Handmade Holiday: Christmas Sweater Edition

Posted in: Handmade Holiday — By on December 16, 2014 6:23 PM

Back in September, my brother and his girlfriend had a special request for Christmas: Custom sweaters for a Christmas party that will win the Christmas sweater competition.

I think that I fulfilled the brief.

Behold:

I had way too much fun with this project. I was going to go the obscenely tacky route at first, but after coming across this Christmas kitty fleece from Jo-Ann’s Fabrics during my brainstorming, I realized that I could make tacky sweaters that Steve and Angela would actually love to wear! (They are cat people.)

Since I used a different approach for making each sweater, I’ll tell you about them individually…

HERS

For Angela, I wanted to make something with a boat neck because she often wears that style and it’s really flattering on her. It would also make the sweater a bit cooler because the fleece is really warm – I think it was intended to make a blanket! I decided to make the Flashdance sweater in Sew U Home Stretch by Wendy Mullins, but made the neck 1″ higher and the body 3″ longer than the pattern and used fleece rather than ribbing cuffs and waistband.

It was my first time using a pattern from that book, and I loved how easy it was to use the raglan pattern as a starting point and customize it as I liked. In total, I think this sweater took about 30 minutes to stitch up using my serger.

I’ll definitely be making a similar sweatshirt for myself… maybe not with kitty fleece though!

HIS

For my brother, knowing how warm the fleece was, I didn’t want to make the sweater entirely using the fleece because it would have been way to warm to actually wear at his party. I had the idea of doing a colour-blocked raglan sweatshirt after seeing one of the characters on my favourite show, Coronation Street, wearing one, and thought the kitty pocket would add the right amount of cheesiness.

To get the fit right, I decided to buy a sweatshirt from Value Village that was a good style and use that as the basis for my pattern. (It was also cheaper and more eco-friendly than buying new knits for the sweater.) The only one I found that was the right size and colour had a screenprinted logo, so I turned it inside out for a blank canvas!

I cut the sleeves off in a raglan style rather than their original style and used those as my pattern pieces after I’d carefully cut off the cuffs.

After that, I simply serged the cuffs onto the new sleeves and the new sleeves onto the sweater. Finally, I used my sewing machine to stitch a little pocket on to add some sass! All in, about 20 minutes of sewing!

I was so glad that Steve and Angela loved the sweaters when we celebrated Christmas this past weekend. That said, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to top this. I should retire from gift-giving so I go out on a high! Also, I didn’t realize how wide the fabric was when I ordered it so I have plenty of these Christmas kitties left. Luckily I know plenty of cat lovers, so I see lots more awesome sewing projects in the future.

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This project got me thinking about my passion for sewing and making things. In particular, the ‘quick and dirty’ nature of my approach to these sweaters reminded me of the days when I was just learning to sew. I remember how exciting it was when I could use my beginner-level knowledge of sewing to understand how things were made. It seemed any garment, purse or accessory was possible to fix or recreate if I just looked closely enough at it, which was very empowering. I religiously checked Craftster for new inspiration and tutorials, to see the wonderful, wacky things that other crafters were posting, and often discussed these with some crafty friends and coworkers. Eventually I took a stab at selling purses and accessories on Etsy and at local craft shows, and a few years later I worked with Jordynn to start this blog to share my love of sewing with others.

In the last few years, I’ve wanted to ‘up my game’ with quilting and garment-making, and did less sewing of the ‘quick and dirty’ variety. For garments I’ve stuck very closely to the sewing patterns because I haven’t felt confident altering them, and the quilts I’ve made are pretty traditional. I also find myself reading sewing blogs that are more focused on the technical, and sometimes business, side of sewing rather than more creative ones. Similarly, sewing has satisfied my urge to make stuff, but not so much my creativity.

I love learning new techniques and challenging myself, but this Christmas sweater project, as well as the Halloween costumes I made in October, were more like the first projects I made when I started to sew. It was a nice reminder of that “Hey, I can make that!” mentality that inspired me to sew in the first place. (And, now that I have young son, that approach fits in well with having much less time for sewing.)

Since I’ve officially conquered my serger (which was my goal for a few years), I finally get to have a new sewing goal. So, for me, 2015 will be the year of both ‘quick and dirty’ sewing while still trying to ‘up my game’. Stay tuned!

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