray Stitch, or go to one of the many shops on Goldhawk Road. For ethical fabric get a gift voucher from Offset Warehouse. This pioneering fabric company sells end-of-roll fabrics that would otherwise be discarded, and fairtrade fabrics from around the world.

For unique, high end fabric you can do no better that Linton Tweeds. They make beautiful weaves that are used by catwalk designers and were a favourite of Coco Chanel. These fabrics range from the serious and subtle to the truly psychedelic  and are perfect for winter trousers and blazers.

If you want to really blow the mind of your fabric loving friend, buy them a Spoonflower voucher or welcome packSpoonflower is a brilliant website that allows anyone to upload there own design, which they will then print onto the fabric of your choice.

To give someone inspirational and practical help creating modern digital designs, look no further than this amazing how-to book by Melanie Bowles, which has proved such a smash hit that it has gone into it's second print run.



If your intended gift recipient is into the idea of self-sufficiency in fashion, you might like to book them a place on a shoe making workshop at London's 'I CAN Make Shoes.' Their brave, encouraging motto is, 'Making your own shoes isn't as hard as you think,' and they're right, of course.

For a cheaper route to footwear freedom, buy your friend this 'Sandal making for beginners' ebook for just £6.95, or some of the shoe-making accessories available on the I Can Make Shoes website, such as this chunky heel for just £5.00. It's a step in the right direction.


It's nice to make things and it's also nice to fix things. Sometimes, much loved and well worn clothing can be rescued with a little bit of clever mending. With that in mind, Rachael Matthews from Prick Your Finger recommends giving this 'Made by Dad' darning mushroom for £9.99.

Rachael says, "It comes in a variety of woods, all from trees blown down in storms in the lake district where he lives and makes them. (Dad, is actually my Dad) . Darning is a great thing to do over Christmas when visiting strange relations, who will I dare say have holes somewhere, and be very grateful to you for fixing them."

Whilst we're on the subject of fixing and giving new life, Sugru is a must buy item. I strongly believe everybody in the world should receive a packet of Sugru this Christmas.

"WTF is Sugru?", you may ask yourself. Don't worry, someone has made a video that answers your valid question. Sugru is a bit like lego, but it's squidgy, like blu-tac, and it dries to form a solid plastic-like substance, and it's stronger than the strongest glue you can find at a hardware shop. All of this means it is very very, useful.

The Sugru website is full of pictures posted by Sugru-users that show the many ingenious ways that this colourful little invention can be utilised. 



 From mending to customization, or upcycling, or whatever you want to call it: there is a whole section on Etsy called 'supplies,' which is an amazing place to electronically wander through looking for presents for your crafty friend.

I recommend buying studs for dressing up clothing, particularly collars, like the one shown in the picture below by The Daily Routine or this one from Kingdom of Style.


These gold pyramid studs would be a source of exciting ideas for your crafting friend. They cost just $4.99 USD.



Studs come in all sorts of colours. These pink studs cost just $2.50 USD.



Another little present suitable for a keen DIYer would be an embroidery pattern from Sublime Stitching, available on their website or at at Ray Stitch in London. They make themed pattern sheets with subjects such as 'Meaty Treats, 'Chinatown,' 'Unicorn Believer' and the one shown here, 'Chi Chi Fever.' 

Couple this pattern with some coloured thread and a cool baby blue embroidery hoop and you are setting someone up to create psychedelically delicious hand embellished fashion heaven.




I asked queen of make, Momtaz Begum-Hossain, author of "101+ Things To Do With Glitter", for advice on craft related gift ideas. Momtaz is a passionate author and crafter and says about her book, "It's the sparkliest book ever and as all crafters like craft books, it's one to add to their collection. Not only are there 100 projects that have glitter in them there's all sorts of different techniques among the projects showing you how to work with resin, air dry clay, decoupage, applique etc...and some of them are super quick five minute jobs."

Why not buy your friend a selection of glitters to accompany the book for Christmas. I got this lot from the £1 shop. 



Momtaz also recommends these craft nail transfersShe says, "I love homemade things with a homemade theme. These are an ingenious idea, great choice of images and amazing price." She's right; they cost just £2.95.


Another homemade-thing-with-a-homemade-theme suggested by Momtaz is this pin cushion, available from Folksy for £6.95.



A number of  my crafty gurus suggested knitting related gifts, which I am grateful for, as I am clueless when it comes to woolen creations. Tilly suggested this 'Learn To Knit Kit' from Purl Bee, which includes wool, needles and a booklet of vital knitting terminologies. It costs $62.00 USD.


Rachel suggested another simple kit to get would-be knitters started. It's this Easy Scarf Kit, which comes with hand printed instructions on how to knit, an extremely generous amount of chunky merino roving wool in various colour combinations and two sizes of knitting needle, which you interchange to make thick and thin stripes. It costs £40.00.

Rachel says, "As well as working an interesting effect, this helps with learning to control your tension when you are a beginner knitter. One lovely long scarf could be knitted in one Christmas week."


Though not exactly knitting, Rachael also suggests a Prick Your Finger bundle of bits for £10.00 (go to their lovely shop to get it.)


