3 Awesome Monogrammed Gifts You Still Have Time To Make This Year

No need to wig out if you’ve put off your holiday crafting.
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AJ Strosahl
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No need to wig out if you’ve put off your holiday crafting.

True fact: if you’re a diy-er like me, you're probably panicking about getting all your holiday projects finished at this very moment. As well we should be: there’s not even two weeks until 2014 is over and the holiday season is finito. No need to wig out if you've put off your holiday crafting -- here are three awesome, personalized and easy gifts you can make in a couple of hours this weekend. Happy crafting!

Monogrammed throw blanket

This year’s monogrammed throws in their natural habitat.

This year’s monogrammed throws in their natural habitat.

I often make these for holiday or birthday gifts -- they're incredibly easy to make, fairly inexpensive, and always a huge hit. Even if you're not completely obsessed with blankets, as I am, it’s still great to get a cozy throw to snuggle with for the winter. Here’s how it’s done, son:

You'll need:

  • 1 ½ to 1 ¾ yards heavy wool fabric
  • Sewing machine (or a disposition patient enough for hand-sewing)
  • Thread and bobbin in a color close to your fabric
  • Finishing materials (like binding strips, pom poms, tassels, or whatever floats your boat)

Pick your fabric

For my money, the best kind of wool fabric for blankets is vintage -- it’s generally less expensive, the patterns are usually rad, and Etsy and Ebay both have an endless selection. To get beautiful fabric at a great price, you may need to do some clever online sleuthing, or you can also check out the remnants area of your local fabric store. If you're in the Bay Area, Stone Mountain and Daughter has pretty much the best remnants section I’ve ever seen and always has 1-2 yard pieces of really beautiful wool. If you have some serious dough to spend online, Mood Fabrics has a great selection of heavyweight wools and cashmere blends, but they're pricey.

Pick out something you can see your friend or family member using to cozy up with around the fire or a Netflix marathon. Most garment-weight wool is not thick enough for a blanket, so you'll want something that’s marked ‘heavy-weight’ or ‘coating’ fabric. For a good sized throw, you’ll need a piece of fabric at least 45 x 60, though I like a slightly larger throw that’s more like 54ish x 70ish. Most fabric yardage is between 42 and 60 inches wide, so if you find some on the wider end, you'll need about 1.5- 1.75 yards of your chosen fabric and then you can just trim the ends. 

Both fabrics this year were found on Etsy- a loud pink plaid, and heather gray wool.

Both fabrics this year were found on Etsy- a loud pink plaid, and heather gray wool.

Cut your fabric and hem the sides

You'll want to use a rotary cutter and cutting mat on each end to get a straight edge, then hem the sides. I do a double-fold hem, then straight stitch it, iron it, stitch it again for good measure, and then iron everything down again before wrapping. If your yardage already has finished sides, this project is even quicker, because all you've got to do is the ends.

The pink wool already had finished sides, so I only had to finish the  short-side edges.

The pink wool already had finished sides, so I only had to finish the short-side edges.

Finish the ends.

You can use many different methods to finish the ends. I love these little pom-poms in white or black, depending on the pattern and this year, I've also been finishing blankets with simple quilt-style binding. I love the way either method looks, but there are tons of other ways to finish your ends, including tassels, fraying, and just hemming. Your call!

It takes a little effort and careful pinning to get the pom fringe on straight, but it’s worth it.

It takes a little effort and careful pinning to get the pom fringe on straight, but it’s worth it.

For the grey wool, I just added binding -- though, as you can see, it got a little funky.

For the grey wool, I just added binding -- though, as you can see, it got a little funky.

Make and apply the monogram.

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I generally add a little monogram on one corner with the initials of the person I’m making it for. There are lots of easy ways to make monograms -- I make mine using smooth heat transfer material on my Silhouette Portrait, but there are various methods to make applique letters with fabric, or you can use a stencil and sharp exacto knife and cutting mat to make one with fabric and fusible web. Or just buy heat transfer lettering and iron those babies on.

Once you're done sewing, trim all the threads, then wrap that gorgeous blanket. You've just produced a super classy, personal, and eminently usable present -- well done, dude!

Giant Cross-Stitch Sign

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Yes, these seem like a weird gift, but I assure you, they are extremely cool. I made a couple of entry way signs for my own house that I adore, and this year, I'm making a few larger signs with the family names of some friends (monograms!). You can check out the awesome Design Sponge tutorial originally made by Kate Hardy here -- this is an endlessly adaptable project, and it is unbelievably easy.

You’ll need:

  • Spray paint in the color of your choice
  • Spray primer
  • Pegboard (super cheap at Home Depot and comes in a variety of sizes)
  • Yarn or thin cord for the lettering (I used heavy white nylon cord that I also found at Home Depot)
  • Optional: hardware on the back for hanging

Paint and prime the pegboard. 

Let the primer dry before you start in with the painting. I used two coats of white spray primer, and two coats of orangey-red spray paint for my Hi/Bye signs.

Stitch your lettering using the holes in the pegboard.

Image credit: Yarntree

Image credit: Yarntree

To make fancypants cross stitch lettering, use an online cross-stitch lettering tool and translate it to the holes in the pegboard, or use Hardy’s suggested method: Excel or graph paper. I used the online StitchPoint lettering tool in the font Amsterdam for my Hi/Bye signs. Once your lettering is in, you can optionally spray the whole shebang with polyurethane for a shinier finish, or just wrap and gift that sucker.

Buh-bye, y’all!

Buh-bye, y’all!

Handmade tea towels with a monogram

There will never be a time I don’t love a loud pattern.

There will never be a time I don’t love a loud pattern.

I’m of the opinion that you can never have too many kitchen towels- especially cute ones with a monogram and a gorgeous pattern. These also make a great houseguest gift, but for the holidays, I like to make a little package with about four handmade towels in different patterns or styles, all with a cute monogram to tie the room together. There are tons of different ways to make cool tea-towels, depending on how much time you want to spend on the project -- I personally love the way carefully hand-dyed or stamped towels look but can't get my head around the amount of labor required to make something I will likely use into ruin within a year. Apartment Therapy has a great compendium of tea towel tutorials, or you can use my basic recipe here.

What you need:

  • Your sewing machine
  • Thread in your desired colors
  • 1.5 yards of fabric for four medium towels

Meausre and cut your fabric. 

For best results, get something at least 90% cotton. For a set of four dishtowels, I typically do either two different patterned fabrics, two towels out of each, or four different ones. The easiest way I've found to make dishtowels is to get 1.5 yards of both the fabrics you'll be using, and then cut four equal pieces of fabric out of each to make two sets. So, if you use 1 ½ yards of 44-inch-wide fabric, your pieces should be 22 x 27 to start. If you picked out thinner fabric, you can make two double-sided towels with these pieces.

Towel fabric selections from 2014.

Towel fabric selections from 2014.

Make, pin and sew a ½ inch hem around all sides

Iron and pin the hem down, then sew away. You can miter the corners if you're feeling frisky, but I usually don't for this project.

Take extra care with the corners

Take extra care with the corners

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Apply the monogram. 

I again used a simple heat transfer monogram on this, but these would also be really cool with embroidered, or applique monograms as well.

Bonus step

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If you're especially thoughtful and/or brimming with crafting energy, you can sew a small fabric loop on the back of one corner (usually, the diagonal opposite of the monogram), so your giftee can easily hang your towels from a hook or oven handle. 

Hope this helps with some holiday crafting ideas you still have time to whip out this weekend. What are you working on for holiday gifts this year?