Like most of us garment sewists, I have mixed feelings about home dec projects. I figure if you’re going to be stuck looking at some pillow, you might as well do a good job of it, but once you delve into the world all the interesting details in garment sewing, it’s hard to go back to the long, straight seams involved in home dec. Still, like everyone else, I found myself in a situation this year where it could not be avoided.
In our first house, hosting Christmas for the first time, I found myself in need of stockings for the fireplace. Bored with traditional palettes and stocking kits, I set out to make my own pretty stockings. Blinded by the beauty of the celery corduroy, pink wool plaid, and turquoise faille, it didn’t register that I would have to actually sew 7 stockings.
One morning I found myself wide awake at 3 am. I knew that cutting out all of these stockings was going to be irritating, so I figured I might as well get cracking since I was awake anyhow. In an hour I cut out lining, underlining, and the stockings. My hands were sore (a dumb thing to do before playing violin for several hours at church…)but I was ready to sew.
My kids slept long one afternoon that week and I plunked down and sewed together all 7 stockings. Stockings are not difficult; they are much like handbags, but multiplied by 7 and attempting to finish in one naptime is about where the crazy train falls off the cliff. Once I came out of the fog of my frenzied making, I learned some things about myself and about sewing.
- Garment sewing provides natural breaks: Because there are so many different components in a garment, there are more opportunities for mental breaks than there are in home dec sewing. Sewing long, straight seams and not having to press them as frequently as in garment sewing means that you’re sitting at your machine for a long time going slow because you have big thick fabrics. When starting a home dec project, force yourself to take breaks every hour.
- Rome doesn’t have to be built in a day: The more annoying I find a project, the faster I want to get it done. Just because I can make 7 stockings in a naptime doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. Trying to overload yourself is just going to lead to creative burn out. And let’s face it, you don’t have time for burn out because there’s some glittering cocktail dress you want to sew for all of those glittering cocktail parties that you go to.
- Really invest some time picking out fabric for home dec: Though sewing them will be more sleep-inducing than Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War, you really will be happy with those dumb pillows or curtains if you only buy fabric that you really love. I scoured Denver Fabrics for corduroy, wool, faille, and linens, canvas, and some random remnants. Because they’re all natural fibers, they look fresher and less cheesy to me than stocking kits or prefab stockings and the different textures of these fabrics add verve and visual interest to what are usually pretty boring decorations. The updated color palette that I settled on just makes me happy too. Best of all, as I gaze at them on the mantle this holiday season, I am grateful that I will not have to make replacements for them for a very long time.
Bonus: the scraps provided me more than enough fabric to provide me an my glue gun some quality time together with 92 buttons.
Elizabeth Farr is the writer behind the Elizabeth Made This blog where she shares helpful sewing tips, step by step sewing tutorials and videos to help you explore your creativity through sewing. She has written sewing Eguides and patterns, been a featured teacher at Rebecca Page’s Sewing Summit and Jennifer Maker’s Holiday Maker Fest and her work has appeared in Seamwork and Altered Couture magazines. She also created a line of refashioned garments for SEWN Denver. When her sewing machine isn’t humming, she’s playing and teaching violin, and hanging around a good strategic board game with her husband and 4 kids.