Hand-sewn gifts | 5 reasons why you should and 5 reasons not to bother

Hand-sewn gifts | 5 reasons why you should and 5 reasons not to bother

As sewers, we have a skill that might seem a bit magical to other people –  turning a piece of flat fabric into a beautiful 3D garment that fits and flatters. Not to mention all the other situations when it helps with more mundane or practical issues like sorting out the kitchen curtains. But how other do you use your ability for hand-sewn gifts?

Sewing as a profession aside, home sewers sometimes categorise themselves as selfish or selfless sewers, depending on their inclination to use their skills for themselves or for others. I am a very selfish sewer and I usually flat refuse to make things for anyone other than myself. However, I have been on a sewing gifts spree lately which lead me to wonder what other sewers feel about hand-sewn gift giving. Are you for or against it and why? I’ve made a list of pros and cons to get the conversation started.

5 reasons to give hand-sewn gifts

1| Give a one-of-a-kind-gift

One of my favourite reasons for giving hand-sewn gifts is that they will be completely unique. I can take into account the personality of the recipient, their likes and dislikes and any other things I know about them that will make the gift, unlike anything they can buy in shops. Especially when it comes to garments, I like that I can customise a gift for someone’s measures and particular body features. A bespoke piece of clothing can make the wearer feel amazing in their skin and can have such positive effects on their self-confidence. 

Raw Silk Navy Bolero handmade using pattern New Look 6080
Custom-made bolero for my mother-in-law

2| Get brownie points with friends and family

 

Dress I made for my sister to recreate a RTW dress she absolutely loves.

Now I’m not saying that you should be trading sewing gifts for favours, but it does sometimes happen that when people ask me to sew something for them, I get in their good books for the foreseeable future. Especially for people who appreciate the work that goes into sewing a garment or an item, it really warms my heart when they appreciate and enjoy a heart-felt sewn gift.

3| Incorporate memories or special occasions

I have seen quite a few examples of memory quilts or memory cushions made from clothes of dear ones that have passed away, or from clothes that the children might have outgrown. If you can sew, you can give a priceless gift to someone that will help them treasure the memory of a loved one for a long time to come, which in itself can be a major comfort. Similarly, a gift for a special occasion, like a new baby, a wedding or an anniversary, can help preserve a physical reminder a special day for a much longer period of time.  

4| Save money

If you are on a budget, giving  a hand-sewn gift can help save a bit of money, especially if you are using fabric and trims that you already have in your stash. Of course, this is not counting your labour, but I am assuming you enjoy sewing and therefore it will make up in fun for the work you are putting in.

 

Gift zipped pouch made from a fabric swatch with a zipper from my stash and a fabric scrap as lining. Cost: £0

5| Have fun sewing without adding new clothes to your wardrobe

Attempting to build a minimalist wardrobe when you have a sewing passion is very difficult, as you want to sew all the time. A good way to direct this passion away from fast-sewing is to make things for other people as gifts. If you are anything like me, you might tend to put in more care, time and effort when sewing for other people than when you are trying to finish something for yourself. So making things for other might take up more time and slow your sewing down, but get the same amount of pleasure.

Seamwork-Almada-Summer-Kimono-Blue-Grey-metallic-thread-cotton

 

2x of this Almada kimono robe were the only sewing projects I completed this summer. Both were gifts. New garments added to my closet? NIL!

5 reasons to avoid hand-sewn gifts

1| Your effort can go unappreciated

That is my main pet hate when sewing for other people. Especially in today’s throw-away society, when people expect clothes to materialise on the rails in shops, few understand the amount of time and effort that goes into sewing a garment. So it can happen that the recipient just won’t appreciate how much went into a gift and treat it just like any mass-produced item. 

2| People expect labels or gifts from a well-known brand

This has not happened to me personally, but I have seen folks in the sewing community complain that the recipients of their gifts were disappointed with getting a handmade item instead of a known label. I guess the brag value of a unique, customised item does not stack up very well against an instagramable piece of designer clothing. 

3| The recipient might think you are being cheap

In a similar vein, I have heard people complain that they have been accused of being cheap for giving handmade presents, instead of buying something. Yes, as mentioned above, you could save money by making hand-sewn presents, but more often than not, a handmade item can cost more than buying a similar one from the shops. That is of course not taking into account the labour that the giver might have put into it. Again, this may come from not understanding the ins and outs of home sewing. 

4| Pressure to make a perfect item

I often struggle when sewing for other people with the pressure of perfectionism. Whilst I can (sometimes) live with things being less than perfect when I sew for myself, it’s very difficult not to be too hard on myself when sewing for others. 

5| Time pressure

Often when sewing for other people can be related to a deadline, like a birthday, Christmas, a particular occasion that the gift needs to be ready for. I am the queen of procrastination, so I often postpone until the last minute and then I am in a mad rush to finish on time. While a bit of pressure can be good to focus the mind, last-minute sewing may not be great for your peace of mind.


