I have totally been on a gift kick lately. I have several family member birthdays, Mother’s Day, and Teacher Appreciation in May; all good reasons to hunt around for fun little presents for people. If possible, I try to choose gifts that will work for many individuals, so I can mass produce or buy in bulk.
I recently had coffee with a friend that I met through my children’s swim team. TheSwimFriend has been borrowing an embroidery machine and monogramming almost anything that will fit under the sewing machine foot. During coffee, she showed me a monogrammed umbrella. I had to have one (or five). After a quick trip to Target for travel sized umbrellas, I dropped off my purchases with TheSwimFriend who kindly monogrammed them for me.
I am hoping USPS has already delivered TheRoomMomMom’s Mother’s Day umbrella, so I am not ruining the surprise. Since I used travel size, my mom can leave the umbrella in her car or stuff it in her purse on a rainy day. I had one made for Mr. Star Wars’ teacher for an end of the year gift because the teachers at school have to walk about two blocks from the parking lot to the school, rain or shine. The umbrella is just the right size for a teacher bag. I have a few more ready for upcoming birthday gifts. My favorite combination is the navy and white polka dot umbrella with the kelly green monogram.
TheSwimFriend played around with the monogram size and liked 3 1/2″ tall at the center point. The monogram also needs to have stabilizer on the back in order to keep the umbrella material from puckering.
My SwimFriend did this as a favor for me, and I would like to do something nice back. Any suggestions? TheSwimFriend has seen all of my recent gift ideas.
In my last post, I mentioned how I needed a crafty project to keep me busy on my spring break from school, and I started sewing petal pouches. “Crafty project” is really code for I-will-disappear-for-2-days-and-ignore-my-family-except-to-feed-them-while-I-get-lost-in-a-project.
Here is how it went down. I made two bags for a teacher appreciation gift I had in mind using materials I had on hand. Miss Priss and Mr. Star Wars wanted a bag too, so we bought some additional fabric and ribbon and made 2 of the large petal bags for them. I now had a small collection. The collection looked unfinished since I had not tried the smallest size bag possible in the pattern. I made two more bags in the mini size. Now, I had a set, but the set would be broken when I gave some of the bags away as gifts. I returned to Hobby Lobby for more material determined to make enough bags for a personal set and have some spares for gifts (and a giveaway??).
Jump to today. Petal bags cover my dining room table. I do have enough for my own set and some for gifts, so I am starting to relax a little just in time for school to start again tomorrow. These are my plans for the bags…
Teacher Appreciation Gift: School Manicure Set
clear fingernail polish (so it can be used to stop a run in your tights, fix a fraying shoelace, or other classroom emergencies)
nail clippers (great for snagged nails during the day)
tweezers (just in case someone gets a splinter)
Tween Gift: Trendy Manicure Set
fingernail polish in “ice cream” colors
nail art stickers
Emi-Jay-like hair ties (in the mini bag)
Baby Gift: Diaper Bag Dopp Kit
baby nail clippers
travel baby wipes
Pet Gift: Dog Treat Bag
TheRoomDog’s best friend is on the injured list, and we haven’t been able to get the dogs together for vigorous playdates, which greatly reduce TheRoomDog’s need for other activity– like eating pencils. We are trying to deliver the get well gift before the treats are gone. (Bad dog, Birdie.)
I am on spring break this week and since we just replaced our HVAC unit AND my 11-year old car, an out-of-town vacation was not in the budget. I needed a crafty project to keep me busy. I had this little Valori Wells pattern from my Christmas stocking last year (that would be 15 months ago), and I thought it would be a good time to try it.
My sewing skills are limited, and I only attempt patterns with minimal steps and straight stitches. The petal bag project met my expertise level, so I started with two medium sized bags– so cute. I shared with Miss Priss and Mr. Star Wars. They wanted one each, so we headed to Hobby Lobby for more fabric and ribbon (against my better judgement). Eight hours later, I had made a bag in every size. I made a bag for everyone in my house. I made a bag for the dog and the neighbor’s dog. I made bags for teacher gifts. They assemble pretty quickly, and it is so fun to pick the coordinating fabrics; I can hardly contain myself.
2 fat quarters or 1/2 yard of 2 different fabrics per bag
1/4″ wide ribbon, 2 pieces for each bag (length varies)
To make the large bag, cut two 18″ squares in two different fabrics.
Place the two squares of fabric right sides together. Stitch around all edges using a 1/2″ seam allowance. Leave a 3″ opening along one edge.
Trim fabric from the corners.
Turn the fabric to the right side, push corners out, flatten edges, and press with an iron.
Slip stitch the 3″ opening closed.
Fold down the 4 corners of the square to create the petals and press. The petal should be 5″ on both sides of the fold, so the petal will be square and even. The fabric that you want on the outside of the bag should be facing up. The fabric you want as the petals will be seen when you fold the corners over.
To form the casing, stitch 1/2″ from the folded edge beginning at the edge of the bag. Backstitch to secure the petals.
Cut two lengths of ribbon or cord ~26″ each. Beginning on one side, thread one ribbon through the 4 petals and tie the two ends together. Start at the opposite side of the bag and thread the second ribbon through the 4 petals. Tie the ends together.
Pull both drawstrings to create the petal bag.
Uses: You may be asking yourself what one might do with umm, I don’t know… say 13 petal bags. I have many ideas.