In her words, "Bundles are an opportunity for creative exploration and suprise.  This is a collection of carefully picked threads, in sensitive colour ranges and textures.  Each individual bundle is designed to provoke ideas.  They have been used to stitch on knitwear as customization, be tied altogether and knitted and crocheted into hats and bags, or simply hung on the wall for inspiration.   A Bundle is something you can choose specifically with the aura of your friend in mind, and watch how the challenge progresses, and results appear.   There's no saying what this product is for, and definitely no rules."

I customized this creeper with a Prick Your Finger bundle earlier in the week (spiky studs not included). If you are quite wealthy or especially generous, you could even buy someone the bundle AND this classic punk rock suede creeper from Underground Shoes, which conveniently has holes all over it providing the perfect surface for weaving.


Barley Massey suggested another great tool for beginner knitters; these massive knitting needles, which are  available exclusively at Fabrications in Hackney, London. As you can see, these ones are almost as long as the knitter herself.


These full size (135cm long) needles cost £28 or the half size (70cm) cost £24. Barley says "enter the creative world of macro knitting - blankets, rugs and more can be knitted in no time!"

Moving on from textile related pass times now, Lauren from independent craft venue The Papered Parlour recommends giving tools for screen printing such as silk screens and squeedgees. These can be bought new, though Ebay and Gumtree often have second hand frames.



For £50.55 you could buy someone a full starter's screen printing kit for fabric, or for £77.50 book them a place on a screen printing workshop at The Papered Parlour.

 Another rout into printing is a book by Lena Corwin called  'Printing By Hand,' which is available online or at The Make Lounge, a craft emporium in North London.

There's a short review and more pictures of the book here, which is where I stole this picture from. 


Turning from printmaking tools to prints, zines and artwork, I asked Ellen Lindler for advice. Ellen Lindler is a graphic novelist and also the editor of The Strumpet, a transatlantic comics magazine showcasing art by upcoming women cartoonists. This magazine would make a great present. It is packed full of great stories and great artwork.

 Ellen says "My favorite artist in prints and zines at the moment is Esther McManus, a London-based silkscreen wizardess."

The print by Esther shown below is featured in a zine called Conjunction in which 13 artists tackle the subject of meat. The zine costs £5.00.


Esther also has work in this beautiful book called The Lumberjacks, which costs £12.00 and has work by 33 different artists in it. That sounds like a bargain.


Whilst we are on the subject of wood, this forest-imbued piece of art was suggested as a gift by my colleague at Bag Books, Helen Boyd, who is an avid baker. We sit side-by-side two days a week making things with our hands, and often end up talking about handmade things.

 This hand printed stretched canvas is available for £35.00 by emailing esther@electricsyrupytoast.com


For more hand printed treats, Ellen says "I am a big fan of cartooning couple Gareth Brookes and J. Homersham - their online shop has all of their ace prints (Gareth is a world-beating linocut artist), comics and zines."

I love their greetings card set, which you can buy for just £5.00 here.


Ellen also recommends a trip to the comic shop Gosh, which is on Berwick Street in Soho. There you will find graphic novels galore, as well as comics, prints and even some signed artwork.

I like the look of this comic called Windowpane by Joe Kessler, which is also available for just £8.50 direct from his website.


If you think looking at all these carefully handmade books will make your loved one want to make there own books, I highly recommend buying them 'How to make books,' by Esther K. Smith. Not only is this a beautiful publication, but it includes all the instructions you need to start creating your own zines and hand bound books.  


A would-be zine maker will also need pens. The Sharpie is the classic coloured marker, but you don't need to go with this brand. Just get down to your local stationary shop and pick out a selection of pens, pencils and crayons. Your craft loving friend will be overjoyed, I promise.

If your friend likes making things from paper but isn't into drawing, why not get them a selection of rubber stamps. You can design your own custom stamp or buy a premade design. This stamp featuring the Greek jackal-headed god Annubis is available for £4.65 from Blade Rubber. 



There are some pretty hand carved stamps available on the blog Memi The Rainbow, including a set featuring  The Little Prince.

This is the end of my Christmas gift guide for those that like making things. I'm sure it is the tip of the iceberg, so please do join in by posting your recommendations below.

7 comments:

  1. This is a truly awesome post. I'd be overjoyed if someone gifted me with a sleeveboard like that (I've broken the "new and improved" cheap models already) and I have got to check out a store called Blade Rubber. Considering I love P.K. Dick and his Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Best. Christmas. Round Up. EVAH!!!! I'm just going to forward this to all my friends and family. This must have taken so much work - thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great post :) I have a DIY recommendation as well: Lumi inkodye kits. You can sunprint photos or other motives on fabric with this stuff. Have a look here: http://lumi.co/

    ReplyDelete
  4. I thought the mug was levitating too when I saw it on Tilly's blog :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. great post! my browser is now full of new windows of cool things to look at!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thank you for commenting, it's really nice to hear that you have enjoyed looking at the lovely things my crafty gurus recommended. I'm glad this list has proved useful.

    @Anne thanks for adding the Lumi kit link, this stuff sounds amazing and is going straight onto my own Christmas wish list.

    Happy Christmas gift seeking : ) Rosie xx

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thank you, what a brilliant post. I regret discovering it a month too late, but I've taken notes and will be back. I have many creative friends and am torn between staying silent and scoring points for producing unusual gifts for them or sharing your link and letting them discover all the goodies that you recommend.

    ReplyDelete