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Considering making hand-sewn gifts? Here are 5 reasons why you should and 5 reasons not to bother. Via Sewrendipity.com

As with so many things, the answer is more often than not ‘it depends’. I tend to only sew for people I know would appreciate the gift and I am sure they would put it to good use. I am a very practical gifter anyway, I always go for the practical item that I know would come in handy. So I tend to stick to that rule with hand-sewn gifts as well. I don’t like surprises, so I often prefer to let people know in advance and make sure they are on board with what I am planning on making or it’s a request that will be delivered for a special occasion, like a birthday or Christmas. Sometimes I just spring stuff on people, but that’s usually the most stressful scenario.

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT HAND-SEWN GIFTS? ARE YOU FOR OR AGAINST IT? DO YOU IDENTIFY WITH ANY OF THE REASONS I LISTED? ANYTHING YOU WOULD LIKE TO ADD? TELL ME IN COMMENTS.

 

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23 Comments

  1. 12 August 2018 / 7:25 PM

    You’ve written a BEAUTIFUL list Alex! All the pros and cons in one fell swoop 🙂 I agree with it ALL. I don’t make things for other people (I used to when I was in my ’20’s probably because I had such an impressive abundance of energy and optimism THEN 🙂 ) but when someone gives me something they’ve made I’m over the moon impressed. I think you have to BE a maker perhaps? to fully appreciate the loving energy it takes to create something for someone. Don’t throw pearls at swine my grandmother used to say 🙂 so be circumspect about WHO you are making for.

    • Alex
      Author
      12 August 2018 / 7:51 PM

      Thank you, Kathleen! I see where you are coming from on the maker angle, but I think that is even more stressful, making things for people who actually know what good sewing looks like, ha ha! But completely agree, I gave up making stuff for people who don’t appreciate it, I’d rather just be selfish and make stuff for me :).

      • 13 August 2018 / 6:44 AM

        I think a maker doesn’t have to be someone who sews. Anyone who puts time and effort into any craft , diy or even cooking appreciates the personal input more.

  2. Elaine Marsh
    12 August 2018 / 9:05 PM

    Yes, I agree with your list of for’s and against sewing for others, although it’s mostly against. I have found that whilst you value the skill that goes into it, the recipient doesn’t unless they too do the same for you. My sewing skills go far beyond clothes and you can be taken advantage of for your skills, as it is considered a cheaper alternative, by some! I can never ask for any money for what I do as favours. I have made a few gifts, but then I felt it was not appreciated, not even in kind. I had the grand idea of my labels inside the garments when I wanted to sell my wares but it all didn’t happen because of various reasons. Now I just sew for myself and customized some bought things or re style things to update them. I do love to sew or embroider. I loved your kimono bye the way.🌹

    • sewrendipityalex
      Author
      14 August 2018 / 9:10 AM

      Thank you.

      I agree, I find it really difficult to ask for money. I did get a case of prosecco for making some curtains for someone I could not refuse, but it was such a horrendous experience (I hate curtains) that I swore never again!

  3. 13 August 2018 / 12:39 AM

    My rules are: is that I only sew for people I am married to, people that I have shared DNA with or VERY close friends (there are 4 of these). In my experience sewing is a skill that is extremely undervalued and people have no idea of how much effort things take. I have been insulted and offended by a response by a gift of something I have made, and it coloured my relationship with that person, so I choose not to sew for most people anymore, and I get to keep the friends I have. And I get to sew more for myself. WIN!

    • sewrendipityalex
      Author
      14 August 2018 / 9:12 AM

      My husband made me promise never to attempt to make anything for him, in case he doesn’t like it and it will upset me. And completely agree on more time to sew for myself! The sewing queue is too long and there is never enough time!

  4. 13 August 2018 / 6:02 AM

    I do love to make handmade gifts but I am particular about who is the recipient for all the reasons you outline. I have one friend who is always visibly disappointed when I give her something I haven’t made myself!

  5. Lis Taylor
    13 August 2018 / 7:42 AM

    I really enjoy making things for others and feel guilty about only making clothes for myself. I do however feel much more pressure for the finished article to be perfect and that is my main reason against doing it more – apart from my sewing queue! I find I enjoy the process less and it’s worse when someone indicates they would love a specific item. Still so far the gifts have been really well received and I am sure I will do more in the future.

    • sewrendipityalex
      Author
      14 August 2018 / 9:19 AM

      That’s great that you had such positive experiences! What types of gifts do you tend to sew?

  6. 13 August 2018 / 8:52 AM

    I love making gifts for people, it still seems pretty ‘selfish’ considering I enjoy it so much! 😁👍 I’ve mainly gone with bags or wallets for the adults though, kids clothes are much easier to fit! 😅👍🙏

    • sewrendipityalex
      Author
      14 August 2018 / 9:24 AM

      Your friends and family are very lucky! I hardly ever make kids clothes, my nieces just grow so fast!