The large bag is perfect for holding Lego men.
The medium bag is a great place to keep American Girl doll shoes and socks.
The medium bag is a nice size to hold dog treats and poop bags while you are on a walk.
The mini size is made for hair bands.
The large bag would work well as a cosmetics bag when traveling.
The large bag works like a “hat” when you hold drawings for winners, or Bingo pieces, or student names in the classroom.
The large bag would be perfect for a mini manicure set for a teacher gift.
I’ve listed the basic instructions for the largest bag. I recommend ordering the little pattern card to get the measurements for the small and medium sized bags and for more specific directions (with diagrams!).
Use ~6 extra inches of ribbon length than what is called for in the pattern to make it easier to thread the drawstrings.
Wrap clear tape around the edges of the ribbon (like the end of a shoestring) and put a safety pin through the ribbon and tape. This will help thread and keep edges from fraying. Push, wiggle, then pull the fabric back to work the safety pin through the drawstring channel.
If you use this as a dog treat bag, use picnic tablecloth material as the lining, so it can be wiped clean easily.
I kicked off the holiday shopping season with the personalized rubber stamps for Miss Priss’ and Mr. Star Wars’ teachers. Personalized seems to be the theme for me this year. I usually keep a list going all year (yes, I am that OCD) and jot down ideas as people mention things. When holiday shopping season officially starts, I review the list and try to come up with ideas that might apply to several people, so I can order more than one of the same thing. I have a brother and two sisters who all have kids plus TheRoomDad’s family. We try to do a little something for each family group, so the list gets pretty long.
Here are some gift ideas on my “to buy” list this year, and most of them are personalized in some way. That usually means a longer ship time, so I better get on the stick!
Monogrammed Jewelry: I know my tween nieces would love necklaces like this because they keep pinning these types of things. I also think they are great gifts for my mom, sisters, and sisters-in law.
Monogrammed Scarves: I love all of the color choices for these scarves. I would also do something like this with a pashmina. Find pashminas at a local store and take them to a monogrammer. FYI– This would make a great teacher gift. Classroom temperatures can be difficult to regulate!
Personalized Wrapping Paper: One thing I like about this gift is that it is consumable, so it does not have to be stored for very long.
Mini Photo Books: These books are set up like board books. I think they make great personalized gifts for little people and grandparents to share when visiting.
Custom Ornament: My parents have a collection of paintings of all of the houses where they have lived. We moved a lot, so the collection is large. These ornaments reminded me of the paintings. It would be fun to order ornaments with a different house every year.
Fort Kit: This one is not a personalized gift but a DIY gift. Fill a drawstring bag with supplies to build a fort like plain sheets and clothespins. I think this is so clever.
Anyone else have a successful shopping strategy or great ideas that will work for several people? You could also return to last year’s gift list for a little inspiration.
When organizing a teacher gift, I try to follow a generic but personal policy. The carrot pickles with cilantro are a little bit of a risk and break this rule. I visited Sewing Sister last weekend, and she served some carrot pickles with grilled hamburgers for dinner. The pickles were surprisingly delicious, easy to make in large batches, and they looked really pretty in the jars. The risky part, however, is that it is a pretty specific food type– not very generic. I teach at the school my son attends and know my son’s teachers fairly well. I was pretty sure everyone would eat them (or at least try them).
If you don’t know your child’s teachers at all but want to send a small appreciation gift for the end of the year, I think the Insulated Drinking Cup with gift card or an Ice Cream Sundae Kit works better. If you know your teachers like trying new restaurants or enjoy good food, I would give this gift a try, especially if you need to make a large quantity. I needed about 15 teacher gifts.
I will also be bringing an extra jar to a friend’s house this weekend as a hostess gift.
1 1/2 lb. carrots, trimmed and peeled
8 oz. shallots, thinly sliced
6 sprigs cilantro
1 c. distilled white vinegar
4 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
2 t. kosher salt
1 t. sugar
1/2 t. celery seeds
2 t. whole black peppercorns
Cut the carrots into sticks that match the height of the jars you are using or slice using a bias cut (this is the diagonal, oval shaped cut).
Combine the carrots, shallots, and dill in a glass container with a lid.
In saucepan, combine 1 c. water, 1 c. vinegar, garlic, salt, sugar, celery seeds, and peppercorns. Heat until it simmers.
Pour the heated vinegar mixture over the veggies, cover loosely, and let cool to room temperature.
Tighten lid when cooled and refrigerate for at least one hour before serving.
Can be kept in the refrigerator ~2 weeks.
I used a 5-lb bag of carrots, 5 shallots, and 2 bunches of cilantro to fill 17-20 jars. I used a mix of tall and wide mouth half pint jars. I needed 4 batches of the vinegar mixture.
I tied a label to each jar with raffia ribbon explaining the contents and wishing the teachers a happy summer from our family. Click here for the Carrot Pickles with Cilantro Labels.
The recipe is fairly forgiving, so you can double, triple, etc. pretty easily.
The cilantro can be replaced with dill.
The original recipe came from Simple Fresh Southern by the Lee Brothers. They have a whole section of pickle recipes. Sewing Sister also recommends the radish pickles and the watermelon pickles.
What homemade recipes have you given as teacher or hostess gifts that work well? Do you think this gift is a hit or miss? I will admit that I am giving Miss Priss’ teachers (who I do not know as well) the insulated cup gift!