Can I proselytize? I feel so strongly about this topic that I must explain why! There are so many lovely and cool and fun things out in this rich world we live in and it would be fun to possess many of them. I get it. But, when someone makes something for me – just for me – I feel so grateful and loved and simply nothing “boughten” could evoke the same feelings. And, on top of that, the feeling I get from making something for another person is awesome and truly different than how it feels to buy a gift. So, if we create rather than consume more often, we are doing a world of good – for ourselves, for the person being gifted, and the world, really. If I seem pushy or judgmental, then know that I am actually not (well, maybe I can be a little pushy sometimes), but mostly I just want to be encouraging. We all know that it is hard to find the time to sit down and make something, but we forget how much time it takes to get into the car and drive to the shops and find something meaningful too.
So, with that little rant behind us, I want to share a handmade gift that my 7 year old made for his big sister, who just turned 13! Oh dear, 13! She appreciates both types of gifts – the store bought and the handmade – but she will love this sewn canvas travel watercolor kit that he made. It looks amazing and is very handy with its vinyl pocket for mixing colors on.
We set out to make this together knowing that we might have to improvise a little with the materials, and we did. It sort of evolved as we made it, which is a fun way to sew as it feels inventive. I helped him with the initial measurements and cuts – 7 year olds like to jump right in, of course, and maybe that would have been a little frustrating in the end. Let me walk you through it and then you will see how to come up with your own design based on this.
What you’ll need:
– contrasting thread
– sewing machine
– vinyl yardage
– some sort of closure –we used snap tape but only because we didn’t have any Velcro on hand
– lace or ribbon (optional)
1) Cut a piece of canvas to suit your needs.
We cut ours 7” x 20”. I drew lines with a light pencil (you can use vanishing ink or chalk) to make two 7” squares and one 6” square. Harry stitched along those markings with a Straight Stretch Stitch to make a nice bold colored line where the folds of the book will be.
Nice straight line! I showed him how to use the presser foot to help him follow the marking.
Decorate the cover any way you like. If you like to draw with thread, then this is a perfect place to do that. Harry likes to, but opted for using every fancy stitch we have on our machine . Use a 7” panel for the front of the kit.
Note: Our machine is super basic but it felt fancy when he was decorating the color because he had all of the basic stitches and the stretch stitches to choose from. If you have never known what “S.S.” meant on your machine, well, they are the stretch stitch options and are usually a different color on your stitch menu. This photo of our stitch menu shows them below the regular stitches. He just did a line of each.
Nice henna tattoo!
3) Attach the closure.
We looked all over for the Velcro I was sure we had, but couldn’t find it. I did find this snap tape which turned out to be perfect. We aligned it and pinned both sides in place then Harry sewed it with a regular old straight stitch and a zipper foot so he could get close to the snaps.
When he stitched the top snap tape on (the one shown here with the pins still in), he decided to attach another piece of lace on the cover side. It was his opinion that it would look better and he was right.
4) Attach the vinyl paint pocket
I had some vinyl in the studio, but it was cut a little narrow for the pocket we needed, so we just sewed two pieces together with a zigzag stitch, et voila! Vinyl is a little sticky under the foot, so you need to be thoughtful when stitching it in place because it is prone to grabbing and shifting. We pinned it in place, even though it makes holes, but if you are really having a hard time getting it to move under your foot, then simply lay a piece of tissue paper between the vinyl and the foot and tear away after the stitching is complete. We didn’t and it was fine. We used the center panel for the paint pocket.
5) Sew on the paintbrush pocket
We put the paintbrush pocket on the smaller section of the kit (the 6” section). The pocket can fill the whole space or just part of it. It’s up to you, of course. We made a smaller pocket and then sewed lines to make it into 3 sections. Before stitching into place, Harry stitched along the top of the pocket to keep it from fraying later – it looked pretty too!
Note: That long rectangle beside the pocket is the backside of the snap tape used for the closure.
6) Oops! We needed something to keep the paint tubes from falling out!
The nice thing about improv sewing is that you can problem solve along the way and usually get things to work the way you wish. We put Ava’s watercolor tubes in the pocket to see how it all worked and low and behold, they fell right out. I simply cut another piece of vinyl to the same width as the pocket and Harry stitched it along the top edge. When the book is closed, the vinyl is on top of the pocket and the paints stay in.
Note: Harry moved on to another project so I finished the edge of the kit with a zigzag stitch to keep the raw edges from fraying.
Here is the finished project and the proud boy who made it. It took us about 40 minutes and it was great to spend some time doing this together. Kids are more than able to use sewing machines and don’t have all of the fear that some adults seem to have. They just go for it and are so happy with how quickly things come together.
Does it look perfect? Well, to us it does. And Ava will love to stick this little thing into her art bag and head out to paint something and Harry will have a good feeling every time he sees her do it. Wouldn’t you?