  7. 13 August 2018 / 8:58 AM

    I can identify with all the pros and cons on the list. As a sewer, I’m only beginning, so the excitement of it still only centers round making things for myself and I’m not so sure my skills are up to making things for gifts…there’s that pressure for perfection point! As a knitter though, where my skills far out weigh my sewing ones, I don’t mind admitting I’m a selfish knitter. I’ve done the whole giving gifts when I was younger, in my teens and early 20s, generally they were appreciated. Then as a designer I just didn’t have the time and much more was expected in the gifts. Now that I’m no longer designing I’m not going to go back to gift giving because now I’m older and I value my time a lot more. I think if it was an item that someone was in need of, this might be the only reason I’d reconsider it.

    • sewrendipityalex
      Author
      14 August 2018 / 9:27 AM

      I completely see where you are coming from, knitting just takes so much longer. I can hardly have the patience to make something for myself, let alone someone else. I remember my gran knitting woollen socks for my dad to wear in his rubber boots when fishing. He thought no shop-bought ones will be as good. That’s real need for you :).

      • 14 August 2018 / 10:07 AM

        It will be interesting to see if my approach to sewn gifts will be the same as my approach to knitted ones. I think I will have to revisit this point after some time. Once you wear hand knit socks you will never wear anything else 🙂 !

  8. 13 August 2018 / 1:14 PM

    I can relate to everything discussed here. I used to enjoy sewing for others but have had a few frustrating experiences recently where garments I’ve made haven’t quite fit the recipient, and it feels so gutting to have invested so much time and effort into something that is either unwearable or needs yet more time and effort to fix! I’m definitely having a cooling off period for making garments for anyone other than my boyfriend who I live with, so is easy to fit on the go (and is hugely appreciative of anything I make for him). That said I will make simple items like bags etc – as there aren’t fit issues to contend with and they’re a good way of using up scraps.

    • sewrendipityalex
      Author
      14 August 2018 / 9:32 AM

      Yes, that’s a very good point about using scraps. I mean, how many bags and pouches can you have at any one time, right?

      Re fitting, I only sew garments for people I can have access too easily for fitting. The person I sewed for the most was a work colleagues I saw everyday and we used to do fitting sessions in the disabled toilet. I also sew for my sister as we are pretty much the same, so it’s like sewing for me and passing the garment on.

      Thank you for your comment!

  9. 13 August 2018 / 4:37 PM

    I find your post quite interesting. I consider myself a selfish maker. I do occasionally do handmade gifts (I tend to stick to kimonos, little bags or things that do not require fitting to a person. But how many of those can one make and give away?!!). Recently I had a bad experience with a handmade gift for my brother that practically put me off making anything else for him. He has no idea how much time I’ve spent making it for him. So, I think someone who makes stuff (not necessarily sewing them) can appreciate all the time and work that goes into the handmade item. Your list of pros/cons is pretty much to the point.

    • sewrendipityalex
      Author
      14 August 2018 / 9:37 AM

      I was thinking about you when I wrote this, as I knew you were making something for your brother. Sorry it was not properly appreciated. I found with my sister, for whom I sew from time to time, that although she doesn’t really appreciate the effort, she really loves that the final outcome is customised and just what she wanted, that she values the gift a lot.

  10. Kaye
    13 August 2018 / 5:12 PM

    I primarily sew for myself, and I must admit I loathe the term “selfish sewing” . It’s a craft I enjoy and I am constantly building skill & learning new things. I do Sew gifts occasionally, for those in my family & friends circle that I believe are Sew-worthy. I never make things as surprises, and if an item is under appreciated or is deemed too precious to use, that person is off my list. I think that the one thing I would add to the con list is the person who thinks a handmade item is too prescious to use & carefully puts its away to never see the light again. I want that item in daily use. I want to see it grubby or worn from regular use.

    • sewrendipityalex
      Author
      14 August 2018 / 9:41 AM

      I have had this conversation around selfish sewing with my friend Kate from Time to Sew all the time. I think it’s now become one of those sewing community stereotypes that we just roll out without thinking (guilty!). And I love the term ‘sew-worthy’, I will adopt it!

      I never thought about that point, as I don’t think anyone in my circle appreciates what I gave them enough for them to think that, ha ha! Usually they don’t wear it because they don’t like it, so that serves me right for surprising them :).

      Thank you for commenting!

  11. gilliancrafts
    13 August 2018 / 7:53 PM

    I love sewing gifts for people… except in the lead up to Christmas when I’ve left myself a million things to do and none of them are a sparkley dress for me! 😉 If I remember to mis it up, then I’m ok.

    • sewrendipityalex
      Author
      14 August 2018 / 9:43 AM

      Oh, Christmas! I gave up a long time ago on sewing loads for everyone. I usually see my family in early January (they live abroad), so sometimes I might sew more leisurely during the actual holidays, instead of a mad dash before.

So, what do you think?

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